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I write about training with Randy all of the time, but the reality is that my main training partner, especially since Randy started selling Ford automobiles last year, is my wife of fourteen years, Janet.
As good a training partner as Randy is, him being a young stallion that this old veteran has to keep in his place by lifting heavier and harder, Janet is actually better in several ways. For one thing, she's much nicer to look at. Another bonus is that she is such a Form Cop that I almost never get hurt training with her.
If I can't get the first few reps of an exercise, I always know she won't help contribute to my delusion (formally known in Bodybuilding Psychology as the "All You" syndrome) by helping to lift a portion of the weight. Instead, she will stand idly by, hands nowhere near the weight, and in her deadpan delivery inform me, "It's too much weight."
With Randy, and pretty much every other male I have ever trained with, there is no such thing as too much weight. With 'just a little help,' which often translates into an all-out effort from two men, almost any amount of resistance is possible. The fact that this type of nonsense could easily lead to a torn muscle or wrecked joint pales in the face of the tremendous ego boost of feeling as if you are the world's strongest man.
Oddly enough, when I get asked for a spot from strange guys in the gym who I can see are looking for me to lift half the weight for them (as you may imagine, there is usually a bench press involved), I am not generous in the least. If I have to help too much, I get perturbed and tell them, "I'm not lifting the weight for you, dude." Rarely do they ever ask me for a spot again - which is fine, I'm a busy guy.
Training With My Wife
As a husband and wife who are also bodybuilders, Janet and I tend to stand out in the gym. For either a single man or woman to be a prime physical specimen is impressive enough, but when people find out we are married, have real jobs (if you can call being a writer a real job - I always say it must be, since I get paid in real money), and have two children, we often get the same awed reaction you might expect from a person who has walked on the moon, climbed Everest without oxygen tanks, or resisted buying an 8-cylinder, gas-guzzling SUV despite being a US resident.
We tend to draw a lot more attention when we're in shape, as you might guess. Shortly before the NPC New England, which we both entered as heavyweights (look for that story in the next episode, including Randy's competitive debut), we were both tanned, lean, and looking like something right out of the pages of a muscle magazine.
To be blunt, we stood out among the average Joes and Janes around us as freaks. But as bodybuilders, attaining the status of freaks was an honorable distinction.
It meant that our years of dedication to consistent hard training and good nutrition had resulted in bodies that were completely unlike that of the garden variety Homo Sapiens. That's the scientific term for the species of human beings, for you mental midgets chuckling out there.
There may actually be another Sapiens on the end of that, but I didn't want to confuse you anymore with what would probably be mistaken as a typo by those that think Anthropology is the study of ants.
Asking Janet For Advice
We both got a lot of questions asking 'how we got this way' from folks in the gym. Janet gets about double the amount as me, since a beautiful, feminine woman with muscles is a far more rare creature than a buffed adult male.
Of course, many of those asking her for advice were really just horny guys trying to hit on her, who totally ignored the wedding band and substantial twinkling rock adorning her left ring finger. They never seemed to come around when I was training with her, oddly enough.
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A Beautiful, Feminine Woman With Muscles Is A
Far More Rare Creature Than A Buffed Adult Male.
And as you might imagine, there were always plenty of sincere women who would approach Janet looking for a quick fix in the form of some super slimming diet or fat-burner pill, or the one magic exercise that would melt away their chunky butts and thunder thighs.
Many of them were quick to offer up the excuse for their being anything from a little flabby to roughly the size and shape of an elephant seal, explaining that they had given birth one or more times. And as we all know, that means you absolutely have to get fat and remain so for the rest of your life, right?
I loved it when Janet informed them that she was the proud mother of an 11-year-old and a 5-year-old, and had ballooned up to 205 and 190 pounds, respectively, during her pregnancies. She was a whole lotta woman in those days, let me tell ya.
I won't say I wasn't still attracted to her, but I will say that the only positive change to her body was that her breasts swelled up two full cup sizes without any surgical procedure involved.
And oh yeah, they leaked this milk that tasted pretty horrible, but I heard there was something called colostrum in it which could help me grow bigger - therefore any that I did drink was purely in the interest of science and to further my physique goals. For the record, I don't think it worked, but it was an enjoyable experiment.
Enter Tony And Tina
For quite some time, we had been getting stared at by a married couple I will call Tony and Tina. They were in their early thirties, not much younger than us.
Tony had a little bit of size on him, but needed to drop a good thirty pounds. He was about six foot and 230 pounds, with a little bit of a potbelly, and absolutely no muscle definition, just a smooth mass of indeterminate bulk.
He did stay incredibly tanned year-round, since his sister, a former stripper, owned a tanning salon down the street that always reeked of incense and had techno music blasting 24-7.
Tina was a pretty young bleached blonde who often let her roots grow too long between dye jobs and had more tattoos than Janet and I combined - which at last count was eight. She was the classic 'skinny fat' body. Her height and weight of 5-4 and 125 pounds didn't tell the full story. The woman had no muscle on her, and was kinda mushy and squishy all over.
I go by the motto, "a hard woman is good to find," so she held no appeal for me. Which was good, because Janet doesn't take kindly to me drooling over anyone but she, the Cuban Missile. And take it from me, you don't want to piss any woman off, but particularly not a Cuban. Think of an enraged Ricky Ricardo with PMS.
Anyway, probably because Janet and I were in peak physical condition due to the imminent contest, they finally got up the guts to come up to us one Monday morning - leg day for us. I whispered to Janet that I hoped they weren't swingers.
Asking For Advice
Tina spoke first, addressing Janet. That's usually how it worked. Rarely did anyone ever approach me first if Janet was with me. Janet says it's because I am always giving dirty looks. Not true, it's just that my face is genetically twisted into a permanent dirty look. Even my smile looks like a sneer. It must be the Russian half of me. They always seem to look annoyed or pissed off.
"Hey, you guys look really great," she offered as an introduction. "Thanks," we both responded in unison.
"Uh, we were just wondering what supplements you guys take, like protein powders and fat burners and stuff," Tony asked. This was the most common type of question we were hit up with. Nobody ever liked our answer, but I am not the type to dance around reality. Whether these two liked it or not, I was going to let them know what they were least likely to hear in this world where everyone is afraid of offending everyone else.
"Believe it or not, supplements are only a small part of the reason we look the way we do," I explained. "In fact, there are millions of people who use supplements on a regular basis and don't look much better than the average person. That's because training and nutrition are far more important, and most people just don't train hard enough and eat right."
Now I waited for the standard comeback. Tina gave it, word for word almost identically to all the rest over the years. "But we do train hard and eat right, you see us in here all the time," she said. I looked to Janet to clue her in.
"Tina," she said in her sweet, caring way that is so different from my blunt, callous tone, "I don't think I have ever seen you do anything but a lot of very easy cardio and very light weights, and then only for legs."
"That leg press machine you use over there?" I pointed. "See those poles sticking out on the sides? You can actually put weights on them, that's why the plates have the holes in the middle the same size." Janet elbowed me pretty hard for that and continued on.
"Six or seven meals?" Tina stammered. "Who has time for that? I have coffee and a muffin for breakfast, salad for lunch, and..."
"And a huge dinner with tons of rice or pasta, right?" I interrupted. She stared at me like I was a mind reader. I turned to Tony to handle the manly part of this.
"Tony, you do okay with the weights, though I have never seen you train to failure and beyond on a single set, and your form in general is atrocious." His jaw dropped. Apparently no one had ever had the balls to tell him. "And I have seen you using the same exact weights for at least a year.
And furthermore, if I can be so bold, you could certainly stand to do some regular cardio and drop some body fat, but I have never seen you over there on a machine. Usually Tina is cruising along on the treadmill at a turtle's pace and you are over at the weights doing curls that look like clean and jerks. You guys should be training together like we do."
They looked at each other as if I had just suggested they start dressing in each other's clothes and learn to communicate in Japanese.
"We met in a gym in 1989, and have been training partners ever since," Janet informed him. "It certainly is some of the best time we spend together," I added. "No kids, no phone calls, pure quality time."
"But I don't want to get all muscle-bound and masculine-looking like those women in the magazines," Tina volunteered. "Guys," I said, trying to keep a straight face, "Janet has been training hard and heavy for over sixteen years now, does she look muscle-bound, or like a man, to you? Tony, seriously?"
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Tony only stared, eyes wide and unable to even come up with a grunt in response. Janet was wearing a pretty small, tight little outfit that day. Now he was the one who got the elbow in his ribs from his wife.
Setting Up The Basics
We stayed and talked to them for about another twenty minutes. Janet is a personal trainer and set up a consultation with both of them to go over their goals and eating habits. I had them order a few products that would definitely make clean, frequent, high-protein eating a lot easier.
They got protein powder and protein bars as meal replacements, and whey and waxy maize powders, creatine monohydrate, and L-glutamine to make their post-workout shakes. I also had them round out their nutritional needs with multivitamin and mineral tablets, vitamins C and E, and Omega 3 gel caps.
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There would be more things that would be useful to them soon, but for now I just wanted them to have the basics covered. Janet was going to educate them on how to eat properly, and take them through a few training sessions so they got a better idea of what it was going to take for them to start seeing real changes in the mirror.
And in a truly sappy moment, as soon as they walked away, I said to Janet, "the couple that trains together stays together." She gave me a quick peck on the lips.
"Except for when you get really irritated with me and tell me to f*** off and train by myself that day." "You always have to ruin the moment, Ron," she said. What can I say? I'm a writer, and I have a way with words.
About The Author:
Ron Harris is the author of "Real Bodybuilding: Muscle Truth from 25 Years in the Trenches," available at