The UK Invasion: Exclusive interview with IFBB Pro Carly Thornton
When the Beatles came to America in 1964, the nation was gripped by a phenomenon unseen before. From the Beatles to the Stones, to The Shadow himself, Dorian Yates, now comes UK's First Lady of the women's physique division, new IFBB Pro Carly Thornton. As a photographer, I knew a little of who she was because of her fitness modeling. I began doing a little background research and watched some of her videos. After connecting via social media, it was immediately apparent that she had a great attitude and was as classy as they come. Sure to be a refreshing addition to the IFBB Pro League, it's apparent that Carly is passionate about training, living and preaching the fitness lifestyle, and being an ambassador for our sport. Earning her IFBB Pro card with a win at the Arnold Classic Europe, she now has her sights on a bigger prize. That prize is stepping on stage at the pinnacle of this sport, The Olympia. Poised to make her mark, the contract has been signed and the date has been set, as she prepares to make her Pro debut at the 2016 IFBB New York Pro. Standing at 5'5", and a full head of steam coming off of her Arnold win, Carly is a ball of pure British Thunder that is sure to make some waves in the Women's Physique Division. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, please allow RX Muscle to introduce to you, new IFBB WPD Pro Carly Thornton.
First, let me say, welcome to RX Muscle and congratulations on earning your highly coveted IFBB Pro card. Thank you for taking the time to do this interview. Now for the uninitiated, please introduce yourself to the RX community.
Thank you guys and it’s an honor to be invited for this interview!! Well, my name’s Carly Thornton, and I’m a fitness model and figure athlete, and now a newly crowned IFBB Women’s Physique Pro. Man, that’s still so surreal! It doesn’t feel real, Haha!
Okay, so I believe that you mention at one point, you didn't like exercise of any kind. What got you involved in fitness and then fitness modeling? How did you go from modeling to competing in your first competition?
Yes, this is true! Before the age of 21 years I was not fond of any activity and to be honest was pretty unhealthy when looking back. I had really low self-esteem and hid this behind my very loud personality. I loved going out with my friends, but there were times that I just wasn’t confident enough to step out and cancelled at the last minute. Now this is going to sound really cliché but I woke up one day and I had just had enough. I thought to myself, I want to change and no one can do this for me. With this I joined my old school gym because at the time I wasn’t confident enough to join a large gym and the beauty of it was that I was usually the only one in there. I used all machines and a little cardio but will admit I hadn’t a clue what I was doing! I gradually started reading up more on training and nutrition and built up the determination to go and join my local gym chain with a work colleague. I spent a lot of time walking and running and peering down at the weight section as it looked SO intimidating to even attempt to have a dabble with the dumbbells, but I really wanted to so bad! Over time I ventured into the weights section and was surprised that everyone was so cool and it made me laugh to think why I was so scared! This is when it all started. I picked up the weights and totally loved it! I noticed that I was strong, for a woman so to speak, and loved the way weight training made you feel. After 5-6 years I did my first show and won! I loved being on stage and the dedication and strict regimen that comes with competing and I soon got the bug. I started buying the American magazines from my local news agent and the fitness models/athletes inspired me so much to keep pushing and really push to have this as one of my goals so that one day other girls will be motivated and inspired by me to pick up the weights and live a healthier lifestyle. I wrote to so many magazines and picked up awesome contacts through the years in the industry which lead to so many amazing opportunities including magazine articles and features, new sponsors, guest spots. With all of this I became UK’s most published fitness model which is pretty cool when I think about it!!
So you were a figure competitor at some point, correct? What led you to the decision to make the transition to the Women's Physique division? How has that training differed if any from your training as a figure competitor?
Yes, that’s correct. Well I actually did my last figure show this year! I will give you a little insight. Basically, in 2014 I had some feedback from the judges to say that I was borderline physique but at the time I really wanted to stay in figure, mainly because this is the category that I had always been in and felt comfortable. Now I know we preach that change is good but I just wasn’t ready and to be honest WP was so new I didn’t know much about the category. So anyway in 2014 I placed 3rd at the championships which was pretty good but to be honest, I wanted first and believed at the time I could win. So with this and the feedback I went away and planned to bring a slightly different package in 2015. My intention was never to gain anymore size, as I didn’t need it for this category. It was more about fine tuning and making a more pleasing look. Well I definitely did this but I actually ended up 8 pounds heavier this year on stage, which makes me laugh because as I have said, this wasn’t my focus but it’s inevitable when you love to lift and train hard. I walked into my UKBFF qualifier and placed 2nd. This really chocked me because I brought my best package to date and I expected to win. So I asked for feedback and the judges all said I was too advanced now for figure? In my head I knew this because for the past few years I never posed hard on stage, I was scared to carb up and even pump up back stage because I knew I would stand out like a sore thumb. So with all of this I stepped away and took all feedback and looked at my stage photos from the show and realized for the first time that I was definitely Women’s Physique!
Now at this point I had 3 weeks till the Arnold Europe in Madrid where I was supposed to be competing in Figure but I phoned the UKBFF and asked if it was possible to change categories and they were fully supportive and excited at the same time. So I had 3 weeks to perfect all WP poses which I had never practiced, get a routine together and focus on bringing my legs tighter. With training I could not really change much in three weeks but I did add in arm work and added extra chest exercises in. Now these three weeks where tough mentally and exciting at the same time because it brought be a new challenge. I started to absolutely love the poses and the way you can show off your hard work and surprisingly you can still be really girly even without shoes!
You earned your Pro card by winning at the Arnold Classic Europe. What was it like preparing for the show and how did you feel going into it? What was the feeling when you were announced as the winner, knowing that you had finally made it?
This experience was so surreal!!! As I said, I only had 3 weeks from making the transition, all of the girls were back stage and where all so nice, everyone had great respect for each other and the hard work they had put into training to achieve their physique. I won’t lie, when I was back stage I felt tiny and was worried that I was in the wrong category and when they called the names out in line, mine was first. I thought, Oh no! When I walk on stage how do we pose first of all? I didn’t have a clue!! I asked some of the other girls and they were all so helpful! We all walked on stage and performed our quarter turns. I have never worked so hard in my life, because for once I actually had to pose but I loved it. After the top 6 where called out including myself we had to wait around for a while and I have never in my life felt so at home on stage! This category was made for me, the poses are beautiful and I have never been so proud to show off my hard work. I went to chat with my coach Marc Robinson and he said to me, “I don’t want to jinx anything but I think you may have this” I said to him that I would be over the moon with top 6 and a dream to be in the top 3 and then I WON! I cannot describe the over whelming feeling. Finally, after all these years I did it and not only did I win but I became the first UK female to win this category. It was all pretty crazy and still is, but I am so honored and blessed that I am an IFBB Pro and can be recognized for my hard work. Now it’s time to start all over again and be the newbie amongst the best in the world, now if this isn’t motivation I don’t know what is!
How long have you actually been training and competing? Who and/or what motivates you?
I have been going to the gym for 14 years but I would say properly training for about 4 years. I get motivated by hardworking people within the fitness industry who are still down to earth and very successful. My mum and dad also motive me loads, they are so supportive of everything I do and have a very comfortable lifestyle and are so happy and enjoy life in general even my dad chucks in the odd most muscular pose when I see him but he definitely needs to work on that pose a little bit more, Haha!
What is diet and training like for you? How do you approach contest prep and what might be some differences or similarities between precontest and offseason diet and training?
With diet I generally eat the same all year round but off season I am more relaxed and if I want a glass of wine or a pizza then I will. With training I have more rest days off season and then when it comes to precontest I will end up training 6 days a week with one rest day. In a way I find the off season training more challenging because for the greater part of the year I prep and am used to training more frequently and I love training so to not train as much can take a little getting used to!
While many athletes have taken a year or so off to prepare to make their pro debuts, you have decided to keep the pedal to the metal so to speak and make your pro debut in 2016 at the New York Pro. What was it about this show that made you want to compete at that one in particular and how did you come about your decision to do so?
Well to be honest I do not feel I need a year to improve as I have been building my physique for many years and now fallen into the category nicely. I do however want to focus on building a little more upper chest and slightly bigger arms, so my new training split incorporates this and I am loving the new style of training. Well, when I say new style of training, I mean for figure I did not need to train these body parts overly as it did not fit the body shape criteria so it’s like I have a new lease of love for training because it’s all new to me! I decided on the New York Pro because it’s not only a fantastic show but have always wanted to visit Powerhouse Gym and of course a spot of NY shopping!
What would it mean for you to qualify for the Olympia?
This would be crazy! Like anyone who competes this is the ultimate show to grace the stage, it would be such an amazing experience, especially sharing the stage with the finest physiques up there that I admire greatly!
I've noticed that you seem to have a great attitude and a passion for this industry and what you do. While some athletes tend to not be as fan friendly when it comes to interactions or it's hard to reach out to them, you seem to have a true affinity for being an ambassador for the sport. You seem to interact and respond to your fans on social media. What is it that makes you so approachable? What do you want your mark to be on this industry?
Thank you, that means a lot. Well People say they can relate to me because I am honest and keep it real. Nothing I do is fake and I will show me when I’m off season and precontest because not only am I proud of who I am, I want others to see that we are not always ripped down to the bone and are normal too. I love speaking to all my followers and truly love being a part of the industry and someone to look up to and be inspired.
With the introduction of Men's and Women's Physique, Bikini, and now Classic Physique, the popularity among competitors has grown immensely. There are now record numbers of competitors competing at the national level. This of course is due in large part to the fact that it opens the door to people who otherwise might never have stepped on stage. I mean let's face it, not everyone wants to be a 250 lb. bodybuilder. However, so many come in to this not fully aware of what it actually takes to do what we do and compete in this sport at a high level. What advice would you give to anyone who competes or is considering competing in this lifestyle sport?
I think you can only advise people so much, as you cannot know what it’s like to go through competition prep unless you have done it. I think too many people rush and want to compete when they haven’t even trained a year. This is fine for bikini but other categories will take longer. There’s no rush to compete, enjoy your training and seek a good coach to help you with off season training and nutrition so you are making great progress for when you start prep. Always make sure that this person has good knowledge and do your research.
Having a muscular physique is a thing of beauty, like a work of art. It takes a special breed to truly appreciate that. Here in America, society kind of looks at muscular women a certain way at times. Is it kind of the same there in the UK or do you think it may be a bit more acceptable? What has your experience been with being a muscular beauty?
Well it’s not really normal in the UK to be honest. When I’m prepping for a show I do have people stop in the street and just stare, but to be honest, if this look was classed as normal then I do not think I would want it because I like being different, Haha!
What is your support system like? You really have to have people around who understand or are just willing to support what you are trying to do because the lifestyle of a physique athlete is very unique. What's that like for you?
I have an amazing support system which I’m continually grateful for. My partner is a bodybuilder but when we are not prepping we do relax more and have days away from the gym to see friends and family. My mum and dad are always so supportive, they love it! My coach, Marc Robinson, is always by my side and puts up with a lot of “carlyisms” as he calls them when prepping, Haha!
For anyone who wants to find out a bit more about you or who might want to keep up with your progress via social media or website, how can they find you? You also do training and prep. Can you tell us more about that and what you offer?
I am on Facebook as Carly Thornton IFBBPro
Instagram as Carlythornton_ifbbpro
You can contact me on [email protected] where we offer personal training, posing and stage presentation, online coaching and competition prep and cater for all categories.
Ok, so before we wrap things up, let's have a bit of fun. If you were going to be a Super Hero or had a Super Hero name, who or what would it be?
It has to be Powergirl!
In a WWE tag team wrestling match, who would you choose as your tag team partner? A Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle or Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson?
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle
What does Carly like to do for fun?
I love going out for meals, the cinema and theatre, and I love just catching up with friends for a good old gossip and girly chat.
Before I let you get away, is there anyone you would like to thank?
I would like to thank you Marc Robinson from Cardiff Sports Nutrition who has helped me with all my nutrition this past 2 years and will be prepping me for 2016 also and my partner Luke Sandoe for all his help and support all year round. He is also going to be pushing me in my training this coming prep, which will be pretty exciting as I have never had someone push me more or a spotter, so expect some heavy squats and deadlifts to be filmed!
I also want to thank Harlequin Bikini for their amazing support and always making such phenomenal bikinis, Myprotein for all my sports supplements, Mas Body for sports clothing, Udos Choice for my health supplements and Olympus foods for extra juicy breasts (I mean chicken of course ;) )
Carly, I want to thank you for taking the time out to do this interview and for being such a great sport. I look forward to working with you again in the near future and we look forward to seeing you on stage at the IFBB New York Pro. There you have it. The inside scoop ladies and gentlemen, right here on RX Muscle, on one of the IFBB’s newest Pros. With her passion and attitude, this UK sensation is sure to make an impression. Ozon Wilson for RX Muscle and This Is How We Do It!
Photos courtesy of IFBB Pro Carly Thornton