An Interview with Paul Dillon!

Interview from September 2013:

First of all, congratulations on your win last week Paul, well deserved and the result of many years of hard work. Going right back to the start if we can, were you into sports competition as a boy?

In the beginning it was all about Judo, I started when I was nine years old at what was then the Sobraon Barracks on Burton Road in Lincoln. I was trained by a man called Taffy in a wooden hut with straw mats who threw me all over the place whilst my Dad trained at the other end. I practiced hard and from the age of eighteen to twenty one fought for Great Britain in the under 78kg division as junior and under 86kg as senior and was national champion three years running.

That must have been quite an honour representing your country?

It was, we took third place in the European Championships in Sweden. Those were the days before Easy Jet, I spent two days sat on suitcases in the back of a van from Bridge North to Sweden and apart from loo breaks and the ferry never saw daylight for two days!

No wonder you didn’t win! Was it all about Judo during your teenage years then, no weight training?

Judo was my main sport but I liked other contact sports too, I practiced Karate for five who also gave me private one on one lessons with a man called John Taylor. I wanted to develop my speed at Judo if nothing else but I managed to take second place in the English Wado Ryu Karate Full Contact Championships at my first attempt when I was fifteen. All of this came from my Dad, Seamus Dillon he’d done it all and I wanted to follow in his footsteps.

Anyone who trains at Evolution (now Performance Gym & Fitness) will know your Father and where you get it from…

He still trains five days a week, he’s there with me at 6.30 in the morning at Evolution (now Performance Gym & Fitness). As a young man he was an Irish heavyweight boxing champion, very powerful and my biggest influence in all that I’ve done. It was in his shed that I picked up my first weights, he had a purpose built shed equipped with weights which he trained in from building it until Evolution (now Performance Gym & Fitness) opened.

So after your Dad’s shed you went to the Old pacific Gym?

Back then it was called ‘The Sweat Shop’, it was run by Roy Cox. I started training there when I was twenty three with a guy called Chris Rogers. It was a busy place and I remember Phil Atkin trained there, a very good local bodybuilder who won the East Coast title.

What was your training like back then?

Very basic, we had no idea. A big inspiration for me was the late Roy Stevens, a big man who commanded the gym with his presence, he was a big help to me in the early days. Everything we did was trial and error, we didn’t read magazines. Everything was basic heavy compound moves; chins, squats, bench press. We trained every week, two on, one off and I’ve never changed that system. We used to pile the plates on the squat rack and leg press, never cared what was on it and we trained to failure.

I take it your diet back then was a lot different?

No comparison, I ate as much as I could; twelve rounds of bread and cheese at work, three or four yoghurts, tuna, porridge, rice pudding, the lot. I used to take blended liver tablets which I’ve got my Dad to thank for. He used to go around the butchers on the market drinking the liver blood straight from the meat trays!

Nice! How did that fit around your work and Judo?

We trained after work, I worked from seven until five as an apprentice HGV mechanic. We trained at 5.30, two body parts a session etc. By then though the Judo was wearing off.

So once the martial arts stopped, what then?

Then I went from the Sweat Shop to a gym above Sugar Cubes nightclub with Roy Cox. It had no name and at night you could see the stars through the holes in the roof, the rain used to come in and you could see your breath in winter. It was there that a good friend of mine, the late Rick Morris introduced me to boxing. We trained at Bracebridge Boxing Club run by Denny Oliver twice a week doing circuit training, pad work and sparring but it was just a hobby. I stayed at the Sugar Cubes gym until I opened my own place, No Limits Gym in Monson Street.

Is that when you met Laurie Carr?

Laurie was about eighteen and came to a club where I was working the door and asked if he could train with me so I said yes. He was already training at my gym but liked the way we trained and it was obvious he was keen. The first night he trained though he threw up and I thought ‘that’s it, won’t see him again’ but next day he was back and he threw up again but still he came back and from there I watched him grow and grow.

How long did you stay at Monson Street?

For about five years, bigger, modern gyms started to crop up and we couldn’t compete. At the time bodybuilding had dropped in popularity and the fitness orientated gyms got more popular. It’s thanks to Laurie’s generation that bodybuilding proper has made a comeback and independent gyms like Evolution (now Performance Gym & Fitness) can be successful.

What happened then?

I moved back to Pacific Gym and trained with Laurie for my first show with NABBA. That was six years ago, even though Laurie won his first show the year before we were still learning. Our target was to lose two pounds a week and if we didn’t we adjusted our diet. I remember Laurie telling me he was so hungry one morning doing his cardio he saw a half eaten Mars Bar on the pavement and it took him all his strength not to eat it! We did cardio three times a day, forty five minutes per session. Laurie would meet me at five thirty in the morning then again after work, then we’d go home for tea and meet up again for another session before repeating it all again the next day. We competed in the NABBA North East in Pudsey where Laurie won the First Timers the year before. I came third in the Over 40′s and Laurie came second in the Novice Class.

We both qualified for the Britain where I came third again and Laurie won the Novice Mr Britain. I qualified for the Universe in Southport and finished seventh but because there was no Novice Class Laurie couldn’t compete that year. After the show I vowed never to do it again!!

Famous last words! So in the six years between the Universe and now what did you do?

We were both busy with our own businesses, Laurie had been training at his own newly opened first gym and I started training at Fitness First with Gary Fawcett, Andy Denton and Mick Bowles. I just ticked over really until Laurie came to see me in early 2012 and asked me to help him train legs for his return to competing.

That’s when we saw you back at Pacific in the run up to Laurie’s show at the UKBFF Muscletalk.

Yes, seeing how Laurie had progressed and the knowledge he had gained was unbelievable. When he got on stage in Bedford and won the Super Heavyweights and then the Overall title I was so pleased for him but it also inspired me to have another go myself and after that we sat down and put a plan together.

I really got going once Evolution (now Performance Gym & Fitness) opened, the support there is fantastic. Anyone can train there, man or woman regardless but they’re all into it and that’s what I love. It’s like the gyms of old without the attitude. There’s more men and women competing out of that gym than anywhere I’ve ever known and it makes a difference, it pushes everyone, not just those who compete.

So how did you start?

When I showed Laurie what I ate he laughed and said his girlfriend ate more than me! First of all he made me strip off all the fat and rubbish. When I started I was eighteen stone and soft, Laurie took me down to sixteen stone then put me on a clean bulking plan for ten months and I went to nineteen stone, my heaviest ever but it was good weight and that was the difference.

What was the bulking period like? Were you glad of it after dieting down first time around?

I think bulking is harder than dieting, at first the amount of food I had to get down was unbelievable. Breakfast was porridge, steak, eggs, protein and two and a half to three hours later I was eating again but I was still full from the last meal. The bulking carried on until June this year and then I started my sixteen week diet, Laurie checked me constantly and made adjustments to my diet whenever he felt it needed it.

Did your training change?

Yes it did and we changed our routines around to keep the body guessing. One week would be heavy, the next medium and the third different again. What helped was having some history with Laurie already, we had different areas to focus on at times but both knew what to look for in each other’s set. Nothing interrupted our sessions, no phones, no talking and that was the difference in the gym. Outside the gym I was on my own.

What do you mean?

When Laurie did my diet I stuck to it by the letter and measurement. If he said walk for twenty minutes I walked for twenty minutes, not nineteen or twenty one, it was twenty. If he said swap sweet potatoes for white potatoes I swapped. I never cheated. I knew that if I was going to do this I wasn’t going to let myself down by cheating. I had Laurie to consider, he was putting his name behind me and no way was I going to let him down. That man will help anyone but he can’t make you see it through, that’s down to you and you have to ask yourself, ‘have you got the heart?’ Because if you haven’t then do not waste his time.

The change has been incredible and anyone who has seen you both train at Evolution (now Performance Gym & Fitness) will know it’s no fluke. So fast forward to 1st September and your first show in six years, how was it, were you nervous?

It was brilliant, a great venue, very well organised and some very nice guys who competed in my class. No bad feelings, everyone wished each other well and it was a great class and show.

It’s fair to say you had amazing support

That was unbelievable, family and friends, guys I’ve trained with from Fit Space and Evolution (now Performance Gym & Fitness) came along, when we advertised I was doing the show we ended up ordering fifty tickets. I cannot thank everyone enough, it made me feel very proud.

I think everyone was struck by your routine and you maximised those lats of yours!…How did you build those?

I felt relaxed up there and it had been a long road so I wanted to make the most of it, I didn’t do the open class, I felt I had achieved what I wanted to achieve on that day and that was enough.

My back development is a result of doing set after set of weighted wide grip chins when I was younger. That’s the time to do them, I don’t do them now. When you’re starting out it’s easy to get caught up with detailed exercises but you don’t need them, it’s all about putting on and maintaining thick, quality muscle and there’s only one way to do it.

Nice to get the prize from IFBB Pro Daz Ball too….

Yeah, it was great, a nice way to round it off. I was over the moon and I was glad to have been able to do it for Laurie, if it hadn’t been for him I would not have stood on that stage looking like that.

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