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Hey folks! This is a new type of content for the blog I’m interested in trying out – interviews! The idea is to speak with someone who is living their life as a real life game character; someone who’s exercising, living boldly, changing the world, and becoming more awesome. My first interview for this is with Kenny Rotter, founder of Dumbbells and Dragons, currently focusing on the Dumbbells and Dragons podcast! Incidentally, I will be appearing on that podcast this Wednesday, so make sure you got and subscribe to his podcast now so you don’t miss it! Also throw a positive review his way, so we can help him get up on New and Notable!
So, without further ado, let’s get into the interview!
Dan: So Kenny, tell us a little about yourself!
Kenny: Alright! My name is Kenny Rotter. I own and operate DumbbellsAndDragons.com. By day, I am trained as an attorney, so don’t hold that against me!
D: Ahh you’re fired.
D: So, tell us about Dumbbells and Dragons!
K: So DumbbellsAndDragons.com is a community I wanted to start to breakdown the barriers between nerd and fitness culture. I think that we’re all somewhat familiar with the stereotype of the jocks beating up/making fun of the nerds, and in the last 8 or 9 years of my life I’ve kind of noticed that those stereotypes don’t exist as much anymore. I’m a giant nerd, I grew up a giant nerd, very scrawny in high school, and when I turned about 25 I started working out seriously with actual goals and I gained about 40 lbs of muscle in the first year.
D: Holy cow!
K: Yeah and so I was super excited, I was getting more fit… And of course the catalyst towards any sort of change was a girl.
D: Hahaha there you go!
K: We had somewhat of a tumultuous breakup, and we lived in a huge, yet very very small city, so I knew I was gonna see her again, and I was like, “When I see her, I want to look jacked.” So I started working out with a buddy of mine who was in the military, and this dude was already big, he was like 190, 7% bodyfat. He was a game character. In between our sets, we found ourselves talking about sci-fi, and comic books, and video games, and it just kind of spawned this thought in my head that these two cultures are not that far apart. And like I said, those stereotypes don’t really apply anymore. So I started DumbbellsAndDragons.com essentially to motivate and inspire people to live more of their passions. I’ve often said you can nerd out about anything. You can nerd out about your supplements, you can nerd out about the latest lifting trends and techniques. You can nerd out about comic books, TV shows, and cosplay… So, it was really designed to just get everyone to be more open and accepting of what they’re into and what other people are into.
D: Very cool, man, I totally identify with all of that. It’s funny you mention the “girl and the breakup” catalyst because, I don’t know if you hang out on Reddit at all, but there’s a running joke that anytime someone asked for relationship advice about someone who’s cheating, or broke up with them, it’s always “break all contact, get into a gym, and find yourself a lawyer,” and you are a lawyer so you skipped that step and went straight to the gym, which I can really appreciate. You’re absolutely right about that jock/nerd stereotype thing. It’s great because you can be both. You don’t have to be a jock or a nerd, you can be a nerd that likes to workout and/or play sport, or you can be a jock who watches anime on the regular, so it’s great that those barriers are breaking down. Now, what would you say is the realm of nerd-dom that you most identify with?
K: Right now? I’ve gotta say it’s TV shows and comic books. If I had to choose one, I’m big into the Marvel universe right now. I think what they’re doing with network TV, Netflix, and their movies is unique and incredible, and it can be universally loved. You can find something for everyone in their universe.
D: Absolutely agree. I only just started watching Daredevil, which is obviously really good, but everything their doing is fantastic. And it’s funny, because it’s not that long ago that most Marvel movies just sucked. I haven’t seen Batman Vs. Superman yet, and I’m hoping DC might be able to enter into but, but it seems like they’re trying real hard to do the super grimdark thing..
K: Well, I think you can do the super grimdark thing, like Jessica Jones and Daredevil are really really good at it. Superman is not dark and gritty. Batman can be dark and gritty. What you’re saying about the old Marvel movies is true, like if you look at The Incredible Hulk, or even the Incredible Hulk with Ed Norton. I want to say Iron Man was really where they started having a total vision. I think when they saw the success of Iron Man they decided to have a cohesive universe and that’s when they plotted out the next 15 years of movies…
D: Which is insane, that’s beyond “Soviet Russia 5 Year Plan,” that’s 15 years worth of movies planned out, which is crazy.
K: Oh yeah. And DC is just busy playing “catch-up” and they’re not planning a cohesive universe. What they’re doing in TV is actually extremely good. I don’t watch Arrow, Flash, Supergirl, or Legends of Tomorrow, but I’ve heard they’re all pretty good…
D: They are if you don’t mind camp. There’s definitely good stuff there, having watch Arrow and most of Flash, it’s good if you can suspend your disbelief. For example: I’m not giving anything away, but there’s one point where Arrow is fighting somebody on an airplane, and the guy Arrow is fighting jumps off the plane with a parachute, and the person with Arrow is like, “He took the only parachute there is!” It’s like, wait a second, you’re on a military aircraft, how is there only one parachute on the airplane? It’s funny you mention that, though, because DC has always been pretty good at the small screen with stuff like Justice League, Batman the Animated series, etc.
Now, if you had to name your favorite TV and/or movie from the Marvel universe, what would it be, if you had to pick one?
K: Oh god, um…. (long pause) …can I say Civil War, because I’m just super excited about it? (laughs) No, I would say, probably my favorite would be the original Avengers, probably the movie I’ve seen the most, or Guardians of the Galaxy. I’ve been having the urge to re-watch Guardians of the Galaxy, but I haven’t gotten an opportunity to do it yet, so I’ve only seen it once when it came out in theaters.
D: I will say, having seen both, I think Guardians fares much better through multiple viewings vs. the Avengers. Avengers is mostly setup for the whole final fight scene, whereas Guardians the whole time is awesome, you’re laughing, there’s great writing. I think a nerd friend of mine put it well when he said, “You know, I love all the Marvel movies but Guardians of the Galaxy is great because it’s basically like Marvel said, ‘Hey, want to do Star Wars? Let’s do Star Wars!'”
K: It’s just phenomenal. Also, shout-out to the underdog, I actually really loved Ant Man.
D: Yeah dude, I don’t know why that one got some hate because I though ant-man was great! I understand some people were mad because it wasn’t actually Hank Pym in the suit, but I really liked the movie and I’m looking forward to the second one!
K: I wholeheartedly agree and I’m just sick of origin stories, so I like how they just said, “Yeah I created the suit and I want you to have it.” Okay, done! Perfect! I actually even heard there was a little origin story about Batman in Batman Vs. Superman and I’m like…unnecessary…
D: Yeah, I mean, I think Batman in particular is one of those characters, like unless it is particularly relevant to the plot, I really don’t think you need to show us that Bruce Wayne’s parents died. I actually saw a fan made posted and it Batman and Superman about to punch each other and it just says “Orphan Fight: The Movie.”
D: Yeah, I was just like, “Daaaaaaaamn.” Actually, let’s use this as a segue to our next question. Of course, on BaGC we’re all about emulating video game characters, do you have any fictional characters that you particularly admire or attempt to emulate in your day-to-day life?
K: I’ve always had an affinity for Spider-Man. Being the nerdy kid in high school, you know, glasses, getting picked on, and then my subsequent change… It’s like the weight room was my radioactive spider.
D: Oh man, there’s a quote! “The weight room was my radioactive spider!” I love it, that’s fantastic!
K: So yeah, I would say I’ve gotta go with Spider-Man on that one. I want to be him, he’s awesome.
D: There ya go! And Spider-Man is great because unlike most superheroes, his body type is relatively attainable. Granted, you’re not going to have super strength like he does, but if you’re trying to be Thor, and you’re not taking anabolic steroids, you’re probably going to have a bad time, just saying! Never mind the Hulk, or Superman or someone like that. I mean, Spider-Man’s great for that reason. Also the nice thing about Spider-Man is that he’s a relatively all ages type of character.
I will admit having grown up being a Batman fan, but gradually you start to realize as you grow up that Batman’s kind of an asshole.
K: Oh yeah.
D: You’re like, “Dude, you’re a multi-billionaire, and you choose to fight crime in your city by fighting individual bad guys rather than building 18 schools or something like that. You could literally overhaul the entire educational and welfare support system in your city and instead you’re breaking some dude’s leg in an alley.”
K: I actually have never thought about that, and that’s actually brilliant.
D: I actually think Tony Stark actually does the billionaire way better than Batman just because they kind of admit he could totally be doing better things than he’s doing right now with your money. I don’t know if you saw the Superior Iron Man run in the comics, it led up to the Secret Wars event that Marvel did. It was great because Tony’s personality got inverted and he effectively turned into a very Machiavellian super-villain which was pretty cool.
Now, you mentioned the weight room being your radioactive spider so obviously you’re into fitness, you gained 40 lbs in a year which is freaking awesome. What is your favorite way to work out right now?
K: Right now I’m in the middle of a gain. Well, actually, that’s not true. I recently gained 40 lbs of not-muscle-
D: Uh oh!
K: Yeah, essentially me and my wife, which was not the same girl that got me into the weight room, that was not the bad breakup, different girl. We were going through a lot of life changes, so we essentially took August off, so we went on vacation for literally the month. It took a lot of planning, we’re kind of paying for it now, but it was something we wanted to do. Literally we ate and drank everything, and didn’t work out and – well, worked out here and there – but I was topping the scales are 190, and I am 5’6″, I’m not a big dude. So our actual wedding is coming up, so I’ve been doing a lot of weight training, but with emphasis on losing fat, and toning up. So, a lot of reps in the 12-15 range, lighter weight… My constant favorite way to work out is just weight training.
D: Pick things up and put them down, that is totally where I’m at, too, so I identify with that.
K: I’m also trying to get a little bit more into functional training. Stuff like working on athletic performance, jumping, running, increasing stamina.
D: Cool, so lifting with some CrossFit type stuff thrown in there, basically.
K: Yeah, and I love Tough Mudders, if anyone’s ever run a Tough Mudder those are so much fun and fantastic, and great, and I love them, and I want to do them forever.
D: Dude, super fun. I’ve got three to my name.
D: I ran the first time they did a New England mudder. That thing just kicked my ass. I’m not a huge runner and I mean, if I put in a mile I’m like, “Hey, nice job, Dan!” For the most part, I really am almost exclusively lifting. So, the original New England Tough Mudder was 12 miles, on Mount Snow. They’ve changed it since then, but basically the first part of the mudder was “Run up this mountain, all the way up this mountain, and we’ve got the snow machines turned on in your face the whole time you’re going up there.” And it was May in Vermont which meant there was still a significant amount of snow on the ground.
K: Oh god, that’s awesome.
D: Oh man, dude, and it was funny because I started walking a good ten minutes into running up that mountain and I’m like, “Yeah, I’m just gonna walk my way up. You guys go ahead, I’ll meet you at the top, I’ll be up there soon.” I was not the only walker in my group, so I didn’t feel that bad, but we also had an NCAA track recruit on our team and he was just smoking all of us. But I got to the top and I was like, “Yo. I’m clean. I’m cold, and I’m wet, but I’m clean. What the hell is this?”
K: Where’s the mud?
D: Yeah! So, the next part was switchbacks down a steep ski trail, and at the bottom it flattened out and there was a big mud pit down there. So I ran through the switchbacks, ducking under the ropes, and did a belly flop directly into this lake of mud. It was one of my favorite moments because I came up out of it and erupted out of the water and screamed “Tough mudder!” at the top of my lungs and had an entire mountain of people cheering for me. It was amazing.
K: That’s awesome.
D: Yeah, so, Tough Mudders, totally awesome, lots of fun. If you have never done a mud run, they are not a bad start.
K: Oh yeah, they’re great.
D: So, moving on, any particular cool skills or hobbies you’ve got or that you’re developing right now? We love unique skills over on BaGC as well, we usually devote an entire day to a particular character’s skill set. So, what’ve you got going on?
K: Oh man, I think Dumbbells and Dragons right now is my serious hobby. I love podcasting, I love talking to people, meeting new people, and having conversations. You know, learning from their words and learning their wisdom and hopefully imparting a little bit of mine. So that’s one of my big hobbies. Eventually I’d like to make that a career.
K: You know, I’m also a craft beer guy. I’ve tasted close to 3,000 different beers in the last four or five years…
D: Oh my god, I think you’ve got me beat!
K: And I mean, it’s not like I’m sitting there having 16 ounces of beer every time. Like, me and some friends will, once or twice a year, find a beer city we’ve never been to, and over the course of a weekend try to hit as many breweries as we can. Sometimes it’s up to 10 or 12 breweries.
D: Nice. Brew tours are the best.
K: Oh yeah, especially when you’ve got a good amount of your buddies, your “bros” with you.
K: And I would say one of the cool things about me is that I am, or I can be, somebody’s ultimate support, and motivator. I just need them to be accepting and say okay. I told this story on the podcast recently: I was doing a Tough Mudder with a friend of mine who was very overweight, she was a little bit shorter than me but well over 200 lbs. And she had disordered eating and stuff and I talked her into running a Tough Mudder. For one of the obstacles you had to jump off a fifteen foot platform into muddy water that’s 12 or 15 feet deep, and she was like, “I’m afraid of heights, and I’m afraid of water where you can’t see the bottom.”
D: Oh man, so basically it’s her perfect nightmare?
K: Right. So I looked at her and I said, “What part of this obstacle says you’re not allowed to be afraid? Can you move your feet without being afraid? Do you need to not be afraid to jump? Like, jump in the air right now, y’know?” It’s similar to what I’ve told people when they say they’re not motivated to work out. Okay, what part of doing a push up involves being motivated? You get on the floor, you push up. Nowhere in there does it say, “Be motivated.” Granted, the motivation makes it easier, and it might make you want to do it. But, whenever that voice comes into your head and says, “No, I don’t want to do a push up,” tell it to shut the ‘F’ up and you’re gonna do a push up anyway.
D: There you go! So you’ve got craft beer taster, and skilled motivator, and/or cheerleader?
K: Definitely cheerleader.
D: And you know what? That is absolutely a skillset! You know, people may not realize it but cheerleaders are awesome, and they talk about how if you’re an entrepreneur you have to wear a lot of different “hats,” and cheerleader, they say, is one of the hats you’ve gotta wear. I would say, as a fitness trainer cheerleader is probably the most important skill to have outside of knowledge of the fitness that you are offering. Now if you could have any new skill, if you could just start learning it right now, you have all the time and money necessary to learn that skill, what would it be?
Aaaand that’s it for today! Come back on Thursday to find out what skill Kenny would pick, as well as what he considers his definining moment in life, and what advice he’s got to offer us. Also, don’t forget to go subscribe to his podcast, check out his interview of me on Wednesday, and leave him an awesome review!
I’ll see you then! Live boldly, change the world, and continue to be awesome!
Dan “DaRatmastah” Wallace