A Conversation with Fitness Superstar Zac Aynsley

Fitness icon Zac Aynsley visited 'Jake's Take' for 'A Conversation.' (Photo courtesy of Generation Iron Brands LLC)
Fitness icon Zac Aynsley visited ‘Jake’s Take’ for ‘A Conversation.’ (Photo courtesy of Generation Iron Brands LLC)

By: Jacob Elyachar, jakes-take.com

It is a privilege to welcome fitness model and bodybuilder Zac Aynsley to Jake’s Take.

In a few short years, Zac Aynsley has become of the most influential fitness model and bodybuilders of his generation. He has appeared on various magazine covers and 10 book covers in the United States. He recently celebrated hitting over a million followers on Instagram and is planning to star in a new documentary produced by Generation Iron and is scheduled to compete in the Men’s Physique Division category at an upcoming bodybuilding competition. Currently, Zac Aynsley is represented by Edwin Mejia Jr. at Generation Iron, who also represents iconic bodybuilders Calum von Moger and Kai Greene. 

In this edition of “A Conversation,” Zac revealed his biggest fitness industry role models, his thoughts on social media, and overcoming obstacles that he faced throughout his career.

Jacob Elyachar: When did you get interested in fitness? How did that passion evolve into the desire of pursing bodybuilding?

Zac Aynsley: I was a DJ for a number of years, and I just decided I did not want to live an unhealthy lifestyle. Because after a while, it was just progressively getting worse. I drank more and ate unhealthy foods every day. Something clicked in my head where I thought to myself: “I need to change this. I am going to go to the gym, I am going to be healthy, I will start running, and I want to be fit.” Once I started going to the gym, I saw results immediately and became hooked.  I fell in love with seeing results and pushing myself physically and mentally, while learning new things.

Jacob Elyachar: Who are your biggest role models in the fitness industry? What have been some of the lessons that you have learned from them?

Zac Aynsley: The first person that I want to mention is Sadik Hadzovic. Originally, I did not really look up to him. However, once I started following him, and met Sadik in person, he immediately became an idol of mine.  He is such a humble person who went out his way to help me in this industry. The way he presents himself, the way he trains is just very focused. He is there for a reason. Outside of training and competing, Sadik is the definition of a gentleman. I look up to that, how he dresses, acts in public, and how he presents himself online.  During my early years, I had other inspirations that range from Ronnie Coleman and Jay Cutler to Arnold Schwarzenegger and Frank Zane.

Also, I also looked up to aesthetic bodybuilder Zyzz (Aziz Shavershain). He was an Australian guy who passed away a few years ago, but when I first started, he was a significant influence and colossal role model to me. He showed that you did not have to be born with bodybuilding genetics and that you can have fun while training at the same time. Also, I learned from Zyzz that you could live your life to its fullest and not eat chicken and rice! I combined the intense hard training of Dorian Yates, Ronnie Coleman, and Jay Cutler, plus Zyzz’s attitude on fitness and came up with my style. For example, if Ronnie Coleman screamed in a gym as he tried to lift the equivalent of a heavy car, I did that. Then, I watched Dorian Yates intensely train until he passed out, I also went and did that. I also embraced Zyzz’s philosophy of going around with the sunglasses on, trying to look good, and have perfect hair. I looked up to quite a few people I have looked up to, but now, It is me, myself, and my family are the people I look up to. For example, my dad is a tremendous role model of mine and my mom, and just the mirror is the main one right now. It’s looking into that mirror that motivates me.

(Photo courtesy of Generation Iron Brands LLC)
(Photo courtesy of Generation Iron Brands LLC)

Jacob Elyachar: What have been some of the most significant challenges that you have faced throughout your career? How did you overcome those obstacles?

Zac Aynsley: One challenge that I faced was that I left my friends and family, because I traveled so much. It is sacrificing a lot. It’s not one of these things that is a secure 9:00 to 5:00 job. So, there’s a lot of risks you need to do, and you are traveling the world, meeting and living with random people, and you are hopping from hotel to hotel. You literally have to leave all your friends and family behind and do it all by yourself. That is a big challenge, and I would not say I overcame that. It’s just like, I believed in myself so much, I figured I could not fail at this. If I put in the effort that I’m putting in in the gym, there is no reason I cannot fail. It’s not going to happen. I guess I just said, “I need to do this. Let’s go,” and I did not give myself an option otherwise. I was not at home thinking if I do this, should I do this or not. I kind just said, “I need to do it. Let’s go.” Then obviously, say if I was a bit anxious about flying somewhere, if I just bought the plane ticket there and then, I had no option but to go, and just went off and did it. That is the biggest challenge.

It is not the competition. It is not the fact that what we do is very different to the population. It’s leaving people behind you because you travel so much by yourself. I spent six to seven months in America last year, almost by myself. I moved in with Jeremy Buendia. But then, from living with him, I stayed at like three or four different places and doing all this traveling by myself: no family with me, no friends with me. You have to make friends. As I say, you meet random people all over the world, all the time. So, that’s probably the biggest challenge and trying to come back and tell your friends that. It is hard to stay in touch with them, and sometimes they get a bit upset because they feel like you forget about them. You don’t talk to family as much. Having that balance is tough. That’s probably the biggest challenge for sure. The distance in my relationship as well. My girlfriend, I rarely see her, and it kills me. When I’m abroad especially, I don’t see her for months at a time. For me, that’s the biggest challenge. It’s not a dieting thing; it’s not a training thing. That’s easy. Dieting sucks. No one likes it, and I would eat cake every day if I could. The biggest thing for me is being alone and having to stay motivated when I am feeling down. I miss my family and friends. But, you just got do what you have to do.

It is not the competition. It is not the fact that what we do is very different to the population. It’s leaving people behind you because you travel so much by yourself. I spent six, seven months in America last year, almost by myself. I moved in with Jeremy Buendia. But then, from living with him, I stayed at like three or four different places and doing all this traveling by myself: no family with me, no friends with me. You have to make friends. As I say, you meet random people all over the world, all the time. So, that’s probably the biggest challenge and trying to come back and tell your friends that.  It is hard to stay in touch with them, and sometimes they get a bit upset because they feel like you forget about them. You don’t talk to family as much. Having that balance is tough. That’s probably the biggest challenge for sure. The distance in my relationship as well. My girlfriend, I rarely see her, and it kills me. When I’m abroad especially, I don’t see her for months at a time. For me, that’s the biggest challenge. It’s not a dieting thing; it’s not a training thing. That’s easy. Dieting sucks. No one likes it, I would eat cake every day if I could.  The biggest thing for me is being alone and having to stay motivated when I am feeling down. I miss my family and friends. But, you just got do what you have to do.

(Photos courtesy of Generation Iron Brands LLC)

Jacob Elyachar: In your humble opinion, Zac, how has social media played a role into building the fitness influencer world? What social media platforms do you primarily use?

Zac Aynsley: That is a great question. A few years ago, social media like Instagram and Facebook were massive, and they were great. Same with YouTube, all three were fantastic for motivation and providing quality content. Dieting, nutrition, information and raw motivation in the gym. Now, it’s different. Today, you have these fantastic bodybuilders, and they are just trying to be comedians. You will get somebody just put on a fitness clothing company t-shirt, they’ll buy it online, they will never be in the gym wearing it, and then all of a sudden, they are a fitness model. That is NOT the case. 95 percent of YouTube content now is people walking around with a camera. They are just talking about how many meals they are eating, and what they had for breakfast.

Back in the day, there was raw motivation, raw information, factual guides, and real entertainment. Now, it’ social justice vlogs, and “Hey guys, I am doing this today.” and “Hey guys, I am having breakfast.” It is the same thing every day, just vlogs, blogs, vlogs, and I feel like it is inspiring people not to train hard anymore. It’s encouraging people to pick up a camera and think, if I film myself in the gym, I am going to be famous. I might get slammed for that, but it is the truth. I go to the gym now, and 50 percent of people are in there filming themselves doing basic stuff.

Jacob Elyachar: Really?

Zac Aynsley: Yes. Back in the day, no one would be filming themselves. I will shoot my most important sets, like my heaviest lifts, personal bests. But, people in the gym are wearing a lot of branded clothing. They have bought it online, will wear it, and they start filming themselves doing every set. These people shoot every warm up, film everything, and they are not even working out hard. They are just filming themselves doing a few things in the gym. That is becoming the new thing.

I went to Body Power Expo in Birmingham this year, and I am not kidding, I would say at least 40 percent of the people that attended had a camera in their hand filming everything. When I first went to Body Power, it was terrific! They had the best athletes in the world, and the expo gave so many samples, that I came out with bags of samples. It was amazing. I felt so inspired, and next year was the same, the year after that was the same. Two years ago, I was there with Martyn Ford, Kyle Green, Jay Cutler, and Ronnie Coleman: the greats of this industry. But this year, they were not there, and it was just full of YouTubers. There was the bodybuilding, and the Greg Plitts, you know, rest in peace. These amazing motivators, and inspirational people, they just weren’t there. It was just people that vlog on YouTube, and it’s a shame for me. It’s not fitness anymore. They might be into fitness, they might have been competitive athletes, but you start to build a following, to now vlog. They are still calling themselves fitness models because they have abs and film themselves doing standard day stuff.

That’s what I think social media transformed into. It used to be amazing, and it still is, but I feel If you went to a primary school now, and you asked the kids from the age of 10 to 15, “What would you want to be when you grow up?” I guarantee you, 80 percent of them will say, “I want to be a YouTuber,” because that’s all they’re seeing. People are getting famous on YouTube for filming just day to day stuff. Then, they think they can do it, and then they will shoot anything and everything. It is not even that entertaining.

But, as I said, Ronnie Coleman, he was filming his stuff. His team shot it because he was doing lifts that needed to be filmed. Same with Dorian Yates, Jay Cutler, Jeremy Buendia, and Sadik Hadzovic. These people I have looked up to, they filmed themselves because they were providing content that others could not offer. Now, when I go to the gym, everybody’s shooting everything. It is crazy. I am trying not being a dick, but nobody wants to see someone curling a 10 lb. dumbbell. Anyone in the world can do that, but people film it because they think if I shoot this, I am going to get likes and become famous. Today, social media is a platform for people to film anything and everything.

I feel like people need to post quality content now, and not just post for the sake of posting. For me, social media has been a fantastic tool.  I would not be here now in this interview with you without it; there is no way. I’ve just hit a million followers today, and it’s crazy. It’s unbelievable. I don’t know why as well. That’s the thing; people ask me:  “How do you get so many followers?” They come up to me in person and ask me this. I always say the same thing, I ask, “Why do you follow me?” They respond with “You are motivating,”  “You have an amazing physique,”  “You inspire me,” and that they love watching my content.  I would always respond “Then, there you go. That’s what you need to do.”

When I visit people’s Instagram accounts, I take a look at their posts to see if I want to follow them. I do not think people want to look at a picture of you and your cat. That is not going to motivate people. If you are at your Gran’s house having a cup of tea, that is not going to inspire people. It’s nice to see, but you’re not going to build a loyal following that looks up to you by posting pictures of you with your cat or your dog or something. You gotta post stuff that makes people think, “Wow. Look at this.” Then, they show their friends and such. So, I guess I do that. I guess I post content which motivates people. I am trying to show how hard I train because when I am in the gym, I am there for one reason. I am not there to talk or take pictures all the time. I am there to kill it, and I am trying to promote that.

Jacob Elyachar: You previously mentioned in that conversation that you would like to work with people to film quality content. Who are your dream fitness collaborators for social and video content? Why would they be perfect with your brand?

Zac Aynsley: The greats: Larry Wheels, Dorian Yates, Jeremy Buendia, Sadik Hadzovic, Jay Cutler, and Ronnie Coleman. The reason I say Larry Wheels even though he is not classed as a legend yet is because that guy is doing things no one else is doing. I may look like a pretty boy, but in the gym, I will challenge anyone to work harder than me. You can post this anywhere. This is me saying right now, anyone in the world come and trains with me, and I will not stop until I either pass out or die. If there’s a challenge, if someone says, “We are going train together, and I am going to out train you,” I will give every bit of everything I have to train harder than them.

I like to push myself to my absolute limits when I visit the gym. I want to be in the most pain as possible, and I feel like I just have not had somebody to come and film that yet. I only shoot one set or something, and I’m always training by myself, and I refuse to go to a gym with a camera in my hand. I refuse. You do not see a lion in the jungle, hunting its prey, but just before they get they kill, take a selfie and say, “I am eating good tonight.” I am in there to kill, train hard, and push myself harder than anyone else in that gym. That is what I am saying. I am not going to go and film myself. Someone can come and film me for sure, but I have not had someone yet to really do that. I guess I am kind of against it unless a real film crew came in.

But, man, there are people that I would love to train with. People that just push themselves. People that do not care about a camera being in their face, people who don’t care about fancy editing, people that provide good, quality content. Something which you can learn from, something where you can take things from that content, and think, “I want to do that.” So, I am guessing the people that I used to look up to, and still look up to; they are the people I would like to collaborate with. Anybody that works hard, and does not care about looking good, does not care about fancy editing. People who want to put their head down and work, that’s me.

Jacob Elyachar: If you had the opportunity to meet with people who are struggling with their fitness journeys, what advice would you share with them?

Zac Aynsley: It is as simple as this, you have probably heard it a thousand times, but it just keeps going. Believe in yourself, and do not listen to anyone but you. I did not actually tell.  Do not tell anybody, no one, what you want to be. Because anyone in the world can say, “Hey, I want to be a footballer. Hey, I want to be a bodybuilder. I want to be a millionaire or an actor.” Anyone in the world can do that. But, it only takes a certain few people to just get on with it, work for it, and then show people what they wanted to be.

I made the mistake of telling people that I wanted to be a bodybuilder. Everyone laughed in my face. Even my parents said to me that I was wasting my time. I thought to myself, you know what it is, I am going to prove you wrong. I looked in the mirror every day, and said, “I am going to do this. I’m gonna prove these guys wrong.” I went to the gym, in my head doing literally sets, thinking of these comments people were telling me. “You are a loser. You will never do it. You are wasting your time.” Instead of sitting there, thinking maybe they’re right, I said, “I am going to prove them wrong.”

So, believe in yourself, and it is as simple as this, if you work hard enough for something, persist, and just do not quit, you can be anything you want to be in life. But, if you are going to let other people’s actions and comments get in the way of your dreams, then you are going to end up just like them. So, you just have work for it, keep going, believe in yourself. When times get tough, keep moving forward, do not quit. Never, never, never quit.

For more information about Zac, visit his website. You can also connect with Zac Aynsley on social media, visit his Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube channels.   

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Copyright 2019 Jacob Elyachar