As many of you were settling down to watch the great summer of British sport last year and hailing Team GBs efforts at London 2012, across the other side of The World in Toronto, Canada, one of Great Britain’s own Shaun Stafford was fighting it out on a slightly different stage, at The World Fitness Modelling Championships

Ultra-FIT caught up with Shaun to find out a little bit more about this rapidly expanding sport, how he got started, and how it has transformed his life over the past 18 months.

Firstly, thank you for meeting with us: tell us a little bit more about the sport of competitive fitness modelling and how you got started in it.

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To be honest, ‘Fitness Modelling Competitions’ have been around for a few years now, but have only recently exploded into the mainstream. They started off as a sort of sideshow to bodybuilding, giving people that wanted to compete in the sport a more mainstream look to aspire to.

However, with a surge in popularity, these shows now take center stage in their own right at some events, and there are global federations and competitions based just around this category. The main difference between a fitness modelling comp and a bodybuilding one would be what the judges are looking for – there is less of a focus on size, and more on symmetry and proportions.

The aim is to promote a healthy, lean and conditioned look, rather than a freaky or scary physique that is unobtainable for most normal people. It gives a nice competitive outlet for men and women that enjoy going to the gym and keeping fit, but have perhaps stopped playing sport, or want something specific to train for. Its popularity all over the world is on a huge upward trajectory, with some shows averaging over 100 competitors in each class.

Wow, that sounds like a fun thing to train for. How did you get into it?

I have always stayed in pretty good shape myself and as a personal trainer and gym owner, the human body and what it can do has always fascinated me. I was introduced to the sport when a friend of mine asked me to train her for a show.

We had a bet that if she won, I would enter the male equivalent the following year… she ended up winning (and is now a top Bikini Pro), so I had to step up and uphold my side of the bargain!

So we’re guessing it was a successful show for you a year later – how did you go about training for it?

You could say that! I was over the moon with the result, placing first in my class at a national competition was more than I could have asked for and I was instantly hooked. The training was fun and I went at it hammer and tong for a good few months, doing sprint cardio sessions and free weights a couple of times a week each. I felt super fit and was in the gym doing something almost everyday.

I entered my next competition at The WBFF European Championships in Iceland later than year, where I was lucky enough to take top spot again and win my ‘Pro Card’ – this is an invite to compete on the pro circuit in North America, culminating in The World Championships. This was a great focus for my training and I dieted pretty rigidly for about three months prior to the show.

This was quite a hard thing to do as the discipline needed was like nothing I had ever experienced before. I was happy to do it as I had a very definite target in mind – I wanted to win The World Championships, and be the first guy to bring the trophy back to European soil.

And how did it go?

 I was lucky enough to win again and beat some great guys from all over the world to take the first place prize. It was the massive highlight of my sporting career to date and an amazing hat trick of wins for me.

But to be honest, the trophies get quickly forgotten about and it’s the people you meet, the amazing places you get to see and the memories that stick with you. It has been an eventful year or so, but one that has been well worth all the hard work!

What sort of opportunities does winning these sorts of competitions produce?

Winning the shows is no guarantee of outside success, but it does give you a lot of exposure to some great agencies and companies with whom you can get some pretty interesting work. Since I won my first competition, I signed with a top fitness agent and have gone on to work for EA Sports, Nike, Warner Bros, and many other big companies.

I was also lucky enough to become a sponsored athlete from one of the top supplement companies around, eflex Nutrition. These guys are great sponsors as they produce honest, top quality products and send a really healthy and positive message to anyone interested in being fit, active and conscious about quality sports nutrition.

I can’t recommend them enough and using their products has really helped take my training to the next level. I also work with Natural Performance Meals, who provide me with easy to use, ready-made meals for when I get no time to cook, and need a convenient and healthy solution.

We actually stock these in my gym now and our super-busy clients have been getting some really good results by using these instead of running out for a post workout sandwich.

What sort of supplements would you use on a regular basis?

 If I am honest, I am not a big believer in ‘over-using’ supplements, and prefer to get 95% of my nutrition from whole food. However, certain things I cannot live without and take on a daily basis.

These include: Nexgen+ Multivits, Krill Oil, and Reflex Duo Protein Blend. The multivitamins keep me healthy and illness free (touch wood) year round, whereas the Krill Oil helps me recover from my workouts, whilst providing a great source of essential, healthy fat to keep me relatively lean.

I then use the new pea and whey protein blend in Reflex Duo not only is the mix of plant and dairy protein really diverse and easy to digest, but the blend of amino acids from the two sources really helps me recover from a tough workout. I take these three products every day that I train and they have really helped.

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“IF YOU FANCY GIVING COMPETING A GO I CAN RECOMMEND IT WHOLEHEARTEDLY. IT IS GREAT FUN, A BRILLIANT CHALLENGE AND YOU GET TO MEET A LOT OF LIKE-MINDED PEOPLE…”

 If you were to give somebody looking to follow in your footsteps some advice, what would it be?

If you fancy giving competing a go, I can recommend it wholeheartedly. It is great fun, a brilliant challenge and you get to meet a lot of like-minded people who you will stay friends with for along time.

Ofcourse,go out to try and win, but make sure that it’s not your primary focus. If you just focus on making sure that you do the best that you can do and turn up in the best shape of your life, you will be more than happy with the show, regardless of where you place.

If people want to find out a bit more about your training, dieting and competing, where can they go to find out more?

I currently run a Facebook page where I post every workout I ever do, as well as updates from photoshoots and competitions. Just search Shaun Stafford Fitness on facebook and ‘like’ the page. I am also on twitterat@shaunstafford.

So what is next for you in 2013?

Well I have just opened a brand new gym, City Athletic, at the end of last year in The City of London. This is an amazing project that I have been working on for the past five years and I am so happy to be involved and driving it forward. This is taking up the majority of my time at the moment and I will have my hands full with that for the next few months at least.

After that, there is always a WBFF World Title to defend: the 2013 Championships are in Las Vegas and no Fitness Model has ever successfully defended their title. I would love to be the first and continue my winning streak, so watch this space, and I’ll keep you posted!

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