Nigerians making the country proud abroad not celebrated enough – World Physique Champion, Osborne Akinola
Olabisi Akinola Osborne, a professional bodybuilder and certified fitness trainer, is one of many Nigerians in Diaspora making the country proud. Osborne, an Ekiti State-born bodybuilder has won several bodybuilding competitions across Europe and America and also trains several people from across the world on body fitness. In this interview by FEMI OGUNTAYO, Osborne shares his career experiences and why Nigerians doing well abroad need to be celebrated more. EXCERPTS:
Who is Olabisi Akinola and why the name Osborne?
Thanks for this question. I was born and bred in the southwest region of Nigeria, Lagos State to be precise and later moved to Ekiti State with my mom. Growing up wasn’t a bed of roses but I was raised to always be strong and give no room for excuses. I have always known there is something unique about me, but at a tender age I couldn’t pin point as to what direction. However, my mother encouraged me to engage in sporting activities which included table tennis, football, draughts, Osborne is my other name. In Africa as you know, the meaning of a given name goes a long way in one’s achievement. Mine simply means ‘soldier of God’ or ‘divine bear’, ever since I understood the significance of my name, a lot changed, self-discovery, enlightenment, and continuous improvement.
You know, body building is an instinctively developing passion and when you start feeling this passion and when you take the first step, you are starting to take the reward of your efforts, which motivates you to want more. Bodybuilding is a natural instinct and passion that I found in me. Honestly bodybuilding is my escape zone, the only place I could be myself. Just the way people focus in exams with high level of concentration, it is the same level of dedication I am giving and also an opportunity for me to teach and help those around me to develop good muscles and strong bones which leads to sound health and flexibility. It helped save the lives of our young ones, by redirecting their focus from drugs, alcohol addiction and other harmful activities.
How has the Coronavirus pandemic affected you career and business-wise and how have you been coping?
It has not been as it used to be, just as it is with all other sectors. It is just like life has stopped for us with the closure of the gyms, which are the backbone of the body building sector. But I still have my online clients and still getting on. I hope we get rid of this disease as soon as possible and our life returned to normal. I can’t wait to step into new successes.
When did you decide go for your first competition and how did it go?
It was sometimes in 2017 with the President of North Cyprus Body Building Federation, I was in one of his friends’ gym and he came there to see that friend of his. When he was about to leave, he turned to me and asked, “Osborne, are you ready?” My response was, sir, ready for what? He said for the next competition of course. It was few weeks to that competition and it wasn’t my plan to participate at all, but I am always in shape and my friends have always advised I compete but I wasn’t building my muscles for competitions. I was doing for myself to look good. When I got home, I thought about it but wasn’t sure of the category because there were several categories, and as a first timer I inquired. I had just resigned at my place of work, so I thought why not? Though it wasn’t easy at first because I had no sponsor but I seek guidance from one or two who had the experience and with encouragements from friends I came out a victor. I can remember so clearly when my name was called as the winner, it was a shock, my mouth was dry and all I could think of was “water please”, actually those were my first words. The experience of the first competition opened a lot of doors and that was the beginning of a new journey
You have achieved a lot in the body building industry in Europe, looking at your profile, but we seem to have very little information about all these in the Nigerian media, what do you think is responsible for this?
Nigeria is a beautiful country blessed with many talents and undiscovered potentials, we do not have facilities across the country, neither is there encouragement. As I have observed and I have seen in other countries, compared to Nigeria is that, there is not enough support for the body building industry in Nigeria. The media doesn’t focus on all aspect of sport and barely celebrate its own. If reporters and media outlet are able to network with Nigerians in Diaspora, you will be surprised at the number of Nigerians making the country proud abroad.
How were you able to break into the bodybuilding industry in Europe, how would you describe your journey in the industry so far?
First of, it was not an easy thing for me in the beginning nor a rosy journey. Of course there were ups and downs which I see to be normal for anyone who is determined to be successful.
I never stopped wanting more and was never tired of trying and working hard. I set my goals and take the steps towards achieving those goals and my eyes are always on the high targets.
How would you rate the Nigerian Bodybuilding industry, having experienced how it looks like in developed countries in Europe and America?
In European countries and America, the body building sectors are more recognised as well as the athletes, whether you a pro or not yet one, they are given more value than other countries and of course gives the industry more success. Just of recent I heard about Amateur Body Building and Fitness Federation of Nigeria (ABBFN) but I haven’t seen any of their athletes coming to Europe or other countries to represent them.
Do you have any plans to come back to Nigeria to invest in the bodybuilding industry?
Home will always be home no matter how long one goes, I have always given inspiration and support to young Nigerians body builders, the ones that have reached out to me, the ones that I know personally and those that are my fans and followers on all my social media handles and I will continue to do so. Of course, I would like to become a role model and mentor in this sector even though they say I am now. I want to inspire more people and provide the sector with the necessary value. We will see what life will bring to us.
Apart from bodybuilding and fitness training which you’re known for, what other things do you do at your leisure?
I’m taking steps to improve myself In general; I attend courses in the field of human health both to consolidate what I know and to obtain new information. We can call this, the configuration process. I also do spend quality time with my loved ones.
Have you ever been invited to represent Nigeria in any continental or intercontinental bodybuilding championships?
No, I have never been contacted nor get invite from the ABBFN. I would love to make this happen. But I have always represented Nigeria personally in all the body building competition I’ve participated. I hope I get an invite from them someday to represent Nigeria on the international platform.
You’re also a certified personal trainer, what is it you enjoy most about being a personal trainer?
Inspiring people and helping them to achieving their fitness goals and satisfied afterwards is the best part of this job. I work with all kinds of people from different cultures and backgrounds, ages 14 to 70. I got different feedback from every person. I enjoy every bit of this profession.
How do you work with your clients to help them achieve their physique goals?
So I have a system, it is either one-to-one, groups, home or online trainings with all my clients. They all have a goal before hiring me and the ones that seems to have one, I make them set one and we work toward achieving it together. Sometimes I can be a tough trainer and sometimes a friend, at the end of the day the result always make my clients happy. People love you to be honest with them and my mutual communication brings a strong process to success. Don’t forget I am working with human health (physical and mental) before anything else.
If you could only give three pieces of advice to anyone looking to compete for the first time, what would those three things be?
I would just say be determined, focused and disciplined. Then set your goals, take steps and work hard to archiving them. Don’t expect it to be easy but it’s doable.
You must spend a lot of time in the gym everyday to stay this fit, how much time do you spend in the gym everyday and how do you manage to be consistent in it?
It is not by how much time you spend in the gym. I’ve seen a lot of people staying hours in the gym, but doing what? It’s either hours on their phone or gossiping with other gym members. What is more important than the time we spend in the gym is to know what we are doing there. A very effective 30 minutes program is always more effective than a 2 hours of a messy program. It’s a lifestyle and consistency plays a major role.
Do you take some substance to have a body like this or it’s just natural?
Having a body like this is not all with substances, and when you say substance it may have so many definitions. What you eat is very important. I eat my normal daily calorie and know macro and micro nutrients and I do take necessary supplements to support. But not a steroid, if that’s what you mean.
So, how much do you eat everyday and what are your diet routine like?
My diet routine changes, it depends on the season, what I mean is off or competition season, and i might even change during this periods. You know, I set my own routine according to the needs of my body and how I feel. Okay, let me say that my diet is personalised because I listen to my body and respond accordingly.
How lucrative is the bodybuilding industry?
It varies and depends on the association you are competing in. But the industry is doing well. Body builders may not always get good earning but the moment you lift the trophy on the podium, you feel like the most profitable human in the world. This is an incredible feeling and very important to any body builder.
So, when you started building your body, were you just doing it for fun of getting fit or did you have it in mind to be in the bodybuilding competitions?
Becoming a Professional Bodybuilder was all passion and a very long story but I will make it a short one. I started sometimes in year 2000, not with proper gym equipment as it is now, back then I have no access to any gym let alone proper gym equipments. So, I made my own gym equipments of mixed cement in a container, got different car Irons and made my own bench. In fact, I still have pictures of some of the equipments even though I gave them out to some friends but I still know my bench. When I got to Cyprus in 2013, my first day in the University, I remember vividly my first question was where is the gym please? The University has a small gym with necessary equipments and it was my first time of having an access to gym machines, just the same week i paid for a 3 months membership and I was going to the gym twice a day, and before just before the expiration of my gym membership, I found another gym with more equipments so, I registered there again and then to another gym which is the biggest in the country. By then, my passion for fitness and healthy lifestyle has increased and my knowledge about it had grown as the year passed. In 2016, I decided to turn My Passion into a full time profession and took the professional course of Certified Personal Training.
There is no career without its challenges, what are the challenges you are currently facing or have faced?
Yes, I have faced some challenges in the past and I still face even now. But I would say my main challenge was when I first started I could not speak the language most of my clients speak, but I was able to learn and speak the language and that is a plus for me now. Before having a body like iron, it is necessary to have a psychology like iron. Of course, it is not easy to find a place in the industry in Europe and America.
Do you have any advice for readers who may be interested in becoming a trainer or fitness model?
Put your mind in whatever you have a passion for; don’t let anyone say you can’t do it. Set goals for yourself, no matter how small or big it is and then, take the right and smart steps to achieving them, identify your weaknesses and limits and work on them. Put your egos aside and be ready to learn.
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