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Getting physical

Workout 101 – Part One of Six

Ross von Metzke | 21 July 2006

When I was born, I was one of the cutest babies my parents or any of their friends had ever seen (and I didn't grow up to be the guy on the right... we'll get to him later). I know every parent says that about their kid, but in my case, it was true. I smiled, had bright green eyes and flawless, perfectly pink skin. I was gorgeous!

By 11 years old, I turned into one of the ugliest kids I�ve ever seen (don't believe me, look below, at a photo taken opening night of some play I was in) � and I know everyone says this looking back on those junior high, coming of age years, but trust me when I say – with buck teeth, acne from the time I was ten, Orphan Annie red hair, a huge gash down the middle of my forehead from a car accident in 6th grade, I am telling you the truth.

I also got a case of the chubs along about sixth grade.

I wasn�t fat, mind you, but in a photo of me standing hands above head, polo tucked into my khakis, you�re hard pressed to find a definitive waist line.

That look followed me through �til high-school, when slowly but surely, I discovered skin care products, my teeth straightened out, I bought my first of many foil highlight treatments and my active lifestyle worked my pudge into a respectable middle ground.

I�ve never been skinny. Never been fat. Never been scrawny. Never been muscular. I�ve just always hovered in that sort of hard to define middle ground called average.

A waist small enough to be considered tiny, an ass big enough to get me stage time on Soul Train. It�s a tough middle ground, but someone�s gotta live there.

So in college, I started working out. Nothing excessive, mind you, but three or four days a week, I�d haul my butt to the gym, half-ass in on the treadmill for 15 minutes, do some crunches (all wrong), lift a few weights (never so many as I might actually break a sweat), then hit the tanning bed to make everything look more toned than it really was.

Hell, I was an active guy. So long as no gut was protruding from my all to tight shirt, I was in good shape. See right – circa 2002!

Post college, at the urging of a friend (and countless photos in the gay rags advertising 6-pac abs on guys who �hardly ever worked out�), I decided to kick my ass into gear. I hired a trainer, took up kick-boxing, joined a gym that didn�t double as a bathhouse (as so many gyms in the gay neighborhoods do) and actually started to see some good results

That lasted six months (three of them with visible abdominal muscles, none with more than a passing resemblance for muscle on my upper body) and I got the news� moving day. Los Angeles here I come.

Welcome to LaLa land, where personal trainers make more in an hour than some people make in a day, every gym I go to seems packed with rats racing to the finish line and, if I�m being sincere, my adequately worked out body pales in comparison to guys who order macrobiotic meals, spend three hours a day perfecting their physique and rely on supplements and surgery to take care of the rest.

So, I got lazy again, and, well� you know the rest. This is the point when I�m supposed to show you a shirtless picture, but I won�t because a) you can see I�m a pretty skinny guy from the pic I�ve posted here and
b) most of you would tell me to shut up, stop complaining and get on with my life.

But you see, that�s not the point. The point of working out is not how far you need to go but how far you�re willing to go, how much you can dedicate yourself to improving your body, which is the exact thought process that got me off my ass again. You see, the first time I hit the gym (way back in college), I did it because the membership was free with tuition and it seemed like the right thing to do. The second time around, I was working out for someone else. Well, it was kind of for me, but more out of insecurity because I didn�t quite look like everyone else.

They say third time�s the charm, and I believe it, because this time, screw everyone else� I�m doing it for me. Out of my desire to see just what my body is capable of, to see if watching my diet (carbs and sugar are my very near and dear friends) and cutting down on weekend (and weekday) cocktails is worth it. To see if, at 27 years old, I can whip myself into the best shape of my life, not because it�s going to get me more dates or 2007 White Party ad, but because I�m curious and motivated, and there�s no reason on earth why I shouldn�t be able to do it.

My goal is to gain muscle and lose fat � not a lot of either – about 10lbs of muscle and enough fat that when I sit down, my stomach doesn�t jut out over my waist – but enough that I notice.

To do this, I called in some back up � former Top Ten Celebrity Male winner, David Rich, who also posed on the cover of the April/May issue of Gay Monkey Magazine. He's here. You see the difference between him and me is he has abs, I have ribs. His David Rich Fitness and David Rich Fitness Naked offer tips and workout strategies from guys asked by Playgirl to take it all off on how to look good without your clothes on (one of his cohorts in crime, Sean Hartley, is pictured right).

It�s an online personal trainer, complete with mapped out workouts, video downloads of correct body posture and exercise and even tips on how to design the right diet for you. Now there�s a goal I can wrap my brain around!

My first task was to figure out exactly what sorts of things I�ve been doing wrong these years, and while it doesn�t exactly take a rocket scientist to put your finger on some things, occasionally, you need someone to whack you upside the head and say, �Wake up, stupid!�

First, and I�d imagine this is the problem for most people, my diet. Now I�m not the type who�s ever frequented fast food joints (I haven�t been near a McDonalds since junior year) or gorged myself on candy in a movie theatre. But I do like my pasta, love chocolate and have been known to stand in the freezer and eat ice cream out of the carton just because it was there.

But my big problem, shockingly to me, was that I didn�t eat enough to put on muscle. At least I didn�t eat enough of the right foods. If you go to the gym and lift weights for an hour, following it with a salad and a scoop of tuna is kind of defeatist. Who�d have thunk a shredded beef burrito with plenty of chips and guacamole would be a good post workout meal. On days when I build muscle, I have to consume an about 450 more calories than I burn. And I do that four days a week. On days when I burn fat (only once a week for me), it�s 750 calories less than I burn. It all gets very technical, but I�m giving you an overview.

Second, and here�s where logic comes into play, in the past, on days when I�ve done cardio, I�m usually off the treadmill and in my car in less time than it take to actually start burning fat. 15 minutes, 20 max, and my cardio workout was done. Doesn�t work that way. Typically, 35 to 45 minutes is a good cardio workout.

And my final, fatal flaw? Consistency. I go for three weeks, strong and dedicated, and by week four, I�m sleeping in, hitting the snooze and telling myself, you�ve been good, you deserve a week off.

And that�s the week you lose all the progress you�ve gained.

And so, I propose a project, for you the reader, and me, the crazy writer who has convinced himself that by the time I head home for San Diego Gay Pride in just 42 days, I will have made a marked improvement on my body and my fitness plan.

My project, should you choose to join me, is for each of you to sit down and really think about your fitness goals (for July, for the summer, for the year, for your life) and determine whether you are actually dedicating yourself to achieving the body you want or just sort of going through the motions.

Once you�ve done that, hop over to, or another Web based fitness program. Check it out, find a plan that works for you, and dedicate the next eight weeks to working your ass off with the plan, with me, with David and with whomever you can manage to snare into this workout trap with us. Every two weeks through mid August, we�re going to check in with updates, tips to help you out on your quest and some funny testimonials from our readers that might make you feel a tad less alone as you take on this task.

It�s all in the motivation, and I�ve found mine. Myself (well that and the fact that the staff is going to be kicking my ass to get these articles out on time, so I�d better not disappoint and suddenly wake up obese and sick about it).

We�ll check back in after the end July and clock how everyone�s doing. And, as you get started, if you find yourself with questions or a particular uphill battle to overcome, e-mail us at and we�ll do our best to address it in the next column.

Best of luck, and happy sweatin�.

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