“Hey Little Jay.”
I can’t use language foul enough to accurately describe how much I hated being called “Little Jay.” Maybe if I discovered some ancient text written in some evil demonic tongue I could then find words to describe the rage that adjective—little—set burning inside me. When I graduated high school I was just over 120 pounds; couple that with only being five-foot-eight, and you can start to get an idea of why people called me “Little Jay.”
Additionally, I was extremely weak and struggled to get 8 reps with no weight on an Olympic bar—which was quite embarrassing in the gym. The humiliation of being out benched by a girl was like a kick in the manhood. Additionally, being an avid cross-country runner definitely wasn’t helping me put pounds on, nor was moving to college and having to feed myself. Finally, the coup de grace, my girlfriend and I went on the splits.
So I did what any silly teenager in love would do: I got depressed. I wallowed in self-loathing and threw nightly pity parties. This went on for about two weeks (gotta love the resilience of young hearts). Eventually, I got over being depressed and started getting under a bar with weight on it. I was convinced the solution to all my problems was going to be found in the gym. I had isolated being skinny as the source of all my problems.
Early on, I had no idea what I was doing. Initially I did the routines I learned in high school. Three sets of 8-12 on a couple of different exercises. I avoided legs because I read in Runner’s World that training your legs too much while running was bad for your running—not that I was doing any competitive running, but, whatever. Soon I realized I needed expert help.
Being a master of logic, I went to the grocery store magazine section to find my fitness experts. I read Men’s Health for diet and workout tips to little avail. I pieced workouts together from the various monthly issues until I was doing way too many sets per workout, too many days a week, and with too much cardio. I was drinking Myoplex with expectations of steroid-like results. I still ran about five miles every day because it seemed like I would need to be in good shape to get big. Needless to say, I was sorely disappointed with my results.
In the meantime, my personal life wasn’t going so great. I was studying biology and chemistry, which ate a large portion of my social life. I moved in with my sister, which ate a large portion of my social life. I had no job. I guess you can see where I’m going with all this. I had a lot of things going on, preventing me from really enjoying life and feeling good about myself. Probably the biggest was being skinny. I had no real confidence to go out and talk to people because I felt so terrible about the way I looked.
Nevertheless, I continued diligently heading to the gym. I found a workout partner, a 6’3 220-pounder, to help keep me motivated. He was a guy I’d known since high school and had pretty much always been that size. I was amazed at how much weight he could lift. It was sickening. It was about this time that I stepped up my intensity in the gym and started turning to some real experts—the authors of Flex magazine. Any magazine that had huge, muscular, men in thongs on the cover had to be legit. I rented Pumping Iron and watched the likes of Arnold, Franco and company lifting ridiculous amounts of weight—including small cars! I was working out just like those guys, but I wasn’t getting anywhere. I was starting to get very, very frustrated.
One day, a skinny friend and I were lamenting our lot in life as stick-men. We bitched and moaned together about how terrible it was, how no one else understood our plight, and how much we wanted to gain weight. I soon found out that he had been doing some research of his own. He told me about a website owned by a guy named Anthony Ellis—www.skinnyguy.net. That was definitely the .net for me! I read over the information on his page.
I looked over his before and after pictures with lust. By this point I was pretty jaded when it came to bodybuilding advice. I was, well, skeptical to say the least. Way back then, the website wasn’t that pretty and smacked of being some type of scam, or maybe scamola. That much weight in that little time? Seriously! It just didn’t seem possible without steroids (which were starting to look like my only out). Factor in the seemingly hefty price tag for “just a book” and I decided to write the deal off. I pushed Anthony Ellis and his amazing transformation out of my mind and wrote him off as scammer.
A couple weeks later, I was at the gym watching my big friend bench press 200 pounds and I snapped. I was tired of hearing this guy tell me stupid things to do in the gym that didn’t make me any stronger or bigger. I was tired of people telling me I just needed to eat a PBJ sandwich before bed or drink some rancid tasting weight gainer. They had always been big and strong, it was like a trust fund that matured at puberty. They just didn’t understand. I didn’t have a trust. I’m no fortunate son.
I was going to gain weight and strength and that was the end of it. I drove home nearly in a manic state. I was trying to rationalize steroid use and figure out how in the world I was going to find them (I didn’t know a lot of drug dealers) or get the money for them. At the stoplight about a mile from my house it hit me. I started thinking about Anthony Ellis. “To hell with it,” I thought. I decided right then and there the first thing I would do when I got home was order Anthony’s program. So I did. I called my skinny friend to tell him. He didn’t seem to think it was going to work but told me to let him know how things went.
Guess what? I never told him anything—he got to see for himself, first hand, how Anthony’s program worked for me.
Anthony’s program offered me everything I needed. It was a paradigm shift in my thoughts on training, nutrition, and life in general. It was a revolutionary concept—information for me (a skinny guy) by someone like me. The only difference was, Anthony looked like I wanted to look. Anthony’s book was a godsend. The book gave a logical, science-supported break down of everything: training, diet, and organization. It taught me things about my body I might never have figured out on my own and provided me with an online support group of people just like me. I had all the tools and confidence I needed to make the change.
Thinking back on all this is a bit surreal. I remember that night after I ordered the program watching True Life on MTV where they followed some bodybuilder guy around that was preparing for a contest. I remember thinking, “that guy is just too big, plus I could never get that big even if I wanted to. 140 pounds is as heavy as I’d ever want to be. “ Well, 140 lbs came in my first 12 weeks. Then 150. Soon I tilted the scales at 155. Now, I step on the scale and see numbers in the 170’s and am contemplating entering natural bodybuilding contests. Simply amazing!
Bodybuilding just isn’t about my body. It is about my mind to. It’s a sport, much like cross country, where your success is completely dependent on you. These days I spend a good bit of time in the library of the medical school I attend reading and researching about the sport. I read about supplements, training strategies, and nutrition strategies, but mostly, its gives me a chance to stop thinking about the twenty million things stressing me out and think about something I truly enjoy.
Additionally, I’m certain the stress of medical school, and life in general, would break me if I didn’t make it to the gym several times a week. Writing articles about various topics in bodybuilding and posting on the web forums is also something I enjoy tremendously and get a lot of personal satisfaction out of. I can’t tell you how great it makes me feel to see someone succeed and know I had a hand in it.
Sometimes it does get hard. Monitoring my calories, constantly explaining to people why I eat the way I eat, convincing my mom and others I’m not taking steroids (ok, that one I kind of enjoy), catching flack for not wanting to go out and cruise the bars every weekend. People just don’t get it, and that’s ok—this is something I do for me, not other people. The thing that is hardest for me is seeing people like I used to be-- seeing the people with the dedication, but still lacking the direction. I see people at the gym who are lifting the same amount of weight with the same crappy body year after year; they ask questions, but all the wrong ones. I give everyone the same advice.
Building a good body is 75% diet and 25% what you do in the gym. A lot of times I get a lot of dejected looking people-- people wanting to hear that they just need to take a certain supplement or do a certain exercise. The fact of the matter is, until you learn to feed your body correctly, you’re just wasting your time.
Anyone can have success as a bodybuilder. I don’t care how skinny you are, how fat you are, or how busy you are. The fact of the matter is there’s been someone skinnier, someone fatter, or someone busier than you that has still managed to build a great body. The difference between you and them is that they stopped making excuses and started finding solutions.
Read a book that is recommended by someone that used to have your body but now has a body like the one you want. Seek out people that had your physique and changed theirs for the better. Find out what they did and try the same.
I wish I could go back and talk to my old self. I wish I could tell him my 220-pound friend that could bench 200 pounds isn’t so impressive considering I weigh a little over 170 pounds and bench in the 260 range.
I wish he could see how much progress I’ve made. I wish I could go back and tell him no one calls me “little Jay” these days!
Jay M., Texas