They say you should never meet your heroes, but Clarence de Vis will never forget the special moment he shared with his idol.
The Belgian bodybuilder recalls a memorable encounter in Spain with actor, politician, environmental campaigner and iron-pumping legend Arnold Schwarzenegger.
“He is the grandfather of bodybuilding, he laid the foundations we’ve built upon, and we are all the flowers pushing through as a result,” said De Vis.
“Nobody has ever been able to match his achievements in the history of bodybuilding. When I met him in Madrid a few years ago at one of his contests, the Arnold Classic, I got goosebumps.
“It was emotional. Thousands of people were present that day, but what struck me was his humility.
“He said that he was my biggest fan and that I had a great future ahead of me. This was a honour for me. It still is one of my biggest drives.”
De Vis has become a legend in his own right, putting bodybuilding on the map in Belgium and developing a reputation as its most in-demand personal trainer.
“People come to me because they know of my success,” the man known as ‘The Belgian Predator’ told me. “They see what I’ve done with other clients.
“I’m different to many personal trainers. Unfortunately, some don’t take their jobs seriously, or just do it for financial reasons. For me it’s a hobby, a passion. I have this job in my veins.
Based at the Painworld Fitness Centre in Luxembourg, De Vis’s clients have included footballer Samuel Eto’o and Mr Olympia runner-up David Florentin.
Now a leading model for brands including Bikkembergs, Moncler and Porsche Design, Florentin, 28, has featured at fashion weeks in New York, Milan and Paris.
Does De Vis see him as his ‘product’? “Yes, definitely. He was my first client in Luxembourg [in 2010].
“What strikes me the most about him is his humility. He is modest – like his coach,” he smiles.
Like his role model Schwarzenegger, De Vis has always possessed the discipline, single-mindedness and self-belief to be the best at what he does.
And he insists that aiming for the top in bodybuilding need not involve using potentially lethal substances such as anabolic steroids.
The consequences of using them can range from acne and raised blood pressure to diabetes, low fertility and a high risk of heart attacks.
‘Eat well, train hard’
“Nowadays many young people take them,” said De Vis. “They read about steroids in magazines and on websites and they order them online.
“And more often than not, they buy fake products which can have very dangerous consequences.
“The sad truth is that today 13 and 14-year old kids take steroids. Incredible, I know. These teens won’t stay long in the business, let alone in the world. Taking steroids often seals their fate.”
“I eat six times a day, 15 eggs every evening and at least three meals of fish and three meals of meat a day. That’s how my life looks”
According to the 35-year-old “eating well, training hard and regeneration” should do the trick. No need for illegal substances. You can get your dream body without them.
“Basically, the secret to make it in bodybuilding is very simple,” De Vis claims. “Everything revolves around nutrition.
“Milk, fish, rice, noodles and water are indispensable. You need proteins, carbs and fat.
“If you eat properly and train intensely you’re going to get results. There’s no point training for hours and hours if then you don’t add the right food to it. Sometimes it’s better to train less but harder, and cap it off with great meals afterwards.
“Sleep is vital too because you know, muscles only grow during regeneration.
“I eat six times a day, 15 eggs every evening and at least three meals of fish and three meals of meat a day. That’s how my life looks. Muscles are built in the kitchen, not in the gym.
‘The past is gone’
De Vis also insists that anyone who is serious about building muscle and generally increasingly their fitness has to reject the unhealthy aspects of their social lives.
“Alcohol, cigarettes and fast food should absolutely be avoided,” he stressed.
“Alcohol is the biggest enemy of the gym. When I drink a glass for instance, which happens very rarely, I notice that I lose some volume.
“In fitness like in any other thing in life, you need to set yourself a target and work towards it. Focus. Concentrate”
“It chases water out of the muscle and as muscles are made of water…it’s like killing them.
“Not only is alcohol detrimental to the muscle growth but it also reduces your muscle mass while increasing your body fat.”
De Vis adds: “It goes without saying that if you want to see results you can’t cheat. Many people fail in this sport because they don’t train seriously and don’t give it their all.
“In fitness like in any other thing in life, you need to set yourself a target and work towards it. Focus. Concentrate. Don’t look at what the neighbour is doing, just focus on yourself.”
De Vis is not, however, resting on his laurels. “The past is gone, I have dreams for the future. I want to finish among the top three at Mr Olympia one day.”
He may never match Schwarzenegger’s seven Mr Olympia and four Mr Universe titles, but the Belgian already has a giant reputation in his chosen field.