It’s funny. Ya know, drawing my Funny Faces autobio strips for the NCN’s Exagerrated Features magazine (and a comic book compilation one day, I promise!), I have to draw myself a lot. Without even realizing it, I tend to draw myself in whatever shape I am in at the time. In some of the older strips, I drew myself more “normally” proportioned, even with an occassional “bump around the middle”, and a slightly rounder face. These days, I noticed, I am drawing myself a bit more buff. It’s a subconscious thing, really. I am just drawing myself how I see myself in the mirror, I guess. I mean, sure, I draw myself a little better looking than I really am….what artist doesn’t? But, overall, my “comic self” does reflect the changes in my real self, if somewhat idealized and exagerrated. The point is, yes, I have been getting back into shape. THAT’S why the drawings of me in the strips are changing. In the photos above, you can even see the changes. The one on the left, with my beautiful wife, Barbie, is fairly recent. Sorry for the “pucker face”. It was late, and the karaoke bar was smoky. In the one on the right, though, I am the round faced, happy guy in the Santa hat. Yeah, changed a bit, huh?
Anyway, I thought I’d talk a bit about working out, my experiences. Maybe it’ll help someone else out there….
I used to work out… a LOT. 2 hours in the morning before classes, and then 1-2 hours at night after classes, while in college. My original goal in life (don’t laugh), was to be Mr. Olympia. But I always liked all of the older, more “natural” bodybuilders like Steve Reeves. When my workout partner starting taking ‘roids (he went on and became a competitive bodybuilder), he and I parted ways. No “russian roulette” with my body for me, thanks. So, I started doing lighter weights, got smaller, and went into modeling for awhile. Hated it (but at least I met my wife through it), and it really messed up all of those years of working out. Seriously.I was too big to model, at first. I had to go from a size 48 jacket down to a 38. I gain muscle size pretty easily (least I did back then), so I felt like if I even walked into a gym, I got bigger! So, I got out of the gym, and started walking/moderate running, and STARVING myself. That worked, and I got the size I needed to be. But I HATED walking. Hated starving even more.
Once I started doing caricatures, I made enough money to not have to starve, and was sitting on my butt all day drawing, like all of us. So, over the years, I saw my muscle mass atrophy more and more, and my waist size slowly creep up. Did get back into shape about ten years ago, through walking again, so I could model a bit again (thought maybe I’d like it more this time). That didn’t last long. I like to draw WAY more than I like to stand in front of a stupid camera and suck in my cheeks and gut.
A few years later, through the NCN, I met Tom Richmond (of MAD magazine fame). Little did I know at the time that he would become one of my closest friends. After a year or two of knowing Tom, he told me how he’d started working out again. That’s good, I thought, but I don’t need to do that. I still considered myself to be in above average shape. Soon, though, I was impressed by his transformation. He got REALLY buff. Okay, I thought, well, I’ll do that someday.Then we went on vacation to Hawaii with Tom and Anna. NO WAY was I taking my shirt off on the beach next to him. I still retained some of my chest and arms from the old days, but I lost any semblance of abs long ago! I started the Atkins diet when we got home! It worked pretty well, but I found it hard to stay on. Pretty soon, I gained back most of what I lost.
Here’s a funny story for you- after Hawaii, on a family trip to visit the Richmonds up in Minnesota, Tom took me to his gym one morning, to work out with him. After being a gym rat for so long when I was younger, I know my way around a gym, so I wasn’t TOO intimidated. UNTIL Tom wanted me to “spot” him on the bench press. Now, if memory serves correctly, Tom decided to “up” his max this day. Somewhere above 300 lbs. I was a bit concerned with spotting that much, since it had been many, many years since I had “spotted” anyone or benched that much myself. But I figured maybe I’d be okay. I was most worried about throwing my back out if I had to “help” him at all. Surely he wouldn’t ask me to spot him if he didn’t think I could do it, though. And he certainly looked like HE could bench it. WELL….it didn’t turn out that way. That barbell went down like a locomotive! STRAIGHT down! On Tom’s face! I felt SOOO bad! Blood was shooting from his lip. We had a tough time explaining that to the wives when we got back. It was honestly probably a little too heavy for him (at the time..that was a couple of years ago), but man, did I feel like a wimp!
Then, lo and behold, a couple of years passed, and I got a notice in the mail about my 20 year high school reunion. I HAD to get into shape now. In my late 30s, with the 40s looming, I figured this might be my last chance. At that time I wore size 36 pants. And, to be honest, there wasn’t a lot of extra room. Size 38 didn’t seem far away. About six months before the reunion, I went back into the gym. And I went back on Atkins. It worked pretty well, but was hard to keep up. I wanted to be lazy, as I had been for years!
Just when I was starting to waver, getting less motivated, I went to the San Diego ComicCon…with Tom Richmond. Inspired again after seeing him and talking to him that weekend, I hit the gym hard when I got back home. And I continued. Right up to this day. The reunion went great, and I was in tmy best shape in years. I didoverdo it in the gym a bit later and hurt my back for a few months, and that set me back, but it’s healed up now (after months in rehab and chiropractor offices). I had two personal trainers after that (both wer lousy, in their own ways), to get me motivated to keep on. Eventually I realized I didn’t need a trainer though….I am, for the first time since college, addicted to the gym. I give myself plenty of rest between workouts (you “recharge to get large”), but I eagerly look forward to every workout.
I enjoy being in better shape now. My goals now are a bit more realistic than being Mr. Olympia! I want to be in good shape and energetic as I grow older (I turn 40 on February 5th), and be able to catch not only my kids ( an 8 year old and a 6 month old), but also THEIR kids one day. I think I finally woke up, and reversed the downward spiral. Just in time. I am stronger, more energetic, than I’ve been in years. I can walk up the stairs in my home without getting winded, work in the yard without hurting my back, and lift and move stuff (like boxes of paper for our retail locations) like I haven’t been able to in a decade. Plus, I even see the benefits when I am sitting down drawing. My posture is better, making my back hurt less, and my shoulders don’t bother me as much. I’m still working on seeing some abs again (one day, maybe), but my clothes sizes have changed dramatically. I’ve really only lost about twenty pounds since that Hawaii trip four or five years ago, but in gaining muscle and losing fat, I’ve went from an XL shirt down to a medium, and “no extra room” size 36 pants down to size 31. I still need to work on my diet, getting it more healthy (I love pizza,burgers and wine), but I am doing it, making the changes slowly. Like someone else here said, you can’t diet, per se. You have to make it a lifestyle change. That’s what I’m after. Long term changes, long term benefits. I didn’t get out of shape overnight, and I’m not getting into shape overnight.
Listen, if you want to get back into shape, you can do it. Just eat sensibly (not Atkins, I learned….South Beach is a lot “saner”), and get out and MOVE.
Most people who know me know I LIVE TO READ. Reading, gaining knowledge, is my passion. I got a great book a few months back that is probably the sanest, easiest to follow adivce on working out and dieting that I’ve ever read. I reccommend it for anyone interested in getting into shape. Whether it’s just losing fat, or gaining muscle, or both. Most everything Tom has said in his previous posts here is in this book: “Men’s Body Sculpting” by Nick Evans. I’m working out from it myself!
Hope all of my rambling helps someone.
PS…I don’t wanna sound mushy, but I don’t know if I would’ve done any of this without Tom’s inspiration, and advice. Thanks, buddy.