Aaron Hallet: Hi Dan, thank you for taking time to take part in this interview for us at Muscletalk.co.uk.
Let's get the basics out of the way; how old are you, what is your occupation and where do you currently live?
Dan Smith: I'm 34, I'm now an IFBB Professional bodybuilder and I live in Alton, Hampshire
AH: What made you decide to start working out and when?
DS: I started working out when I was 20 and I started working out because I was 20 years old and 8.5 stone! Three or four of my mates were at the gym at the time and I was always active at school and quite strong for my size so I thought I'd give it a go.
AH: You first competed at the UKBFF South Coast 1st timers in 2005 where you came 5th. I live in Portsmouth and have been to this show many times, how daunting was it to step out on stage at such a large venue for your first time?
DS: It's a very hard show, it was very daunting as the first three guys who were there that year were monsters which are what you get when you enter the first timers class. The rest of us were of similar size and we were all pumping up backstage when these three guys walked in, 6ft odd and 16 stone I was like 'Oooooooooo'.
It's now fairer with the inters classes as its separated by weight classes which means the guy who trains for a small time period isn't up against the guy who's been training for 10 years, who could of easily won their weight category.
AH: In 2006 you suffered a shattered T-12 vertebrae from falling 20ft off a roof onto a concrete floor which resulted in paralysis from your chest down. How long were you in hospital for and how long was your rehabilitation?
DS: Afterwards I was laid on my back for about a month then they operated, I then spent the next 5 months in rehabilitation.
AH: How long after you were out of hospital did you restart going to the gym and at what point did you get bit by the competing bug again?
DS: I think it was after 6 months of being out of hospital, I went back to the gym to catch up with my mates really and I restarted training in my wheelchair and went from there.
I started doing a lot more walking and then going to the gym on my sticks and I never used my wheelchair since then in the gym. Six months later in the beginning part of the New Year, I had been back in the gym a year by then, and Paul Smith said to me, "Why don't you as an inspiration guest pose at my show (UKBFF South Coast) if you're up for it?"
I thought Paul was joking at first and in jest replied 'why not'.
Paul is all up for things he thinks are inspirational and worthy for the guest spot at his show and he gave me a year to get ready to go on stage... that's when it really kicked off for me.
AH: I was present at your guest spot at the South Coast and you received massive ovations from the judges and crowd alike. How did it feel to be on stage again? You were then asked to guest pose at the UKBFF Finals, how did that feel?
DS: Yeah I wasn't expecting that type of reaction from the crowd!!! Two days later I was the first person to be asked by the UKBFF to guest pose for the finals and I was actually in the pub at the time! Me and Louise were eating dinner and Paul Smith phoned me and I just couldn't believe it, no question about it, I was totally surprised by it all and I agreed to do the guest spot.
It felt very good to be on stage again, I kept my body a secret and under wraps from quite a lot of people who knew what I looked like. I was nervous to get out on stage at first but when people started standing up clapping that was it, I did not have a clue I'd get that kind of response and it was absolutely amazing, no feeling like it.
AH: Shortly after your UKBFF British Final guest spot you competed in Poland for the 'Poland World Juniors and Masters Bodybuilding and Fitness Championships'. How did that all start?
DS: I was at the Sean Ferguson's Classic in Dorchester and the UKBFF asked me if I wanted to go with the UK team to Poland and compete in the first ever wheelchair bodybuilding category in the masters class. I was surprised as I hadn't done a show since 2005 and that was a long time ago! I agreed to do it for the experience and that I would train as hard as I could to be ready for the show.
AH: How long were you preparing for this contest?
DS: I was training all the time and when I did the guest spot at the finals I knew I had a few more months of dieting so I kept dieting. I had a few weeks of heavy crabs then I carried on dieting down until we went to Poland, where I still kept my tracksuit on as long as possible to keep the other competitors clueless of what I looked like before we all went out.
AH: How did you find it competing in a different country? Did you have any problems such as getting your hands on the food you needed for your prep?
DS: I had no problems whatsoever, the UKBFF took care of everything, they were amazing. They paid for the whole trip including my wives travel costs and for my carer. Everything you will worry about prior to a show the UKBFF took care of. I've never been to Poland before so I thought I'd need an air conditioned room and it might be a touch too hot there but now knowing what Poland's weather is like now I know I needn't of worried!!
Once I met everyone on the UKBFF team at the airport we had no stresses at all, it all ran very well from there.
AH: So your on stage competing for the 1st time in four years, what was running through your head when the emcee called out your name for 1st place?
DS: Amazing, I just cried straight away. I knew when they called the last two names out I thought that if the other guy beats me he'd have beaten me fair and square. So I shook his hand before the winner was announced and when the emcee announced I had won my ear popped and I couldn't hear anything and I just cried.
Forty five countries and 300 competitors there and I was just blown away, I just couldn't speak.
AH: So Dan, how does it feel to go from guest poser to IFBB Pro in under a year?
DS: How does that feel? [Laughs], I don't even know myself how that feels! I've had my head in the clouds and it's all happened so fast with such an amazing response on Facebook and every website I go to, it's been a dream come true. For any bodybuilder to turn pro it's a dream come true and I honestly thought it was never going to happen to me and in a year of hard work and determination/stubbornness it has paid off.
With Louise, my family and the UKBFF behind me every part of the way, it's been simply amazing.
AH: Now you are an IFBB Professional Bodybuilder, so what now? What are your goals for 2010? Do you have any shows planned? If so, where?
DS: No there are sadly no shows lined up this year because not enough wheelchair competitors signed up for our pro card for the Dallas Europa in August 2010. They needed six competitors and only four of us applied for our pro card out of the ten who qualified.
We are in the process of lining up one or two shows for 2011 and fingers crossed this will be the year for wheelchair bodybuilding.
AH: You are helping to raise awareness for a UK wheelchair class in the UKBFF, how is that going at present?
DS: It's going very well and the first category will be held at the British finals on Sunday 10th October 2010 so we have got the category now!
AH: You have been sponsored by CNP for a short while now, how valuable is it to have someone like Kerry Kayes and his team behind you?
DS: Unbelievably valuable, Kerry is always at the other end of the phone, it doesn't matter what time of the day it is. If I have any nutritional questions, need any training advice, between Kerry and Paul Smith who is the south's distributor for CNP (under fitness development) they have been simply amazing. Kerry Kaye's word is Kerry Kaye's word.
AH: You have a wife and son, how difficult do you find splitting your time between your family life and preparing for shows?
DS: I'm very lucky actually as my wife works part time, I train in the morning, I sleep in the middle of the day before I pick my son up so I get to spend a good few hours with my son alone every day before Louise comes home from work. As a whole we spend a lot of time together and when I'm dieting it can be a bit touch and go at times but I know that if I'm having a bit of a hard time I can take myself away or go in the garden for 5 minutes, come back and its all OK. We cope very well.
AH: What would you say is the hardest part of your show prep?
DS: The hardest part for me I'd say is when I cut my carbs a couple of weeks before the show as your fighting the hunger and cravings. You've eaten really healthily for 8 weeks and yet you crave things you have eaten for a long while anyway! You open up the fridge and there's something just staring at you, that's the hardest bit for me.
AH: Best advice ever given to you?
DS: It was probably from Tony Freeman [IFBB Pro], "It's not what you know what makes you better; it's what you don't know". Basically he said that it doesn't matter if the bodybuilder is tiny or really big, just listen to different tips as one could help you so always try different things. It doesn't matter who it's come from, its you don't know that makes you better.
AH: Worst advice ever given to you?
DS: It has to be something that was said to me years ago that you HAVE to train heavy.
Some people have to train heavy to get big but I don't, I use a lighter weight but in a very slow and concentrated manner and so far, touch wood, haven't had any training injuries to date.
AH: What kind of cardiovascular work do you do for your show prep?
DS: I purely use my diet to help me get down for a show but I do some cardio in the form of slow walking on the treadmill. 10 minutes for me on the treadmill with concentration will make me sweat as much as you would after 30 minutes. I can do 5 minutes on the rowing machine but again this gets me absolutely dripping! My nutrition will get me down in body fat for a show mainly.
AH: Your current training split?
DS: I never do the same workouts on the same days each week so every week it's switched about but I pair up;
Taking Wednesdays and Sundays off.
AH: In the off-season, what are your favourite types of foods?
DS: Pizza and Chinese food! I eat healthily all through the week all throughout the year but I will have one or maybe both of those a week.
AH: When your dieting for a show what would you say is your favourite healthy food/meal?
DS: I'm very lucky that I can have sauces on my food right the way up until 2 weeks out, I know a lot of people cant! They call me 'sugar baby' in the gym as I still have milk and sugar in my coffee!
Some people try and have milk or sugar and it blows them out but I am lucky in this respect until 2 weeks out.
AH: Who was your source of inspiration when you first started training? Has this changed now, if so, who is it?
DS: Lee Priest. He has an absolutely amazing body. I bought his DVD The Blonde Myth, he released in 2000 and I've just finally got round to watching it 2 weeks ago [laughs]. I'm friends with him on Facebook and we chatted the other day, he's a very nice guy.
For someone to add so much weight in the off-season and to be able to tear it down for a show is amazing, not every bodybuilder can do that.
AH: What are your thoughts on bulking heavy to cut hard for a show?
DS: I'm pretty new to this myself but I try and stay in reasonable shape all year round, ok I put on a bit of weight, 14-20lbs max off contest weight, but with my diet I find it's easy to slip into a prep diet without any sudden shocks that some people have. I lose body fat pretty well so it's not so much of a concern. I wouldn't recommend going 30-45lbs over your contest weight.
AH: We are now heading into the first part of the competing season for the UKBFF. After the UK's superb results at the Arnold Classic in Columbus this year we are without Sean Tavernier, Nana Manu, Lee Williams and newly crowned UK champ Zack Khan. Who's your money on for this years UKBFF title?
DS: I want it to be Alvin Small, I'm a big Alvin Small fan.
AH: Thank you for taking the time to answer the questions for MuscleTalk, on behalf of the MT team and its members we wish you all the best for your bodybuilding career.
DS: No worries!