What makes a pro athlete tick? Andrew Elvis told us a little bit about what drives him to keep up his active lifestyle. After a motorcycle accident that changed his life, Andrew became a dedicated bodybuilder and went so far as to win 5th place in one of the greatest competitions, in the Men's Physique category.
The doctors didn’t give me many chances for a full recovery, let alone hope at regaining my previous sports performance.
He has a life-long commitment to sports, which he started practicing as a child. He also used sports to make a full recovery from the accident, despite the odds. Nowadays, he lifts heavy and trains others to achieve their fitness goals. Andrew uses the power of his own example to inspire others to reach their full potential!
Please start by telling me a little bit about yourself, starting with your full name and age.
My name is Andrew Elvis and I am 33 years old.
What do you do for work?
I’m a fitness instructor.
How do you like spending your free time?
I spend most of my free time with my daughter and my family. I also like going out, taking walks. When I have more spare time, I like going to the movies, reading, and learning how to get better at what I do.
I also enjoy contact sports. My life revolves very much around sports, even when it comes to literature, documentaries, and movies; I am always learning how to get better in my field. What I do in my spare time is directly related to the sport I practice.
So, when did you start playing sports?
I started pretty early, when I was about 8 years old. I did a few months of wrestling and that was my first contact with sports. Afterwards, from the age of 11 up until I was almost 18, I practiced traditional Karate Do. I first stepped into a gym in 2002 when I started bodybuilding.
I simply started to improve my physical fitness, especially since I was a Karate practitioner. I really enjoyed the gym and I slowly made the full transition into bodybuilding. I have an affinity for it, and I prefer a holistic approach to it. I dislike clinging to norms. I don’t like following too many rules. I prefer a more encompassing approach.
What motivated you to start this lifestyle and bodybuilding?
Sports have always been a part of my life, ever since I was a kid. So I simply changed the tune, so to speak. My motivation comes from within. I feel good when I look good. The truth is that in 2009 I had a motorcycle accident: a full-frontal impact with a car.
I was properly equipped and protected, but suffered multiple spinal traumas, a pelvic fracture, a double fracture on my left forearm, had my right shoulder dislocated, tore my ACL and collateral ligaments and suffered a meniscus tear in my right knee.
Basically, my knees were turned to fringes. The doctors didn’t give me many chances for a full recovery, let alone hope at regaining my previous sports performance. But since I have this nonconformist approach to sports and dislike others telling me what’s ok and what isn’t, I experimented on my own.
The doctor’s advice and prognosis only made me more ambitious. I used it as fuel towards my recovery. It was a long journey – it took 3 whole years until I made that full recovery. Yes, it was a dark time of my life and I’m grateful I overcame it. Now my joints don’t hurt, I can work with heavy weights and I can undergo intense and endurance training.
I’m still susceptible to injuries which is why I have to be careful. This is why I prefer fitness, because the movements are somewhat controlled and there are no interfering factors. It’s unlikely for someone to lose focus when they’re tackling a 220lbs weight, so they have to be fixated on that.
In bodybuilding, things are a lot simpler. You have a set of movements you need to follow, you set your trajectory. As opposed to American football or other contact sports, such as boxing, there’s no risk of an opponent unbalancing or distracting you. So the risk of injuries is significantly downgraded.
You said it took about 3 years to rehabilitate. What did you do in these 3 years to achieve this?
I started with some basic exercises that I did for a 3-month period. Just some simple ones to restore my motor functions in my legs and my left wrist. These were resistance band exercises strictly related to joint movement. Afterwards, I tried massage therapy, an electrical stimulation treatment, a paraffin treatment, and other medical procedures that come after more complex surgeries.
The doctors gave me a walking frame and a custom-made knee prosthesis, but I found it impossible to use that walking frame. That’s because my injuries were too extensive and got in the way.
I basically had to rely on one hand to use the crutches. However, but that hand was broken, my pelvis was in screws, and when I put the crutches under my armpits, my shoulder would be dislocated. So I was pretty much all screws and wires.
I gave up the walking aid completely so that I could force my body to adapt to the predicament I was in. And while normally I wasn’t advised to start training with weights, 6 weeks after I was out of the hospital I was already back into the gym. And I started with exercises such as seated dumbbell curls.
And afterwards, since my biggest problems were my legs and pelvis, I started doing bodyweight exercises. I worked my way up to squats, lunges, and leg extensions so that I could regain my mobility and start using my own body for workouts.
When I felt comfortable enough to start lifting weights, I started with seated bicep curls, and then I moved on to presses, where I had more control over the situation. Afterwards, I did jumps as well; plyometric exercises, endurance exercises, and without any problems.
The entire journey, meaning for me to feel that I am 110% back to my old self took 3 whole years. Before the accident I weighed 88-89 kg but when I left the hospital I weighted only 67 kg. I lost about 22 kg in a relatively short amount of time. And I’ve been through lot of pain and discomfort - the accident was very complex.
What motivated you to open your own gym, especially since is a difficult thing to do?
After the accident, I was talking to a friend who was like: “Andrew, what do you think your accident meant? Was there a bigger plan in store for you? I mean, how come you recovered without any permanent damage?”
I initially didn’t want to pay too much attention to his question, but found myself asking the same thing. And thought to myself that if this sport worked for me and my recovery, which ultimately, I did with my own strength, I could also motivate and help others achieve great results when they are healthy.
I recovered and achieved very good results with trauma that made my rehabilitation difficult. But someone who is healthy… what excuse do they have? Or why else wouldn’t they be able to follow in my footsteps?
So I decided to take action that direction. I didn’t have the initial intention of opening a gym. Actually, I first decided to become a specialist in the field and a personal trainer, and only afterwards work as a freelancer or maybe at a gym.
Since I live in a relatively small town, people knew my story so I thought it was easy to make a name for myself in this industry - which actually happened, because in about a year or two, I became pretty well-known among those who practice this sport. With time, I saw that there is a demand for it. An in my opinion, I’m good at my job and had some outstanding results with the clients I’ve worked with.
That’s why I decided to invest the money I earned in my own business and work for myself. If my recovery protocol worked for me and I managed to make a full recovery, I thought I could motivate others as well through the power of my own example.
Did you participate in any sports competitions for which you were rewarded?
My first competitive experience as a professional athlete as an adult took place this year. I decided to set it as a goal for keeping me motivated. Since I’ve been training for a long time, motivation can fade away, especially if I don’t look for external sources of motivation.
In February 2017 I made a public statement on my Facebook page that I will take part in the strongest fitness and bodybuilding competition, in the “Men’s Physique” category.
Based on what I’ve learned from others and from my personal experience, making a public statement raises your accountability and makes you push yourself harder in spite of obstacles that come your way. So I took part in the Grand Prix competition, the “men’s physique” category, made it all the way to the finals and won the 5th place in my category.
Since I didn’t have any competitive experience, I sat down with a professional athlete. It’s one thing to train for yourself to look good and stay in shape, and a whole other to train for a competition. This is why I turned to someone who competed professionally, to take better care of my nutrition and improve my training routine. This is how I managed to win that 5th place in my very first competition.
Do you want to pursue this in the future and participate in other competitions?
I definitely want to take part in such competitions in the future, but don’t want to make this a unilateral goal. When it comes to fitness, my goal is to continue to be healthy, be in good shape, and to try to look better and better. Still, the ultimate goal is to be healthy, fit, and look good. The most important thing in this sport is to be constant.
I know you are at the gym all the time, because this is what you do, but how many times a week do you train?
I work out about 4-5 times a week, and these sessions are structured with one or two rest days in between. So I tie 2 training session say, Monday and Tuesday, afterwards I take a day off, then Thursday and Friday I train again, and I rest on Saturday and Sunday. In theory, I don’t do more than 5 training sessions per week, because I would exhaust myself and not yield great results.
It depends: there are many opinions going back and forth in this sport. I believe that it only depends on how well you listen to your body in order to figure out what works for you and what doesn’t. For me, if I am rested and have a good state of mind, 4-5 workouts per week is enough.
What do you like doing most during your training? Do you have a favorite exercise?
I really enjoy training my legs, because I feel that a body, especially when it comes to aesthetics, looks good on a solid foundation. Even if my legs don’t seem to be the thickest, what’s important is that they’re strong. I have a leg day when I do squats, lunges, and bodyweight exercises. I also like working on my abs a lot and I enjoy the overhead presses as well.
I am the adept of classic workouts when it comes to structure, but I like to vary my routines when it comes to repetitions and even as a way of execution. Maybe I don’t always perform a basic exercise at the beginning of my training session and I prefer to keep it for the end.
Or when I am tired I don’t use a heavy load, but choose to go for more repetitions. I like to analyze and see how my body responds to training regiment and I structure my sessions depending on how I feel.
So what do you in your rest days?
Not long ago I had at least one day a week when I would get massage therapy. Since I am the father of a young daughter now, I prefer spending most of my rest days with my her and my family.
Spending time with her offers me the mental relaxation that I need. I also enjoy stretching, since 3 or 4 of my workouts are strength training sessions and cardio, I like dedicating one to stretching as well. It helps me get my energy levels back up and maintain my joint mobility.
Regarding nutrition, do you have a special diet?
During the competitive period, I followed the keto diet. I like following the advice I get when I am training, even if I don’t always feel like it. So I stuck the keto diet, with few carbs. When I am off competition season, I try to eat healthy, by avoiding sugar – which is one of the greatest dietary dangers for an athlete, and not only - processed foods and flour too.
I eat meat, I don’t particularly avoid fats, but I try to eat them in controlled variations. I also try to consume fats in the first part of the day, so that by the end of the day to have a light meal. I have a few meals a day that I reduce quantitatively as the day progresses.
Do you have a guilty pleasure? (food)
Of course! I very much like pizza. It’s one of my weaknesses. When you know you diet is on point, it’s normal to treat yourself from time to time, strictly for mental satisfaction. At the end of the day, you are an athlete, not a hermit that has to live in abstinence. I can afford to treat myself once in a while since I have a fast metabolism, but I don’t want to make excesses. That’s bad for my health.
Oh, I also enjoy chocolate. I eat dark chocolate regularly, once or twice a week. After breakfast, when I have my coffee, sometimes I eat one or two chocolate squares from a dark chocolate bar, but it always has to be at least 70% cacao!
Which is the core motivator that inspires you to maintain this lifestyle?
I just want to be healthy; the fact that I don’t get sick and get to do my daily activities without health issues. Going through a period of hospitalization and pain, I definitely don’t want to get back to that simply because I decide to lead a decadent life, where I satisfy my culinary pleasures in a sedentary lifestyle.
I ultimately do this sport because I want to be healthy. It is through sport that I manage to maintain my health. Even if 20 years from now I’ll stop lifting weights, I don’t think I’ll give up being active, because I enjoy it too much.
Does your wife join you in this lifestyle?
When we became a couple, she wasn’t a regular sports practitioner. She would take walks, ride her bike, or swim, so she was active. But in time, seeing the constancy and balance in my training, and seeing firsthand what I’ve been through and how this sport helped me recover, she started to share my passion for it.
So, she too, started training 3 times a week. With an amazing genetic potential, if she would train the way I do, I’m certain she would make a name for herself in the industry. But she is not as passionate as I am about it. She’s more introverted and enjoys my training methods – we actually train together. She shares my passion and she helps me out.
During my competitive period she was by my side and supported me every step of the way. It’s not easy to cook and stay upbeat when your life partner doesn’t share or identifies with your passions.
Many times, one partner has a healthy lifestyle and the other tries to sabotage it by tempting them with a pizza or something. It’s certainly not my case, my wife is really supportive. We are both slowly heading towards the same direction and that is a great thing.