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Interview with three times overall winner Pasquale Ricci

We interviewed our 3 times Bodybuilding Overall Champion Pasquale Ricci and got to know some interesting insights into the lifestyle of a Professional Natural Bodybuilder.

Dear Pasquale first of all it is nice to meet again after this year that has seen us necessarily non active. What better opportunity to let our readers enjoy the pre competition vibes with an interview with our Overall Champion. First question is: What do you think about what is happening in the world due to Covid?

Unfortunately, we faced something that saw us unprepared. I myself, like all those who work in our sector were strongly affected by this pandemic issue. I confess that I must thank you for having parents who supports me, otherwise I do not know how I would have exceeded tenmonths of lockdown and total inactivity. Having all my business focused on the passion inherited from my father, (the gym where I grew up) I suddenly found myself with a handful of flies in my hand. We are all going to start again, even though we have not yet come out of it. The gym sector is not yet at its full capacity. There are people who are still afraid to come back to train and there are others who have opted for a home-gym. Then there are the necessary restrictions that in any case anyway affect the amount of gym members. And what's more, we are grappling with the fourth wave. We have been offered a vaccine. The fact that for some people there have doubts about the vaccine, is something I can understand but personally I do not see a valid and concrete alternative/ solution. It is right, however, that everyone is free to choose, especially since vaccine has not been made mandatory. In my humble opinion, it would have been more consistent to make it so rather than to invent the green-pass. This has only increased the discrepancies, but since always, there have always been disagreements and discordant opinions, so all this does not surprise me.

One thing is certain: Since the reopening, I have noticed an increase in costs in almost all sectors. Some of the main food products have also increased, petrol has undergone further price increases, not to mention labor costs. Even the coffee has increased. Apparently, we will suffer also a conspicuous increase on light and methane, which will rise by 70%. This means that if I was paying a thousand euros on such consumption, from now on I will pay one thousand seven hundred. So, should I increase gym memberships by 70%? Frankly, I find this more a reasonable thing for man to go protest than for any other thing...

Finally, we go back to competing. You will come to defend your title of Leopoldsburg (2019) but let's take now a step back. In your first FNBB competition in Naples in 2018 you won theOverall Title beating a respectable rival as Vittorio Caputi. Later in November of the same year you won the European Title by beating the already 2 times Overall champion Alfredo Tessitore. What do you remember about these two moments?

I felt immediately a positive impact in the FNBB scene, the vibes and the so much passion is involved in this healthy project. The fact that the federation is based on aesthetic bodybuilding ideals fully reflect what I was taught since I was a child from my father.

Going into the details of the competition, well any time I ask myself: "Damn, how did I beat them!" Vittorio, in addition to being a great athlete, is a great person and a very valid professional in his work. When I saw the muscular separation of his lower legs. I thought to myself, “This is really hard to beat!"

With Alfredo, however, a duel was created on an equal footing. I remember the pose-down, it seemed interminable. The judges were in trouble. Alfredo was certainly bigger and bulky. In that moment I thought: "I have never won against athletes ‘bigger’ than me". So, I went to give my 210% and I believed into it till the end. You know the rest...

The FNBB audience knows you and admires you for your dense proportionate package and for your stratospheric shape. Once again tell us a little about your eating habits and what is the element or elements that you think make the difference between the off season and the pre-contest period?

It seems almost like you want me to come up with a magic recipe. But you also know very well that it does not exist! Else I think in 25 years of competition I would have found it...! Myself can’t even say what exactly are the determining elements that can make the difference. I think they are different for each of us. The real Skill is to discover them and to master them. There are those who are good and those who are less good, also based on their studies and experiences. The rest it's up to mother nature, i guess. My habits are always the same. Mediterranean diet off season, and in the pre-contest periods I select a higher quality of macronutrients, reducing fat intake and increasing protein intake. Carbohydrates remain roughly unchanged. What varies substantially are the source of foods. I just eat "clean” with about six meals a day (more than the off-season period) and if I have to mess it up, I will indulge in a piece of dark chocolate. But maybe it's better if I’ll give you a list of a typical day of mine two months before the competition:

BREAKFAST: 1 glass of latte macchiato or 1 jar of yogurt with cereals and muesli, 1 egg yolk with a glass of egg whites, 60 g. of bresaola or ham or turkey breast, 3-5 rusks, 1 tablespoon of honey, fresh fruit, 1 cp. multivitamin.

Snack: Shake of whey protein powder, 30 g. in water and a coffee.

LUNCH: 1 large plate of white rice (sometimes pasta), meat / fish of your choice, cooked vegetables (at least two different types), 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, fresh fruit.

SNACK: 125g of yogurt or 1 banana and coffee.

SNACK (usually before the evening workout): 1 plate of white rice.

AFTER TRAINING: 6 cp. BCAAs and a protein shake (in case I didn't take it during the day)

DINNER: meat / fish of your choice, cooked vegetables (at least two different types), mixed salad of leaves and raw vegetables to taste, 4-6 pieces of rice cakes and / or rusks, atablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, fresh fruit.

Off-season my Mediterranean diet is my mom's cooking, which I always have to thank since she is always cooking for me.

The Natural Gym of Cervinara, ‘’Club Carlo Ricci’’, It’s your Home gym that celebrated a few days ago its 50 (!) years of activity. What is the secret of this longevity and what emotions have you felt in celebrating together with your father, Angelo your trusted training partner and collaborator (and as well as a dear friend) your family and the rest of the associates, this far-sighted and special goal?

Dear Ciro, the secret is the passion for what you do and the way you do it. This applies ineverything. When there is passion, commitment does not weigh on you, even when it turns into sacrifice. In 50 years, we have grown a lot. Our gym in Cervinara was the first in the sector in the region Valle Caudina, the territory where I live and which embraces various villages for a total of about 69,000 inhabitants. I remember that we have also had difficult times in the past. In thegym you could count people on your fingers. There was than the beginning of the gyms and fitness as a hype and that obviously created competition that brought us into some great economic difficulties to keep up. If we wouldn’t have had the passion for what we did today wewould certainly not have celebrated our 50th birthday. We would have closed our doors as often happens on several occasions, among the many that today open gyms and or sports centersfor fashion: they have money to invest and it’s a pure commercial business; Than you have the young that are just graduated or even non-graduates, who will try to dive into the world of work at detriment of professionalism. The Fitness world some years ago was almost unknown, if not even mistreated. I have seen so many in all these years that I could write a book on it. But passion is something else. It is what allows you to reach further goals even when everything seems difficult and / or useless. And believe me you will face some of these periods by keep doing this job during the years.

Today I must say that the ASD Natural is undoubtedly a sporting reality of our territory. Our message of sports ethics and health and fitness promotion is now consolidated and appreciated. Several of our students have given life to small sports realities creating further competition, and this is normal and inevitable, but we have certainly spread our passion. In the footsteps of my father, I also built a competitive sector parallel to fitness and physical culture, in particular with the Olympic weightlifting, thanks to which many of our young people have had the opportunity to live significant experiences and small moments of glory and satisfaction. To this day I also have to thank my sister Mariateresa and my brother-in-law very much. My sister in particular, has always collaborated with me since her first weightlifting competition in 2001. I must also say that I have always had a collaborative support from those guys that I call "I fedelissimi" (the trustable ones) and when there is a need to organize an event or I need a hand in other situations, those will always be there to help me.

That’s also what makes us a small family at the Natural Gym. A now ubiquitous figure is, as you yourself said, my friend Angelo Finelli. Now for everyone at Natural he is a point of reference. Basically, he and I are the same thing. But he is able to always be in the right place at the right time and to solve any problem, whether it is unexpected or not.

He goes from being an excellent maintainer to an expert electrician, from the model disciple who he was, he is now a professional instructor and an excellent athlete with a new Italian record in the dead-lift. Practically the “right arm” that everyone would like in their gym. Ah, I forgot... he is also an excellent “tanner" always present when I have to compete.

Going back to bodybuilding, today we are in the age of social media: sometimes you have the feeling that most of the time people are more interested in making controversy than in embracing the sport and its labors: you are on the scene and at the top of it for more than 20 (!) years, do you notice a difference between the fitness of today and the one of a few years ago?

Today, pity enough, it seems that social media can hardly be separated from reality. The world of the internet has invaded us and enslaved us to it, it has given us wide visibility, but at the same time it has infested our industry. Before the instructor in the gym was everything. It was something unique, a fundamental guide to which everyone referred. It was also a great Maestro of life that young and old relied on and trusted blindly. Today the figure of the instructor is part of a simple list of professional figures; he has lost that "spirituality". In the gym everyone knows everything because obviously there is the internet, Wikipedia and social media. Everyone rises and appropriates free will everywhere. It seems that everyone knows everything and can do everything! Mah...

In our sector today it is "simple" to enter. Just know how to do with social media. At one time more importance was given to the professional curriculum and the results obtained were countedwhich, competition after competition, contributed to enriching one's experience. Nowadays you can count the followers! And here are the new professional figures, such as the online Coach. Zero expenses and only wins. Then there are the "modern” PTs. Many of them would be called the “Guru" of the sector, which is not really given to known how many years and titles are collected in the sport if any. Apparently, they are all supertitled. PT and Coach Online are simply an excerpt of the old gym Instructor. I myself, I began to "take care”, one by one, of several guys who happened to be in the gym and I directed them on long journeys to competitive and / or amateur training for aesthetic and / or for health. We qualified as instructors, in reality we already exercised the role of the modern PT and Coach with all the respect. Back then you had: Gym, equipment, training scheme, tips, suggestions, as well as changing rooms, showers, parking, various services, PT and Coach live, other than online and all-inclusive with the only, usual subscription fee. (..) Today, those who have found themselves straddling between the old and the new era of fitness, just like myself, I believe we must absolutely adapt, even if the online context It’s something I would rather prefer not to qualify.

I hope not to sin of presumption, but if have to sell in a strange way 25 years of competition and experience gained in several sectors of the sport, I prefer to be considered ‘just’ a trainer / athlete and above all, I prefer mostly to continue to give my experiences uniquely to those who show that they know how to live and conceive sport with the same passion as mine. This manages to give me more gratification and enriches my heart; it still manages to make me feel that “spiritual" identity of the role of the "Master". I don’t want to hurt the young operators who enters the sport sector. In fact, I had the opportunity to compare myself with several smart and prepared Coach/PT, some of whom are also in the FNBB circuit. We both came out of it, consciously enriched. Afterall, ours is a sector where knowledge never has boundaries, as well as in almost all things in life.

The difficult thing today is to know how to distinguish the right Coach /PT in a world that creates too many "modern" professional coaches. For me the ideal coach is the one who, having gained decades of experience by training, reading books, and relating him/herself with other athletes, technicians and teachers,carrying so out his work primarily for passion and then as a means of remuneration. But unfortunately, almost always the opposite happens.

Returning to social media, I can hardly find the time necessary to build myself online like the other coaches are doing. I must say that I’m trying, but I think I will always love to perceive closely the iron and the human warmth of the people. A keyboard doesn’t’ do it to me.

On November 20th in Riemst at the 6th Benelux Cup you will have the chance to be the only athlete in the history of FNBB (male and female) to be able to win 3 Overall International Titles (and you have also won a national Overall title in 2018 in Italy) (By the way titles won without any interruption one after another)Are you thinking about this or are you simply focused in getting in shape for this appointment? How are you living this pre-contest tension?

First of all, I am not at all tensed. I will certainly be before I get on the stage, but not before.Despite the numerous times, each time on stage is always different and there is always a new story to tell, whether it is beautiful or bitter for me, rewarding or not, it will still go to enrich my luggage and will be the competition n. 258 of my bulletin board of my sportive career between OlympicWeightlifting, Physical Culture and Powerlifting (108th of BB, as you can see in detail in my cv).

My specific preparation for this competition started in September. I'm quite focused but not that much. Every day I live my daily life thinking first of everything else. The thought of the competition always comes later. I am of the opinion that in life you are lucky to discover and be able to cultivate your own passion. The important thing is not to make it an obsession.

I hadn't thought about the fact of being able to win the third-fourth consecutive FNBB Overall title; also, because I don't think it's something in the Guinness Book of Records. If it will be,someone else better could easily win at least one more. I am now asking instead, with whom there will be to fight and if there will be new entries. I remember in the last edition I had to play with SunnyLetafat and Andrea Ferrante. Two natural athletes of great caliber. Sunny has exceptional volumes and two biceps that remind me of the legendary Larry Scott. Andrea, in my opinion,athlete revelation of the last edition, is a really impressive statue also given his high stature and his overallnice line but I already know that this year he is out of the games. Then there is Diego Nocera that I would not underestimate. A great athlete and a great person. We got to know each other more closely in the fifth edition of the Benelux Cup. In fact, these are also the beautiful things of the competition, what I call "The competitive contours". I saw Diego last June at the Italian Championships masterfully organized by the president of FNBB Italy, Maestro Gianfranco Tarantini and I had myself the pleasure of giving him the trophy of the Overall. I must say that, compared to the Benelux of 2019, Diego has improved markedly. I am also aware that, while I am now a Master competitor the while the youth is raising up and has room for improvements... but at the same time I also remind myself, that the bodybuilder is like wine: improves with the years! I hope so for me...

We can't wait to see you in action! We are sure that you will make us dream as you have always done, the rest of this story will be written on November 20 in Riemst and we are eager to find it out!!

Thank you for this nice "chat" and especially thank you for giving life to the dream of many athletes who, like me, believe in the real Natural BB.

Personally, I do not have the benefit of making anyone dream, but it is nice to know that to date, 26 years after my first competition, more than someone points to me as an example.

Good luck and thanks to all the athletes who with me will take part in the sixth edition of theBenelux Cup, offering their valuable contribution to Natural BB with canons that enhance the "classicism" more than everything else.

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