Red capes. Chiseled abs. Man sweat.
For the Leffler brothers, Mark and Eddie Leffler, and their friend Dave Fernandez, Halloween 2012 is a triumphant finish line. The vegan siblings and Fernandez are going to march through the streets of San Francisco in tiny undies, showing off the six packs they spent hours grunting to get.
The three friends skipped dinners with friends, happy hours and late night parties putting in the work not for a disguise, but for the real thing. This Halloween they are the virile cast of the 2006 action film 300.
Mark Leffler, 26, is a certified personal trainer at move-sf, a fitness facility in San Francisco providing clients with specialized one-on-one training and group workouts. He set the pace for his brother Eddie Leffler, 28, and Fernandez, 30, when they committed to a yearlong exercise regimen in November 2011. They named it the 300 Club. The younger Leffler, fit and toned, has been diligent about his own workout plan since he was a teen. He created a program for Fernandez and his brother to follow and weeks were spent on form before the training rigor increased.
“I like teaching people,” Leffler said. “I enjoy helping people make a connection with their bodies.”
Since making the pact, the daily lives of the 300 Club members have been scheduled around workouts and healthier choices. The guys hit the gym four to five times a week, spending most of their time weight training and pushing through reps of squat thrusts, sumo dead lifts, and wall slides. They tapered off alcohol and sugary, processed food.
Bodybuilding is a well-known sport, but vegan bodybuilding is now an industry term thanks to names like Robert Cheeke and Jimi Sitko, competitors who are part of the vegan bodybuilding subculture. Bodybuilding.com, a website with up to two million hits per month, provides tips on diet and workouts for vegetivorous muscle builders.
As a personal trainer, Leffler’s approach to bodybuilding is about optimizing physique to the point of best health.
“To me, what a bodybuilder’s body looks like is determined by their own body type and what it will naturally allow,” Leffler said. “Being without the aid of supplements, steroids, and binge-eating.”
The brothers first went vegetarian before going vegan six years ago. Eddie remembers in 2003 his girlfriend, at the time, bet him he could not go a week without eating meat. He won the wager and three years later he and his brother stopped eating food with any animal derived ingredients.
Before making the move to Calif. in 2010 the Leffler brothers and Fernandez lived in Boston. Fernandez and Eddie, who both work in web design and advertising, usually hit the gym together after work. In late 2011 when the three agreed to achieving, or in Leffler’s case maintaining, a level of ultimate fitness they picked Halloween as the endpoint and went all in.
“It’s not the 250 Club,” Fernandez said.
During training, a typical breakfast meant oatmeal topped with natural sweeteners like raisins, cinnamon, or applesauce and meals with organic ingredients. For Fernandez, who is not vegan and enjoys cookies and ice cream, the thought of replacing his afternoon snack with a handful of grapes seemed like a weak trade. On the upside he enjoyed positive feedback from his girlfriend.
“She keeps calling me sexy,” Fernandez said.
Now Fernandez keeps his vice of sweets to a minimum and notices major changes.
“I have muscles now, where before it was just skin,” Fernandez said.
Once September arrived, alcohol was pulled out of the equation. In the following month, they stopped eating out. Now almost a year later, after numerous workouts, they are in incredible shape. They are stronger, faster and ready to throw a spear. Well, at least carry one all night.
“We aspire for this 300 Club workout but we would be perfectly happy with the body Mark has,” the older Leffler said.
The three let their razors collect dust as matching Leonidas beards sprouted from their chins and cheeks. It is all in preparation of Halloween week, when all bets are off and their army of three will parade among fellow masqueraders like Gumby and binders full of women. These three men have reached a pinnacle moment in their training and teetotalism and can drink, march and shout through San Francisco neighborhoods.
“This is Sparta!”
Others may toast to their efforts. After all, did any of the Spartans do it without meat?