His life hit rock bottom: no job, failed relationship and bad physique. Yet Eastender Altuğ has bounced back to become the first Turkish Cypriot Pro Fitness Model in the world.
Tell us a bit about you
I’m 29-year-old Londoner, now living in Essex. My mother is from Cyprus and my father from Ankara. I did well at school: 10 A-C GSCEs and 2 A Levels, but I never really knew what I wanted to be. I qualified as a personal trainer when I was 18 years old and have continued in this field ever since, working as a class instructor, gym manager, cardiac rehabilitation leader for the NHS and a MEND lifestyle tutor for overweight families.
What is fitness modelling?
It has two sides: competitive fitness modelling and fitness modelling for fashion, magazines, and supplements etc. Some of the most successful fitness models have never stepped on stage in their lives but have a great look and are very marketable. Others, like myself, make their way through competition. Being successful at one doesn’t mean you’ll be successful at the other though. The WBFF (World Beauty Fashion and Fitness) have awarded me “Pro Fitness Model” status, which means I meet their criteria for physique, stage presence, confidence and marketability.
How did you get into it?
I had pretty much hit rock bottom in my life. I was a gym manager, but my passion for fitness was ebbing away because the company I worked for wasn’t interested in their customers or staff. I left my job, my long-term relationship ended and I was in terrible shape. I decided to take off to Cyprus for three months, which helped clear my head. I trained there and carried on when I got back. Instead of just going through the motions though, I signed up for a competition that a friend of mine was also doing. The rest, as they say, is history.
What do you have to do maintain your physique?
I weight-train 4-5 times a week – no more than five times even when I’m competing. It’s unnecessary to do more. I also eat a consistent amount of calories to stay relatively lean but my diet isn’t restricted in the slightest. What’s the point of being in good shape if your life is suffering? No food is off limits for me. It’s all about getting a consistent amount of calories every day made up of the right amount of protein. In moderation, you can lead a perfectly healthy life and be in fantastic shape.
Biggest achievements to date?
I am the first ever Turkish Cypriot WBFF Pro Fitness Model. I came 4th in the 2012 Miami Pro UK Championships and was runner-up in the 2013 WBFF Florida Championships, which earned me my Pro card. I’m also the first Pro Fitness Model to sign up for the Natural Athletes Alliance, which means I can be randomly drug-tested at any time in or out of contest season. This is something I am extremely proud of because I want to show people what is achievable naturally.
What types of modelling work have you been offered?
Having only recently turned Pro, I’m still finding the best ways to market myself. At the moment, I am mainly receiving castings for modelling in fashion and hair.
How has your life changed in the past few years?
Well, the biggest has been offering my coaching services to the public and other competitors, aided by my Pro status. It’s given me a new full-time income within the very first month. Also travelling, meeting new people from all over the world and making life-long friends through my competitions. My personal journey too – I realised all of those things that happened to me a few years back were part of a much greater plan to take me to the next level. I see those experiences as so positive now and feel blessed to have been through them.
What are the hardest aspects?
Probably during the last four weeks before a competition, when you are low in body fat, so your body isn’t functioning optimally and I feel lethargic. Another tough thing is I find I’m judged way more now. People make up their minds about me and how I lead my life before they even get to know me.
My ambition now that I’ve turned pro is to open my own fitness studio and run my own ship with the passion I have for helping people do things the right way.
Your favourite Turkish?
Food wise, I’m a sucker for mantı. And if you left me in the cake section of Yasar Halim, you probably wouldn’t see me for a week. I grew up listening to music by Barış Manço, Tarkan, Serdar Ortaç, Mustafa Sandal, and Rafet El Roman. My favourite Turkish place in London is Kervan Sofrasi in Edmonton. I love how you can go there with your friends, order an absolute mountain of food, be social and come out with your wallet not too empty! The food is great too.