No, you can’t be Starlord. But that’s OK.

We’ve all heard someone say it. Hell, we’ve probably said it ourselves. Let me set the scene:

“Chris Pratt, he of various Marvel superhero & dino fame is set to star in the new film ‘Dino Dancing‘, the uplifting story of a wrong-side of the tracks dance instructor who wins the heart of a silver spoon darling who was born into boring luxury… and is also a velociraptor.”

Nobody puts this clever girl in the corner.
Nobody puts this clever girl in the corner.

Stay with me here.

For the role, Chris is going to have to work his demi-god buns off (his dad’s a planet, you know), especially for the dino-lift scene, which is the highlight of the film. I mean, OK, Raptors weigh something like 43lbs. But that dress is heavy. Its an athletic movement. He’s got his work cut out for him. Its not CG. Shut-up.

So his 6 month workout routine prior to the start of filming is going to look something like this:

3-4 hours of heavy lifting & cardio, 4-6 times a week. That’s potentially up to 24 hours a week of lifting, running, swimming, biking and dino-damsel-lifting. Don’t @ me. (That, by the way, was the workout he did to get in shape for the first Guardians film. Well, except the dino-lifting. He might just do that as a hobby).

Rad, you can’t wait for the film. And then some shmuck (maybe you, possibly me) says:

“You know, if it was my job to be in shape & I had the money for a trainer like that, I could look like Chris Pratt too.”

Yep. Just like this. If only I had the time and the money.
REMINDER: This is Chris Pratt. So, yep. Just like this. If only I had the time and the money.


Full stop. There’s a 100% chance that I’ve said this before, but I will never say it again. Because I got the chance to workout at nearly that level, and believe me, I look nothing like Chris Pratt.

About a year ago I met a lovely woman at a computer language meetup. The first thing you would notice about her is that she looks like she could throw you through a wall. This is accurate, but she probably wouldn’t. She’s a very nice person. A very nice person who was also a nationally ranked powerlifter for many decades (and a cop for 30 years too, in case you doubted how much of a badass she is). I had just sat down with a pizza & a beer and I think the first thing she said to me was “Are you serious, eating that in front of me at this time of night?”. And then she smiled. (I’ve learned that this smile means nothing good).

As we chatted I mentioned how out of shape I was, my back issues, knee issues, etc. She said she was willing to take me on as a project. Just say the word. At the time, I couldn’t. My dog was dying. My job was not flexible. There were reasons.

But a few months later, in September of 2017 to be semi-exact, I gave the word. My life was different. I had a great new, flexible job. There was a dog shaped hole in my heart. But I was ready to work. Cara asked how much time a week I was willing to dedicate. I suggested one or two days a week. Again, the smile. She recommended 3 minimum, but that best results came from 4 days a week.

I thought to myself, that’s not so bad? A 30 minute workout 3-4 days a week? HA HA HA. Yeah… no.

For the past 5 months I’ve averaged just over 3 workouts a week, closer to 4, each lasting anywhere from 1.5 to 3 hours depending on the day and the workout. Mostly on the mid-to-long side of that. These are not easy workouts by any stretch. After the first three I needed almost a week off because I thought I was dying. My body rebelled. Things got better.

We do things at the gym that are simple, but not easy. Squats. Deadlifts. Benchpress. Our accessories are almost all free-weight based unless there’s no replacement for a machine to do it with. We also use bands. We use chains for overloads. We use bands for overloads. We don’t do much cardio, but end every session with intense conditioning. I’m 5 months in and have never taken more than 5 days off (outside of that first week), and only did that twice due to getting a damn cold and some travel early on.

An example of a main movement. This is the final set of 3 in a 9×3 set on the safety bar doing box squats. Then about 2 more hours of trap bar deadlifts, dumbell press, ham raises, etc. This was a fairly light weight for a squat, 205 bar weight w/ no chains or bands, done for volume/form. Deadlift w/ trap bar was done for an 8 rep max across 4 sets. Note distinct lack of abs or talking trash pandas.

Yes, 8 hours a week isn’t 9-24 hours a week. 4 days isn’t 6. Here’s the thing: I definitely try to get more work in. I sneak in runs on off days. I occasionally ride my spin bike. But most days I just… can’t. My body simply says “no more”. It isn’t even “meh, I’m kind of tired”. It is more like “Welp… I’m dying, fuck you for all the squats”. The weeks where I get in 3 workouts instead of 4 are usually days where I simply need the rest.

It is better than it was a couple months in. And the longer you go, the better it gets… to a point. But here’s a few things to know:

– The aches, pain, soreness… they don’t get less over time. Actually, they sometimes get worse. You just learn to deal with them. Pain becomes power. If I go easy on a workout, or I have a bad one where I end up not pushing, and I’m not sore the next day, I miss it. It is an indicator, a metric. Sometimes pain truly is weakness leaving the body (or, more accurately, strength arriving). That said, sometimes you just need a goddamn nap.
– The whole “mix up your muscles” thing? Bogus.They don’t need confusing. Now, can you get bored? Yeah. Doing different things can keep you mentally engaged. But outside of being sure to hit all your muscles, there’s no need to entertain them. Anyone who says otherwise is trying to sell you their DVD.
– You gain strength by doing your accessories AND your main movements. And working your “pretty muscles” is not required, they will grow too. I haven’t done a single damn bicep curl in 5 months, but it sure looks like I’ve done a bunch.
– There’s no shortcuts. None. Things that come off fast, come back fast. Stuff that comes on fast, comes off fast. There’s no magic juice. No pills (well, none that won’t kill you, anyhow). Consistency and effort = results. And pain is the currency.
– You cannot workout to overcome shitty eating. You have to eat well. Your body actually starts demanding healthier food. Its weird. But if you think you can do pizza & squats for the rest of your life? Nah fam, ain’t happenin. Unless you like misery.

So, five months in, am I looking ready to star in Guardians of the Galaxy 3: Groot Just Fucking Eats Everyone alongside Starlord as his long lost twin Starpanther?

Um… no. Negative. Not even close But that’s OK. Seriously, it is. Fitness is about health, capability. It isn’t a competition to look better than someone. That’s a zero sum game, and you’ll always lose. There will always be someone else, someone stronger. More ripped. All that. The true end-game is to create the best possible version of yourself. You win by playing.

That said, Chris, if you need a stunt double for DD2: Waltzing with Claws when they start filming in 2019, gimme a ring. I should be pretty ripped by then.

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