This was posted last year on Industrie, but I only found it recently. I figured I would post it here for my own reference and inspiration. Not inspired to take steroids, just to get back to training. I'd really like to work with a trainer again- I have a hard time staying motivated!
07/04/2011, Industrie Issue 1, Issues
Mr Owens’ guide to sublime physicality
Rick Owens was once a chubby Californian kid dreaming of rock-hard washboard abs. But once he’d been nudged towards the gym to compensate for his excesses, he dramatically transformed his physique. Now he’s such an expert that we’ve asked him to show us how it’s done.
Photographed by: Kacper Kasprzyk
Written by: Murray Healy
Rick Owens discovered the joys of the gym relatively late in life. The desire to sort out his body had always been there, languishing in his heart, weak and neglected, since childhood. ‘As an introverted sissy growing up in a small town in California,’ he remembers, ‘all I wanted was Joe Dallesandro hair and washboard abs. But I wore “husky”-sized poly pants,’ he says, referring to the American boys’ trousers made with added ease on the waist and hips, ‘and I had big, soft, 13-year-old-girl nipples. And buck teeth.’
A couple of years in braces sorted out the teeth, but it wasn’t until his early thirties that he started picking up the weights, when his partner Michele Lamy persuaded him to do something to compensate for the excesses of his lifestyle. ‘Her reasoning was that if I was going to drink so much, I had to balance it out. After years of enjoying overindulgence, discipline felt even better.’ As his efforts slowly remodelled his physique, Rick soon found working out as addictive as life’s more obvious pleasures. ‘The changes were imperceptible from month to month, but after a year things had changed. By then I was hooked.’
Right from the start he worked with a trainer. ‘If you want to make serious changes, that’s essential – otherwise it’s too easy to suspect that you’re not doing it right, and get discouraged. I couldn’t really afford one then, but I prioritised.’ His search for the right trainer wasn’t particularly scientific. ‘Frankly the main qualifications were that they had to look like they knew what they were talking about, and be someone pleasant to hang out with every day. Because no matter how technical you get, the main thing – the main thing – is consistent repetition.’
He worked his way through five instructors over the next eight years. But when he relocated from Los Angeles to Paris seven years ago, he decided not to employ a trainer. It’s not as if he needed the encouragement: working out had long since become as integral a part of his day as brushing his teeth. ‘And there’s only really about ten things you can do,’ he reasons, ‘so you just have to do them over and over. Like a Donald Judd installation: classic, simple, pure, repetitive.’
The purpose of his workouts has changed since the early days too: he’s no longer so goal-oriented, as each session has become its own reward. The entire ritual, from the second he steps out of his apartment, heading out through the Tuileries and up rue de la Paix to his gym near the Paris Opera, is a moment for some me-time. ‘Working out has become a combo of discipline, joyous release, meditation and vanity. It gives me a break in the day to absorb and formulate ideas. I used to love dancing, but music never sounded as good as it does now through those earbud headphones, pounding bass into the pit of my stomach as I enjoy the simple pleasure of feeling physically alive.’
But away from the free weights, he is less disciplined when it comes to his health. ‘I smoke, I don’t particularly watch my diet and I hate cardio,’ he admits. ‘If I had to run a mile I’d probably pass out in a pool of vomit.’ He never had any patience for supplements, preferring to use steroids to boost his training – a strategy he thoroughly recommends. ‘Sure, they bloated me for a while. But after I stopped, the bloat went away and the steroids had gotten me to another level. It was very rewarding. And I’d certainly taken worse before.’
When asked the particulars of his workout, he declines to give a detailed answer (‘Oh God, that would put me in a coma!’). But briefly: ‘I do one leg part, two upper-body parts, stomach and stretching every time I go, which is five or six times a week. I take my time and don’t worry about the weights – I just do what feels good. I don’t feel the need to force my body the way I used to.’
He’s philosophical about his gym-going these days. ‘Obviously, I’ve replaced the romanticised determination to self-destruct with the fantasy of control and immortality. And at this point in my life, it’s as lovely an indulgence as any.’