AJ Hartley

I-Soul Studios
Stunning AJ Hartley is a young American model, personal trainer and bodybuilder from around Chicago, Illinois USA.

 Gary Gonzalez @ NorCalBodz

AJ has always been into sports. He played hockey, which was his first love, and was part of several championship teams. But it is in gymnastics that he excelled and found success as a State and national champion.

This is through NorCalBodz and Gary Gonzalez that AJ came to modelling and we are very grateful this happened as we can all share his magnificent work as a fitness model.

Our thanks to AJ for accepting to be featured at Stunning Men and for doing the interview.

Check AJ's profile at NorCalBodz
and his ModelMayhem page

Vital statistics:
Height: 5'7"
Weight: 156lbs
Chest: 41"
Waist: 29"
Eye colour: hazel
Hair colour: brown

Here's AJ's interview in full

AJ, a warm welcome to Stunning Men and many thanks for taking the time to do the interview.
Thank you!  I am grateful for the opportunity!

Could we start off with talking a little about yourself and your background? You were born and bred around Chicago, Illinois, USA ...
Yep, born and raised twenty miles northwest of Chicago, Illinois, I walked down a similar path that many suburban children travelled.  I grew up in a middle class family, attended public school and played all the sports that the community offered.  While my story is certainly not a rag-to-riches kind of tale, my parents did what they could to provide all the opportunities within their means.  In addition to my parent’s efforts, I always had an intrinsic desire to succeed and be the best in all the outlets that were presented to me.  While academics were never much of an issue, I feel that my athletic abilities and accomplishments molded who I am today.  Finding my first love in hockey, I was a part of a number of championship teams but it was gymnastics that I found continued success in as a state and national champion at the high school level and a recognized figure in college.  With my physical foundation, I attended Northern Illinois University and earned a Kinesiology degree with an emphasis on preventative and rehabilitative exercise science.  Bridging my passion with career, I now own a gym and am a certified personal trainer.

OK ... I’m stating the obvious here ... but, you have a stunning physique. You were a State and National gymnastics champion at high school level; the intense training surely contributed in shaping your physique ...
While I have played competitive hockey from youth to present day, Gymnastics is where I started to develop a physique that people noticed.  It carved a mould that would later be enhanced through weight lifting.  After college gymnastics was over, I was not ready to lose the physique I had worked so hard to accomplish … not that my competitive and athletic nature would have let me anyway.  In 2007, I used bodybuilding more as a means to stay competitive and give me reason to stay fit; it went alright.  I did another competition or two in 2008 and then fell into the shadows.  I worked out but mainly went through the motions until 2010.  This is when everything clicked.  My knowledge on nutrition and fitness were stronger that ever and in turn, my results exploded and continue to thrive! 

What are your top three favourite exercises and why?
Easy.  Cleans, Squats and Deadlifts.  They are full body, strength building, mass manufacturing, separate the men from the boys, leave you on the floor dead wanting more kind of exercises.  Any real strength and or mass building routine is incomplete without them.  

What’s the best form of cardio for you?
Hockey and sex but not necessarily in that order (AJ smiles). The best kind of cardio is what you enjoy and therefore will put the most effort towards.  Until January of this past year, I never would have imagined that I would have ever called myself a runner and although it still leaves a funny taste in my mouth when I say it, I have really started to enjoy running as well!

How do you keep motivated?
A variety of ways!  First, as I mentioned I am very intrinsically motivated.  Although, contradictory to the definition of intrinsic, working out is very much an out of body, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Devil on one shoulder and angel on the other kind of experience.  I find a thrill in my body telling me to stop but my mind pushing me on.  My mind is my body’s best enemy.

Second, the clients I work with are huge influences in my life.  Another’s accomplishment is another’s inspiration.  In addition to that, they also look up to me as a role model and as someone who is paving the path for their success; for them, I feel obligated to display what hard work and dedication can achieve.

Last. Ok, I won’t lie.  I kind of like the attention.      

What’s your gym routine like?
Structured like everything else in my life.  Monday, Wednesday, Friday:  Cardio.  Tuesday, Thursday, Sunday:  Strength.  Saturday a whole butt load of cross training.

How do you fit fitness and bodybuilding into your life? Is it a difficult thing to achieve?
Honestly, yes.  My recent 2011 bodybuilding shows went very well.  Every show I did, I took first place in my class (short division) and competed for the overall title in multiple pro qualifier competitions (first place overall earns professional status).  In every show … I took second.  I lack in the mass category and even if I competed in some second rate pro qualifier and won, I would get eaten alive at the pro level.  I need to get quite a bit bigger to be competitive.  During the stretch of these 2011 shows I did my first photo shoot with NorCalBodz.  Since then I have done over a dozen shoots, have travelled all over the country and I love it!  With my focus on modelling, I keep myself in “photo ready” shape so I can essentially be on-call.  Staying as lean as I am and gaining the mass I need is simply contradictive for a drug-free competitor.  While I am still young enough to do so, I plan on pursuing modelling to the highest level I can and pick up my bodybuilding when the time is right.

What do you eat in a typical day?
Do you want to know to the exact gram?  Because I can tell you!  Did I mention that I live a very structured life?  I am a creature of routine and with the exception of “lunch” and “dinner” I eat the same thing at the same time everyday.  I maintain a 90/10 diet (90% clean and structured routine, 10% of whatever and whenever).  I eat an exact 3350 calories per day spanning over 7 meals; 6:30 AM (650 calories), 9:30 AM (300 calories), 12:00  PM (650 calories), 3:30 PM (300 calories), 5:30 PM (300 calories), 7:30 PM (650 calories), 9:00 PM (200 calories).  With the other 300 calories, I give myself the freedom to eat whatever I wish!  300 calories is a comfortable serving of ice cream, Oreo cookies, gummie bears!  In fact, just before this interview I had a mini Hawaiian Blizzard from DQ!          

Do you ever have a cheat day? If so, any guilty pleasure?
I don’t find a need for a cheat day, I allow myself enough crap to keep me sane and every meal that I eat I get incredible pleasure out of.  I will even wake up early because I dream about the 2 whole eggs, 3 egg whites pureed with 1oz. of spinach cooked French omelette style topped with 1oz. of feta cheese and Weber Classic BBQ seasoning along with 3oz (dry) Quaker Old Fashioned Oatmeal with a few packets of Truvia and PB2 (if you haven’t heard of PB2 go to your local heath food store and discover the awesomeness!)

How do you approach a challenge?
With pleasure!  While each needs to be handled in its own special manner, all challenges make us stronger and better people.  I embrace and welcome any challenge that comes my way.

Now how did you get into modelling? Wasn’t your first shoot with Gary Gonzalez from NorCalBodz?
My introduction into modelling was interesting to say the least.  The owner of NorCalBodz, Gary Gonzalez was in the mist of taking his elite photography & model management to the next level and hired a producer from the west suburbs of Illinois to film a promotional video.  It was Easter weekend of 2009 when the producer contacted me through Myspace.  If it were a day earlier or a day later, I would have deleted the message on the spot; I’ve seen this movie before and it didn’t end well...  With great scepticism, I responded to her message to further explore the opportunity.  Impressed with both the producer’s and Gary’s gentile patients, I agreed to do the video.  The video was followed up with a push from Gary to do a formal photo shoot; I felt the opportunity to travel to Sacramento, California would just not be feasible at that time.  The dream was over because after three years of keeping in touch, it became reality.  I am grateful for the opportunity with NorCalBodz and could not be more excited to see what the future holds!    

What do you enjoy the most about it?
Without having to think twice, what I enjoy most about modelling is receiving messages from my fans telling me how I have inspired them in someway.

How do you prepare before a photoshoot?
I love to work and I love doing the best job I can therefore I make sure that I am open, clear and quick to communicate, maintain the best shape I can possibly keep myself in,  and observe and obey the photographers to-do list (what to pack and bring, when to arrive, be well rested, etc)

Do you have any role models? People who inspire you?
I wouldn’t say that there is any specific person that I use as inspiration or as a role model however, I am attracted to certain character attributes; work ethic, charisma, authentic, confident and so on.  

Now a few quick fun questions if we may? Do you think you are a good date?
SUUUUURE!  I’d like to think so!  I am a bit of a gabber and as long as who ever I am on a date with can hold a conversation, we would have a grand ol’ time!  I also aim to be original and strive to please.  Oh, and chivalry is NOT dead; I believe a woman should be treated with utmost respect and kindness all the time.   

What do you do in your free time?
Free time?  What’s that?  I like to think of myself as an entrepreneur; I love developing my business and creating additional avenues for myself.  By no means do I feel like I am imprisoned by my self-imposed workload because I enjoy every minute of it however, the rare occasion I get away from it, I enjoy camping and simply relaxing!

Are you a brief man or a boxer kinda guy?
If I am being active, I LOVE compression shorts!  Talk about security and freedom all in one!  Outside of being active, I don’t prefer anything (no, I’m not just saying that for effect).  If a situation requires something though, I go for briefs.

What do you listen to on your iPod?
I am the 1% of the world that does not own an iPod!  In the gym, I use Sirius Radio or Pandora and tend to go in phases with what I listen to.  Right now, I’m on a country kick for some reason.

Your favourite song/piece of music to play while running?
My ultimate favourite kind of music that I can always go back to and get the same rush and excitement from is 80’s hair band!  Motley Crue, Skid Row, Poison… Talk about a great era!

What kind of movies do you like?
My favourite movies are true stories (Blow, Catch Me If You Can), inspirational flicks (Invincible, Rock Star) and “Mind Fuck” movies (Butterfly Effect, Memento)

What three words describe you best?
Confident, Individual, Ambitious

One last question AJ, where do you see yourself and what would you like to be doing in 10 years time?
In ten years time I hope to be as happy with life as I am now.  I aspire to have multiple gyms and other established business adventures well underway. 

AJ, it has been a real pleasure to interview you! Thank you for your time and for being a good sport. Best of luck for the future!