By Charly SHELTON
am no stranger to conventions. I go to several conventions a year for comics, video games, technology and, coming up next weekend, cookies and sweets at Cookie Con. But of all the conventions that I frequent and look forward to, none of them have anything to do with fitness. There are times when I am the most physically fit person within eyeshot, and I am built proportionately like a 6-foot tall hobbit. So when I was invited to attend the L.A. Fit Expo, I was naturally a little apprehensive.
Entering the hall at the L.A. Convention Center, a venue I know very well from Stan Lee’s Comikaze Convention and E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo), I was met with a familiar feeling of being on the show floor. But instead of videogame displays and comic book vendors I saw protein supplements, gloves for working out and coconut water. It was like that episode of Star Trek, “Mirror Mirror,” when Mr. Spock has facial hair – familiar yet strange. I moved with the masses of people from one aisle of the hall to another, gathering pamphlets and samples of every kind of protein powder and workout drink one can imagine, and six that you can’t. I had no idea dehydrated isolated protein was such a huge industry. From whey protein to soy protein, bioactive peptides, leucine, creatine, BCAA … pre-workout, post workout, intra-workout, aside from workout, regarding workout – it was a lot to take in.
The people on the floor could tell that I was an outsider. I don’t know whether it was the Alienware sweater, the “Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug” T-shirt stretched over my belly, or the terrified “please don’t put me in a locker” expression on my face at seeing these human marvels of physical fitness. Nobody was mean or derogatory, but this was the kind of environment where you have to come in knowing a little bit about the subject, e.g. working out and nutrition, and the vendors and promoters rely on the fact that patrons of the Con have a basic understanding of what any of this is. This is a familiar concept to me coming from the nerd conventions, in that nobody is there to hold your hand and teach you about comic books. If you don’t know who Iron Man is, why are you at a comic convention? And on top of that, when I asked questions, they gave me the simple answers that I was more likely to understand instead of the full fitness/science answer that real enthusiasts would get. Much the same way that if someone with an apprehensive expression asks me “What’s the deal with this Iron Man guy?” I would say that he is a superhero with a robot suit, versus if someone asks what I thought of Matt Fraction’s run on Invincible Iron Man, we could have a four hour conversation.
This is one of the more intimidating aspects of jumping into any new culture with people who devote much of their lives and interest to a certain topic – it’s very hard to break in and keep up.
That being said, I didn’t really learn a whole lot from just jumping into the deep end at the Con and hoping to swim. I sank like a fat rock. I came home with a bag full of magazines and pamphlets that are slowly allowing me to learn what all I picked up. Muscle and Performance Magazine put out a supplement guide and its January issue has a 2016 starter guide for people like me. These have been the best resources that I got at the convention. Hopefully this will give me the seed knowledge that I need to understand the science and the culture a bit more and by next year maybe I won’t be so lost at the Fit Expo. I left the Convention Center excited to learn new things and hopefully improve my physique and health. But full disclosure, I did go straight from the convention to our biweekly Dungeons & Dragons night, where my character rolled 17 for strength. I guess it’s working already.