The Manly Art

Just been talking with a guy who says he is unwilling to join a gym because he is ashamed of his body. Missing the point, of course, that you go to a gym for exactly that reason, to improve! No-one will insist that you remove your shirt, and most gyms have really helpful people to give advice. Most public gyms (certainly the chains) seem to forbid shirtlessness despite exhibiting lots of posters of muscular guys on their walls. The usual explanation is that the ladies don’t like it, or ‘hygeine’. It doesn’t prevent guys from standing in front of a mirror for a quick ‘selfie’, though:


…or, indeed, pulling the top down and getting your mate to take a quick pic for you:


The sideless ‘top’ is a kind of sneaky way around the problem for those that really want to go shirtless when the rules say ‘no’:


Anyway, back to this guy. I needed to give him every encouragement, and the first thing is to find a partner with the same feelings, and to work out together a little in private at first, hopefully shedding their shirts under those circumstances and seeing some small improvement through bodyweight exercises such as press-ups and sit-ups. it really doesn’t take all that long to see some effect, however skinny you are, and with simple body-weight moves you don’t really risk straining things…

twisting sit-ups

Twisting sit-ups are a really good exercise for shaping up the abdomen: you can go steeper as you get stronger, you can always improvise something for a slope whilst your training partner holds your ankles… dips between some bars are really good for the upper arms and shoulders…


After a while, the guys should go to a gym together and enrol for some gentle sessions, watching how the others use weights and equipment: most gym staff are more than willing to advise and certainly won’t ‘make fun’ of you – their livelihood depends on getting people into the gym and keeping them happy. And happy means developing!

It won’t be too long before the partners decide to indulge in some friendly competition aimed at improving them both and, who knows the shirts might come off again for a record of their achievement:


In our rather ‘Puritan’ part of the world, public shirtlessness is rather frowned upon. That destroys confidence too. Gyms which are either gay-friendly (no such public one around here!) or inhabited by tyro bodybuilders are more likely to tolerate or encourage shirtlessness. We are blessed here to have been invited into a private gym club (our dude wouldn’t possibly qualify until he gets himself significantly built and athletic) which not only insists on shirtlessness but is happy to tolerate naked training too, in the style of the ancient Olympians and Romans. We all felt uncomfortable with that at first but, once you are used to it, you have an amazing sense of freedom and of being at one with your body. Of course, there aren’t public gyms that allow that, but if you really get into it and enjoy watching your progress, you can always train that way at home. Understandably, there is an additional ‘hygiene’ issue and you will notice that these lucky lads on their cycling machines have a personal towel…


It would be interesting to know the story of that lucky group, but I don’t. The hair suggests it is quite old, but the equipment suggests the opposite. However, the camaraderie certainly helps – one guy on his own is much less likely to ‘go total’ I suspect.

Cover1 ThumbCover2 ThumbCover 3 ThumbThe important thing is to enjoy what you do and, as my writings make very clear, we do exactly that and have enjoyed it for thirteen years here. We have our own ‘training cabin’ at the top of the yard as well, set up by my partner’s brother, where we can do as we please. And both there and the private gym, we enjoy wrestling too.

When Dave and I first met, we found a wonderful website called ‘The Manly Art of Naked Wrestling’ – sadly no longer existing. In no sense was it a porn site: indeed, it had history, technical advice, training tips, lots of pictures and was very well researched and managed. Sadly missed. I wish I had copied and pasted so much of the stuff there before it vanished. Oh well.

Back to this nervous guy. I got a job (along with Dave of course) – a bit of ‘personal training’ in our cabin. He is, indeed, very skinny, but has great potential. Just him and me for the first session, no-one else allowed. I shucked my shirt about half way through, just to see what would happen. He made some rather nervous comments about my body, so I said ‘Why not let’s see your muscles at work, because it helps us to direct the exercise where it most needed?’ Then, with a bit of encouragement, off it came. We don’t have mirrors in there (long story) so he couldn’t see too easily how far he needs to go to catch up with me, although I’m sure he felt it. He’s had three sessions now, with Dave coming in as well, and is getting more enthusiastic as we have introduced the free weights. So yesterday I sprang a little surprise – son Leo and his mate Chris in there as well (I told them to keep their shorts on), quietly working away and doing some acrobatic stuff in the corner as well, minding their own business and (of course) making no comments. I think he’s enjoying himself now, and there is talk of a friend joining him for the sessions. So good for him. Before long – who knows – there’ll be some friendly comparisons…


…just need to get the partners working well together…


I’ve suggested to the guy (and his potential training partner) to get their shirts off whenever they can, just to give them confidence about their bodies: they don’t need to do it in public, but doing it when alone, and certainly when together, will boost their confidence…


…and, of course, going swimming (although the outdoor pools here in TN are closing up for the season now). There’s always the Clinch River! That’s swimming as in Speedos or boardies – not with a shirt on which some of the mega-puritans around here actually do!

I think the guy needs to change his diet, too, packing in a lot more protein. He’s agreed to that, and to keeping records of what he eats and the training he does. I’m sure that, before very long, he (and I hope his partner) will be up their with the rest of us, strutting our stuff!


In the meantime, the message is: be proud of what you have and, if you want to change it, get in the gym!!

03 (4)

And that completes my dozen pix for the ‘afficionados’ for today!

About tonycavanagh

Born Northampton UK; school Oxford UK and Oak Ridge Tennessee, where I met my wonderful partner Dave, also from UK. Oak Ridge is our main training base for acrobatics and circus stuff, but we also established a base in Wales (UK) to serve us when we are working in Europe. Our 'story', of finding gay love, learning the acrobatics trade and then of how we got shot at during our show (and worse was to follow - just to prove that the risks of being an acrobat are not always the most obvious ones!) are now available in my three books 'Loving the Boy', 'The Power of Love' and 'Against All Odds'. Links available on most blog posts. Actually, waiting for the imminent arrival of the first printed copies was far scarier than anything we do in performance. A fourth book - not about us but exploring the sadness of a gay Native American boy denied his true identity - is currently with an agent for evaluation. watch for 'Let The Future Find Me' in due time. And now to book five... another boy, another quest... seems its always boys...
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