How Guardians of the Galaxy helped me get back in shape

And what I learned from the process

John Shughart
Feb 12, 2015 · 9 min read

I often get the typical “You look like a fullback” or some other football position when being introduced to parents or older adults. I have never had a problem picking up a sport, everything from tennis to basketball; I could always play it with relative ease (extreme sports excluded I literally can’t skateboard worth a shit). Because of this innate athleticism I also had the perception in my mind that I would always be in shape. I was in great shape in high school. My senior year coming off conditioning and weightlifting for baseball season, I weighed in at 200 pounds when I stepped foot on my college campus. Being active was always built into my schedule before college with sports. However, when I got to college this stopped and it stopped fast.

Between pledging a fraternity, and the partying that naturally begins your freshman year, and then trying to squeeze in the homework and studying, my time was all but spent. Combine this with trying to go to class, eat regularly and do things like shower and sleep and working out was more than an afterthought. I think I went to the gym for about 3 weeks spring semester as my New Years’ resolution mainly to play racquetball, do bicep curls, and sit in the sauna with my friends when we were hungover. Other than that my only form of exercise was walking around campus from my dorm. Oh yeah and I forgot to mention I worked at a job that provided free meals as compensation.

And then I put on the “Summer Camp 20" while working at a youth camp. When you look like a football player people assume you need to eat like one and I quickly became the camp garbage disposal. Putting down massive amounts of Cisco veggie lasagna before it went to “waste”. Going in to my sophomore year I weighed 235. I didn’t think I looked bad and I could still run a mile relatively easy so I didn’t give it any thought and I chalked it up to “growing-up”. It wouldn’t be until I saw the summer blockbuster Guardians of the Galaxy, that I would begin to get my act together and start taking my health and fitness seriously.

I stayed at this weight through the rest of college during times of more activity and less. My junior year I played a lot of racquetball and lifted weights from January to march to look good for the babes on spring break. And I lost about 10 pounds the summer before my senior year because I lived in Guatemala for a month and ate a steady regimen of beans and rice. But I pretty much stayed between 230 and 240 throughout college. Working out only does so much when you drink 4 to 5 nights a week and pair that with fourthmeal or pizza after the bar.

However my senior year came around and basically mirrored the freshman year mentally of having no cares in the world, but times 10. We were partying like we were graduating at the end of the school year because, “hey, we were”. The only exercise I was doing was some infrequent tennis and racquetball and intramural softball (I got winded legging out a double one game). In short, the beer and fast food was heavily outweighing any sort of calorie burning activities; it didn’t help that the best pizza place in Tallahassee (Gaines Street Pies) was on the way home from the bar to my house. I think one of my roommates was on a first name basis with the cashier and may have even owned part of the restaurant when we graduated.

In a span of two months I partied my way into a foot injury and a back injury and was basically confined to limping around on campus to get to class for about a month. Other than that I was on the couch or trying to have fun with my friends even though my body ached. My friends started making disability jokes and calling me “Aflac” for that stretch of time. All the while I was putting on weight. Well my back and foot healed but the damage had been done. I was at my heaviest weight of my life by the end of my senior year weighing in at around 255.

Turning things around

I was joining volunteer program after I college and had about 2 months before it started. The program required everyone to take a fitness test of 1.5 miles (timed) and 1 minute each of as many of push-ups and sit-ups you could do. There wasn’t a required amount or anything it was just a baseline. (Read my article about Physical Training for more details). I decided to start training for this. When I started I quickly realized how out of shape I was. For the first time in my life I could not run a full mile easily. But the athlete mentality came back to me and I started to view the training as a challenge.

That gave me a full year to achieve my goal and although it started slowly, I started to get my body moving again. The first baseline was recorded about 2 weeks after I started my program. The campus for the program is in Vicksburg, Mississippi and in case you haven’t been to the Deep South in the summer I’ll sum it up for you. It is really (expletive) hot. I had been training for about a month and had seen some limited results and I was able to finish the 1.5 miles in around 18 minutes. I was not able to run the whole time and my legs were sore, I was panting, and I was light headed when I finished.

I kept on working out back on campus usually doing interval training on the soccer field there, as well as some core training in the pool house and then lifting on Saturdays at the YMCA. We also had ample free time in the evening so we were playing a ton of ultimate Frisbee and touch-football. We were constantly sweating through our shirts in that summer heat but we were having a blast. My body was starting to feel a lot better too. At this point I had not weighed myself on a scale either.

That’s when I met the Guardians of the Galaxy

One of our last weekends in Vicksburg we saw the summer blockbuster Guardians of the Galaxy. I enjoyed it for a good summer super hero movie and I liked Chris Pratt’s character. It wasn’t until after the movie that somebody said Chris Pratt could be my doppelganger that I started to think more about his character in the movie. When I was compared to Chris Pratt, looks-wise, my mind immediately went to the chubby funny guy from Parks and Rec. But then I started thinking about Chris Pratt in Guardians I thought to myself I want to be that Chris Pratt (you know ripped super hero good looking and still funny Chris Pratt). So after a little internet research I found an interview with him about how he got in shape for the movie and it had a link to a sample workout. (Here is the workout). I took one of the quotes to heart from the article.

We had one more baseline in Vicksburg before our training was over and I was able to run the entire thing. I felt leaps and bounds better than the first one. My legs weren’t sore and I didn’t get lightheaded. After our training was over in Vicksburg we were sent to Kansas City at the end of August. I started working out there with limited equipment. A park with a trail and a set of pull-up bars. At this point the Chris Pratt sample workouts required a gym so I just continued to do cardio and workout my core. I planned on returning to my college for a football game in October and so I and one of the guys on my AmeriCorps team that was going to visit his old school also decided to go on a health kick. For us this consisted of not eating carbs, dairy, or added sugar until our trip dates back to our respective colleges. We had also found a gym to workout at for a reduced rate and so I had begun my “Chris Pratt workout”. The whole process was tough but it definitely felt healthier; mind, body and soul. I weighed myself in October before I went back to my college for the first time since I graduated in May. The scale read 225. I couldn’t believe it I had lost 30 pounds almost since June.

So I went back for the football game and the response was amazing. People kept asking me if I lost weight and telling me I looked great. It was really nice to hear and I don’t want to sound vain but I was hoping people would notice. The bigger reward was how I looked and felt to myself.

Since returning I have continued to try and eat healthy but we are not on the crazy kick we were for the months leading up to October and have continued to stay active at the gym about 4 nights a week and a few mornings usually on Sundays. The whole process has been extremely tough considering where I was back in May when I graduated but it has definitely been worth it. I am in the best shape I have been since high school and I look and feel so much better than those months of my spring semester my senior year. I even ran a 5k in under 30 minutes. I truly took to heart what Chris Pratt said about being able to achieve a workout goal if you devote 6 months to it.

As of December I reached my goal for the entire year and weighed in at 220 the lowest I have weighed is 216, which was before Thanksgiving (I’m back at around 220 now as you could imagine). From June to December, 6 months, I achieved my goal.

Here is what I learned:

  • Interval training works (short period of high intensity followed by short period of rest)
  • Find a planned workout online this will give you direction
  • don’t isolate muscle groups (focus on total body stimulation in the same work out to encourage fat loss)
  • hypertrophy for results (hypertrophy means low weight/ high reps)
  • Do something fun to get your heart rate up (basketball is my recent hobby)
  • Mix-it-up don’t do the same thing everyday
  • Not eating dairy, sugar, or carbs wasn’t easy but it made me feel and see results quicker
  • Focus on total body, mind, and soul health not just body because you will burn out focusing on just body
  • set a 6 month goal and stick to it

Disclaimer: I am fully aware that Chris Pratt was paid millions to look like that and that was his full time job. He even says it in the interview. He cut out all alcohol and ate 4,000 calories a day to supplement two-a-days of hours of training. I knew this was not realistic for me at all.

Before and after

Thanks for the motivation Chris I’ll be looking like Star Lord in no time. Cue “Hooked on a Feeling” by Blue Swede in My headphones. I’m headed to the Gym.

Better Humans

Better Humans is a collection of the world's most trustworthy writing on human potential and self improvement by coaches, academics, and aggressive self-experimenters. Articles are based on deep personal experience, science, and research. No fluff, book reports, or listicles.

Thanks to Jessica Jungton, Justin Cox 🍩, Justine Bronson, Jason Smith, and Sand Farnia.

    John Shughart

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    Passionate about adding value to others and helping people be more informed.

    Better Humans

    Better Humans is a collection of the world's most trustworthy writing on human potential and self improvement by coaches, academics, and aggressive self-experimenters. Articles are based on deep personal experience, science, and research. No fluff, book reports, or listicles.