How To Look Like a Superhero

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S1: This this one is insane.

S2: Think of the duck walk the dog walk. All right. I’m about to walk as a duck. All right I’m back. OK. So first of all how the hell do I feel if I mean if it walks like a duck and if it talks like a duck does it fly like Superman.

S3: This is how to I’m Charles Darwin. Each week on this show we tackle life’s big problem. One question at a time like how to withstand pain or how to uproot your life. Then we do some research and we track down an expert to get their advice and we’ll see if it helps.

S4: This week we’re talking with an up and coming Hollywood actor. If you wouldn’t mind telling me your name and how you would introduce yourself at a cocktail party.

S5: Sure. Well my name is Jeff Leach and I would introduce myself. Cocktail pie by jumping on the nearest table taking off my clothes and pouring liquor directly down everyone’s throats so I can live vicariously through their alcoholism. I want to play superheroes and supervillains in big movies. And you can’t do that if you drink.

S6: You’ll always have a little bit of puppy fat hanging on the sides. And as we all know superheroes you know they’re too busy saving the world to get drunk.

S1: Jeff serious about wanting to play a superhero and it’s a realistic possibility for him. He’s already gotten a few minor TV and movie roles and he’s got the charisma and the swagger to make it as a superhero. As long as he can get buff enough to look the part.

S2: Certainly I’ve never been out of shape. But I also have never been absolutely stacked and that’s currently the path I’m trying to go on being the lead in a big superhero movie.

S1: That’s something he’s always wanted since he was a kid reading comic books in the UK.

S7: I like antiheroes more so I like someone like Loki or Lobos you know or Deadpool.

S1: Like what. What appeals to you about Deadpool.

S2: I mean Ryan Reynolds was a legend. I just want to have dinner with Ryan Reynolds. That’s all it is.

S1: He’s super charismatic and also super buff like like Ryan Reynolds plays him like that guy is he is cut Yeah. And have you have you auditioned for superhero roles or villain roles like is there. Have things come up that you you thought you had a shot at.

S2: Actually yeah I’ve had a couple recently I Last year I auditioned for CW for Supergirl and then the most recent thing was I actually went went up for the role of Carol in the Witcher series and Henry Cavill got that role saw. So I guess I’ll be buff the Superman if I won’t have a chance next time round which is where you guys come in right.

S8: Right. And so coming up we’ll hit the gym and talk with a physical trainer who is the go to guy for helping actors like Ryan Reynolds get into superhero shape because the thing is it’s not just about big muscles.

S9: It’s about feeling energized and healthy. It’s the stuff that all of us want to feel every day. In other words superheroes they’re just like us. They just have a lot more impressive Folgers.

S4: Not long ago I dropped by this gym in the SoHo neighborhood of New York where it’s kind of almost hidden among all these like fancy fashion stores and you got these stairs into this huge room that’s just packed totally filled with weights and these complicated exercise machines. Well that is a lot of kettle bells. I was there to talk with the owner Don Saladino.

S10: I mean some people call me celebrity trainer which I absolutely hate because I think a lot of guys in my shoes will train someone like Ryan. They’re

S11: just trainers and and when you say Right you mean Ryan Reynolds. Feel like he is a he’s an impressive physical specimen. Bland was just an impressive person. I mean yeah he I me Listen I was teasing you.

S12: He looks great and I think the man upstairs definitely looked at him and said Buddy FERGUSON We’re gonna take care of you. I think a lot of you would say that from his personality to his looks. Don’s been helping Ryan Reynolds get buff ever since he signed on to play Deadpool.

S1: Superhero landing. You know it’s really hard on your knees. He’s also worked with Jake Gyllenhaal and Lee of Schreiber and Hugh Jackman for the Wolverine movies which if you have seen those movies you understand Don knows what he’s doing Don himself. He kind of looks a little bit like a superhero.

S10: For me it probably started when I was in second grade. I think it had a lot of insecurities as a young kid I had a hearing problem I a pretty serious stuttering issue going on then and you know I think with with training and nutrition it became part of my survival in life. I think it’s the one area in my life that I can control the outcome of.

S11: So tell me so how did you get into working with sort of celebrities to get them ready. It was a total accident.

S10: I met Hugh Jackman through my body. Rico Wesley who is his trainer at the time and Rico ended up having a family and he ended up moving and it was like Would you take you Hugh. So I worked with Hugh for about a year. But he was really one of the guys helped put me on the map. Really go after me.

S11: Are those people. Are they just more self disciplined than I am or not. Do they Lee. No no no. They don’t listen they off everyone fights the same fight. I got to be honest a lot of people that I’ve worked with in the past.

S10: They struggle. They struggle with it. You know they have temptations with food or you know they might be tired and I think it’s just finding it’s finding that switch it’s giving them the ability to feel successful every day.

S13: The problem for most people though is that what they know about fitness comes from places like Instagram where everyone is toned and beautiful and we’re most of the advice.

S14: Don says it’s terrible what you really need is a sustainable workout plan something you’re not going to start dreading after the first week which means you’ve got to make sure you’re not running at 100 percent all the time.

S12: Are you better off training at a level 10 2 out of seven days a week and falling off the wagon because you’re just exhausted and you’re beat up or are you better off going in at 80 percent and being consistent all year long. You’re better off going at 80 percent. Science is also show you may burn more fat. You may have better strength increase. All right so.

S15: I want you to feel like you’re almost carrying two suitcases. Here are your general thoughts kettlebell by your side.

S13: What happened right now is that you’re striking in the forms of the shoulders. So after working out with Don in his gym I went back to Jeff for aspiring superhero and I told him Don’s first rule which was kind of surprising.

S1: So the first rule of how to look like a superhero is getting a good night’s sleep. We don’t we don’t usually ask like Superman or Wolverine like how many hours did you sleep last night. But let me ask you how many hours did you sleep last night.

S2: No no not enough. I went to bed last night about 345 in the morning. I think it was I think I got about four hours sleep. And what was going on last night. Like why did you go to bed so late. Oh I had a show so I’m I’m producing a comedy show and then my girlfriend’s friends lives in North Hollywood so I offered to drive a home to make sure she gets home safe. Very nice. I was being I was being a superhero dude. That’s you were you. You were acting like a superhero otherwise known as a lift driver. Yeah.

S1: But here’s the interesting thing is that Superman he apparently goes to bed on time. So Dawn says if you want to be in great shape if you want to look like a superhero you need to sleep seven to nine hours per night because if you’re not that range for a long period of time what’s going to happen is hormone levels are going to just start plummeting.

S16: So T levels cortisol levels all these the stress hormone in the body everything is going to start getting out of whack too. You know burn fat energy levels prepare recovery. OK so seven and nine so seven nine hours that night when you wake up and you feel great you want to do more.

S1: So do you think you could be in bed like in bed lights out by like 10 45 or 11.

S2: I mean that depends if you’re going to tap me in Arabia story. I can try that. Yeah absolutely. What say what I 10 30 I think the concepts of once you especially once you have a partner as well the idea of going to bed prior to about midnight as an adult is a difficult one. Yeah. Because you might want to stay out for an extra hour you know during some superhero moves in the bedroom.

S1: If I tried to keep his pee as possible and I’m I’m impressed that it that’s a whole hour like what are you doing. What are you doing from 11 thirty to 1:00 in the morning. Are you like working on stuff are you watching TV.

S2: Well if I’m not performing at a comedy club see when I’m in New York I wouldn’t finish shows normally until at least 130 in the morning. OK. I have at least an hour to two hours of adrenaline pumping through my body. Absolutely. And you know I also get hungry late at night. That’s that’s another. If I if I would cost as a superhero tomorrow I would absolutely clear every other thing that I’m doing creatively out of my calendar. It’ll be gone and you start sleeping seven to nine hours a night. I would sleep like a baby every single night. So I mean it’s it’s that catch. Yeah. To it’s trying to get that body working around the lifestyle of a very busy creative performer.

S8: Jeff has a pretty busy lifestyle. But then again who doesn’t.

S9: It’s easy to understand why all of us get late night cravings and don’t have time for the gym but that doesn’t mean we can’t still get the superhero body or at least superhero energy and after this quick break we’ll tell you how OK so so far we’ve heard about the importance of a good night’s sleep.

S1: The next rule from Don Saladino about how to look like a superhero is to pay more attention to what you eat what you have for dinner last night.

S10: Like what. Last night I had about six ounces of turkey meat I had I had eight ounces of sweet potato and I had two cups of Spanish. And those are pretty. You know exactly how much you had. Those are pretty good you actually measure those. Yeah but I did that because I enjoy it. People don’t need to do that. I would just say like your protein source should be roughly the size your palm your carb source could be like your fist and your fat source could be like almost like your your thumb OK. Oils or nuts seeds whatever it is.

S17: Weight loss is really simple. It’s just about maintaining blood sugar levels. How do you mean the reason why people crave junk is because they’re under nourishing themselves throughout the day. If I had you eat more calories and I had to eat a balanced diet you would go into the evening not craving the breadbasket or the cookies or you wouldn’t be overeating past or your blood sugar level would be maintained.

S1: Don says to follow the palm fist thumb rule for portion control. But just as important is to eat at consistent times throughout the day.

S16: Start with three square meals a day. OK breakfast lunch and dinner. Really difficult concept. You know they are you are you ratcheting back the calories of that. No. OK. Not necessarily I mean because I’ve turned my body evaporating furnace. And if you want a fire to burn hotter you put wood on the fire. OK. My idea is to get your metabolism burning faster and get your energy up so you’re more active. So you burn more calories. So let’s talk about that. So so we’ve got that.

S2: Well how does he feel about keto. How does he feel about high protein high fat. You know decent fats not saturated fats and barely any carbs.

S1: He says it does not matter like what matters a lot more is eating healthily every single day. Because the truth of the matter is you’ve done you know I’ve done you know. Everyone’s done this. We know that like you couldn’t even do it sometimes for like six weeks eight weeks. And it’s a nightmare to try and keep on top of this. Let me ask you what did you take me through what you ate yesterday everything you ate.

S2: Oh God I feel almost embarrassed about this started here. OK. So I didn’t eat anything for a few hours then about 11 o’clock. I went Oh God I haven’t eaten yet. I really need to have something. I was rushing around. I had a protein I have these like protein muffins I get from Costco and their egg white turkey sausage a slice of cheese in there. And then like a muffin bun. But it’s like high protein very low carbs. So I had one of those. OK. Then I went to a little restaurant about four o’clock and I had a heirloom tomato and melon salads with some beets and a little bit ricotta cheese in there but it was quite light salads. And then to accompany that I had a chicken sandwich but it was like I mean he was definitely it was deep fried. It’s OK. So as deep fried. OK. Right you fat. That’s fine. And I had a little coleslaw in there and it was in a brioche bun and then the show happens and I figure out the Shah and packs up and about 11:00 p.m. we went out with a group of us sat down at a table and we had we ordered lots of different bits some more chicken a handful of fries a couple of bacon wrapped dates. I mean I had you know some gelato and maybe two cookies. I love show OK. I did. Why do you hate me Why do you make me feel bad about myself. But I try and for the most part eat reasonably healthy it’s just the patterns of how a are very unhealthy. I mentioned like no I totally and I do.

S1: I do the same thing. I like I suddenly notice that like a weight. I am really hungry. What studies show is that if you spend literally three minutes and you write down what you are going to eat for all three meals and when you are going to eat them tomorrow it will have a huge impact. OK I like that the tiniest bit of planning actually ends up being the difference between looking great and looking like a superhero.

S13: OK. So once you’ve got the sleeping in the eating down then we can finally put on our spandex. Cue the superhero soundtrack and start working out. And dance is the goal here is not pumping iron like crazy. Rather it’s resistance training. You want to create this tension inside your muscles and we can create tension through a barbell dumbbell. A. Cable.

S12: A kettlebell a sandbag there’s just so many ways to create resistance. When you say creating tension do you mean am I trying to lengthen my muscles in my trying to build my muscle as body builder. When you’re when you’re lifting a weight you’re tearing microscopic fibers in that muscle and you might feel pumped from lifting but that’s a buildup of lactic acid and blood in the muscles so you have that sensation of having that pump but when you’re training you’re actually tearing the muscle down and the only way that we are able to repair that muscle is through rest and recovery and through nutrition.

S11: But there’s a lot of guys there’s a lot of guys in Hollywood who they take it seriously I know a lot of guys who take physical fitness really seriously. What’s the secret. Like what. What is it. How do you know how to be certain. How do you know they’re taking it seriously.

S10: Why why do you say that they spend a lot of time in the gym but that doesn’t mean they’re taking it seriously. I know guys that go around there they kill themselves three to five hours a day in the gym and they look terrible.

S1: Differently. You don’t have to exercise all the time to look great and there’s no secret workout that only Hollywood actors know anyone Don says. Anyone can look like a superhero if you follow the things we’ve talked about difficult time stabilizing right.

S12: Come on over here let me show you another example. Now. That we’ve been trained the chest the shoulders the triceps Don just a few exercises he’d use to help Ryan Reynolds and then I showed those videos to Jeff.

S8: This. This one is insane. This thing called the duck walk the dog walk. So watch what this guy’s doing.

S18: The first exercise is the duck walk where you basically squat and bend your knees so your butt is as close to the ground as possible. And then you just walk around. All right. I’m about to walk as a duck.

S9: And it sounds easy but it hurts like crazy.

S18: I feel very painful on the thighs. Next we didn’t exercise called the one arm suitcase which is basically something all of us used to do in airports all the time until some genius put wheels on our luggage. In this case what you do is you just grab a kettlebell in one arm and then you walk around with good posture. The only thing I have here is two twenty five pound dumbbells just to prove that here.

S19: I’m walking.

S18: And because Jeff wants to work on his arm muscles we also did the thing called the Zuckerman curl which is like a normal bicep curl but you reverse your grip so that you’re on the overhand for the decline.

S20: I’m doing it. I mean it’s definitely tough. It’s is it burning are you feeling. It’s burning but it’s good. Oh yeah oh yeah yeah. I guess you just want me to do 10 reps right.

S18: This isn’t the full workout of course. There’s a lot of other exercises Jeff can do but the beauty of Don’s approach is that you can basically do anything you want as long as you’re working at different parts of your body and you’re not injuring yourself. Inconsistency is much more important than intensity. If you’re not exhausted after every workout that’s OK. That’s actually better particularly if you’re doing that workout every day. And you can totally go get a gym membership if you want a personal trainer if that helps encourage you. But you also might only need YouTube and a couple of weights at home. You’re

S20: right. The days where I’m looking at it going I’m not going to get to the gym today. However what I can do is pick up those two dumbbells and do some suitcase walks and then a few duck walks. OK so let me let me ask you two more questions. OK you’re getting ready to be a superhero. Can I sit down now. Yeah. You can sit I was like Is there more so when need see more of these things.

S1: What what’s your kryptonite.

S7: Just feeling you know like a lot of mine is is mental the mental barriers yeah that might work.

S21: But what about this.

S7: So what am I going to do that if I have to go to a meeting directly afterwards I’m going to get it sway in those 20 minutes. That doesn’t work for me. It’s about you know that I have to take a shower and I have to do that and really 20 minutes suddenly becomes 40 minutes because I have to talk about that.

S1: Let’s talk about that doubt because that’s the last and the end and in some ways the most important part of actually becoming a superhero. What is holding you back. What’s the difference between you and Ryan Reynolds. His parents loved him you know. I know some Hollywood actors that is not necessarily true. So let’s talk let’s talk about this last one which is mindset.

S7: I know that the person I was two years ago two years ago was a man in New York City in his apartment planning out how to kill himself you know and didn’t do it because he got too drunk and I passed out before I could do it. Now I’m a man 2 years on who doesn’t drink any alcohol. So who’s dealt with a huge amount of that internal negative dialogue who has found exercise sunshine better way of living better way of treat my body to better relationships understanding what people to let be around you what things to get annoyed about what things to let go. So for me what what could affect it is an ongoing constant feeling of self-loathing and worthlessness but the way to undo that is to keep up routines that instilled within me the concept that I’m not only worthy but I’m I should celebrate these successes these differences these changes and just see how far I’ve come and progressed.

S1: You totally deserve that Jeff like you. The thing that you have done it is not a small thing like to go from from being in a room and so depressed that you’re thinking about killing yourself to to this life that you have where you’re thinking about how do I get that that role that I want. How do I build not just the body but the life and the mind. I like how you like how you put on supportive voice. Now I really I believe that when you whisper in that six times but it’s also it’s also that you deserve to remind yourself of that. Like you you need a plan to remind yourself of how far you’ve come because you’re gonna have bad days. You know what’s interesting. Yeah.

S7: As you were saying all those things and that don’t get me wrong. I did the thing that I normally do which is when someone’s saying things that are nice or positive or supportive about me. I felt very uncomfortable with what you were saying and that’s the issue I still have. And that’s a mental issue and it’s definitely something that I’m bit by bit overcoming but I don’t. I’m like why is he saying this to me. I don’t feel worthy of this. It feels uncomfortable to hear someone say nice shit.

S1: My guess is from from talking you you are a dedicated guy. You are a guy who can push yourself. You are a guy who can overcome rejection you are a guy who can change your life. And my guess is that you are kind of a stoic right. You’re successful because you deny yourself pleasures. And so as a result you and I and most people who are listening this we see rewards as a weakness. Yeah but if you want to make those changes easier if you want to make them permanent your brain is designed that if it does not get that reward it will not continue that behavior. And if it does get the reward if you allow yourself to recognize and enjoy the reward then the habit gets stronger and stronger and stronger. That makes too much to make sense. Yeah that makes sense. Yeah. So let’s say that you go a full week where every single day you have you’ve worked out you’ve taken it let’s say let’s say you’ve gone six days.

S22: You take seven day on notice go seven days just do it. You want to. OK. OK. Don with that you need a little bit of rest but that’s OK. That’s OK.

S1: Don is my real dad. Let’s say let’s say you have a full week. What are you going to do on the evening of day seven to reward yourself.

S7: Play some videogames take a little time off play some video games my buddies OK. Have a few hours doing that.

S1: What’s so can I tell you what with the most powerful reward is. And we know this from study after study. Tell me. Spending time with other people. When you say to yourself This is a reward for having worked out every single day this week for having kept on this meal right. Okay. Yes yes yes. I promise you you are actually you are not wasting time. You are actually training yourself to look like a superhero. Yeah.

S13: This is Don’s biggest lesson. You need a plan that lets you feel successful. Yeah you need to sleep and you need to eat right and you need some simple daily exercises but they can’t be something that you’re gonna get sick of in two weeks or or that are totally impractical. Instead you need a plan that’s clear and sustainable that makes you feel like you’re making progress every day. And that’s how you start to feel great. So that even if you can’t leave tall buildings in a single bound. There are even if you don’t care all that much about how you look in a skin tight unit hard you have a plan that feels good.

S12: That works for you. The biggest problem right now is if I hand you a five day week program dubbed by Ryan Rawls no offense you’re not going to do it. I don’t want to get someone in the best shape of their life and they’re miserable to worry about right. Does. Let’s focus on what we can find to allow you to be successful.

S13: So I asked Jeff what could he do to make sure he’s more successful. What’s his plan to find more time to to eat right and to sleep more into regularly workout decrease my amount of screen time.

S2: OK. And by that I mean. Time spent on my cell phone for instance. Yeah but if I replaced that for instance said for the first hour of waking up every day I don’t look at my phone. I know I’ll just pick up those dumbbells and do some duck walks or some suitcase carries that some. That seems pretty realistic. That’s realistic and that’s achievable. That’s something I could do. Yeah absolutely. How long are you gonna be doing this plan for. I believe that if I did if I did the things that you’re saying and if I were able to build that routine get that consistency into my working out my diet and my sleep patterns.

S23: If I spent the four months from now until the end of the year preparing for pilot season in January next year which is when it kicks off and they start costing all the new shows the difference I would see in four months of consistency would be ridiculous.

S1: You’d be ripped I mean I wouldn’t be a hero. Okay so I got one more question for you. Every superhero needs a catchphrase. Right. What is your catchphrase gonna be.

S7: Someone’s gonna have to call their mother this evening. How about that. Just like. Again it’s just gonna be like an old dude with a beard. You know he’ll beat the crap out of the villain and then just be someone better called Mommy. Am I right. It’s a bit like it’s cheesy but it’s like you know that’s who he is.

S2: He’s like he’s called Captain Dad jokes that he’s got. I mean I’d actually technically he should have a paunch because he’s got a dartboard so I like it.

S1: I think I might that I might already be the guy. So here’s my last question. When you get the big like Marvel movie and you are like the superhero will you come back on the show and will you sign autographs for my children.

S2: Absolutely. Yeah yeah. I’ll come to your house and I’ll use your children as the kettle bells.

S14: A quick update. So Jess only been living with this new superhero lifestyle for like a week now but so far he reports the results have been pretty encouraging. Great news. I can now shoot laser beams outline books I jest of course I haven’t got any superpowers.

S24: Fortunately though the various exercise you showed me and talk me through has had an effect. I’ve definitely lost a little bit more fat I’ve definitely turned up a little bit. I’ve definitely grown at least half an inch on the biceps measurement so that’s pretty good. In a week I guarantee that by pilot season in January I will be ripped and shredded a f.

S14: Appreciate it. My thanks again to Jeff Leach for letting us into his Fortress of Solitude and to Don Saladino for helping all of us tap into our inner superhero. Don actually has a workout app that you can find at his website. Don Saladino. Scott do you have a problem that needs solving. Send us a note at how to at Slate dot com and we might be able to help. Also if you like what you heard today please give us a rating and a review and app podcasts. More people will find the show that way which means that we can help other superheroes in waiting. How tos executive producer is Derek John Merritt. Jacob is our engineer. Our theme music is by Hannah’s brand. June Thomas is the senior managing producer of Slate podcasts and Gabriel Roth is Slate’s editorial director for audio.

S25: Special thanks to Michael Conrad and Asha soldier. I’m Charles to HIG. I definitely do not look like a superhero but thanks for listening.