Linda Colling: Anth bodybuilds for love, not money

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I recoiled, repulsed by the gut-wrenching rippling muscles of Mr World.

And I told him so. What man in his right mind wants to look like this? And what woman wouldn’t be repelled?

Mind, that doesn’t include Anth Bailes’ wife, Donna, of course, who told me: “I fell in love with the man not the muscle. A lot of people don’t like it but he’s my husband and that’s who I love.”

But what about his muscles? She likes them and says: “I do find Anthony attractive. I like Anthony to be my Anthony.”

Having a husband with such sacrificial, single-minded devotion to attaining a body like this, I’m not surprised Donna, 35, often feels left out.

Especially when Anth, 35, is on his punishing 24-week marathon build-up for a competition. Such rigorous discipline in diet and workouts are demanded, that I’m amazed Donna hasn’t gone AWOL.

She admits: “Your life is on hold for a national competition. I call it body dysmorphia. It gets very hard towards the end, a challenge that it becomes his life and that can be quite hard. We can have arguments with the dieting but it’s worth it in the end.”

Well, that’s alright then. Not that I would want a Charles Atlas body lying in bed with me. It makes my flesh creep. It would be like lying next to a ton of bricks.

Of course Donna knew what she was letting herself in for. When they met Anth was devoted to his passionate portrayal of his physique.

He rejects any suggestion that he’s a show off – only in competitions: “I don’t like attention. I’m quite shy. I don’t wander round the streets with my vest on.

“You will find if you come into the gym I will be covered up in training.”

And when he’s not? Well, would you believe there’s women who reach out and want to touch him?

“I don’t like that attention,” he says.

Like Donna, Anth – who has his own Maxx Muscle Gym in Hetton – knows his physique is one you either like or loathe. Why does he want to look like this and the colour of mahogany? “That’s a hard one to answer. It isn’t so much the physical side of it but the mental challenge and the physical is the product of that. Most people would think it looks horrible. It depends, everybody likes something different.”

Did he ever think he would be Mr World?

“No, I was 17 when I started and you win a little local competition and keep stepping up the ladder and it gets you motivated to be the best you can and whatever happens, happens.”

Now, here I have to say getting a body like Anth’s doesn’t just happen without punishing it and pushing it to the limit. And it’s not for the money.

As he says: “If you are in bodybuilding to make money you are going to be disappointed.”

What drives him is the will to achieve. At 5ft 7 and 14 1/2 stone, his achivement is all the more of a feat in dogged discipline, given that he has type one diabetes and has to daily watch his sugar levels, along with this rigorous six-month diet that is pure punishment mentally and physically.

You have to be a phenomenally, addictive personality to even contemplate let alone stick to this, with or without the training. It’s a wonder Anth’s still wed.

He’s honest enough to say: “It does put a little bit of a strain on things. It puts a dampener on your social life, you can’t go out for meals and if you are going somewhere you have to take your food along with you and sit in some doorway and eat it. You are just doing it for a purpose.”

Anth, I have to say, is much nicer to talk to than I think he looks and reckons: “There’s an old saying the better you look the worse you feel.”

Well, there’s another one – Anth, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. All very much a matter of choice and very definitely a matter of opinion.

But for those who crave the Mr World look, a word of warning. It takes years and years of relentless punishment and it’s a life-long commitment.

That never changes.