Saturday, June 28, 2008
The Men's Health Guy Vs. the Average Guy
For example, nearly all of us think that a certain amount of respect and admiration from our peers would be nice. On the other hand, to have so much respect and admiration from our peers that we end up getting elected to Congress, where our only jobs would be to a) serve in committees and b) make sure that the local Pop-Tart museum gets plenty of federal funding would be great.
Almost all guys think that being successful at work in our family lives would also be nice. However, being so successful at work that we could afford having someone else buy clothes for us would be great, especially since it would benefit our family lives to not be dragged by our wives to ornate-looking torture rooms with names like Belk and Macy’s.
Lastly, we all want to obtain a certain degree of health and fitness throughout our lives. It would be nice to stay relatively illness- and injury-free, so as to avoid making colleagues cover for us and keep from racking up numerous medical bills. But, then again, being on the cover of Men’s Health would be great.
The ultimate goal in this category may differ somewhat from guy to guy; the most patient among us wants to be on the cover of Runner’s World, while the most insecure wants to be on the cover of Flex. For most of us, however, Men’s Health strikes a happy medium, with the guys on its cover having a respectable amount of muscle, but not so much that they can never wear blue jeans.
Some of us want to look like the Men’s Health guy more than others. For some less-driven men, this desire begins and ends with seeing a copy of the magazine on the rack at the supermarket, thinking, That’d be cool, then picking up the latest Car and Driver and going home to watch Spike.
Others among us, however, actually buy the magazine and look inside for advice. The actor/athlete/hip-hop star on any given month’s cover is usually profiled within, where he talks about how he has managed to find fulfillment and happiness in his career. Guys never read this; if we wanted to find the secret to happiness and fulfillment, we’d read Guideposts, not an interview with the star of I, Robot. We read Men’s Health because we want those less-driven men to know that we could, with minimal effort, military press them.
That’s why, somewhere adjacent to his unread profile, is a chart detailing the Men’s Health guy’s weight training plan. Generally speaking, he probably follows a four-five day a week program; he works his chest and triceps on Monday, back and biceps Tuesday, shoulders and legs Thursday, fingers, toes and eyebrows Friday, etc.
It probably says (in small print) underneath that he does 45-90 minutes of running/biking every day after weight training, but unlike him, us average guys have to be at work at 8 a.m., so we stick with the weights. Also, another adjacent sidebar says that the Men’s Health guy eats something like nine times a days, and almost always a salad, chicken breast, bunch of egg whites or a protein shake. He also never eats bread, pasta, sweets, or 2 percent milk. Since we average guys don’t have our own cooks, we prefer to set our benchmarks a little lower, such as eating the occasional banana and generally not drinking Pepsi while in the gym.
Though we can’t follow his plan to the letter, training usually goes well for awhile. Even with a much higher intake of trans fats than the Men’s Health guy, average guys can usually make significant progress, provided we don’t give up after the initial soreness turns every individual stair step into an object one would normally associate with places like Abu Ghraib prison.
Soon his arms begin to swell, he starts standing a lot straighter, and begins eying the slumping posture of less-driven men with contempt as they stand outside public buildings, working their way through a pack of cigarettes. He begins offering unsolicited advice about “warm-up sets,” “maxing out” and “breath control” to co-workers. His bench press starts climbing, and he begins dreaming of a three-digit number higher than 200 that he associates with an attention-getting exercise. Then, he begins contemplating things that were once seemingly divorced from the real world, like distance running and giving up soft drinks.
At this point, one of two things is almost guaranteed to happen to the average guy. One possibility is that he will be given a massive project at work that he will have to devote nearly all his energies to, because gym fees, and a lot of other things, depend on his paycheck. The other possibility is that he will wake up in the middle of the night with a pain shooting through his shoulder caused by the tiny, oft-neglected and unglamorous body part known as the rotator cuff. Either way, the average guy will be out of action for a little while, at least until the next Men’s Health comes out.
On it will be a new Men’s Health guy, and his workout plan will at least partially contradict the last month’s routine. Nonetheless, the average guy will study the new Men’s Health guy’s plan and begin using it as soon as he can return to action, thus starting the cycle all over again.
In the back of the average guy’s mind, he must be aware that there’s a reason why the Men’s Health guy is always an athlete, actor or hip-hop star who actually has considerable time and money budgeted toward his appearance. He probably won’t ever make the cover of Men’s Health because no one cares enough to be willing to pay him to look a certain way.
So, you might ask, “How does Men’s Health stay in business?”
I would answer, “Because the average guy buys it.”
You might ask the follow-up question: “Buys what? The magazine, or the unrealistic ideal that he can look like a cover model?”
To which I would reply: “Is there a difference between the two?”
After all, if there weren’t unrealistic ideals to pursue, what would we average guys spend our time doing?
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