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    I Worked Out Like A Famous Model For 30 Days And It Was So Freaking Hard

    This was one of the hardest things I've ever done.

    This is Nyle DiMarco. He's one of the most famous male models in the entire world.

    And I'm Spencer. Unlike Nyle, it takes me 273 attempts to get one okay picture of myself.

    I wanted to get a glimpse into Nyle's world, so I reached out to him with the goal of training like a famous model for 30 days.

    Instagram: @spenceralthouse

    To be honest, I've been struggling at the gym recently, and this fitness challenge is a selfish way to help hold myself more accountable. But there's also a much more personal element to the project.

    When I was younger I had a really bad speech impediment known as a block stutter. Whenever I opened my mouth to speak, the words physically wouldn't come out. I went to a lot of speech therapy and even refused to talk for a while.

    I still have the stutter today, though it's gotten much better. In fact, most people who I work with probably don't even know I have the stutter (I constantly change my words around when speaking, and sometimes I "pretend" to forget what I was going to say, just so people won't catch on). Still, things like talking on the phone and ordering at a restaurant can be super difficult for me. I wish I wasn't embarrassed about it, but I am.

    I grew up thinking that I didn't have a voice. I didn't feel worthy or valid. But watching everything Nyle has done with his voice – as a person who's deaf – has been super powerful and inspiring, so I'm hoping to feel more comfortable and confident about my own body and voice by the end of this project.

    Instagram: @nyledimarco

    My main objective for this fitness challenge is to be as service-y as possible to you, the reader. I want to show you exactly what might happen if you decide to follow the workouts and meal plan. Obviously everyone's bodies and experiences are different, but consider this article an open and honest testimony about my journey. Here's what happened.

    Andrew Richard / BuzzFeed

    I've done a lot of fitness challenges for BuzzFeed – from training like a professional gymnast to doing 100 pull-ups a day for 30 days – but this challenge is going to be totally different. Here, I'll be following one person's specific routines, meaning I'll basically be living like Nyle for 30 days.

    Nyle works out four days a week. Each day corresponds with a new workout that targets a particular muscle in his body.

    Taylor Miller / BuzzFeed

    For my normal challenges, I work out every single day for 30 days, so getting three rest days each week was going to be an interesting change of pace. Part of me was worried that they'd prevent me from seeing larger results (because I'd be spending less time in the gym), but I knew they'd be beneficial on days when I was sore, tired, or sick.

    The workouts are intense. I'm not used to doing this many exercises per workout, so I was really going to have to push myself.

    Taylor Miller / BuzzFeed

    Nyle takes 45-second rests between each set. This keeps the body pumping throughout the whole workout. Each week, the number of reps per set will decrease by three (from 12–15 reps, to 9–11 reps, to 6–8 reps, and finally 3–5 reps). As my reps go down, the weight I use will go up. This will help me build muscle.

    (Obviously use a weight that's safe and comfortable for you.)

    Andrew Richard / BuzzFeed

    Since half of every fitness journey should take place in the kitchen, I knew it'd be important to follow Nyle's meal plan exactly.

    Nyle's daily meal plan is actually pretty standard. He eats three large meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) and has two snacks throughout the day.

    Instagram: @spenceralthouse

    For breakfast, Nyle eats six eggs (three whole, and three whites), as well as one cup of oatmeal. Sometimes he'll substitute the oatmeal for two slices of bread. He also used to drink two protein shakes each day.

    That's a giant breakfast, so I split it up into two separate meals. I'd have my oatmeal and a ProMix protein shake before my morning workout. After the gym, I'd have a second ProMix shake and then the six eggs. If I didn't split everything up, my stomach probably would have exploded.

    Lunch is especially simple, consisting solely of meat and veggies. Basically no carbs at all.

    Instagram: @spenceralthouse

    Nyle's lunches and dinners are very similar. Each meal revolves around one meat (eight ounces of chicken, steak, or salmon), and a cup of veggies (he likes broccoli). He meal-preps a bunch of food for the week, and when he finishes it all he changes up the ingredients and meal-preps again.

    His afternoon snack is pretty simple as well: three sticks of light mozzarella string cheese, a handful of mixed nuts, and an apple. Eating three string cheeses seems a bit excessive, but overall this snack is totally doable and a good way to get in some extra protein and carbs that'll hold me over until dinner.

    Dinner is more of the same, though I do get to add a sweet potato in the mix.

    Instagram: @spenceralthouse

    I try to eat pretty healthily even when I'm not doing a fitness challenge, so I wasn't that overwhelmed or intimidated by Nyle's diet. My biggest worry was that I'd end up losing weight and muscle mass by the end of the project, simply because this new meal plan had fewer carbs and calories than what I was used to. I had to remember that Nyle and I have two very different bodies.

    Nyle's dinner is almost identical to his lunch: eight ounces of meat and one cup of any green veggie (green beans, asparagus, etc.). He also cooks one large sweet potato. After dinner, if I'm still hungry, I can have a nighttime snack: either one cup of non-fat yogurt or a half-cup of oatmeal, both with a little cinnamon or honey.

    Spencer Althouse / BuzzFeed
    James Reddington / BuzzFeed

    I've been on my fitness journey for about three years. There have been a lot of ups and downs, but I've worked very hard to get where I am now. I've accomplished a lot of personal fitness goals, and I still have a lot more I'd like to achieve. With that said, I know that my body is already closer to the "ideal" men's body type. I'm not saying this to brag. I'm saying it to acknowledge my own privilege. I'm pretty fit, I can afford a gym membership, and my body is able. This isn't the case for a lot of people.

    Though I can only speak on behalf of my own body and feelings, I think it's important to acknowledge that everyone's journey and experiences are different, and they're all valid.

    Spencer Althouse / BuzzFeed

    Nyle's workouts include soooo many exercises that I don't normally do, so I felt like I was starting my fitness journey all over again.

    Instagram: @spenceralthouse

    The first few days of this challenge were super humbling and humiliating (but in a good way). I was doing a bunch of exercises I'd never done before, so I wasn't lifting as heavy as I normally do. I was disappointed in myself, but it was also kind of sobering. Even though I was on year three of my fitness journey, I was only on Day One of this challenge. I was still trying and learning new things, and I knew I'd get stronger along the way.

    My body would feel so pumped after each workout. Like, my arms would literally be shaking. I was doing so many exercises compared to my normal routine that I literally felt it in my body. No matter how scared or intimidated I was before going to the gym, I always left feeling satisfied and refreshed... and very sore.

    I broke my shoulder when I was a kid, so I've always had to be extra careful in the gym. Unfortunately for me, Nyle does some pretty intense shoulder workouts.

    Instagram: @spenceralthouse

    My first big shoulder workout was a huge test for me because I didn't want to re-injury myself. I had this terrifying premonition that I had set myself up for failure before the project really started.

    I got through the first half of the workout without any problems, but then my shoulder quickly started to irritate me. I didn't want to push myself too hard because I was scared it'd prevent me from completing the rest of the challenge, so I stopped working out and stretched for a verrrrry long time. I was so frustrated with myself, but I was glad I could take advantage of one of Nyle's rest days to recuperate and make some minor adjustments to my exercises so my shoulder wouldn't bother me.

    On Day Four of the challenge I actually got to work out ~with~ Nyle. We went through each of his workouts together, which was super helpful because he made sure I was practicing perfect form.

    Taylor Miller / BuzzFeed

    I was sort of petrified to work out with Nyle. I didn't want to embarrass myself or have him think I was wasting his time. Surprisingly, I don't think it could have gone any smoother. He even helped me come up with alternative shoulder exercises to avoid re-injuring my shoulder.

    It was so refreshing to talk to Nyle about his experience in the modeling industry. He's also incredibly nice and genuine: "So many people look at my career and they say, ‘Well, how do you work with photographers and how do you work on photoshoots and with fashion designers? How do you communicate with them?’ To me, I’m just happy that I’m breaking down barriers."

    (Special shoutout to NYHRC for letting us work out at their gym.)

    I'm a very competitive person. I don't like to lose, even if I have to throw a casual game of Go Fish against a five-year-old. Nyle is the same way, so we ended our workout with a friendly plank challenge.

    Instagram: @spenceralthouse

    The first 30 seconds were easy. The next 30 seconds were bearable. By the next 30, I could tell he was kind of impressed with me. But by minute two, my arms were shaking and Nyle hadn't even broken a sweat. I'm sure he could have gone on much longer, but we decided to both drop down at 2.5 minutes. He definitely went easy on me, but I'll go to my grave saying it was a proper tie.

    My body was so exhausted and sore during the first week of the challenge that it was honestly difficult to take off my shirt.

    Instagram: @spenceralthouse

    By the time I'd get home from work, my body would be so sore that I'd just sit in bed and think about every life decision that got me to this unfortunate moment. That's why meal-prepping was such a life-saver. The last thing I wanted to do was to cook a meal from scratch, so being able to re-heat leftovers in the microwave saved me so much time and energy.

    Meal-prepping also helped me make a lot of healthier decisions throughout this challenge. Not only is it cheaper, but I was also less tempted to eat out because I already had cooked food in the fridge at home.

    Spencer Althouse / BuzzFeed

    The best thing about entering Week Two was that my body wasn't sore anymore. I was also feeling more comfortable in the gym because I was getting more familiar with the workouts.

    I really started to get in my head during the second week of the challenge. I kept comparing myself to Nyle and started second-guessing everything.

    Instagram: @spenceralthouse

    I needed to remind myself that Nyle is a professional model, and he's literally paid to look a certain way. It's his full-time job. We're also at different stages in our fitness journey, so it doesn't make sense to compare myself to someone who's been doing these workouts for several years.

    I hate running. Absolutely. Hate. It. But Nyle runs in his workouts, so I had to find a way to make his routines enjoyable for me, otherwise I wasn't going to stick to them.

    Instagram: @spenceralthouse

    Half of Nyle's workouts begin with running intervals where he switches between sprinting and walking (he swears by intervals because they help to burn fat). This is my nightmare because I hate running and don't know how to do it properly, so I swapped out treadmill intervals for StairMaster intervals.

    I knew I had to make the challenge more fun and enjoyable for myself, so I also added in some exercises that I actually like doing (like pull-ups and push-ups). Following someone else’s workout plan doesn’t mean you can't deviate from it a little.

    Even though Nyle is strict with his diet, he doesn't believe in depriving himself of his favorite foods. This made me feel less guilty about my cravings.

    Instagram: @spenceralthouse

    When it comes to "bad" or "junk" foods, Nyle was very clear that he believes in moderation and portion control: "I make sure to keep breakfast, lunch, and dinner as healthy as I can, and I think it’s totally fine to have a cheat day. If you need one, don’t worry about it. Move on with your life. It’s going to be okay."

    This was especially heartening because I love pasta. Normally I'm extra strict about what I eat during my fitness challenges, but I really wanted to reward myself for making it halfway through the challenge, so I ate some pasta. One bowl of pasta wasn't going to undo any of my hard work.

    Spencer Althouse / BuzzFeed

    On Day 16 of the challenge, I noticed that one of my favorite shirts was starting to feel a little tighter on me. It's wild to see results after only a couple weeks, but this was proof of all my hard work. It's always difficult to judge progress based simply on the number of pounds lost or gained, so celebrating accomplishments like this that don't revolve around a number on the scale is a cool, less detrimental way to monitor my success.

    I sort of had an existential crisis during the middle of this project. I was starting to see results, and that made me happy, but I had to make sure I was happy for the right reasons.

    Instagram: @spenceralthouse

    I was seeing changes in my body when I looked in the mirror, and that made me feel good. But then I had to question why I was feeling good. This project was founded on my own insecurities and the toxic way men can be portrayed in the media, so my biggest worry was that I'd start to achieve that "ideal body" and then like myself because of it.

    The changes in my body were proof of my hard work. I was physically lifting heavier at the gym, and I was doing workouts I didn't know my body was capable of. I realized that I cared more about feeling stronger than looking stronger. That's why I was happier.

    This challenge really motivated me to go to the gym. But to be honest, I'm not always that motivated to go. I have to force myself to do it.

    Instagram: @spenceralthouse

    I get asked all the time on Instagram how I stay motivated to work out. I try to be as transparent about my fitness journey as possible, so the truth is that I'm not always motivated. I just go because when I leave the gym I know I’ll feel a lot better about myself. It makes me feel healthier and stronger.

    Sometimes I go to the gym and leave after two minutes because I’m not feeling it. Other times I have to force myself to push through a workout. There has to be some level of dedication and discipline, but if you're not in it for the right reasons then you won't hit your goals.

    Pro tip: The gym is always empty on weekend mornings, so I try to go as soon as it opens. This has really helped to keep me on track with my workouts. Starting my day with a workout also helps me make healthier decisions throughout the day.

    Spencer Althouse / BuzzFeed

    I use the Notes App on my phone to track my workouts and how heavy I'm lifting, so it's kind of incredible to see the number of weight increase from the first week of this challenge to the final week. There's something so rewarding about watching your progress and seeing results and comparing your current self to your old self.

    I wanted to celebrate how far I've come, so I decided to attempt something I'd never done before. I set a goal for doing 200 pull-ups and 200 push-ups in one gym session.

    Instagram: @spenceralthouse

    I broke everything into 40 supersets of 5 reps each with about 45 seconds of rest in between. I also timed myself so I could track my progress in case I wanted to try this again in the future.

    I genuinely wasn't even sure if my body would be capable of completing this challenge. In fact, I couldn't even do a single pull-up three years ago (I learned them by using a resistance band. As time went on, I'd get strong enough to lift my own bodyweight.)

    My biggest tip about pull-ups (and any exercise, really) is that you should be moving the weight – the weight shouldn't be moving you. No part of your body should be swinging in any workout you do. Everything should be done in slow, controlled reps.

    The first 100 pull-ups and push-ups were pretty easy for me, but my arms quickly turned into Jell-O during the second half of the challenge.

    Instagram: @spenceralthouse

    Doing everything in reps of five was a smart way to spread everything out so my arms didn't get too tired too quickly. The second half of the challenge was the toughest part though, but I kept pushing myself. I was so close to the end that I just wanted it to be over as quickly as possible. And somehow I did it. I completed the whole challenge in 1 hour and 17 minutes.

    This mini challenge proved that the overall 30-day fitness project was so much bigger than a “before and after” transformation. I couldn’t do a single pull-up or push-up a few years ago, and just 30 days ago I definitely wouldn’t have been able to do 200 of each. I’m so proud of myself for accomplishing something I never thought my body would be capable of.

    Andrew Richard / BuzzFeed
    James Reddington / BuzzFeed, Taylor Miller / BuzzFeed

    I think a lot of people look at these types of fitness challenges and skip right to the "before and after" pictures, and if they don't see a huge transformation they'll claim the challenge (or the person doing the challenge) was a failure. But there's so much more that goes into it than just the two pictures above.

    I tried to really push myself throughout this challenge. I felt an obligation to myself and to Nyle and to anyone reading this because I wanted to prove that his routine actually works. It may not work for everyone, but I think it worked for me. I can see the physical transformation in my body (I went from 13.8% body fat to 11.2% body fat), and I feel so much stronger.

    James Reddington / BuzzFeed, Taylor Miller / BuzzFeed

    I like challenging myself and doing things I didn't think my body was capable of. I'm genuinely proud of myself, but I don't want anyone to think that completing a fitness project like this will be the ultimate fix for you.

    I wish I was one of those people who always felt comfortable in his body. I know sometimes it may seem like I am because I do these challenges and post shirtless pictures on Instagram, but that doesn't mean I'm always happy or confident or comfortable. Some days I look in the mirror and like what I see, but a lot of the time I don’t. And maybe that's the point of this whole project.

    No one is going to look like a model after four weeks of working out, and it certainly won't solve all of your personal problems. Instead, it's a great reminder to not attach your personal looks to your self-worth.

    Andrew Richard / BuzzFeed

    This was the most practical fitness project I've ever done because I was given an exact workout plan and meal plan to follow. I had Willy Wonka's Golden Ticket in my hands. All I had to do was put in the work to cash it in.

    I hope other people will see this and be inspired to change up their routines, whether that means following Nyle’s workouts or signing up for a group fitness class or cooking a healthier meal or just going for a walk around the block.

    I promise, if you're determined and work hard then you’ll see results. I wish I had something more mind-blowing or revolutionary to say, but it's really that simple. That doesn't mean it's going to be easy. Balancing your fitness journey with your personal life and a full-time job is exhausting, but it's doable. Trust me.

    If you want to keep up with the rest of my fitness journey and BuzzFeed challenges, you can follow me on Instagram @SpencerAlthouse.

    Special thanks to Grey Van Pelt, Sami Housman, and, of course, Nyle DiMarco.

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