Muscle Sport Magazine

Michael Gurnow, the Man Behind “The Thor Challenge”

How did you come up with The Thor Challenge?


My wife and I were browsing through Halloween costumes when I came across Thor’s outfit.  I wouldn’t have thought twice and kept shuffling through the rack if it hadn’t been for the last class I’d taught before I resigned:  They’d nicknamed me Thor, less for the physique and more due to facial hair and curly Chris Hemsworth-esque locks.  My wife caught me reminiscing and insisted I buy it.  I told her I couldn’t, in clear conscious, do so.




I was a literature professor, so I felt I didn’t have the build to do the costume, and therefore the character and mythology, justice.


On your blog you said you needed to squeeze, not slide, into the outfit.


Exactly.  Gods, especially of the Nordic variety, aren’t known for being scrawny.


How did you come up with the size you ultimately became for The Thor Challenge?


I calculated how much Hemsworth weighed per inch, weight divided by height, and matched it.


Which put you at 185 pounds?




But you started at . . . ?




For most people, it’s a challenge to lose 45 pounds.


I’m what’s called an ectomopth.  In bodybuilding terms, a “hard gainer,” meaning someone who has a high metabolism.  It’s as difficult for me to gain weight as it is for most people to lose it.


What was the hardest part of The Challenge?


Not the workouts; they were just due-diligence.  The challenge was getting enough calories.  I typically eat once a day.  To reach 185, I had to eat five times a day.  To put this into perspective, it would be the same as a person who eats breakfast, lunch, and dinner choking down 14 platefuls every day.


What was an average day like for you?


I would wake up, eat, tend to my social media or whatever publicity was scheduled that day, eat again, quickly do whatever personal items needed taken care of, eat, write and/or do research, take a nap, eat, work out, eat, then go to bed.


How often did you train?


I essentially lived the life of a professional bodybuilder for a year, so I was in the gym six days a week.


You’re getting quite a bit of attention for having accomplished what you have physically.  You have former Arnold Classic winners and Mister Universes applauding you, various bodybuilding magazines, and professional bodybuilders following you on social media.  You even had a Mr. Olympia give you a thumbs up if I remember correctly.  How are you handling the spotlight since I image, as an author, you are more accustomed to media focusing on your writing and not on you specifically.


I don’t see it being about me, but what I accomplished.  The Thor Challenge has just as much to do with Hollywood deities as it does mythic gods.


Meaning . . . ?


There is a scene with Ryan Gosling in Crazy, Stupid, Love where he takes off his shirt in front of Emma Stone.  After she catches her breath, she sarcastically proclaims he must be photoshopped.  It’s comical, but it irritates me because it implies that the Hollywood image is unobtainable.

So the tagline for The Thor Challenge, “Be your own superhero” . . .


Exactly.  At its core, The Thor Challenge is about ambition.  Gosling didn’t wake up looking the way he does anymore than Hemingway decided to write a few words one day and won the Nobel Prize the next.  Their successes are due to their willingness to work hard, repeatedly and consistently, over a long period of time without someone forcing their hand.


What advice do you have for people who find it difficult to motivate themselves?


I don’t.  A person is either self-driven or isn’t.  It’s as simple as that.  Most people can’t compel themselves to do something that isn’t required, which is the reason they seek motivation or inspiration, code words for “I need someone (or something) to tell me what to do.”  The ambitious are the exact opposite:  They succeed regardless of circumstance.


What do you tell fans who would like to do what you did with bodybuilding?


Study physiology and biochemistry.  It amazes me how frequently people in online bodybuilding forums make crazy, erroneous statements because they don’t know basic human anatomy, how opposing muscle groups function for instance, or how the metabolic system operates, which is why some individuals diligently diet yet never see results.

What did you take away from The Thor Challenge?


Bodybuilding is about accountability:  Unlike so many things in the 21-century which can be argued around—I got fired because of X, she dumped me because of Y, I would have done this if it weren’t for Z—your body is an undeniable testament to your success or failure in the sport.


It’s this irrefutable proof of accomplishment that allows the sport to retain its integrity.  A physique is earned, not given.  You’re issued due credit regardless of your credentials because a developed chest is a developed chest.


You wrote a bestselling book on politics, then a critically-acclaimed comedy about nature, before doing The Thor Challenge.  Is this going to be your next book?


That was the plan, initially.  However, even though The Thor Challenge has come to a close, I haven’t exhausted the information that’s available, at least not to my satisfaction as a writer. It’s only after this happens that I’ll feel qualified to write at length about bodybuilding using my transformation journey as the storyline.


Does that mean you are continuing to lift?



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