Gary Thornton AKA The Viking

Hey mate and welcome to my first Brothers In Iron section here on Old But Strong.  Now Gaz, I know you’re such a humble guy – one of my best mates, and over the years you have had a huge influence on me.

I know you so well, and life is richer with you in it.  I would love our members to know a little about you.

There is no doubt about it others will benefit from your knowledge.

So without further ado let’s get into this.

First the basics, then move into more depth.

Question 1

Ian

How old are you Gary and how long have you been under the iron.  Please tell us also what was the spark that started this passion.

Gaz

Hi, I was born in 1960, I’m almost 56 years old, I’ve been pushing the Iron for almost 40 years, the first few years were spent doing pull-ups, press ups, dips, sit-ups etc and using a bull worker only you oldies will know what one of those are haha

The spark started just before I left school.  At school I was one of the youngest in my year so I was also one of the smallest.  I remember reading comics with super heroes in them and also I read a lot of books about Vikings that had pictures of muscular men brandishing swords and axes, and thinking I want to look like that, I still love anything to do with Vikings now, hence the nickname, when I finally left school I joined a gym and was instantly hooked on the discipline and challenge of being able to change the way you look by lifting the Iron and out of the gym with the diet.  I liked having that willpower to do something that a lot of people couldn’t do and also the individual aspect of it, it was down to me as to what results I got and not down to a team like it was at school playing football, cricket, rugby etc, after all these years it’s still the same!!

 

Question 2

Ian

I know you own and run Iron Monkey PT, tell us a little about that and how it organically grew to where the business is now.

Gaz

Iron Monkey PT is something that has just naturally evolved, I’ve been involved in the Iron game for a number of years starting with working in gyms in the early 80’s and 90’s, I had back then guys who wanted me to train them one to one and pay me and that’s way before “Personal Training” became the monster that it is today, maybe I should have followed Mr Duckett because for me he’s one of the very first PT’s I can remember, and to this day probably one of the best.  Anyway from working in gyms I started working for Weider Health & Fitness in their retail supplement shops, eventually owning my own supplement shop Aktiv Bodz which I ran for 17 years.  All this time I’ve enjoyed helping  and passing on my knowledge to others so when Aktiv Bodz closed it felt right to continue helping others with their journey in the Iron game, hence Ironmonkey PT

 

Question 3

Ian

Please give us a background on your competition success, past and present.

Gaz

My competition success can be measured for me anyway in two ways, there’s the shiny trophies and the continued improvement in yourself, the latter being the most important I feel, my first competition I came last, the same competition 2 years later I came 1st, but it wasn’t the shiny trophy that gave me the most satisfaction although nice, no it was the gains and improvements I’d made over the 2 years, that’s the success!

Anyway I’ve acquired a few shiny trophy’s over the years and most of them are in the garage apart from some of the latest figurine trophy’s.  I’ve placed around 90% of the time in the top 5 in most of the shows I’ve entered, one’s that stick in my mind are Ken Lathams UK Championship Qualifier 80kg 1st, Ken Lathams UK Championships Final 80kg 2nd, if you’re reading this and have been in the Iron game as long as Ian and myself then you’ll remember Ken Latham and the great shows he used to put on.  A great man and many a champion came from these show even the great Dorian Yates started his journey to become 6 x Mr Olympia at a Lathams show, those were the days, sorry starting to lose myself haha, back to the question, Mr York Novice 1st, Mr York Novice Overall 1st. Mr Yorkshire 1st this one really stuck in my mind because every competitor outweighed me by at least 1.5 stone, not always the biggest guy wins, North East Class 2 1st, North East Over 40’s 1st, NABBA Mr Britain Over 40’s 4th, North East Over 50’s 2nd, North East Over 50’s 1st, Nabba Mr Britain Over 50’s 7th, the last two competitions were in 2015 and that’s where I am now, whether I compete again, not sure yet, like I said earlier success is not only measured by the shiny trophies but your constant strive to keep pushing and bettering yourself!!

 

Question 4

Ian

Please outline the most productive training and nutritional method you ever did.

Gaz

To be honest Ian I don’t think I’ve found that most productive training and nutritional method and if I had I think I’d be still using it, I think at moments in time your body responds to different methods and let’s face it Ian I think over the years we’ve tried everything haha, I really do think the most productive training and nutritional method is CONSISTENCY, if you feel that the body’s responding to a particular training method then keep going, when the body stops and it will, try something different, the same with nutrition,  one thing on the training side maybe that I’ve stuck by and that’s keeping the volume down other than that I think the determining factor in making gains be it strength, building muscle, getting leaner etc is CONSISTENCY, sorry if you wanted me to write down a particular method but to be honest I don’t have one apart from CONSISTENTLY train hard, CONSISTENTLY eat well, CONSISTENTLY mix it up and you should CONSISTENTLY get results!!

 

Question 5

Ian

How does your training and diet differ these days, being in your fifties.

Gaz

I think this question could be a bit of a continuation from Q4 in as much the training and nutrition is still and here comes that word again CONSISTENT lol but now being in my fifties my training and nutrition has changed or a better word is evolved, I don’t train as heavy as I used to, the joints and tendons over the years of training and aging do take a battering, so for me the weight has come down naturally to a point where I feel good with my joints and tendons, I could lift more weight but I found I was getting more and more injuries which then set me back, whereas training lighter or as I like to put it smarter meant I felt I was moving in the right direction, might be very slow but hey it’s moving forward as opposed to this back and forth with getting injured, I also found it a way of keeping a more positive mind set because every time I’d have a niggly injury it would have a negative impact on my training.

I’ve found that now in my fifties I have to take half a day to warm up haha before I start training, when you were in your twenties it was in the gym quick warm up and then bang straight in to the workout, now it’s 20-30 mins warming up at least before I can start, but hey that’s aging for ya….

Something else that you really do feel as you age and it’s probably in my opinion the most important thing after Consistency and that’s recovery, I think you can still train really hard and intense but mother nature says that’s ok but you can’t do that 3 days in row, I train occasionally with some clients who are in their twenties and all though I can hang with them during the workout, what I can’t do what they can and that’s probably train the next day with any intensity I have to let my body rest and recover whereas the twenty  year olds almost recover overnight, so that’s something I’ve noticed big time in fact now I train each body part anywhere between  7-10 days apart, like I said earlier being in your fifties everything has evolved and one big factor is listening to my body, if I don’t feel like I can go to the gym and give it 100% then I don’t go and probably go the next day, it’s not being lazy it’s listening to what my body’s telling me, people ask me how many days should I train well everybody’s different you just have to listen to what your body’s saying you don’t need to cram all your body parts in to one week, if we didn’t have weeks only days  how would people structure their workouts?

The diet side has changed too, gone are the days where I must eat 6 meals a day without fail, don’t get me wrong I try to eat 5-6 meals per day all though somewhat smaller meals nowadays, but If I don’t feel hungry then I may go longer between meals so get only 4 meals in that day say for instance, again I’m listening to what my body’s saying, I don’t eat as much meats as I used to either I find all that meat puts your aging digestive system under more strain so I find myself eating more fish, nuts, seeds, eggs and slightly more vegetarian based meals, so I think the training and diet has just naturally evolved as I’ve got older and most importantly I’ve listened and adjusted accordingly, bring on the 60’s eeek!!

 

Question 6

Ian

Do you train on your own Gary or with a partner?

Gaz

I train mainly on my own nowadays, I like to put my music on and just go into zone, just me the iron and heavy metal, that’s the music haha, having said that I do train with a few client who are just starting their competitive journey, I train with NPA competitor Connor Young who I’ve been helping for a few years, I occasionally train with other clients Liam Winterbottom and Carl Saunders another couple of guys I’ve been helping, these guys are all in their twenties full of spunk and enthusiasm, but ya know what it helps keep me young, oh the joy of youth lol

 

Question 7

Ian

I know you train really strict with laser like focus, tell us, how did this develop over the years

Gaz

Yeah the training came about because genetically I’m not very strong, although I’ve got stronger, in my younger days like you do ya try and lift as much as possible but I found I’d either injure myself or I’d leave the gym with more pain in my joints and tendons and also as the weight got heavier and heavier I seemed to be concentrating more on just moving the weight from point A to point B and not moving the weight with the targeted muscle, so I started to reduce the weight and train a lot slower during the rep with a lot more emphasis on squeezing the targeted muscle and, immediately I noticed a lot less stress on the joints and tendons and more on the muscle it felt like the muscle had been worked.  Some people may come in to the gym and see me almost struggling with what appears to be a relatively light weight, but what they don’t see is what I’m feeling and that’s an intense deep contraction in the muscle, because I’m training in a very slow controlled manner I can really get this mind muscle connection and like you say that’s probably why I look like I’ve got this laser like focus.  For me it’s not about how strong I’ve been or how much I’ve lifted, don’t get me wrong even though I train slow and controlled I’m still trying to put a few extra pounds on here and there but not at the expense of losing the control, for me it’s about coming out of the gym with a good feeling in the muscle, I think this style of training is called (TUT) Time under Tension,  whatever it’s called I train similar to this, as I’ve got into my fifties this style of training really suits my physique and structure and I think a lot of fifty plus guys could benefit from this style of training..

 

Question 8

Ian

Your a very rounded man that has many interests outside of bodybuilding could you please tell us what are your other interests are and why

Gaz

Obviously the iron game has been a passion since I was 16, but one of my other passions goes back even further into my childhood around 10-12years of age and that’s the passion for fishing.  I love the solitude with this hobby even though I do go with friends occasionally,  I love going for a few days and nights and sitting with mother nature, close out the rest of the world and all the shit that’s going on in it and almost go back in time sat cooking, chilling and sleeping as mother nature intended, I do have all the latest fishing tents and bed chairs making it almost home from home I have to have some comforts haha, no you can’t beat sat with mother nature in the middle of nowhere watching the sun go down.  I find it very therapeutic and great for recovery of mind and body.  I’m also a motorcycle fanatic, again can be a solitary affair just you and the open road giving you a sense of freedom in this world of chaos, it’s a bit like a warrior riding an iron horse and for me it seem like it’s one of the last rebellious things you can do in this world of conformity and like the Iron game there’s a true brotherhood amongst true bikers as there is with true iron enthusiasts, you can ride anywhere in the world on a bike and pull up where there’s a few bikers and have a conversation with loads of different people, try doing that in a car.

I’m a big animal and nature lover, love music and music festivals, I like all things spiritual (not in a god way)and I think we should all look after the universe because we won’t be getting another one..

 

Ian

The wrap up Gary, what is your goal for the future with your training and life balance

Gaz

My goals for the future are very simple wake up every morning feeling happy and grateful for what I’ve got because one day it will all be gone..

I’ll carry on living my life the way I’ve always done, chilled and laid back it’s worked for the last 50 years haha

I’ve never really set myself goals per say, everything has just happened or evolved that way I’m that kind of guy even though deep down I’m focused and driven.

As for competing who knows if the desire is strong enough then yeah I still think there’s a few shows left, if not then no worries, to be honest I’m quite happy helping others get on stage and start their journeys, I’ll definitely keep training and looking after myself, it’s a way of life that’s totally in grained a bit like getting up and brushing your teeth in a morning it’s something you don’t think about…..

 

Just want to say a big THANKS to my old mate Ian for asking me to be part of what I think is something that will just get bigger and bigger, this site will be a great place for us oldies to be inspired and motivated, and do ya know what I think a lot of the young ones can learn a thing or two from what Ian, myself and I’m sure many other on this site will contribute.

Ian keep inspiring and motivating, you’re a true legend and friend, your inspiration goes deep my friend, here’s to you my Iron Warrior!!!!!!!!!!!

Ian

Thank you so much my old friend.

You have inspired me for years with your balance and outlook.  Those reading this that know you will be nodding their heads in agreement about such a good person as yourself.  And those that don’t know you, will I hope take on board some of your nurtured good habits.

Gary can be found on FB under Gary Thornton and Iron Monkey Personal Training

When I say he is one on the best coaches around – I mean it

Thank you Gary, and thank you all for reading

Be Old But Strong Of Mind And Body

Ian

6 replies
  1. Markus
    Markus says:

    Love this interview. It is always a big gold mine listen to the stories of older iron warriors. It´s not only the training or nutrition-knowlegde they share, It is often their way of life , their balance of all things or their experienced and calmed mind, which interest me especially.

    Reply
    • Ian Duckett
      Ian Duckett says:

      Gary has been a good friend and inspiration for more than 25 years –love the guy and I knew his words would inspire others x Thank you Markus Ian x

      Reply
    • Gaz
      Gaz says:

      Thanks Craig glad you enjoyed the interview, I really enjoyed writing it and big thanks to Ian for asking me, cheers bud

      Reply
  2. peter yates
    peter yates says:

    GREAT INTERVIEW AND ESPECIALLY RELEVANT IS THE NEED TO ADAPT AND CHANGE IN TRAINING AND EATING AS WE AGE SO WE CAN CONTINUE TO BE IN THE GAME FOR THE LONG HAUL. SOMETHING THE YOUNGER GUYS SHOULD TAKE NOTE OF. MANY MORE YEARS OF IRON SLINGING TO GARY.
    PETER.

    Reply
    • Gaz
      Gaz says:

      Cheers Peter, thanks for reading and enjoying, yeah you’re right something the younger guys should take note of, but to them we’re just old now hahaha

      Reply

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