Todays’ Gallery Theme: ‘Shaping Up’
This post is a spot of encouragement to a 16yo guy from PA who sent me an epic e-mail – almost a novel, really! He has a younger sister, and parents who insist on tidy dress at all times – ‘bare feet in the house, or no shirt in the yard – an absolute no-no’. He says he is a straight lad, ‘with a sort-of girl friend’ but like to hang out with a group of male friends he’s grown up with in High School.
He describes himself, and two of his friends, as ‘skinny’ and two more of his ‘gang of five’ as overweight. Four white, one African American among them (he gives a huge amount of detail).
He is lucky, like my son Leo, in having his own basement space – he gave up his original bedroom in response to his parents wish to create a guest room – and his basement, because their house is built on a slope, has its own entrance from outside as well as stairs down from the main house, and plenty of windows to let in the light. When his friends come round, they usually use the outside door and that pleases the parents, who keep their house neat and leave the lads to get on with things undisturbed.
Brett has a few dumbbells and is starting to look seriously into ‘bulking up’ a bit. His friends come round and share that – but always in their tee-shirts, shorts (or long pants) trainers and socks. Their school Phys Ed is strictly ‘in uniform’ – they share a gym with the girls.
So, Brett searches the web for tips on using his weights and finds us here. He likes what he sees – promotion of fitness – and can live with the fact that we’re gay. ‘Not an issue for me’ he says. He’s started reading the first book, too! ‘Not sure what my mom would think about me reading about two gay boys falling in love!’ – he says – ‘But they’d probably approve of all the acrobatic bits.’ Score there, then. And then to the point:
‘As I said, I’m not gay. But I love the ways you guys train and wrestle shirtless and even naked. I’ve love to do that with my mates but, if I suggest it, they’ll think I’m gay anyway, won’t they? And I don’t have any muscle to show, anyway, so I’ve been nervous of taking my shirt off even in the changing room – and most guys in school use cubicles to change!’
Oh dear! No, Brett, your friends won’t think you’re gay – not if you go about it the right way. Brett says his friends come and hang out in his room undisturbed – and that he has some floor space for them to share his efforts at weight training, and that the floor covering is soft enough to wrestle. ‘We do roll around,’ he admits: ‘Two of the guys are into wrestling in school – but I like the sound of your “submission NHB” better!’ But even those two guys are used to wrestle suits, trainers and socks…
So, here is “Dr Tone’s” remedy to help Brett.
Next time they’re coming round, be ready to greet them – with bare feet. No-one can object to bare feet in your own room, I’m sure. Bare feet and shorts. Say nothing about it – it may set a trend, with some of the others perhaps kicking off their trainers. Just do it as if it is perfectly natural, because it is.
Get into your exercise, or wrestling – whatever – and I guess that eventually you’ll be getting a little sweaty. OK, it’s your room, so just quietly pull off that shirt and throw it aside – again, as if it was a perfectly natural thing to do. For some of us, it is. Others need to get the idea. And get back into the training or wrestling.
Don’t push it any further, not the first time. But just do it each time you guys get together, and eventually the contagion will spread and other shirts and maybe socks will be coming off.
‘I’d really love to try my strength against the others, shirts off – my muscle (at least, what there is!) working against theirs, man against man – you know…’ Yes, Brett, I do. It’s a great feeling and a way of gaining confidence about yourself, up against one of your own species (male!), sharing something you both love doing – pressing the iron, fighting, whatever. One way we like is to offer to be ‘the bench’ for a partner doing bench presses with your dumbbells – you don’t say if you have a bench, so I’m guessing it’s no – your back muscles working hard supported by the other guys… and, if you’re lucky, he’ll be shirtless too by then. It’s great for ‘lifting’ buddies to support one another – both physically and simply to give encouragement…
I’m willing to bet, Brett, that after a few sessions, all those shirts and socks will be off and no-one will remember how it happened – nor will they care. They’ll all be feeling good about it, and confident to be like that. You’ll be talking about how you can see each other’s muscles starting to build – or how the overweight ones are starting to slim down (plenty of repetitive bodyweight exercise for them, and maybe some running [see below]) – no-one will be saying ‘You are skinny’ or anything like that, because you’re all starting from first base anyway. And, when you’re away from your own yard, maybe out with the others somewhere, one of these could become your natural look…
Eventually, when the wrestling (shorts and undies) is going well, you will need to bite the bullet and take the initiative. ‘Guys – I’m gonna get naked – give you a couple more points to get a hold!’ Or something like that. Don’t put it as a question – make it a statement, and just do it. You are in your own room. You can make the decision – no-one else has to follow you. There will be surprise and maybe some remarks, and it may take a couple more sessions before anyone else does it – but they will, I promise you.
And nobody is going to ‘tell tales’ – you’re all good friends (have been for years) and, after all, they are taking part as much as you.
Another way you can develop at least the shirtless habit, as a group, and especially to benefit the two chubby guys, is to go running together, losing the shirts as soon as you are out of sight of your slightly strict parents and their dress code! Being shirtless as a group will give you all confidence.
Stop by any bar you come across – and do a few pull ups!
In fact, make use of any facility you come across along the way…
And don’t be afraid – on reasonably warm, humid days – to run shirtless in the rain – warm drizzle on a hot sweaty and bare chest is a fantastic feeling (and barefoot on wet grass – the same!). If you can find somewhere where you can train together outdoors – even better:
Above all – keep the shirtless (and occasionally naked) habit together for mutual support – it makes a huge difference to have a buddy whatever you are doing in the fitness sense:
So, Brett, that’s Dr Tone’s prescription. Let us know how you get along with it. And don’t forget, when you’re finally in your own room for the night, you can get naked and do some more training…
Before long – this could be you guys:
You’ve done the right thing and set yourself some goals – now get stuck in and make them happen!