Today I have an interview I recently conducted with my brother-from-another-mother, fellow music lover and Seinfeld quoting, old school physical culture obsessed, first class gem of a human being, the lovely and talented… Sean Hyson.
You may know Sean as the fitness editor of Men’s Fitness Magazine and may have seen his incredible before and after transformation pics. Today we’re going to get to know a little bit more about the man himself. I was going to have him conduct the entire interview in his dead on, Christopher Walken impression but then I remembered you would be reading it, not hearing it, so the effect might be lost on you…
JF: Hys-Cube, first of all thanks for doing this, and let’s get this started with you telling everyone how you got into training in the first place?
SH: My pleasure. I’ve always been a fan of strength, whether it was demonstrated by tough guys in movies, pro wrestlers, or He-Man cartoons. People who held some kind of power always made me take notice, so I guess it was inevitable that I’d get into lifting eventually. I was a very skinny kid growing up and even though I liked to be active and I practiced martial arts for many years, I never had much confidence.
JF: Sounds very much like my story. So what inspired you to pick up a weight for the first time?
SH: If I had to pinpoint one moment that inspired me to start training, it would be this one: It was my freshman year in college and a friend of my roommate’s came to our room to visit. He had his shirt off, and I couldn’t help but notice that the kid was ripped. He was on the track team and he lifted weights. I didn’t really have a problem with him, but he was kind of an obnoxious guy, and at that moment a thought flashed in my head. “What if, by some strange circumstance, I had to fight this kid?”
Even though I had a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, I had to be honest with myself. I didn’t think I could beat this kid if it came down to it. He was so much stronger. That was really the impetus for me to start training. I bought a weight-gain powder a week later and started lifting. For the record, I could totally whip that kid’s ass now!
JF: Haha. I’m sure. So what were some of the early mistakes you made in your training career?
SH: As for mistakes, I made all of them. I probably even invented some new ones. I trained only chest and arms for the first few months and did too many sets. My only instruction came from Arnold’s Encyclopedia, so my form was awful. One thing I will say for myself, however, is that I never got hooked on machines. My dad is a lifter, and he believed that machines were a waste of time, so I knew to avoid them. I used free weights from the beginning.
JF: What led to you becoming the fitness editor at Men’s Fitness and what jobs did you have along the way?
SH: I wish I could say I struggled and paid my dues to break into the fitness and magazine industries, but I really didn’t. Actually, I’m kinda glad I didn’t have to struggle and pay those dues! Lucky me. My dad worked for a publishing company and got me an interview at Men’s Fitness, which was re-launching in New York at the time. I had just graduated college, so the timing couldn’t have been better.
I was already obsessed with fitness and had been reading fitness mags for many years. I was a writing major in college, with a concentration in magazine writing specifically, so it was very lucky timing and a great fit. I started as editorial assistant, doing every little job anyone would give me, and I had the great fortune of being mentored by the former fitness editor of Men’s Health, who had come over to MF. He groomed me to be fitness editor, and in 2004, I got the job. I studied on my own time and got certified a little while later (C.S.C.S.). Since then, I’ve been fitness editor for Muscle & Fitness Hers and Sly magazines (Sylvester Stallone’s short-lived fitness mag), and I’ve done some freelance writing for Outside’s Go magazine and T-Muscle.com. I’m also the senior editor at UFC magazine.
As of last week, I’ve been doing some editing for Muscle & Fitness magazine as well, so, as you might have guessed, I don’t get out much anymore.
JF: Yeah, I could tell. Let’s discuss your transformation. For those that don’t know, Sean came to me last year and said he wanted to do a 12 week transformation that would be featured in Men’s Fitness. He asked me to write up the program and diet and promised me he would be 100% committed. To say he lived up to his word would be an understatement. We stayed in close contact throughout the entire 12 weeks and Sean was as dedicated as a person could get. I wrote the program and diet but Sean is the one who actually had to do all the hard work.
So Sean, let me ask you, first of all, how did you stay so strict on your diet throughout the entire 12 weeks without cheating once? A lot of people find that impossible to do.
SH: I have to say that the discipline part wasn’t hard. The way I constructed it in my mind, I had no choice but to succeed. What was the alternative? If I didn’t get results—amazing results—I was going to look like a fool in front of thousands (maybe millions?) of people. I had announced in the magazine and on the Men’s Fitness website that I was going to get ripped. I had before photos taken, and everyone who knew me had heard me make the promise.
JF: I want to stop you right there for a second because this is such an important point. If anyone reading this has a goal similar to Sean’s I advise you right now to make it public. Tell as many people as you know. Post your pictures online, in the Renegade Inner Circle, wherever.
Do whatever it takes to ensure that you can not and will not fail because you’ve put it out there and can’t look like a loser in other people’s eyes. Social support is huge in physical transformation as is the idea of looking like a failure in the eyes of dozens, or in Seans case, hundreds of thousands of people.
Continue on, Cube…
SH: So I basically locked myself up for three months and threw away the key. I got to bed by 10:30 every night, spent my spare time prepping meals and washing dishes, and never missed a workout. To be brutally honest, I was seeing a girl at the time and I even pushed her away because it was a distraction.
JF: Who’s more hardcore than you?
SH: Haha. Well, there were other factors that led to the end of that relationship which I won’t bore you with—and, to be clear, I would never prize training over a meaningful relationship—but I felt I had to base every decision on whether or not it would bring me closer to the results I wanted. Getting in extreme shape in a short period of time requires an extreme attitude. If that’s what you want to do, I think if you tell yourself that it’s just for a relatively short time, the whole process won’t seem so daunting.
We’ll back atcha tomorrow with Part II in which we’ll get into motivation tips and the training and nutrition program Sean followed to get ripped.
In the meantime drop us a comment below.