When the cherry-red Jaguar pulled up in front of my Las Vegas hotel, the gathering of on-lookers couldn't help but glance over. This car was hot! As I approached, the driver inside rolled down her window to offer a ride. The body behind the steering wheel was nearly as hard as the car's polished steel frame.
The Jaguar, built on an assembly line by a team of automotive engineers, paled in comparison to its driver, who was built from a lifetime of sweat and passion. In the case of the driver, her brief stop at my hotel was just a quick detour on her journey toward becoming the best professional fitness athlete her sport has ever seen. Just like the Jag, Kelly Ryan is driven.
Hangin' With Kelly & Craig
As we pulled away from the hotel, I was introduced to her little dog, a Brussels Griffon named Joey, who routinely rides shotgun as the fitness diva cruises sin-city. We were on our way to the suburbs, hidden well beyond the area that we affectionately call "The Strip". Most visitors never see the civil, cozy side of town. Yes folks, there is far more to Las Vegas than billion dollar hotels, smoke filled casinos and strip bars.
Ten minutes later we pulled into a quiet, obscure neighborhood that has become home to Kelly and her outspoken husband Craig Titus. The pair has made their share of headlines, but within the confines of this quiet street, life is peaceful, predictable and orderly.
Once we pulled into the garage, Kelly directed me upstairs (don't get any funny ideas!). I entered a room filled wall to wall with the latest cardio equipment, equipped with a television and an impressive compilation of bodybuilding videos. Tonight's feature presentation was the 2000 Mr. Olympia contest.
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Seated just a few feet away from the TV was a sculpted, 260 lb Craig Titus, going through his daily cardio ritual. Craig was riding the stationary bike while admiring the posing routines and classic physiques of several of his rivals. The consummate student of bodybuilding, Craig studied every move with an obvious attention to detail.
Intent on taking his career to the next level, Craig has put all of his social ambitions on hold while he prepares for his upcoming contest schedule. Craig is regarded as one of the top 15 professional bodybuilders in the world, but amazingly his accomplishments shy in comparison to those of his illustrious wife of four years.
Kelly has won nearly everything there is to win within the world of professional fitness. Her stage presence is unmatched and her athleticism and strength are a genetic miracle. Despite popular opinion, Craig does not mind being second best in his own house.
This relationship has transcended far beyond a conventional marriage. These two athletes are business partners, training partners and best friends who also happen to share a bed.
The couple credits each other for their success. "Craig's work ethic and tenacity make me want to be the best person and athlete I can be." Kelly Explains. "When I see how hard Craig works to prepare for a show, it makes me feel like nothing is out of my grasp."
A tour of the house includes a visit to their newly built home-gym, which spans 400 square feet and includes an impressive collection of cutting edge workout equipment. Each machine was engineered for Craig and Kelly to include customized grips and colors that are unavailable on the mass market.
Just behind the gym is a pool and Jacuzzi. Craig was quick to point out that his perimeter wall ensures complete privacy for those late-night dips in the Jacuzzi, a healthy reminder that bodybuilding does take a back seat to certain things.
Next, we arrived at the couple's designated home office, a room that Craig and Kelly take nearly as seriously as they do the gym. This is where photos are distributed, endorsement contracts are negotiated, fan mail is read and new opportunities are evaluated. Craig explains, "Bodybuilding presents a very short window of opportunity. It's extremely important to set up for life-after and to ensure our future."
Kelly is the cover model on the recently published Ironman Magazine swimsuit issue, an obvious sign that her career is heading in the right direction. Craig has recently finalized new endorsement deals for he and his wife with a line of exercise equipment and a major supplement company. The two have also gotten into the party promotion business by forming strategic alliances with contest promoters.
After the ten-cent tour, I was offered a seat at the dinner table. Tonight's menu included Filet Mignon, courtesy of the local Outback Steakhouse.
The steak wasn't nearly as juicy as the conversation. Craig has an arsenal of opinions and he's among the few who dare to say exactly what's on his mind… for better or for worse.
Craig has ruffled his share of feathers since joining the professional ranks, earning the unofficial distinction as The Bad Boy of Bodybuilding. During dinner, Craig offers up his analysis of the upcoming GNC Show of Strength, an event that will signal the end of Craig's 2004 competition schedule. Craig explains the improvements he has made to his physique since he last competed nearly five months ago.
Meanwhile, in the seat beside Craig, Kelly elaborates. "Craig has gone to great extents to be ready for the stage, and with this improved package, he is definitely going to deliver."
This marriage might best be described as the quintessential mutual admiration society. They are each other's biggest fan.
Soon, the conversation will re-focus on Kelly's pursuits. Kelly has a long list of professional championships and she is considered an early favorite to claim the upcoming Ms. Fitness Olympia crown. Kelly has dazzled audiences throughout the world with an astounding display of showmanship and athleticism. Her background as an elite level gymnast has forced her competitors to embrace a style that was once unheard of within professional fitness. Her high-kicking, tumbling ability has made Kelly a crowd favorite.
Craig is his wife's biggest supporter. "Kelly has worked harder than you could possibly imagine. I truly believe that she will go down in the history of professional fitness as one of the greatest athletes to ever hit the stage. Kelly has earned it."
The lifestyle of a professional athlete is comprised of sacrifices that few outsiders could possibly fathom. This might explain why this relationship is truly a match made in fitness heaven.
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