Lurgan man David Stewart is taking on the world - one bodybuilding competition at a time.
David claimed three top prizes at last weekend’s Mr and Miss Europe Fitness Model Championships, having only started to train intensely a year ago.
“I had been training for a year when I decided to take bodybuilding a lot more seriously,” explained David.
“A friend of mine then put me into contact with people involved in bodybuilding competitions. I entered - thinking nothing of it - and ended up winning three awards!”
The 2015 Championships, organised by the Northern Ireland Fitness Modelling Association, were held in Belfast, where David had to pull his weight alongside more than 80 competitors.
He came away with awards across three categories: 2nd in the Mr Bodyart category; 3rd for Mr Athletic; and 3rd for Mr Physique.
“I wasn’t even planning to get into the Top 10!” David said.
“I was so taken aback - it was my first competition, so I’m really chuffed!”
The thirty nine year old is setting his sights on the next competition already, with the Natural Bodybuilding Federation of Ireland (NBFI) National Championship Finals in September.
One particularly interesting aspect of David’s training is his conscious decision to build his body muscle naturally - without using supplements or steroids:
“I train twice a day, sometimes three times, and have a very strict diet: everything is weighed in.
“I never knew you could do this naturally - I was really surprised - and there are so many organisations for natural bodybuilding, like NBFI, which are great.”
David is now being sponsored by his local gym, the Fitness Factory in Lurgan, and has quickly gained some very special fans.
“My son takes pride in it,” David shared.
“He’s six - and the other day, he brought the cups and medals I’ve won into school to show them to his friends!
“That makes me even more proud and happier to do it.
“Some of the kids down at the gym have been coming over and asking me stuff about training.
“That’s what I care about - being able to influence the young people in the community in a positive way, and letting them know it’s possible to do this naturally.”
David’s own interest in fitness stems back to his teenage years, so he knows firsthand how important it is to have a role model to ignite such a passion.
It’s been quite a whirlwind for the new champ, and he now has just twelve weeks to prepare for the National Championships, which take place in Cork on 5 September.
The competition will have a grand variety of entrants, ranging in age from 16 year olds to contestants in their 50s.
“I’m really grateful to the Fitness Factory, as well as Kenny McDowell and Geoff Gates, who have backed me up and been with me every day to keep me on track,” David said.
“The help and support of my family and friends has also been amazing.
“I’ve never seen so much support in my life.”