Before I start harping over tonight's subject, I want to remind everyone that tomorrow (Thursday) on The Apprentice, the Empire invades the offices of Donald Trump! And at least one of my comrades (stormtroopers) will be fired! Be sure not to miss this treachery, airing tomorrow on NBC (check local listings). You can also CLICK HERE for a few previews. Wait, don't click it yet! Read my damned entry first. There ya' go...
Hot Men, Hot Muscles
There are so many of us who, at one time or another, become obsessed with fitness, the gym, and our body image. We have felt an external "pull" that dragged us to the gym to hammer through two hours of intense weight training and cardio exercise . We have aspired to build a very strict regimen around perfecting our looks and sculpting every little nook and cranny of our bodies. And almost every time, we disappoint ourselves by failing and coming up short in our own programmatical approach to fitness that we thought would really work.
I'm not speaking for all the world's men, gay or straight, young or old. But if you've visited any gym, you will see scores of these men pumping iron, checking themselves out in the mirror, and even in rare instances, actually talking to their muscles! If you're reading this entry, then chances are that at one point even you were so body-conscious that you felt obligated to attack the gym, the courts, the swimming pool, and/or the aerobics floor on a daily basis. Since there are so many different groups of fitness buffs, I am going to concentrate on gay men and how our fitness culture seems to define us. But I'm sure all the rest of you can also relate to this short study as well!
Picture yourself standing on a gym floor in a crowded fitness center surrounded by hundreds of guys from all walks of life. Some are in great shape, flaunting their rippling washboard abs, others posing in such a way to accent their most prized body parts, and still others fluttering about, self-conscious of their age, their weight, or their self-labeled "average" looks. But their generic purpose for being at the gym is where all of these people intersect: to become healthier and more fit. But you also notice the vast difference in their underlying goals and secret obsessions that quickly draw you in and intrigue you.
It is so common for men in every gay community to adopt a strict workout regimen, that it becomes almost understood that every gay man must workout somewhere. One of the first questions when two gay men meet is: "Where do you work out?" — as if it is imperative that no homo is worthy unless he has at least one membership at a local gym. But a question that I sometimes pose rises way above this standard:
"Why do you work out?"
Toss that question at a guy right in the middle of a set of curls, and he'll probably drop the dumbbells right on his toes in total shock. (In other words, wait until he's done curling). But the most effective medium for this question is within yourself. Ask yourself this question, and a whole new dimension to fitness suddenly unfolds!
Lookin' for Fitness in All the Wrong Places
There are right and wrong reasons for weight training, bodybuilding, and body sculpting, just as much as there is day and night, order and chaos. We often discover the true reasons behind fitness late in our gym "careers." In my late 20s, I discovered that I was also guilty of bastardizing exercise and fitness, and I realigned myself to a new purpose. I discovered that the best reasons to engage in weight and cardio training is to stay healthy and to feel good! Subsequently, I am then able to enhance my mood, improve mental focus, and prevent illness and disease. That seems easy enough to program into our minds, doesn't it?
But clearly, most men are skipping this function and working out for all the wrong reasons: to impress other men and compete with the physiques of other men, to pump up their bodies (particularly their abs) before a night of clubbing, to increase the chances of a night of hot sex, and to claim a social "presence" at the popular fitness club. Worst of all, many men engage in fitness to quench the unquenchable: their body image.
What is body image? Body image includes our perception, imagination, emotions, and physical sensations of and about our own bodies. But body image is not seated in fact, and body image is almost always an internal struggle. Essentially, the way we view our bodies is usually distorted and almost always a bunch of nonsense.
While those underpinning reasons above for working out may seem noble, they are all a lost cause. The reason is that these motivating factors are all bred out of insecurity. Sure, we all possess our own degrees of insecurity in some way or another. But by feeding that insecurity by setting lofty and false goals, guys are only setting themselves up for yet another disaster. This in turn only fuels the anxiety that already exists within, which in many cases is eventually diagnosed as body dysmorphic disorder and/or narcissistic personality disorder. Once a man is already awash in this storm of anxiety and mixed emotions, then exercise and fitness suddenly become a dreadful burden rather than an exciting pastime.
The Litmus Test
Here is a simple litmus test to determine a man's true intentions at the gym, one that most of us are already intimately familiar with: Spot the infamous top-heavy physique. Look around and find just one gym member that fits that profile: a full-bodied torso and arms, but a seriously lacking set of legs. Now look more closely, and you'll most likely realize that well over half of all the men at your gym also slip into this profile as well.
A man neglecting the lower body is a common by-product of his working out solely for appearance, concentrating only on what is readily noticeable: the chest, the arms, and the abs. What's ironic is that his anxiety that caused this mismatched training regimen to begin with is now manifesting itself physically, for everyone around him to see. He eventually comes to realize that he has forgotten to exercise his back, his rear shoulders, and his legs, which then only aggravates the dysmorphia already brewing within.
Tossing the Monkey Wrench
Is there a way to grind this vicious cycle to a halt and encourage men to rethink their approach to keeping their bodies (and ergo their minds) healthy? Of course there is. Here is what you can do for yourself, and I can personally vouch for this method, as it has motivated me more than anything else ever has.
Take the more practical approach that I mentioned above, and watch how it changes the whole fitness scene: Before an intense workout session, train yourself to work towards that extraordinary feeling that you get as you finish— that short euphoric phase at the end of vigorous exercise where you feel deeply satisfied and in perfect balance. Then hit the gym hard, and stay focused upon your preplanned program for that evening. As your session ends, feel those natural endorphins (and other hormones!) kick in, and commit to memory that fantastic feeling of happiness and deep relaxation.
You may have noticed that I did not dispense and specific advice on how often to work out, what muscle groups to train in what order, or how many grams of protein you should be dumping down your throat. This is because it is the frame of mind that I am preaching, which is the MOST important component to your workout, well beyond anything physical.
Back to Reality
Fortunately, by dropping the fantasies and narcissistic goals that plague most fitness freaks, you will be able to take responsibility for your own mental health, and consequently you'll be able to effect any result you desire. You'll soon realize that focusing on your well-being and being sensitive to the way you feel will transform your workout into something that you truly enjoy and look forward to every time. By enjoying your workout in a non-competitive and healthy mindset, you will become far more effective at muscle building and fat burning. And, reducing body fat and increasing muscle mass also creates an ideal hormonal environment in your system that keeps you feeling on top of the world every minute of each day. And I can further guarantee that this total balance will also translate into all other parts of your life.
So what is the winning combination? My prescription is quite simple. First of all, you all look MARVELOUS just like you are. Did you hear me? Good. Now, continue with weight training and exercise to feel great and to achieve an extraordinary level of health. Once you're on that path, everything else will fall into place, including that sumptuous bonus of a gorgeous physique, and a smile that will make others melt.
(By Daniel Culveyhouse | See the 1 comment | comment here)
Halloween in the Castro. I had been dying to witness the event well before I moved to San Francisco. Then during my first year in the city, at the beginning of October, I didn't have a clue what I would be, or what persona I would dare to imitate. I had been toying with the idea of something from Star Wars, after all, the rotten festering Episode I was just released a few months ago. But I figured everyone and their mother would be walking around as Jedi, with dozens of Jar Jar Binks also stumbling around in the crowd. This sounded unsexy, but... wait! What about my armor fetish?
Exactly. I will appear as an Imperial Stormtrooper in full gear! I knew about the small band of hobbyists who dress up in Imperial uniforms and other Star Wars bad guys. These hobbyists were part of the "501st Garrison." The garrison even had a local chapter, the Golden Gate Garrison. So I called one of the members, asking how long it took them to make their armor.
"Oh, well I worked on mine for about a year or so..."
Nope, wouldn't work. I didn't have the time to buy the white plastic, dick around with the molding, bake the pieces in the oven one at a time, all by trial and error. At that rate it would take me probably two years. I would just have to punish my wallet and buy one outright.
I found a local stormtrooper who wanted to part with his uniform, so I met him, looked at his full suit of armor, then negotiated a price. The final figure I agreed to was so heart-stopping and outrageous, I think my wallet is still stinging from that day, six years ago. Anyway, I was now the proud custodian of a full 32-piece suit of imperial stormtrooper armor!
I had no idea how popular this armor would be. Year after year, I get mobbed, hugged, kissed, clobbered, banged up, knocked over, knocked up... anyway, it's one hell of a sight, as you'll see in the photos below. As you know, I never just dump a truckload of photos on my blog, so I'll also add some running dialog to read as you scroll through them. Remember to click on each one to enlarge it to full-size!
Assembly: It takes two to don this armor. There is no way I can do this myself. Here, to the right, I forgot the proper order of assembly, and I'm now trying to stuff my foot into the imperial boots, which should have been step 1. Click it for a full-size photo.
Weather: Below, my armor is complete, and I check the weather briefly before marching out into the crowd with a few friends. I would say that this is to prevent rust, but as you might have guessed, it's not metal. It's PVC !
Crowd Insertion: The minute we walked outdoors, I was attacked by waves of amateur photographers. This was the first photo that anyone took, in the company of a pirate (to the right).We then stepped back even further into our colonial past with these schmucks (below). Let's grade them on their costumes. How about a D+. I know what you're thinking: "Aren't you a little short for a stormtrooper?" Nope, they were just very tall I guess.
Land of Oz: Then Dorothy and the scarecrow demanded a photo opportunity. There must have been 100 people that took photos of this surreal encounter: Dorothy, the Scarecrow, and the Stormtrooper. Except that the scarecrow gets a D minus. Wear contacts next time!!!
Helmet Fitting: No one can resist trying the helmet on for size! My friend Simon seemed to think that it fit just right. I always thought the damn thing was way too big on me.
Rebel Scum 1: It was inevitable. During my tour of duty I often encounter rebel scum. This walking carpet dared to ask me for a photograph. Oh, what the hell, you only live once, right Chewie? And don't tell me that these ladies don't have an armor fetish...
On Duty: Then below, this sexy specimen waited around patiently for his turn. I gave him all the attention he wanted. Smile! Too bad I was on duty, otherwise...
Ballet: Someone thought it would be cute and funny for a stormtrooper to dance (to the right). I damn near lost my balance, but at least I get to show off the standard-issue imperial boots that hit my wallet pretty hard.
How-deee!: Topless guys seemed to like my routine, for I then got flanked by two affectionate cowhands. Anyone want to play cowboys and stormtroopers? Yee-ha!
Rebel Scum 2: The queen of the rebels herself! Beyotch, I'm gonna kill ya! After I scolded her for stealing the plans to the Death Star and then escaping from Cell Block 1138, Princess Leia and I kissed and made up. Note the heart above us, compliments of Harvey's!
This went on for hours and hours. Jedi attacked me, Darth Vader came up and demanded an update, and Marvin the Paranoid Android fell apart where he was standing.
I was totally exhausted by the time the police came and swept all the riff-raff out of the Castro. I retreated back into my office and peeled off all 32 pieces. The night was a success! I appeared in at least 1,000 pictures, I was kissed and corrupted by dozens of scrumptious California boys, and I didn't lose a single piece of armor.
And you have NO IDEA how good it feels to take off this heavy armor after a night out in the Castro!
(By Daniel Culveyhouse | See the 1 comment | comment here)