If I Knew Then What I Know Now: Lenny

TAGS: fat loss myths, harry selkow, diet

Elitefts™ Sunday Edition

There isn't any real point to this story other than having a good time at other people’s expense. For those who don’t know my history in the strength world, it began a very long time ago. I had moved out of a dingy gym in the basement of the oldest YMCA on the planet and was in a modern storefront gym that had a state-of-the-art, Nautilus nine machine circuit (enter trumpet blare).

I've written about the different characters who floated in and out of that gym, as well as one of two trainers and the owner. I mentioned that we all knew the characters. Just the names were different. By far, my favorite character was Lenny. That's his real name, and I’m sure it’s OK to use it. At the time, I was 17-years-old and Lenny was every bit of 35, making him 73-years-old today. I'm sure he doesn't have any idea what the internet even is so I’m pretty sure I'm safe telling this particular story.

I worked the evening shifts and, in the summer, that shift started at 3:00 p.m. and went to closing. Lenny was a salesman of sorts, spending much of his time on the local roads, visiting local businesses. Back then, it was unclear what exactly he sold and it remains unclear to this day as I try to remember.

Lenny took his freedom to make his own hours worthwhile by stopping in the gym for visits and motivation. Even back then, I had a talent to push, pull, and otherwise light up people’s buttons, and Lenny was the easiest of all. He would come in, elbow me while I was working the floor, and ask the constant question about nutrition—“What's the secret?” He’d go on, “I know you know something that you aren't saying.” Then he'd elbowed me again and lift his chin up and down a few times. I would answer the same way that I do today. I would tell him to train hard, get plenty of rest, drink a lot of water, avoid too many sugary things, and stay away from soda pop. Hey, I was 17. That wasn’t bad!

Lenny would come back with that darn elbow again. “No, really! C’mon! You know, let me in on the secret!” I’d laugh and brush him off so that I could get back to work and not get elbowed again.

After considerable thought and a week's worth of banter from Lenny, I thought it was high time to have some fun with him. On day eight of the "What’s the secret that you aren't telling” question, I pulled Lenny aside by that darn elbow. I looked left and then right, as if I were checking to make sure that no one was listening. Then I leaned in, motioning for Lenny to lean down (he was six feet, three inches). As he leaned down, I head checked again and started my dialog.

Me: “OK, this is straight out of the Soviet Union.” (Back then, they were the bad guys and it gave my story credibility. After all, anything Russian has to be good, right?)

Lenny: “Yea, yea.”

Me: “You’ve heard of the grapefruit diet, right?" (This was a very popular fad at the time.)

Lenny: “Of course. That’s it?”

Me: “No! Similar though, so pay attention.”

Lenny: "C’mon give me the 411." (That used to be the number to dial for information.)

Me: “OK, you need to go out and get a can of sauerkraut, but ditch the cabbage, and set the juice aside. Cook up a pound of rigatoni and get one can of Spam. Mix the Spam with the rigatoni and chow it. Wash it all down with the leftover sauerkraut juice. Got it?”

Lenny: “You’re messing with me again!”

Me: “Lenny! This is not for everyone! This, friend, is what ‘Ivan’ is doing in gyms all over the motherf***in Russia!"

Lenny then tore ass out the door with his new diet and was as happy as any big bald guy could be. He came in daily for the next two weeks, getting his training sessions in but not socializing with the staff at the gym. Instead, he trained, used the bathroom, and left!

About ten days into the secret diet, the owner of the gym mentioned to Lenny that he looked like he was losing weight and cutting up. Lenny told him that he’d been let in on the secret Soviet training diet by me. I burst out laughing. When the owner noticed the tears running down my cheeks from the guffaw, he knew that I was up to something and pulled me aside to investigate.

He said, “OK, so what the ef did you tell him this time?”

I couldn't keep a straight face and I relayed the entire story to him. He told me that I had to tell Lenny that I was playing a joke on him and that the diet was causing him his current condition of irritable bowels, Hershey squirts, and diarrhea.

I responded with, “I can’t do that. If I do, I’ll lose all credibility with Lenny and what fun could I possibly have after that?”

He told me to come up with something so that Lenny wouldn’t end up in the hospital or “sh!t himself to death.”

Of course, being the ever resourceful youth that I was, I just compounded the small, tall tale with this...

Me: “Lenny, we need to talk.”

Lenny: “What? The next phase?”

Me: “Exactly! Remember how I told you that you’d see dramatic results? Remember how super secret I told you this was? What I forgot to include was that the Soviet’s ‘cycle’ the nutritional plan, much the same way they do their steroid program for strength athletes. Lenny, you have to come off the diet!”

Lenny: “Whew! I didn’t know how much more my a$$ could take from all the wiping I’ve been doing!”

Me: “I didn’t tell you about the Bulgarians method of cleaning themselves?”

Stay tuned...Lenny is legendary!

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