Friday, June 1, 2012

Vilia Miretur Vulgus

"Let base-conceited wits admire vile things,
Fair Phoebus lead me to the Muses' springs."
 
--Christopher Marlowe

A little less than a year ago Tom Bradac, the artistic director of Shakespeare Orange County, approached me about an interesting opportunity: He was working with Guy Roberts, artistic director of the Prague Shakespeare Festival, to bring an adaptation of Shakespeare's Venus and Adonis to Prague to perform in the Prague Fringe Festival (which is next week, crikey!). In addition to being an actor for SOC, for the past eight years I've also been the technical director for the company, in charge of facilitating all the technical needs of each production. So my initial thought was that Tom was asking me to handle the technical aspects of the show.

Wrong!

He asked me if I wanted to play the part of Adonis. What the... Hell yeah, I did!

There was just one hitch. Well, hitch-ish. I realize that self-perception nearly always differs from how others see us, but Adonis in the play is essentially a sex-object Venus throws herself at. I've never viewed myself as a sexy hunk of man-flesh. I don't see myself in the mirror and think, "yeah, I'm what the ladies want."
Granted, this is a play. It's not real, it's pretend. So actually being a sex-object isn't necessary.

But I'd be lying if I said it wouldn't nice.

So I thought that for this play, part of my process would be to examine some of the physical things about me that I felt could use some improvement and work on them. It wasn't necessary, but it also couldn't hurt right? Especially after my director told me that I'd be starting the play completely naked.
At the same time, however, we started rehearsals 6 months before the performance dates. I didn't want to undergo some crazy workout and diet regimen that would drive me batshit crazy for ten months (I started this at the end of August). When you see actors in the movies undergo those crazy workouts (like the actors in 300) they have three advantages over me: a) they are provided a trainer, b) they are paid to do it, and c) very often they can devote themselves to it like a  full-time job.
I already have a full-time job, and while it can be fairly active, it won't ever result in six-pack abs (not that six-pack abs are the goal, mind you. It's just an example. Geesh). And since I didn't want to drive myself crazy and/or miserable following a maddening diet or gym schedule, I thought to myself, what are small, achievable changes I can make that can provide the best possible results? And what I thought I would do is track my progress. So here's me in August last year:

Warning: topless fuzzy male.

You'll probably notice two things right off the bat: I need to clean my mirror and I'm pretty lousy at taking pictures. Okay, so objectively speaking, I'm not obese. There's a little jiggle in the middle and the saggy jaw has always bugged me, but really, not too shabby. So here's me today (literally today):

Now with cleaner mirrors!
Alright, so there's some visible difference! I'm a little flatter in the middle with more muscle definition through the chest and shoulders. I'm not sure what I'm doing with my neck in my profile pic, but my face is a little thinner also, it seems (though genetics will have damned me with a saggy jaw for the rest of my life). How much work did I do?

Not a whole lot, really. I took a lot of my cues from The 4-Hour Body by Tim Ferriss.
The changes I made were fairly small, but very significant. Ferriss' book mentions, quite often, the MED: the Minimum Effective Dose.
"If you need 15 minutes in the sun to trigger a melanin response, 15 minutes is your MED for tanning. More than 15 minutes is redundant and will just result in burning and a forced break from the beach. During this forced break...someone else who heeded his natural 15-minute MED will be able to fit in four more tanning sessions. He is four shades darker, whereas you have returned to your pale pre-beach self. Sad little manatee. In biological systems, exceeding your MED can freeze progress for weeks, even months." --from The 4-Hour Body [emphasis mine]
I haven't seen much change in my weight. Weird, right? I took more than an inch off the circumference of my waist, had to drill a new hole in my belt so I could tighten it more, and I jiggle a lot less when I run. When I started this project, I weighed between 212 and 215 pounds (depending on the day/scale). The last time I weighed myself (less than a month ago), I was about 207-210 (difference of scales). And I only lost about 5 pounds in 10 months? This little detail is what frustrates so many people who don't see much change in their weight when they get a gym membership.
The big difference is to focus not on weight loss but weight recomposition.

If you're interested in finding out more specifically what changes I made, drop a comment. But what's most important to me is that because these changes were small they were also easy to keep doing. So while I'm incredibly pleased in the results of my little experiment for this role, it won't stop here. There are still some small changes I would like to make (and giving up beer is not, was not, and will never be one of them), and so the improvement is on-going.

Well, I'm jumping on an airplane tomorrow to go to Prague (stay tuned for updates from that little corner of the world), but I wanted to share my little project with you for your enjoyment. If it provides a lil' bit o' inspiration as well, then that's good too.
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