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Get Over Gym-phobia

by StephenKelly

It's time to stop drooling over those muscles in the Abercrombie ads and start developing some of your own. Remember: Whether you're a mesomorph, endomorph or ectomorph, the fact is that anybody can morph into a better body — if he has the proper training techniques.

In this spirit, we welcome you to "Worth the Weights," a series focusing on the art of exercise. Our goal is to help people of all experience levels and body types design sensible routines that work. Through text and images, we will show you the right and the wrong way to lift weights and at the same time strip away the myths and fads of getting fit simply by getting back to basics.

While our opening segments will be geared toward beginners, experienced weight lifters should feel free to relearn the basics, because we're all about proper from and function.

We also hope to address questions you may have about weight lifting. Let's start by answering some of the most commonly asked:

What's so intimidating about the gym?

Let's face it: Our community puts a lot of importance on self-image and the illusion of the perfect body. So gym beginners with body-image issues can often feel as out of place as Woody Allen at a convention of Abercrombie models. The reality is that 80 percent of the guys in the gym look just like you (talk among yourselves as to whether that's a good thing) and the muscle studs are a distinct minority (talk among yourselves as to whether that's a good thing). The gym shouldn't be a scary place. The playing field is more even than you think.

What is the most important thing someone should know about working out if he's never worked out before or hasn't for a long time?
Ease into it. Let your body become accustomed to the physical stress. Rome wasn't built in a day, so accept the fact that it may take a little time for your body to ramp up. Beginners who do too much too soon will inevitably injure themselves. Spend a little time in the minors before you hit the majors, and your game will be better for it.

Do you think gay men who are new to the gym have unreal expectations?
We're gay men, for God's sake. Of course we have unreal expectations. But once we realize that it's going to take a little longer than expected to get Tyson Beckford-like pecs, we do one of two things:

1) hunker down for the long haul or

2) quit. Reality check, guys: Getting the body you want takes work, patience and commitment. Beckford didn't get that bod by lying on the couch eating pizza. It takes a lot of work to look like that. Remember, paying for a gym membership that you actually use is far cheaper than Botox injections and liposuction.

When can someone expect to see results?
That depends on the person and the consistency and intensity of his workouts. And, no, dancing once a week and chasing down cabs does not constitute a "workout." The beginner who lifts weights three times a week and does some kind of cardio twice a week should begin to see results within a month. Consistency is the key. Those beginners who approach their workouts with diligence and commitment can't help but see positive results.

How many times should the novice lift weights per week?
Again, using the theory of "easing into it," a novice ideally should lift weights three times a week, working two muscle groups per session to ensure a well-rounded workout. Beginners should use lower weights at higher reps while concentrating on form and proper technique. After about a month, your body should be conditioned enough to start kicking it up a notch in intensity.

Is having a personal trainer important?
Any guy who is really serious about whipping himself into top shape (especially a beginner) should have a good trainer who can design an effective routine that is rooted deeply in form and function and is based on your specific goals. A trainer can also teach experienced gym vets new exercises and techniques to keep workouts fresh and exciting. When interviewing trainers, be sure to ask about certifications and experience. Watching as they train their clients can also give you an idea of what a trainer can bring to the table. Now affording a trainer ... that's another story ...