SWEATING off half a stone a day wrecked the first part of Ryan Mania’s career.
But Ryan Mania’s desire to prove he was no waster fuelled the hunger for his shock return to racing.
The Grand National-winning jockey, 30, returned to the saddle after a five-year absence in October and has ridden 13 winners this winter. Mania’s successes have come for in-form Sandy Thomson — his father-in-law.
But he reveals the Berwickshire handler had at first dismissed boozy talk of making a comeback.
The 5ft 11in Scot had stunned the racing world by chucking it all in at the age of 25 — just two years after his Aintree triumph on Auroras Encore in 2013.
But after going on a nutrition course last year he’s now riding high — without being scared of the scales.
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Mania said: “I rode in the charity race at Aintree a couple of years after I retired.
“Just being back at the races, back involved and seeing everyone made me think.
“I hadn’t been racing much at that stage, I had kept away from it because I didn’t give up due to not enjoying racing — it was the weight problems.
“I loved riding horses and I loved the job, it was just the sweating.
“I won the charity race at Aintree and remember watching the replay thinking ‘I can still ride, you’re an idiot for giving up’. So that’s when it first came back into my head.
“But I had a lot going on, I was getting married and starting a family so a lot changes.
“Then we went on holiday with Sandy, who I was working for as assistant, last summer. We’d had a good night and were talking about racing, so I said to him I was going to make a comeback and ride for him.
“He didn’t believe me, he thought I was speaking nonsense because we’d had a drink.
“We’d joked about it a few times in the past, so I think he thought it was just another one. But over the weeks and months after, he could see me out running and losing weight. So he was looking at me thinking ‘maybe he is going to do this after all’.
“I had signed up for the three-month course with a nutritionist. I wanted to know, could I get the weight back down and make it sustainable?
“If I couldn’t then I would have stayed happily retired knowing I’d given it a shot.
“I didn’t want to look back and have regrets.”
Borders-born Mania had been one of the hottest young talents around, working for legendary Yorkshire duo Sue and Harvey Smith.
The season after his Aintree heroics, he rode a personal best 53 winners and was a rider really going places.
But he was going through hell to maintain his weight, regularly having to lose 7lb in a matter of hours.
That impacted him physically and mentally until it was all too much and he snapped.
After suffering days where he’d flop out of the bath on to the floor tiles he simply couldn’t see any other way out.
He said: “It was terrible, I was heavy, my diet was crap and I would binge-eat.
“I’d got to the stage of having to lose half a stone overnight regularly, so it was unsustainable.
“The moment I decided to quit was the day I did it.
“I had a ride for Sue at Sedgefield and hadn’t eaten much the night before.
“I’d done so much sweating before bed I thought I’d wake up a few pounds lighter.
“But I’d lost only 1lb — so I knew I would have to sit in the bath in the morning and drive to the races to sit in the sauna to do 11st.
“I thought ‘I can’t do this any more’. Something in my head just went and it was such a relief because of what I had been doing to myself. Sweating constantly makes you feel terrible.
“You feel ill, you are hungry and you are thirsty, your body aches and because of all that it affects your mentality.
“But I have a far better understanding of nutrition and exercise now.
“I am the fittest I have ever been, I see a personal trainer twice a week and think like an athlete.
“I did 10st 4lb at Haydock the other week by having my breakfast, a pint of water and going for a run.
“Then I just had to lose another 2lb, which was 20 minutes in the sauna.
“It makes such a difference, physically and mentally.”