AH: Hi Cecil, thanks for taking the time to take the interview; let's run through the basics first of all. Where do you currently live and where do you train?
CC: I'm currently living in London and I train at a few gyms, namely Monster Gym and Crayford.
AH: Before bodybuilding, can you tell us a little about your background and your upbringing?
CC: I grew up in North West London and I had a tough upbringing in a children's home and things like that. After a while I got into boxing and weightlifting as something to do hobby-wise but preferred the weightlifting to the boxing.
AH: So what inspired you to begin weight training and what kept you going to push things on and take it further?
CC: Just being small really and living in a rough community you needed to look after yourself so that's what led me into both boxing and weightlifting. Years ago a few of us from the gym went to support a friend called LaMonte at a bodybuilding show who used to be a light heavyweight and he said to me that I could compete and do well, and my first show was done out of that to see if I could do it.
AH: Did you have an idea of what or who you wanted to look like when you first started?
CC: It was JD Dawodu as he was the first black bodybuilders I saw, plus Ernie Taylor.
AH: Making the move from training as something to do in your spare time to then switching it up your first competitive bodybuilding show, did you have someone help you out with the training and nutrition?
CC: No, for me it was just a matter of reading books, I have a fair collection of them and I'm looking at them right now! I would read all kinds of magazines and I also studied a nutrition course so that helped.
AH: You first competed in 1992 at the South Midlands Championships winning the light heavyweight category, how did it feel to get on the stage for the first time?
CC: I have a music background so I'm used to performing on stage in front of people so it wasn't too bad.
AH: You have been competing for an admirable and respectable amount of time, what has kept the fires burning for you to keep on making improvements over the years and pushing forward?
CC: For me its all about the training, competition is almost secondary as at first when it was all just a hobby I just wanted to be strong and be able to look after myself. It moved from being just a hobby when my body started to take shape, I went into powerlifting and then it kind of even flowed into training for boxing at one point. When I competed for the first time I won my class and when you win it spurs you on so when I went on to do the British Finals I ended up coming forth out of 19-20 competitors in my first year.
AH: Can you give us a run down of your competing history?
1992 - 1st place at the UKBFF South Midlands and 4th at the British Finals in the light heavyweights
1993 - 1st place at the UKBFF South East and 2nd at the British Finals
1994 - 3rd at the UKBFF South East and 6th at the British Finals
I took some time out after that when I became a single dad, so stepped away from competition.
2000 - 1st place at the UKBFF Leicester but I then broke my toes on the leg press machine so that took me out of the British that year (ouch!)
2001 - 2nd at the UKBFF South East
I then took some more time away from the stage but even though I wasn't competing I was still training as hard as I love the training and it was never always about competing alone.
AH: As many will know, in 2010 you returned to the stage, took the South East UKBFF heavyweight class and qualified for the British Finals. What was it like to come back to the stage after some time away?
CC: When I left there was only one type of heavyweight class; there wasn't a super heavyweights at that point so you'd be all in one big class with the weights ranging from 90kg upward but now its split into two groups and I had to decide which one to do. I was too small to be in the super heavyweights and I was too big to get down into the u100kg class so I just started dieting and at the end of it see where I'd end up. I kept on pushing as hard as I could and I ended up in the u100kg class where I won. Qualifying for the British that year meant I then had to try and keep my weight low to keep myself in the u100kg class.
AH: At the Brits in 2010 you were involved in what had to be, in my opinion, the battle of the weekend in the heavyweight category: a three way fight between Haroldas, Barny and yourself. Three totally different physiques with their own looks; in your opinion where to you stand on the balance between conditioning, size and proportions?
CC: With proportion, you can't change your shape so you have to work to bring your body parts up evenly with each other. Unfortunately, I started training legs from a very young age with the powerlifting and the squat was the first exercise that I did whereas many will be hitting the bench press so I have had to work hard to balance my upper body with my dominant lower half.
You have to have size as a bodybuilder, there is no point in just having shape and condition, you have to have that size that will catch everyone eye when/ you'll walk on stage. Haroldas is a good example of this as you are just drawn to him as he is just that big. It then goes what their conditioning is like, which comes down to dieting.
AH: Fast forward to 2011, you competed in the super heavyweight class. Did you intentionally make the decision to jump up to the super heavyweights or make the call on the day of the show as we have always known you as a heavyweight competitor?
CC: In 2010 I struggled to keep my weight down and get under the 100kg limit and I wanted to take the year off to put some size on, by the summer my training was picking up and my weight was going up. I then thought about doing a late qualifier which left the UKBFF Leeds show or the UKBFF Leicester, but when I started dieting my conditioning started to come in a lot quicker than before. I was still trying to get into the u100kg class at that time so my diet was geared for that in regards to lowering carbs and because of that I started to become stressed, grumpy and it wasn't comfortable.
A friend said that I should do the Kent qualifier as it was closer than the others, then afterwards take time off the diet, start eating again and look at it then. I was in condition, I qualified and I was faced with trying again to getting my weight under 100kg for the finals. People would say that I would lose muscle size and that I should do the super heavies, but I didn't actually think I was a proper super heavyweight as the typical super heavyweights would carry more size and mass than me. But I took the gamble, if I didn't win it I was set to win a £1000 [laughs].
AH: You took the super heavyweight class beating some very well known names such as two time Mr Universe Dave Titterton, Stuart Core, Daz Ball, etc; how did it feel to be in super heavyweight class on the day of the Finals?
CC: What made me doubt myself was the fact I was going to bed at 108kg (238lbs) and waking up at 106kg (234lbs), coming into a show trying to dry out and lose water I woke up on the day at 102kg (224lbs) which brought my mood down as I was only just above the super heavyweight class lower limit of 100kg. I thought I was going to be too small; I was watching the weigh in and the weights knocking up 114kg, 116kg, 110kg, etc and it makes you doubt yourself but people were telling me it's not what you weigh on stage, it's how you look.
AH: The gamble obviously paid off as in the overall your name was announced as the British champion; how did it feel to then be in the elite list of British Bodybuilding? What went through your mind at the time if you can remember?
CC: I was shocked! I wanted to get revenge on Haroldas because everyone was saying how he was going to do this, that and the other. I wasn't at my best at last year's finals and I still felt I could have beaten him as a heavyweight this year. It was redemption for last year; I wanted to beat him in the heavyweight category but to do it in the overall was just as good.
AH: Looking forward now to 2012, as the UK's latest pro bodybuilder to hit the big stage, have you made any plans or put any thoughts towards which show you want to make your début at?
CC: I'm still awaiting all the paper work from the IFBB to apply for my official pro card (there is a real card) and the competition calendar for 2012, but I am looking at the 2012 British Grand Prix for my pro début!
AH: Also, before you make your début, what areas of your physique do you want to bring up (if any) to make the best impact on the pro stage?
CC: I want to bring up my upper chest but I haven't been doing any bench pressing as it does help to build overall mass, work with dumbbells and try and improve that way.
AH: With last years British Finals being won by Alvin Small and this year by yourself, both of you are in your 40s and proving that age is no boundary, have you had to change the way you train at all as time goes on?
CC: No not at all, there are lot of machines you can use but when you need to build pure mass you need to stick to the basics using dumbbells and barbells and that forces you to work hard. I stick to the same exercises all year round, only at competition time I might throw in some machine work. I have an issue with my right elbow that comes and goes but other than that I have remained pretty much injury free, thankfully.
AH: Away from the stage, many will know you as a writer for The Beef magazine. How did that all start out and have you always had a desire to pen to paper and share your knowledge?
CC: I used to write for a magazine called Bodybuilding Monthly a few years ago as well as the magazine Muscle News which is now called The Beef. I used to write articles every now and again and when I made my competitive comeback people wanted to know what was going on so I'd write about my training leading up to the show. I'd break it down into body parts each issue and what training I'd do for that body part, then I'd move onto nutrition and write about what I was eating, etc.
AH: How do you work in your own training with you working as a personal trainer? I know you also prep some guys for shows so this must be taxing on your time when you're competing yourself?
CC: Off-season its OK as I will just train around the work I have but when I'm getting closer to a show the personal training takes a bit of a back seat. The British Finals is the biggest competition in UK amateur bodybuilding so I had to concentrate and cut myself off to focus on just the bodybuilding. I have a training partner but when it came to prepping for the show there was exercises and cardio he didn't need to do so I had to go off and do what I had to do on my own.
AH: Working in the gym environment most of the day, do you ever find on occasion you struggle with trying to find the motivation or enthusiasm to train yourself?
CC: Not at all, it's a way of life for me and its not something you can take time out from like I have some other normal way of living, I've come up that way. I have worked for council run gyms where I had to show people around the machines and I also worked as part of the staff wiping and cleaning the machines making sure everything was put away around the gym. I have always been in the gym and personal training was a spin off from that.
AH: When training during the week do you have a favourite body part to train?
CC: No, not really; I love to train everything as I train them all hard trying to keep it all in balance.
Now deadlifts are hard, they take it out of you so I don't like them as much but I do them as they will really grow your back.
AH: Looking to wrap this up now, but let's end on a question for the new bodybuilders and weight trainers who are reading this: what single piece of advice do you feel is the most important to pass on?
CC: Consistency, keep things consistent in your dieting and training, keep the focus and give things time to develop.
AH: On behalf of the MuscleTalk team and our members, I wish you all the best for the future and I look forward to seeing you on the pro stage in 2012!
CC: Thank you!