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Fitness Fanatic Fantastic

Fitness Fanatic Fantastic

Anthony Aurelius was nicknamed ‘The Helicopter’ for winning martial arts tournaments with jumping spinning kicks. Now the number one UK fitness expert, he talks to Viva!’s founder, Juliet Gellatley about his passions for veganism and exercise without machismo

Anthony Aurelius NMC, ECI, AAMET, EFT began training in Shotokan Karate at the age of eight: “I was overweight and wanted to do something about it. I was also lacking in confidence. Martial arts helped me.” By 12 years old Anthony was already questioning traditional martial art techniques, so he began kick-boxing and tournament training. He admits he was obsessed. Was it because it was cool with his peers? “I saw The Karate Kid and he got the girl and he won the tournament, so I thought that I’d get a nice girlfriend! I created an exterior image that said: “I’m tough” but deep down, I didn’t want to fight anyone, really. But certainly everyone knew me in the town as a top kickboxer.”
 
Rough and tumble
 
At the tender age of 16, Anthony went to San Bruno, California to train under Grandmaster Ji Han Jae who had fought the legendary Bruce Lee in Game of Death and was one of the highest ranking Hapkido masters in the world. What an adventure for one so young! “Yes I loved it.” But was entering tournament after tournament tough? “Very. I’ve broken nine of my toes and most of them about four or five times. Black eyes. Broken nose. You’d think if you win, you’d come out of a tournament looking great. No! You’ve been through more hell than anyone else. To be in the final, you’ve been through a day of 10 or 15 fights. You get really bashed up.”
 
Martial arts have, unsurprisingly, a macho image and are much more popular with boys than girls. And despite spending his 20s mastering everything from Thai Boxing, Judo and Aikido to Kung Fu, Wing Chun and Brazilian Ju-Jitsu and fighting in various martial arts films, Anthony has rejected the traditional attitude to exercise.
 
“So many people start exercising with the wrong attitude. They are head strong, determined to do too much, too fast and bully their body. Then they give up! In fact you should be gentle, respect yourself. You should take your body through a journey and as you get fitter your mind will follow and you’ll enjoy the feeling of being fit.” His dark eyes flash: “I got it all wrong for years. I got sick because I trained competitively and my body couldn’t handle it. Everyone saw me as super fit but I always had joint problems, and my body was becoming less flexible and taking longer to recover.”
 
A vegan eye-opener
 
Anthony is 38, dark haired, slightly tanned and very toned. He doesn’t look like a guy that takes long to recover! “I don’t any more. But that was the change in my diet. Going vegan had a massive effect on my fitness.” What triggered this mighty change in mighty man?
 
“About four years ago I was training hard in a gym and some people started to watch. This guy came up to me and asked, ‘Do you eat meat?’ ‘Yeah.’ And he quipped, ‘You should be a herbivore, your intestines are too long to digest meat and it’s gonna putrefy inside you.” I was stunned. I talked with him – James Gorman – and that was the start. Then I read mountains of stuff from Viva!, the Vegetarian & Vegan Foundation and the web. I watched cows being killed on YouTube. I couldn’t believe it, I had my hands over my mouth as I saw the blood gushing out of them. I hadn’t made the connection before but it finally sank in. I was eating dead bodies and it was wrong. Revolting. Unhealthy. Toxic.”
 
Anthony continues: “I progressed to being vegan as I read more. I found it easy to give up meat
as I related the animals to my pet dog, but dairy was more of a battle as the connection to an animal is not as instantly stark. Also it used to be a comfort food for me as a child and it seems to be in everything! But I’m there and I feel fantastic.”
 
Feeling fantastic
 
As a bodybuilder, how did Anthony adapt from the outdated and wrong notion that eating animal muscle is essential for us to build muscle?
 
“At one time, I was eating loads of chicken breasts. I was competing in Hong Kong and I was living on tomatoes, egg whites and chicken! It does build muscle but not in a healthy way. Bodybuilders often take drugs, steroids and growth promoters, it’s easy for them to gain muscle taking these if they train in the right way. When I went vegan my bodybuilding improved but also I felt much more energetic. Maybe it’s because your body is not dealing with so many toxins. I want to challenge this whole meat is macho rubbish. Meat just slows you down.”
 
Anthony is now a personal trainer to celebrities and cancer patients, as well as being producer of Raising Awareness Productions. “Without health you’ve got nothing. I just want to help people get well and enjoy their lives. I now produce films because I want to reach millions of people with the truth about their diet, the environment…. all the lies spewed out by multinationals angers me.”
 
What’s Anthony’s diet like? “I juice a lot – my favourite is avocado, spinach and cucumber with lime. I also eat masses of fresh vegetables, especially if I’m training as they are packed with antioxidants. When I ate meat I always had an aching this or that, or some injury, now I bounce around.”
 
A winning combination
 
I’ve always kidded myself that a vegan diet is enough for great health. But as I psyche myself up to walk the Yorkshire 3 Peaks in May, I agree with Anthony that for full zest and vitality you need a fabulous vegan diet along with regular, moderate exercise. He tells me: “Heavy exercise is damaging, it cuts your immunity and life but light to moderate is the way to go as it boosts your immune cells and zaps disease.” Hoping to motivate myself, I read Anthony’s book Why Exercise?. It’s excellent. Easy to read, factual and very inspiring to an exercise novice like me. Lack of physical activity causes nearly one-third of all deaths from heart disease, diabetes and colon cancer. It also causes degeneration of your joints and muscles and sleeplessness. You just don’t have the energy to do all you’d like.
 
But Anthony should have the last word: “There is little point in living longer if the added years are unhealthy, unhappy and painful. Vegetarians and vegans have a huge advantage of a brilliant diet but also need to exercise. In today’s competitive world you’ve got to be fit and healthy and have sustainable energy. With that you’re happier… you can love your partner more, do activities on your days off, enjoy life more, so it’s priceless. Also too many people have a negative concept that vegans are weak. We should all help to boost the masses along by setting an example!
 
It’s easy! A vegan diet plus light to moderate exercise. And the world is yours!
 
Anthony’s e-book, Why Exercise, is available from Viva! for £6 at www.viva.org.uk/shop/exercise