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The 2012 Welsh Dragon Slays All

Nov. 27, 2012

Flex Lewis wins the 212 world title at last - plus two more shows to finish a stellar 2012 season.

Interview by Ron Harris

Back in 2005 I was attending the Mr. Olympia in Las Vegas. It would be the eighth and last time Ronnie Coleman would win the title, and the first time I met James 'Flex' Lewis. He was just 21 years old and his biggest contest wins to date had been two Junior Mr. Britain titles. Flex introduced himself nervously, and at first I had a tough time deciphering his Welsh brogue. In a T-shirt and shorts, his Popeye forearms and football-sized calves looked almost cartoonish. Little did I know that this shy kid from the United Kingdom would eventually be one of the world's most popular bodybuilders, and be crowned the greatest 212 Pro alive. I spoke to him at home in Wales, after he had won not only the Olympia 212 title, but two more events in England and the Czech Republic. It struck me that in spite of his physique and popularity having both grown in leaps and bounds since I first met him, Flex was still the same humble, down to earth person he's always been.

Ron Harris (RH): First of all, congratulations on your win. Many thought you should have won last year too, but that's in the past now. How did it feel to finally have that title that you've been chasing for four years? Flex Lewis (FL): I'll tell you what, getting second place last year was probably the best thing that could have happened to me. It gave me so much motivation to win this year, and it also gave me time to really work on 'walking and talking' more like a champion. So when the time came, it was like I'd had a year of grooming for the title. I could conduct myself better and handle various things differently. Taking second was a life lesson. It was a hiccup on the path I was on, and I do believe everything happens for a reason. Once I did win, it meant that much more to me than it even would have the year before.
RH: You've also earned the distinction of becoming Gaspari Nutrition's first Olympia champion. What's it like to be able to represent your sponsor with such an honor? FL: It's more than that really, when you look at the bigger picture. Rich Gaspari signed me when I was still an amateur, as the first official Team Gaspari athlete to represent the company. At the time I had no idea how much I would be flying the flag for Gaspari Nutrition in the years to come! I feel a great responsibility to Gaspari Nutrition, Weider/AMI, and GASP, and I am very happy I have been able to make them proud. Winning the Olympia is just icing on the cake. What the fans see on stage is the product of so much hard work behind the scenes for many long months, and my win was a team effort. It's like seeing the driver win a NASCAR race, but without his pit crew and sponsors there is no way he could win. I appreciate my sponsors for the very valuable role they played in it all.
RH: You added 8 pounds of quality muscle since last year's Showdown. You've never been known as being an 'easy gainer,' and you also travel more than almost any other pro bodybuilder. How were you able to make the gains in light of all this? FL: First, I want to say that I feel blessed to be able to travel all around the world for Gaspari Nutrition and meet so many amazing fans. I do more international traveling than any of the other Team Gaspari athletes. It can be very challenging too, because I don't really make gains on the road. If anything, with the hectic schedule; it's tough at times just to maintain and not lose any weight. You can't always train when you want, and getting all your meals in when you need them just isn't always possible. So I make the most of my 'off' time when I'm home. I should say that domestic traveling is a piece of cake for me at this point. It doesn't throw me off at all. But what happens with the international trips is that I might gain say, 5 pounds in the off time at home, then lost 4 of those when I go out of the country for a few days. But at 10 weeks out from the Olympia, I stopped all traveling. I was actually able to grow and make gains until 6 weeks out.
RH: Speaking of your weight, how heavy did you get this past off-season? FL: Staying lean in the off-season is not a problem for me. I don't have a big appetite. I got up to 230-235 and was still in very decent condition at that weight. Dieting is actually very easy for me, as odd as that sounds. My lack of an appetite is a curse in the off-season, but it's a blessing during prep. I don't really crave anything. I don't even get cranky or irritable. The only real difference you see with me toward the end when my energy levels dip is that instead of being a joker and a prankster, I get quiet and not as sociable. I turn into a different type of monster!
RH: You've been the most popular 202/212 competitor in the sport for years now, regardless of whoever happened to be holding the world title. Why do you think so many fans feel a connection to you? FL: To be honest, I don't know! You would have to ask them. I don't feel like I'm any different from anybody else. People look up to me. I appreciate that and feel a sense of responsibility to honor it. I know my role in the sport, and I never want to abuse it. I don't want to be that guy a fan meets and is let down by because he's cocky or rude to him. Unfortunately, the more popular you get, the tougher it becomes to fulfill everyone's expectations and keep everyone satisfied. Sometimes I need to close the autograph line to eat, or I have to be somewhere else and I leave when there are still fans waiting to meet me. I always feel badly, apologize, and if I am able to come back I tell them I will. One thing I do think helps me is that I have a remarkable ability to remember people's names and where I met them before. Don't ask me how or why, because half the time I can't remember where I put my car keys. But above all I'm genuine and do my best to treat my fans well. Once you make one bad impression on one person, word gets out and good luck shaking that. Look at Lou Ferrigno! Not to pick on him - just a good example about how a bad impression can follow you and stick. I just try to be genuine and grateful for every single fan I have.
RH: Often we see guys who make decent gains from their last show, but they have trouble dialing in the new muscle. How did you adjust your prep to accommodate the new mass? FL: The main thing was that with the weight limit raised to 212 this year, I didn't have to overdiet and lose muscle as I did the year before. I actually stayed right around 225-230 until ten weeks out, and then started coming down very gradually. There was only one time when I wasn't seeing changes at three weeks out, so I flew Neil Hill out from Wales to Tennessee for five days. Neil made some changes to my diet and had me cut back on the cardio for a bit. He also had me start incorporating rest days. I was overtrained and my body wasn't responding, but from then on everything was fine and I dialed right in like I needed to. We have a great working relationship because Neil has been coaching me since I started competing 10 years ago. He knows my body and how it responds to things better than I do.
RH: What was it like beating David Henry, who was the first 212 Showdown champ four years ago when you first did the contest? FL: To be honest, it's over five weeks later and the win still hasn't sunk in yet. Not until I have a few minutes to myself to really think about it will it all hit me, and I'm sure there will be some tears. Neil was telling me all year that Henry was the guy I had to worry about, but I trained all year with the incentive of beating Kevin English. Without sounding like an asshole, I was right pissed when he dropped out! It wasn't a personal thing. I get on fine with Kevin. It's just that he beat me last year when I felt I should have won, and I wanted redemption. I focused all my energy on beating that man who snatched the title away from me. And I still want to beat Kevin, because I never have. I used to be a boxer, and I still have that fighter's mentality to want to get in the ring and knock out my opponent. There were a lot of great competitors at the Olympia: Dave Henry, Eduardo, Jose, but I wanted to beat Kevin.
RH: You're back home in Wales at the moment. What has the public's reaction to you been like? FL: (laughs) I have to tell you a little story. I've been here longer than I expected because my wallet was stolen with my passport and visa and I've been sorting all that out with the U.S. embassy. But while I was prepping here for the British Grand Prix and the Prague show, I would be out every morning doing my road walking, rain or shine with my hoodie. I live on top of a massive hill, and part of my path goes through ten acres of a cemetery. But parts of my walk are through streets. I would see people waving or flashing their lights at me, and I would wave back - thinking how do they know me? I always had my headphones on, those wireless Beats by Dre ones. Then one day they shut down on me at the start of a walk. That's when I heard all the cars honking their horns at me trying to say hello. They had been doing it the whole time, but I never knew! The local papers did a nice story on me, and people told me they were so happy to see something positive about a young man from Llanelli, my hometown. It's been getting run down in recent years and there have been all types of drugs coming in and kids getting so messed up. The local pro rugby team, Swansea City, had me come to one of their games, out on the field to do the equivalent of throwing out the first pitch in baseball. Then the guys had me come into the locker room to meet them all. They all train hard. These are massive guys really, and they were all proud of me. I had my Olympia medal on of course!
RH: Have you been training at your own gym? FL: I've been training there and also going over to Tenby to Neil Hill's gym. Bodybuilding is getting huge in the U.K. and especially Wales now. The U.K. has had some great champions in the past like Dorian Yates, Ernie Taylor, Charles Clairmonte, J.D. Dawadu, and Grant Thomas. But there was still a perception that it was an American dominated sport. Now I think more bodybuilders here see what I've done, and it's given them hope too. There are already a few top 212 guys from the U.K, like Shaun Joseph Tavernier and James Llewellyn.
RH: Which Gaspari products were the most helpful to you in your off-season, and which ones were key for your Olympia prep? FL: I used SizeOn Maximum Performance during my workouts all the way up to my contests, but I did cut back the serving size as I got closer - from a full scoop to three-quarters, then a half scoop. I had the new IsoFusion pure whey isolate first thing in the morning and then immediately post-workout. Often I would have a scoop right before bed, and another if I woke up in the middle of the night. I took my Anavite twice a day religiously, and SuperPump Max before every workout up until a week out from the shows. As for the new Detonate fat burner, I started that five weeks out and it made the final part of prep so much easier. I had far more energy throughout the day than ever before. I would be out walking for my morning cardio and felt so chipper I would be waving and saying hello to everybody. They were looking at me like I was nuts. The stuff is powerful! Actually, since I have issues with my appetite anyway, I had to use only one capsule. If I used two, I just wasn't hungry enough to eat. How many guys a month out from a contest ever say that? Most athletes do fine with two. I'm just really sensitive to it I guess.
RH: Rich Gaspari seemed surprised when I told him that you aren't technically the 212 Olympia Champion, because the event is still called the 212 Showdown. Now that you have the title, are you going to try and see what can be done to change that so you can be known as the 212 Mr. Olympia? FL: All of us 212 athletes talk about this. We were saying we really need to stand together to get that changed. Without the Olympia title, we're more of a sideshow. You have the Mr. O, the Ms, the Bikini, and the Figure. All we want is the same thing, because the Olympia title means the world to us. All the fans call it the 212 Mr. Olympia anyway. And we do have our own unique fan base. A lot of these guys can't really relate or aspire to the guys in the Mr. O, but they see us and we are more attainable because we're not 270 pounds. I'd like for us to have a press conference like the Open guys where we can get some hype going. I'm not one to trash-talk, but if some of the other guys want to do that, I'm sure it would liven things up. We can all joke around. All the top 212 guys have their own fans, and they will really get into it and have fun. As for the name change, it's under consideration right now with the IFBB.
RH: The prize money was nearly doubled this year, from $12,000 for winning to $20,000. Certainly that has to be a good sign for the future of the 212 Showdown? FL: It is a good thing, and hopefully it will keep increasing. I will always be passionate about the 212 division, even long after I retire. My hope is that by the time I'm 35 or 40, our prize money will be a lot more comparable to the Open division. And I will be happy for the new guys then. A lot of the guys who were fighting in the UFC in its infancy gripe about how much more money the fighters earn today. I really hope the 212 champion someday makes several times what I made! We're all professional athletes and we out our hearts and souls into these contests.
RH: How long do you want to hold this title for? Do you feel anyone else is close to you right now, or are you confident that as long as you keep improving; the title is yours for many more years to come? FL: I hesitate to answer, but I will. Obviously my immediate plan is to defend my title successfully next September. Ideally, I plan to win three times. I feel I could be content with that and step away to allow someone else the chance to be the champion after me.
RH: After the Olympia, most guys would have started their vacation. But you weren't done yet. Next up for you was the British Grand Prix, which you also won handily, defending your title there. After winning the first time in spring of 2011, did you already know you would return in 2012 to defend your title? FL: Definitely. I'm so proud to be a British athlete, and this year's lineup was excellent. We had new blood like Sami Al Haddad, who I had never competed against before but who had almost beaten Kevin back at the New York Pro. He had also won the Amateur Mr. Olympia held at the British Grand Prix the same night I won last year. But the really significant thing was that this is my home, and it's only fitting that I do my best to win here and give my fans in the UK something to celebrate.
RH: But you still weren't done yet! You continued on to the final 212 show of the year in Prague. Why did you decide to do that show, and what was it like over there? FL: I tell you, that was a first-class show. Weider/AMI ran it, and Robin Chang had his whole staff and production team over there to make sure it went off perfectly. I heard the staging and lights alone were over $400,000. It just made sense to hang on to my condition another week and do it.
RH: Which of the three shows do you personally feel you looked your best at and why? FL: I like the look I had in Prague, because I feel I get better at every show. In Prague I was told I looked flat at the judging, so I went to McDonald's and carbed up; and came in nice and full for the finals. I haven't really sat down and looked at pictures from all the shows to compare them, though. The difference wasn't really so much. I weighed in at 211 for the Olympia and was probably 208 on stage. For the Prague show I was around 205-206. I think I look my best when I'm not so stressed. After winning the Olympia, I felt like a weight had been lifted off my back and the pressure was off.
RH: Now that the shows are over for this year, what's your plan? Will you be taking a break from training for a bit? Have you decided if you might do any other shows next year besides the Olympia? FL: It's too early to even think about which shows I will compete in next year, but I can say I will defend my Olympia title. I can also say that my next off-season is going to be a lot more planned out and blueprinted. Now that I am the champion, there is a target on my back and all those other guys are gunning for me. I am great friends with a few of them off stage, but up there only one of us can win. Of course I need to make sure that one man is me!
RH: You talked earlier about your win as being a team effort. Who do you need to acknowledge now? FL: I'll start with my family, of course. They have been so supportive. When I started out in bodybuilding, they had no idea what it was all about. Now it's hilarious, they use words like 'flat' and 'full' and can talk about the sport like fans! I still have my friends in Wales who never stopped supporting and encouraging me, like my old training partners Steve Naylor and Mark Price. Rich Gaspari, like I said, believed in me from day one and signed me when I was still an amateur and has stuck by me through thick and thin. Joe Volgey at Gaspari has become a great friend and mentor, he has taught me so much about the business and marketing side of the industry. Dan Pierce, Dianne, and the rest of the staff over there have all been fantastic. Even though he's not with Weider/AMI currently, I want to thank Peter McGough for bringing me on to FLEX magazine when he was the Editor. Sean Barber, the owner of Olympus Gym in Murfreesboro, has been a sensational training partner these last few years, and I want to thank all the staff and members of the gym too. What can I say about my girlfriend, Ali Rosen? She's my rock and I love her to death. It's been so tough being away from her these last few weeks while I'm here in Wales. Last but not least, thanks to my dear friend and coach Neil Hill. Neil was a judge at my very first contest, the Junior Mr. Wales, and I have been working with him ever since. Without his wisdom and guidance, there is no way I would be where I am today.
RH: And finally, I know you have a DVD series. Can you tell me about it and where people can find them? FL: Yes, the series is called "No Stone Unturned." The first part is available now, "No Stone Unturned: The Early Years" is available now at http://www.flexlewis.net. That covers my early years and amateur career. The second part is called "The Pro Years" and it takes you all the way from my first pro show all the way up until my Olympia 212 Showdown win. I’m hoping that will be out by New Year's. A third part will be all the behind-the-scenes stuff leading up to my win, very up-close and personal, and that should be out next spring. Follow my blog at flex.gasparinutrition.com for all the latest updates.
RH: Excellent. Great talking to you and again, congratulations. It's been fun watching you become a world champion through sheer hard work and determination. FL: Thanks Ron.


Flex's 212 Mr. Olympia contest diet


Wake:
· 1 cap Detonate, L-Glutamine and 6 tabs BCAA 6000
· 20-30 minutes cardio
· Meal 1: 1 scoop IsoFusion, 6 egg whites, 1 cup oatmeal, banana, 3 tabs Anavite
· Meal 2: 8 ounces turkey breast, sweet potato, green beans
· Meal 3: 8 ounces turkey breast, sweet potato, green beans

Pre-workout:
· (30 minutes prior) 6 tabs Vasotropin, 3 scoops Superpump MAX, L-glutamine

Workout:
· 1 scoop SizeOn Maximum Performance

Immediately After Workout:
· 1 scoop Aminolast, 2 scoops Glycofuse, 1 cap Detonate

20 Minutes After Workout:
· 2 scoops IsoFusion

Meal 4:
· 8 oz. steak, baked or sweet potato

Meal 5:
· 8 oz. turkey breast, green beans

Between:
· often a scoop of Aminolast (as needed)

Meal 6:
· 8 oz. turkey breast, green beans, 3 tabs Anavite

Meal 7:
· 1 scoop IsoFusion, 6 egg whites



Northeast and West Coast Tour Dates


Northeast Tour Dates

Tuesday 11-27-12
4:00 - 6:00

Aggressive Nutrition
3049 Ave U
Brooklyn. NY 11229

Wednesday 11-28-12
4:00 - 6:00

Supplement City
890 Bridgeport Ave
Sheldon, CT 06484
11-28-12 4:00 - 6:00

Thursday 11-29-12
4:00 - 6:00

Ocean State Nutrition
1531 Smith St
N. Providence, RI 02911
Event will be at the Gold's Gym at 200 Baldwin Rd. Warwick,RI

Friday 11-30-12
4:00 - 6:00

Cape Cod Nutrition
75 Iyannough Rd
Hyannis, MA 02601

Saturday 12-1-12
11:00 - 4:00

Cape Cod Nutrition
221 Colony Place Rd
Plymouth, MA 02360

Sunday 12-2-12
10:00 - 5:00

Train With Team Gaspari Contest
Body Worx
273 Marshall St.
Paterson, NJ 07503
West Coast Dates

December 6th, 2012
1pm to 4pm

N101- West Hollywood
8730 Santa Monica Blvd. #C
West Hollywood, CA 90069
Phone(424) 288-4785

December 6th, 2012
5pm-8pm

N101-Los Angeles
6252 Romaine Street
Los Angeles, CA 90038
Phone (323) 467-6123

December 7, 2012
12pm to 5pm

Lindberg Nutrition
3804 Sepulveda Blvd
Torrance, CA 90505
Phone (310) 378-9490

December 8, 2012
11am to 4pm

2nd Annual 619 Muscle Long Beach
Holiday and Charity Bash
619 Muscle Long Beach
3200 East 59th Street
Long Beach, CA 90805
*$500 PUMP YOUR GUNS CONTEST hosted by Flex Lewis, Mr. Olympia 212

December 9, 2012
11am to 3pm

Nutripro Annual Gaspari Nutrition
Flex Lewis "PUMP YOUR GUNS" Contest
Nutripro
5370 Schaefer Ave
Chino, CA 91710
1-877-722-4466
*$300 PUMP YOUR GUNS CONTEST hosted by Flex Lewis, Mr. Olympia 212

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