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Fit and fashionable

Former football player makes a name as fitness model

Former football player makes a name as fitness model

September 21, 2009|By CRYSTAL SCHELLE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Go on, girls, you can sneak a look at his muscles. He's used to it.

Shawn Scales, 36, of Falling Waters, W.Va., is a competitive fitness model. Unlike competitive bodybuilding, where the emphasis is on muscles and the mantra is bigger is better, Scales says in fitness modeling, it's about having a more athletic build.

"They're looking for the best natural look," he says.

In 2007, Scales saw an advertisement online about a fitness modeling show that piqued his interest. The show was in Florida, but he found a closer one, the Mr. Fitness competition, in New York.

Scales dropped from an athletic 217 pounds to a flat 185 pounds in three months. Bad idea. Not only didn't he feel well, he wasn't happy when he looked like in the mirror. Scales said he was fit, but the quick weight loss didn't leave him toned.

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"I just didn't look like myself," he said.

Looking back, Scales says the weight came off too fast, especially because he also lost too much muscle. He decided not to do any shows that year. Instead, he kept working on his physique to get that lean, toned fitness look.

"I grew back into my muscles," he said.

During competitions, Scales says the models, who are usually referred to as athletes, walk out on a T-shaped runway. Most do the T-walk, or fitness walk. They start at the back of stem of the T and walk up. It's up to each athlete if he wants to turn left or right, he then return up the T.

Some competitions, including Muscle Mania in Las Vegas, include three different walks - evening wear, athletic wear and swimwear. Such competitions, he says, are more about the modeling side of fitness modeling.

He says judges look for symmetry in the physique, good muscle tone and nice definition, and then they examine smaller details such as facial features.

Strict regimen

Although some fitness models do use supplements, steroid use is low because models aren't looking for the bulkiness the drug can bring. Many shows prohibit models who use drugs. And judges are looking for muscle mass that is natural looking.

To keep toned, Scales is on a regimented workout routine. As a fitness trainer at Gold's Gym in Martinsburg, he can usually squeeze workouts in between clients. Or he'll work out with his clients.

"In my eyes, if I'm training someone, I want them to know I know exactly what they're going through," he says. "And that I'm doing what they're doing."

Scales eats about seven or eight small meals a day piled with fruits, vegetables and lean proteins. That includes planning meals for a long day at work. He says he carries two big coolers to him at work, one with supplements, the other with food.

"I always keep on hand beef jerky, tuna in a can, sardines in a can and peanut butter," he says. "They're full of protein. Fish is extremely healthy for you. And it's quick."

And he also makes sure to get plenty of rest.

A few days before a competition, Scales says he steps up to Olympic-mode workouts. He exercises target such areas as shoulders, chest, triceps, core, legs and back, along with incorporating cardio. His workouts are intense. But he doesn't work out every day; he makes sure to give his body a rest.

Sex appeal

The workouts and eating regiment is something he's used to. Scales was the wide receiver at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University before playing professional football. He played on the Pittsburgh Steelers' practice squad, then went overseas to play in NFL Europe. A knee injury limited Scales to semi-pro ball. Then, when he began participating in fitness modeling, he decided to back off football to focus more on modeling.

Scales says fitness modeling isn't all about the body.

"(With) fitness modeling, ... you have to sell a whole sex appeal," he says.

Most competitions come with cash prizes and an opportunity for paid modeling assignments. Given the sex-appeal aspect of fitness modeling, a typical job is modeling underwear.

Still, though, it is about the overall physique.

"You want women to say, 'I'd like my husband to look like that' or a guy to say 'I want to build my body like that,'" Scales says.

Of the seven competitions he's been in, Scales has won five of them. Last year, he attended Charm City Classic in Baltimore and won first place. He says it was great, especially because he had just lost at Mr. Fitness the week before.

Most of Scales' wins have been against men in their 20s. Fitness models still compete well into their 30s.

And when will he think of retiring from modeling fitness?

"I guess when I'm get tired of doing it," he says with a smile.

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