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  • Ryan Underwood


28th of April 2024, the morning of the IFBB Perth State Titles.  Show number 5 of the national tour.  I woke up around 7am and instantly knew something was wrong.  I couldn’t move.  My whole body had seized up.  I was cramping everywhere, head spinning and felt incredibly nauseous.  I was sitting on the edge of the bed and literally couldn’t take a step.  Every time I tried to stand up, I would just collapse back down on the bed.  I’m sitting on the edge of the bed thinking “What the fuck do I do here?”  Do I call Scott?  Do I call 000?  “How the hell am I meant to compete yet again in two separate divisions today when I can’t even move out of bed?”  I just tried to remain calm and control my breathing.  Eventually I had started to calm down and the body was starting to somewhat cooperate.  I was able to get out of bed and get my meals together, pack up my belongings, dirty tan sheets and all and call an uber to the venue.  It was a 12-minute uber drive to the venue and I had passed out in the uber.  Once I arrived, I got the final coat of tan and just went back stage to lay down.  Scotty and Josh approached me backstage and clearly saw something was ‘off’ Scotty said ‘You good?’ I’m like “nah man... I’m not great” Josh took a knee and leant into me “what’s up?” he said.  I got quite emotional, told him what was going on and that I just felt like everything was shutting down and had no idea how I was going to perform yet again in two separate divisions.  Josh then said “Hey... look at me... remember the goal, remember the mission, WHY are you doing this? No one has ever done this before; no one has even attempted this; you are so close.  I need to you to dig deep for one more day.  Just think, you get through today and then you are back on home soil, no more flights, you’ll be with your kids and it’s just one more show.  I need you to dig deep and bring back that energy and smile you’re known for... and hey.. between you and me, I reckon you’re a chance for a cheeky overall today...”


Approximately 20 weeks earlier –

It was a few months out from the first state show of season A.  I walked into my coach Scott's office as usual on the Thursday for our check in and pose.  I said to Scott "I have a really crazy idea and a rather insane goal"  He sat back in his chair, legs crossed, arms folded, clearly intrigued at what I had to say and said "Oh yes, do tell".  "I want to compete in ALL of the shows for season A and perform 6 separate posing routines, a different routine for each show" I replied.  Scott responded in his typical cool, calm and collected manner with "Sure! why not" and we were off and running.  We kept it between ourselves initially just to make sure it was actually possible.  Has anyone ever done this?  Could I go through 5 peak weeks in a row?  Will the body cope with that amount of stress?  How will I manage this logistically?  Can my body cope with the travel?  Adelaide and Perth are on the same weekend, Can I do back-to-back shows?  Is there even a flight to Perth that late after the Adelaide show?  I had started to drip feed it to a few close friends.  I told Jordy and Jeremy, two fellow athletes whom I am very close with and they both said the same thing... "You're insane! but I am here for you whenever you need" And I reached out to those lads a lot during this time and I'm forever grateful for their support.  I had a chat with Tony in Brunswick one afternoon and told him my plan, he was all for it.  Before you know it, word was starting to spread, Tony was promoting it at the posing workshops across the country... now the pressure was on to really make sure I complete this mission!  But there was no stopping me. I had my goal. I had my mission. My focus was drilled in.


(Sorry you haven’t made weight!)

Registration day for the Sydney show was meant to be a cruisy day, arrive, check in, weigh in, go back to the apartment, chill and continue eating up in preparation for the show the next day.  It didn’t quite turn out that way.  As some of the officials took my height (181cm) my weight cap for classic was 98.4kg.  They were looking at the height below mine and said I needed to be 94.8kg.  I tried to correct them and say that they had it mixed up but they were adamant that I needed to be 94.8 or I was unable to compete.  I weighed in at 97.4kg... butt naked!  I got Scotty over; he was just as confused as I was.  I said “ok, fuck it! Scott, can I lose 2.6kg in 2 hours?” He’s like “yyeehhhh” clearly not that confident.  I knew I could lose it; I had drunk plenty of water during the day and had eaten quite a bit.  I ran down stairs and went to three different pharmacies to get some caffeine tables, I chewed 4 of them.  I laid in the sun in my underwear.  I went back upstairs and went to the toilet a few times (number 1s) weighed in 95.6kg.. SHIT.  Time was running out, there was about 30 minutes left before registration was closing.  Then... YES... (number 2s) waited a little longer again and with approximately 10 minutes left I had weighed in at 94.8kg on the dot.  I looked at the officials with a proud but somewhat annoyed “Happy?” They marked it off and we were good to go. THEN, the head judge for the Sydney show comes up to me and taps me on the shoulder “Sorry mate, are you Ryan?” he said. “Yes sir” I replied.  “You don’t have to stress; you’re allowed to be 98.4kg... I responded with “Oh that’s great! Where were you two hours ago mate?”

The Sydney show was great.  I was able to snag a bronze in the classic physique line up.  After the show, Scotty and I had a little debrief backstage about my look and how I presented.  We were both very happy with the look but were slightly confused with where I sit these days in the sport.  Am I classic? Do I lack that ‘classic’ shape or am I simply too vascular for classic? I said to him “Do I just go back to open bodybuilding?”

When I arrived back in Melbourne, I approached Brett (Head judge Melbourne shows) “Mate, I need to have an honest conversation with you and shoot it straight” I said.  “Absolutely” He replied.  “Am I still classic?” I said.  He paused a bit “mmm to a point” He responded. This was a really great conversation because we spoke about some flaws in my physique but also some strengths.  The things I would get marked down for in classic would be rewarded in open bodybuilding.  And with that being said.  We then increased the workload for this insane mission and added open bodybuilding to all the state shows moving forward.  So, I would now be competing in classic open and open bodybuilding for the next 5 shows. 


For the Melbourne show it was just a matter of rinse and repeat.  For the Sydney show we had done a two-day fat load and a two-day carb load followed by a maintenance day.  So, we just did the exact same thing and it worked again.  It was a great package yet again and my condition was on point.  Posing routine on point and received great feedback from people.  I was able to walk away with a bronze in classic open and also a bronze in open bodybuilding.  The confidence I got out of that show was great because I felt I had found my place again in open bodybuilding.


The sleeman centre. Brisbane.  There is something about that place that always fires me up. I love performing in Brisbane. It’s such an amazing venue and I just love Brisbane in general. It will always be close to my heart. Another great show and everything went to plan once again. The routine I performed in Brisbane was one I had wanted to do for a long time.  A theme from Titanic.  It had significant meaning to me I absolutely loved posing to this song and the feedback was really positive.  Truly blessed with the comments and feedback from this performance. I was able to snag yet another bronze medal in classic physique and also a bronze in open bodybuilding.

After returning back to Melbourne from Brisbane, I was quite flat, I had hit a wall physically and emotionally.  The body had really started to feel it and I felt I had started to regress.  I felt I was starting to lose condition.  The body was holding a lot of fluid that I just couldn’t seem to get rid of.  Strength was down and I was dragging my feet. Three peak weeks in a row had finally caught up to me.  We had also felt that it was time for another push so Scotty and I cut the calories once again to see if we could make any changes to the overall package. We decided against the two-day fat load and two-day carb load that we had previously been doing and opt for just one day carb load into Adelaide.  This was the big one.  The big weekend. Adelaide on the Saturday and Perth on the Sunday.  I knew this was going to be the most challenging part of the whole tour.  But I was also excited to catch up with Jeremy, Cynthia, Will and Jamie and have some fun and feed off their energy and support.



My flight to Adelaide was 2.30pm on the Thursday.  At 2.27pm, the announcement comes over the speaker “This is announcement regarding passengers on the Adelaide flight JQ720.  This flight has been cancelled due to engine failure.   Please return to check in to see if there are any alternate flights available” “fuck” I thought.  I grabbed my bag and sprinted down to check in bypassing about 30 people.  I arrived at the desk. “Please tell me you have another flight you can put me on” I said.  I was able to get on the next flight out at 4.30, only a two-hour delay.  I then heard over the speakers, just as I had been given a ticket “unfortunately there are no more seats available to Adelaide this evening, you will have to wait until 8pm tomorrow night” I was one of only 4 people to get onto another flight.  If I had not got on that next flight, I would have had to drive to Adelaide, compete, then leave my car somewhere in Adelaide while I fly to Perth to compete, then fly back to Adelaide after the Perth show to collect my car and drive it back to Melbourne...  I guess the universe was looking out for me in that moment.

I arrived in Adelaide and was absolutely over the moon to be greeted by one of my best mates Jeremy and his partner Cynthia.  It was so nice to see their faces.  I was feeling quite flat and obviously depleted and to spend some time with them absolutely lifted my spirits again. We went and trained together straight after I had landed but it was smiles all round in their presence.  The next day I spent some time with Jamie, another close friend.  We hung out, we filmed a podcast, he drove me to my tan and back to my apartment which I was so grateful for.

The Adelaide show ran amazingly well. I met some really cool guys backstage and made friendships for life.  I unfortunately didn’t place in classic physique but I was fortunate to win gold in open bodybuilding. My first gold of the tour. After the Adelaide show had finished it was pretty much straight into an uber and off to the airport to catch my flight to Perth.  I arrived in Perth around 6pm, jumped in yet another uber and drove to my accommodation.  Once again, unpacked my dirty tanned sheets to put over the bed (those that have competed whilst travelling know exactly what I mean here) Sleeping on your own dirty sheets and towels so you don’t get any tan on the hotel or Air bnb sheets and mattresses.  Prepped a few more meals and packed as much as I could for the next day, which was the Perth state Titles.



Ok! Back to Perth.  If you recall the opening chapter of this story.  The day of the Perth show didn’t exactly start off the way I would have liked it too.  Competing in Adelaide the day before, very minimal water intake over the day and with the rush of flights back and forward, the body was clearly just not cooperating.  This was the 5th show in 4 weeks, the 5th state, the 4th peak week, 6 flights, back and forward water loading, fat loading, carb loading, carb depleting.  The body was pretty much saying “I’m done mate” Getting back to Josh’s final words to me “I need you to dig deep for me, because I think you’re a chance at a cheeky overall today” Bodybuilding comes across as such a selfish sport, and it is to a point.  There is a lot of selfishness about it.  But you have your people in your corner as well that support you and they have got your back no matter what.  Josh simply taking the time to sit with me, be with me and talk to me had lifted my spirits and got my head back in the game. I managed to snag yet again another bronze in classic physique and I won gold in open bodybuilding.  Also, Josh’s prediction came true because I was blessed to win the overall in open bodybuilding and walk away with the title of “Mr Perth” There was a lot emotion in that victory and a lot goes through my mind when I think of about it.  That win was as much Josh and Scotty’s as it was mine.  If they hadn’t spent that time with me, encouraging me and reminding me why I was there, would I have been able to see it through and win ‘Mr Perth’? This win will arguably go down as the greatest win of my amateur career.  More due to the adversity and lead up to the show. As I said above, at this point I had already been through 6 flights, 4 peak weeks, 5 states, Adelaide show the day before.  Not being able to move my body just a mere 4 hours earlier.  I am very proud of that victory and it’s something that will be incredibly difficult to top.



The last show of this crazy tour. Show 6, the Nationals. Let’s be honest, I was quite spent by the time Nationals came around.  The lead up was fine, back at home, spending time with my kids, just cruising through the week as normal doing yet again another peak week (it just became the normal really) I was defiantly feeling it by this point. My body was very sore, I felt I was starting to lose condition a little. I think the stress of the whole thing had really started to creep in. I was still happy with the package I presented but if I’m honest with myself it was the worst look of the 6 shows. I decided to just enter open bodybuilding for this show. I didn’t place in this show, I think I came in a solid 4th. I was happy with that considering I wasn’t at my best.  If I had managed to hold the same look as I did for the Adelaide show the week prior then maybe that could have improved but we will never know. I was just happy to complete all 6 shows and fulfil this goal I had set myself.  I decided to go out ‘My Way’, literally.  I chose Frank Sinatra’s song ‘My Way’ for my last posing routine.  Another great little routine that was received well and clearly had meaning behind it. As I walked backstage back through the curtain, a number of emotions came over me, I collapsed backstage to floor and just broke down crying. I wasn’t upset or disappointed or anything I just couldn’t stop crying.  I think it was a combination of a huge weight lifted off my shoulders from a very intense prep and very intense 6 weeks of travelling, peak weeks, training, etc. But then there was this overwhelming sense of accomplishment.  I had set a very audacious goal at the start of this whole thing to do 6 shows in 5 weeks, in 5 different states and perform 6 separate posing routines.  I had done it.  I had achieved this insane goal and it was this overwhelming sense of ‘Well done mate’ This also has me sitting now on 30 amatuer bodybuilding shows, which is another great achievement I am proud of.



Where am I now? How am I feeling? It’s an interesting one.  It’s a combination of emotions.  Part of me is sad and already misses it, the stage, the prep, the process, the challenge.  Another part of me is happy that I am back to somewhat normality.  I’m torn between celebrating what I had achieved, but also looking for ‘The next thing’ The next dopamine hit if you will.  Is this a dangerous feeling to have?  I received my blood test results post show and things were not too bad.  A few things to keep an eye on as is expected but the main thing that was alarming was my cortisol.  It was very high and out of range.  Part of this is obviously due to supplementation and the intense amount of stress I had put on the body over the journey with the number of shows, peak weeks, travelling etc.  I had been battling some personal things for quite some time so there was going to be an element of increased stress due to this as well.  

Moving forward, my main objective, first and foremost is to try reduce stress and bring my cortisol back to a normal range. How do I do this? Good question, any suggestions please advise ha-ha.  Obviously having a good rest from the supplementation will reduce things.  I will reluctantly need to step away from bodybuilding for a small period of time. (I will be back on stage 2025) My main goal is to simply put on as much size as I can before the next showing to be competitive in open bodybuilding.


Why did I do this? Why put myself through this ordeal? I think a huge part life is about setting yourself big hairy audacious goals.  Doing everything in your power to try achieve those goals and learn as much as you can about yourself and the process along the way.  Constantly raising the bar and raising the level of ‘hard’ that you put yourself through.  Because if you continue to challenge yourself and continue to raise the bar, the next time you face something that is ‘hard’ you will be much more equip to deal with that certain situation.  If I choose to do 3 or 4 shows in a row again next season, I have absolutely zero doubt in my mind that I can do it because I have already put myself through 6 shows in 5 weeks, what’s 3 in a row? Setting big goals like this does come at a cost.  You will fail, and fail regularly.  I have failed so many times in my life.  Failed more than I have succeeded.  But I would like to think I have achieved some pretty special things in my life along the way.  You learn more from the failures in life than you do your victories.  When you fail, you fall and sometimes fall HARD.  Some of my failures both professionally and personally I have fallen very hard and at times had no idea if I was able to pull myself back out of the whole I was in.  But if you scrap and claw, just keep putting one foot in front of the other and eventually pull yourself back up the surface, you come out the other side with a little more resilience than you previously did.  The one who falls and gets up is stronger than the one who never tried.  Do not fear failure but rather fear not trying.  When I set this goal of 6 shows, 5 weeks, 5 states, 6 posing routines, I was very confident I could achieve it.  I kept thinking to myself ‘imagine that feeling when you complete this mission?’ When I stepped off stage after that final performance in Melbourne, I was so damn proud of myself.  I achieved a huge goal that I set myself months beforehand.  I did what I said I was going to do, I didn’t back out, no matter what adversity was thrown my way, and there was plenty that was thrown in my direction.  Just 4 weeks out from the first show in Sydney my house was broken into, mine and the kid’s bedroom trashed, clothes tipped out everywhere, TVs on the ground, 3k in cash stolen.  How do you think I slept the next few weeks?  Just one week out from the Sydney show, 15k was stolen out of my business account through the Netherlands via Facebook, I eventually got that back one week out from the Adelaide show.  I don’t say this for any sympathy I am simply saying that shit is going to happen to you.  It’s your reaction to adversity, not adversity itself, that determines how your life’s story will develop.  I just kept moving forward.  This is an achievement that I will cherish and remember for the rest of my life.  By the end of the tour, this ‘Travelling Showman’ As Mr Tony Doherty himself referred to me as was able to walk away with 6 Bronze medals, 2 Gold medals, an Overall Mr Perth title and loads of memories to go along with it.   

Again... Why do all this? I really just wanted to put a few medals my kids necks and make them proud of their dad.


 Until next time..


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