Beat the Odds with Bodybuilding’s Poker Icon

Zac Aynsley was not an obvious future bodybuilder or model in his youth.

He spent his days buried in the video game Minecraft, harbouring feelings of extreme isolation. He was awkward, had little sense of direction and felt completely alone in Morpeth, England. “Everywhere I went, it was hood up, head down,” he said in a recent interview. “I had hardly any friends. I was suffering badly from anxiety and hated leaving the house.”

That skinny, uncertain figure has been replaced with a ripped bodybuilder and model, one with the confidence to pursue a host of other careers in stark contrast to his original pathway. He believes that came about through his working out. For Zac, it has never been about vanity but always pure and simple happiness. “My priority in life was not money or fame, it was happiness. Simple happiness,” he said, adding, “This is what the gym has done for me. It’s just me. I’ve done it all on my own.”

Many outside of bodybuilding don’t realize; it isn’t a world of vanity and self-adulation. Of course, we’ve all been in gyms where there are one or two who are self-involved, but in the main, bodybuilding gives people like Zac joy, a purpose and allows them to live a life they never thought possible. In his younger days, Zac would barely step away from his video game screens, but he’s known now not just as a bodybuilder but as much more.

He’s a popular figure on the poker circuit too, where instead of calculating reps, push-ups and bench presses, he’s calculating poker odds. His live cashes are not all that impressive, around $500 to date, but it isn’t his success around the table that is important; it is the fact he is there. It takes stamina of a very different kind to present yourself for a poker game, battle people across the felt and do so having once not wanted to make eye contact with strangers. That’s the confidence that bodybuilding has given Zac. He’s also been found in a DJ box, standing in front of hundreds of people dropping tunes and controlling the room. Zac Aynsley is a confident man, something bodybuilding has given him.

So what are the secrets to turning your life around? For Zac, it started with an improved diet. “I just decided I did not want to live an unhealthy lifestyle,” he said in another recent interview. “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.”

That’s the starting point on your road to inner contentment, but what if you hit the wall. Zac is a professional, one who has turned his life around through the power of lifting and healthy living, so what advice would he give to those struggling to keep up their regime? “Believe in yourself, and do not listen to anyone but you,” he said, “if you work hard enough for something, persist, and just do not quit, you can be anything you want to be in life.”

So the next time you feel that burn and think about ditching the weights, think of Zac Aynsley, the once-shy and introverted role model who now plays poker for high stakes has dined on David Geffen’s yacht and even met Oprah Winfrey. If an individual wandering around Morpeth with his hood up and his head down can reach the top of the bodybuilding world, so can you.