At this year’s Toronto Pro Supershow I was lucky enough to meet Darrem Charles. Not only did I have the pleasure to see him win first place of Pro classic’s physique, but he kindly agreed to an interview with me. Being the class act that he is!
We caught up with him by video skype a few days before he competed in the Jackson Classic in Tennessee, his 9th comp this year…
Darrem Charles has been in the game, and successfully, for over 20 years. He quickly turned pro and has been consistently placing in top 5 almost every year since he turned pro in 1992 at the Central american and Caribbean. Standing at 5ft 9in and weighing usually in the 190’s during competitions, soon to be 48 years young Darrem consistently brings a tight package. He is balanced, with a perfect symmetry if that even is possible, with the right amount of striations and definition to make him a winning competitor and a tough competition to beat. Top that off with youthful good looks and a routine of perfect control that showcases each and every one of his muscle. Darrem Charles is also a world renowned guest poser, with a strong stage presence that will command all your attention. This year’s Olympia will be very interesting to watch.
Don’t be fooled by his smile, behind this champion is a competitive hard working athlete, who continuously and patiently follows a winning protocol of consistency and discipline.
Before the classic physique division, Darrem always competed in the regular open pro bodybuilding division. He started bodybuilding when he had just turned 17, and never left the sport. Born and raised in Trinidad, Darrem was used to many outdoors sports such as cricket and soccer. Being a thin kid, he wanted to build up some muscle. “What kept me to the weights is really knowing that whatever I put in is what I will get out of it’’, he explains. In 1986, one of his friends suggested he compete, and back then he didn’t even know what it was all about.
At first, Darrem Charles just wanted to move weights and push himself as hard as he could, he didn’t know anything about the bodybuilding world yet. The first show he ever competed in, had him train in a garage for 3 months. For his first comp he had trained with a bar and a few banged up tools and a bench… Darrem had not yet set foot in a gym when he did his first competition- which he won. The day he won that show, he had promised himself he would join a gym if he was to win. The next day he went to walk into a gym for the first time. He then started to pick up up magazines and get some knowledge.
The Arnold factor
He started reading about Arnold and got himself what he refers to as «the most important book, the Arnold encyclopedia, and I gained all my knowledge from that.The Arnold encyclopedia really helped me with drive, determination and goals, planning and knowledge. Just everything, and I built from there.» He explains.
Darrem consistently stayed almost year after year in the top 5, and would do from 3 to 9 competitions per year. Surprisingly enough this champion never had any coach for his routines, nor diets, nor training. He did have training partners along the way, but was always the one leading the gym time. «I just have a knack for this, everyone is good at something, and it seems I am good at this» he humbly tells me. Darrem his to the least «good at this», considering his track record, he didn’t have to do a lot of trial and error to figure out what works for him.
Athletes often count on their coach judgment to keep them in check and on point and evaluate if they are dialing in on time. For Darrem Charles, there is no risk to get too easy with himself. «It is a fine line where you have to look at yourself objectively, and not be too cocky and think: I am the shit! But also to not put yourself down, your brain controls everything in your body, you have to think positive.» He explains.
«I toss the ego on the floor»
When training, Darrem never tries to lift tons of weights, and instead focuses on the mind body connection while moving the weights. This technique is the one he continually applies up to this day. He is also a big believer that «positive thinking leads to positive results». This system goes against another recurring trend that his often pictured in the media, of pro bodybuilders lifting heavy with not much concerns about the proper form during the eccentric phase of the movement, nor isolating the muscle worked. The trend of gaining huge mass at all cost at the loss of aesthetic and balance. Darrem believes this common mistake seen today goes against his longevity and success in the game. «The reason why I am still here, and still competing at this age and for so long it’s because I kept myself in control, too many people go crazy. But there is a way to go heavy but controlled. I never knock anybody out for the way they do it, this way works for me, and staying healthy is what keeps me the longevity of it. My take on it is that it is meant to be beautiful to look at.»
He didn’t retire
Before this year, he was last seen in the procircuit in 2013, at the Arnold Classic where he placed 9th. This decision to take a break was only due because in 2010 he had realized that he couldn’t easily keep up with the new trend that had the guys get bigger and bigger in order to win. The competitors were going form 245 lbs to 270 lbs. He just wasn’t willing to reach this type of physique, since taking care of his body and his longevity in the game is always on top of his mind. He simply took the backseat and waited for the right division for him.
And the wait paid off, since this Classic physique division seems to be done exactly for his physique. Darrem got excited again about competing and went back to serious training mode. So far this year he has competed in 8 competitions.
The road to the Olympia
With Darrem Charles, everything is planned out, and if he wants to continue improving form show to show, he also needs to be careful and not be tired out by the time the Olympia is here.
He looks at each show independently, and focuses completely on that one he is doing, which is a lot easier mentally. Since his body is constantly changing with the stress and the pushes and travelling, every show is different. For almost each show, he has to eat and carb up differently. Keeping in mind how far he flies, the flight time vs the weight in, versus what day is the show. Most shows have a day between weigh in and stage time, which gives enough time to carb up. But some shows, like in Pittsburgh and NYC, the weigh in and the comp were on the same day. He had to eat and hydrate differently. ‘’that’s when the real science and knowledge about the human body and your own body operates.’’ He explains. His competitiveness does wonders for the challenge he faces by keeping so active in the competition circuit, and there are very few athletes that manage to do this at all.
When he came back to the pro circuit in 1995, after a break of 3 years, his goal was to make sure everyone would know who he was and would talk about him. He made it possible by knocking out many shows at once. That year he had planned to do 8 shows, and ended up doing 10 of them, by qualifying for the Olympia and getting called for the Arnold. That year is also when he learned the most about how to break off quickly for shows back to back, what to put in his system and how much, and what to do after the competition. Many of the things he learned back them are applied today.
For the fans and non-competitors, his list of comps is pretty remarkable, for Darrem, it has never been a matter of counting how many times he was on the Olympia, however two times stand out, the first time, obviously, and in 2003 when he finished 7th, extremely close to getting to the elusive top 6.
He didn’t let that disappointment stop him and he kept coming back better and better.
Anybody who saw Darrem Charles on stage knows that he enjoys doing his routine to the fullest. The fluidity of his moves reminds of more classical types of dance moves. Being a perfectionist, he tries to be as good as he can in that aspect as well. He did many sports as well as break dancing growing up, and used to choreograph routines for his group; «Whatever I did I always wanted to be really good and in competitions, dancing was one of them, I just have that musicality. I can feel the beat and understand music.»
Darrem Charles always wants to be a good role-model for the sport of bodybuilding, he realises that lots of people from the general public really don’t know much about the sport, there is a stigma about what body building really is, the stiffness of competitors just showing muscles. «I try to make it more like dance, if you go to a dance show, you can be amazed and entertained, I try to implement that, that’s why I do lots of different types of music.»
The life of a pro athlete is just as busy and full of things as the life of any other family person, filled with work, quality time with his girlfriend, training, and more work. A champion of his caliber will not get built without discipline and sacrificing a couple of things… On a regular day, this admitted workaholic will get up at 3:30 am (yes he does), he then starts training clients at 5 am, he and trains regular clients, and also trains competitors for most of the day, he is then back after a quick break at 5 pm, to train more clients and preparing routines, and finally gets home around 10 pm. He will finally end his day at 1am. «This is not a good example, for bodybuilding» he admits. When I remind him how important sleep is for the muscles to recuperate, and how impressive it is that he still gets these results, he adds «That is one downfall I have, if I wasn’t so stubborn and work that much(…) I don’t sleep enough, that is not a good example.»
The evolution of BB
Since he has been part of the game for so long, Darrem Charles is enthusiastic about the positive aspects that are ahead, this new division really allows physiques like his to work on lines and conditioning, and give a chance to different types of athletes to be competitive. «I think this new division was much awaited for by everyone, competitors and general public alike, it is important if we want to get more interest of the general public to appeal to them, I think this class is appealing, just like in female bodybuilding they introduced physique and figure and bikini, all the different divisions are important.»
For Darrem, bodybuilding goes beyond the muscles, it teaches discipline, and to stay positive, to be a hard worker, and to be patient. All skills you use in a business.
The starter kit
Now for all you out there looking to be on the pro stage one day, here is what Darrem Charles kindly shared with us:
- Do not quit your day job, not everybody is a Dexter Jackson or a Phil Heath, only a handful of competitors get to that level, do not put all your eggs in one basket.
- Treat coming into this sport as a business, even before you are pro. Think of how you will make money, get your stuff set up, not everybody will become a top pro, start different projects related to your passion
- Train smart, toss the ego aside and stay healthy, with longevity come the rewards.
So while we wait for the next improvement on his physique, and for him to amaze us with his always changing routines, you can be sure Darrem Charles will have many surprises for the fans: clothing line, supplements, and his training video coming out really soon. If he manages to add a bit more of sleep in there, there is no limits to what he will bring us on stage! As he reminded me: «If you love what you do, you won’t work a day in your life. » There is no worrying about him retiring any time soon from the world he learned to love so early in his existence.
For everything Darrem, go HERE
on social media with his Official instagram