A BODYBUILDER will be flexing his muscles in a bid to claim a Mr Universe title at the age of 52.
Don Learoyd, from Darlington, has reached the final of the National Association of Amateur Bodybuilders’ Association iconic Universe competition made famous by triple winner Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Mr Learoyd, who runs his own windscreen fitting business with his son, competed in bodybuilding shows as a youngster but had a nine-year hiatus from the sport after having an operation on a trapped nerve in his arm.
He returned to competing four-years-ago, and made the Mr Universe final in 2012, finishing fifth.
This year he is determined to make a top three finish in the senior category of the competition in Southport on October 25.
He said: “Of course you want to win, but I would be happy with a top three as long as I know that I was the best I could possibly be.”
Mr Learoyd trains for an hour each day, six days a week, and eats eight meals a day to maintain his muscle-clad 15 stone physique.
“You wouldn’t want to see the food bill,” he said.
“It’s mostly fish, rice, chicken and protein shakes.
“It is hard work sticking to the diet, and I couldn’t do it without the help of my wife who makes my food for me to take to work.”
Before he returned to bodybuilding, Mr Learoyd was a mere 11 stone and said that with the right attitude anybody could turn themselves into a contender.
“It is a lot of time and dedication,” he said. “I keep saying ‘will this be the last year?’ but I have still got my sights set on bigger and better things; some lads have got sponsors and it would be great if I could get one, it would certainly help with the financial side.”
Despite the obvious muscles on display, Mr Learoyd says that Mr Universe judges are more concerned with overall body condition and symmetry than actual strength.
Fellow bodybuilder Michael Boddy, 36, works at Darlington’s Grant’s Gym where Mr Learoyd trains and is also his ‘tan man’ tasked with applying fake tan before competitions to ensure that Mr Learoyd’s muscles are clearly defined.
He said that there was no joking in the gym about Mr Learoyd’s age because they were all proud of how far he had got.
Mr Boddy added: “I wish I looked like that and he has got a good 16-years on me.”
Mr Learoyd will be supported at the Mr Universe contest by a group of fellow gym-goers and his wife of 23-years, Kim, whom he met while training.