3 min

A squatter’s life

They gain 30 lbs to lose 20

GRUNT. Ian Spencer lifts weights at Epic Gym as workout and life partner Michael Burns spots him. Credit: Joshua Meles

Michael Burns and Ian Spencer are doing it natural. The sex, they say, is better and definitely more frequent. After 15 years of working out Spencer, 35, is more cut than he’s ever been in his life. And Burns, 36, says he has finally got himself an ass. The only downside is chicken, some 40 pounds of it that they must eat a week. Oh, and twice daily workouts. And leg-burning weightlifting exercises.

“Sometimes when we’re working the legs, I feel like I’m going to throw up,” says Burns,
a glass artist.

“We’re lifting a lot of weight,” says Spencer, a sales and marketing representative with Rogers Communications.

The couple, together for five years now, are training for their first-ever body building contest, the “natural” physique open pairs competition at the Gay Games in Sydney, Australia this November, sanctioned by the International Natural Bodybuilding Association.

“Natural” means no steroids, no instant-muscle drugs.

“Natural,” according to Burns and Spencer, is taking the body you have and making it the best it can be.

“I’ve been working out for years,” says Spencer, “but, for once in my life, I wanted to be in body-building shape. Friends have gone to the Gay Games in the past and said how amazing they were, so when it was going to be in Australia, which has always been a dream destination, we set that as our goal and went for it.”

“Now, as we head into the last 10 weeks, we really appreciate how hard we’ve worked,” says Burns. “And there’s just no way we could have done it alone. I just wouldn’t have had the discipline. And I can’t cook chicken anymore. I can’t even look at it. Ian has to do the cooking.”

Their Gay Games odyssey started nearly a year ago, when they signed on with personal trainer Larry Scott. Scott, who competes naturally at the provincial and national level, immediately put the two men – both weighing about 150 pounds – on a high-fat diet. For 10 months, they gorged on six meals a day, some 3,500 calories, to bulk up. During that time, they did no cardio. Each packed on 30 pounds.

“That was the worst,” says Spencer. “That was the heaviest I’ve ever been. I was bursting out of my clothes. People would see me and go, ‘Oh. Did you plan on gaining that weight?’ Then it was like, ‘Are you sure you can lose that?'”

Says Scott: “It seems like a silly process, but if you get more weight on you can lift more weight and that way you recruit more muscle fibres and get your muscles nice and full. Then the key is to lose weight carefully, the fat but not the muscle.”

For stage two, which started in June, Scott put Burns and Spencer on a no sugar, no carbohydrate diet. They still eat six meals a day, every three hours, but take in only 2,400 calories a day. This is their diet now: chicken or tuna fish, 5.3 rice cakes a day, boiled potatoes and shredded wheat – “Which is disgusting without sugar,” says Burns.

They’ve also added twice daily card “You have to concentrate on defining every single muscle from your feet to your head,” says Burns. “It’s as hard as a workout.”

Still they’re determined to make their pairs routine seamless. Both fear they won’t be as big or cut as other competitors, so hope to compensate with a great show.

“These guys are amazing,” says Scott. “I can give anyone advice, but you have to have what’s in their heads to follow through. Honestly? It’s not one in 10 who can do what they’re doing. It’s more like one in 50. It’s tough, mentally and physically. They’re doing what most people can’t do.”

And their predictions for Sydney?

“If we weren’t competing we’d be really happy with where we’re at,” says Burns.

“But we’re competing so we’re a little self conscious,” says Spencer. “We worry we won’t be big enough or cut enough.”

“We know we’re not going to win,” says Burns. “But I think we’ll do okay.”

*This is one of a series of profiles on Toronto’s Gay Games athletes.