My brother Gannon and I used to lift weights while we were in high school, but he was always more serious about it than I. My problem with weight training was always perspective. No one ever asked me how much I could wrist-curl; they asked me how much I could bench. Consequently, I put a lot more focus on bench press than I did any other exercise. I would frequently blow off almost any day except chest and triceps day, because there was no one to hold me accountable except my own self-discipline, which at that point in my life was sorely lacking.

Boot camp at Parris Island changed all that. When I completed boot camp and all of my military schooling, I was released from active duty for the reserve, and moved to Hawaii where, coincidentally, both my brothers were stationed. This is where Gannon introduced me to someone he described as the most incredible Marine he had ever met: Staff Sergeant Tony Haynes. This was a high compliment coming from a Marine who was selected "Marine of the Year" at one command and "NCO of the Year" at another. Naturally, I was curious.

Gannon explained how Tony was in excellent shape, and how under Tony's tutelage, Gannon's bench, among other things, showed significant increases. I couldn't argue with results; Gannon was huge. His friends used to joke about how much the two of us looked alike, but how in contrast, I was "Gannon Beck on Ultra Slim Fast." My workout regimen, after spending nearly two years in Hawaii, consisted mostly of running, racquetball, and swimming. As a result, I was slim and defined, but by no means was I Arnold Schwarzenegger.

I worked nights and went to school during the day, so finding the time to lift weights (and a partner to do it with) was very difficult. Still, Gannon expressed his desire to "bring me along" (which I realize, in hindsight, was probably his way of saying "break me"), and I couldn't come up with a reason to turn him down. Besides, he was letting me stay with him at the time, so turning him down would have been a serious freeloader-faux pas. Gannon enjoyed working out as much as he enjoyed drawing.

Indeed, I actually wanted a workout partner, and Gannon and I had a history. Because our conflicting schedules, he suggested we perform a "circuit course," -- a fast, furious workout -- so that we could hit every major muscle group at one time. "Sure," I said, "Why not?" After all, he was "Gannon Beck," and I was "Gannon Beck on Ultra Slim Fast." Who was I to quibble? Well, the first two times we worked out, Gannon pushed me to the point that I threw up. The first time, I was a little embarrassed, but the second time was downright humiliating. Plus, there was the other matter that Gannon may have been enjoying my discomfort. We are brothers, and therefore competitors, after all.

It wasn't long after this that I decided to leave Hawaii. I hadn't considered at the time it may have been the workouts that caused the desire to leave that beautiful state, but now that I think about it...

Before I left, I decided to visit Maui. Except for a training session in Kauai, I had never been to a Hawaiian island other than Oahu. A friend of mine from my unit lived on Maui, and he invited me out one weekend. Before I went, though, Gannon asked me, again, to workout with him. Of course I accepted, as I braced myself for another upchuck-fest. This time, however, he brought Tony. Everything Gannon told me about his stature was true. The guy was a beast (and that's exactly how I describe him to this day). It was inhuman to be so perfectly proportioned for a human being.

Now, it should be noted here that Tony was not my workout partner. Gannon was. Tony naturally assumed my conditioning was on a level with Gannon, but it wasn't. It is possible my abdominals had more endurance than Gannon's, but that was just because I threw up every time Gannon would push me to my limit (both times). Therefore, Tony went about his normal workout routine, and -- oh my -- what a routine it was!

I don't remember everything about the workout (because I was straining so hard, the blood apparently left my head to feed my muscles). In fact, the only exercise I remember doing was tricep press-downs. Oh, and the other thing I remember is that I got to TOTAL muscle failure on EVERY exercise we did. I remember this because Tony made a comment as I was trying to execute a press-down that wasn't going to happen -- in a way only Tony can -- about the vascularity in my arms (my veins popped out).

"Maybe," I grunted, "but all the vascularity in the world isn't going to get this weight up!"

To make matters worse, Tony was so darned motivating that I couldn't just separate myself from the workout long enough to think, "You know, maybe I should take it easy..." In other words, my vascularity may not have gotten the weight up, but Tony's sheer force of motivation may have.

The good news is that I didn't throw up. The bad news is I had never been so sore before in my life (and have never been so sore since). The next day I flew to Maui, and my muscles were just plain weak -- not sore.

I'm just glad no one asked me to open a jar of pickles. Now THAT would have been embarrassing.

The next day, however, my muscles, biceps in particular, contracted. Only with considerable effort, and assistance, could I straighten them out. It was so bad that for the next two days -- THROUGHOUT MY VACATION IN MAUI -- I walked around with my arms at a 90 degree angle, as if I were expecting to shake hands with everyone. I was a walking freak show during the only vacation I took while I was in Hawaii! What a waste! Needless to say, I didn't make any new friends over the entire trip. If I didn't look awkward enough, the attitude I carried as a result of my pain more than made up for it.

I learned from that experience that when you start working out -- no matter how young you are -- be sure to take it slow. Get over the initial soreness and become accustomed to unfamiliar movements before you push yourself too hard.

EPILOGUE: I should mention that I now heed Tony's advice from his columns and have been experiencing good results. As I said, I still maintain that Tony can't possibly be human, but I say that only out of the utmost respect. As for Gannon -- I'll give him his props, too. He's still a strong guy, but for the time being I think, in comparison, I upgraded from Ultra Slim Fast to regular ol' Slim Fast. However, if you saw his GUT you would know that a little Slim Fast wouldn't be a bad thing.

And THAT, my dear brother, is for making me throw up!

Semper Fi!