Let's talk pecs. It's one of Sean Dunston's favorite topics. Especially his pecs. He works his pectoral muscle (the chest muscle, for the uninformed) for about 30 minutes twice a week. He wants the pump to last.
He's an aspiring bodybuilder, a beginner in the aesthetic world of muscles for show. He's not a hard-core barbell pusher, like the contestants yesterday at the second annual Kevin Levrone Classic bodybuilding show at Glen Burnie High School. But he wants to be.
Which is why he studied every pose of the 50 contestants from the rear of the auditorium yesterday while gulping spoonfuls of Gerber's strained carrots.
"There's nothing baby about this," said Mr. Dunston, 23, a strapping Baltimore resident who works for a tire sales company, referring to the several varieties of infant food in his gym bag.
"It's pure, and it's no fat. Don't want that fat. You want to be pure, you eat pure," Mr. Dunston said.
The show, named in honor of the Glen Burnie resident who is considered one of the top three male bodybuilders in all the land, is where a cult of muscle enthusiasts gathered to be seen and compare body parts.
Onstage, in the barest of briefs, men and women pumped up, oiled down and flexed for a chance to win prizes and qualify for bigger bodybuilding contests.
But the real spectacle was the audience. Where else could you find women wearing high heels and the daintiest of flowered sun dresses on a body with tree-trunk legs and dense, bulging shoulders streaked with veins? Or listen to men openly discuss their gluteus muscles? And then elicit suggestions on how to improve them?
Or see as many people so very proud of their bodies and quick to flash some skin?
"Not too people here are modest. It's just something that bodybuilders aren't," said Terry Chen, 40. As he stood in the school's crowded lobby a friend told him that he looked very trim.
"And now I've got abs," he said, and lifted his shirt for all to see that rippled stomach.
Last year, the Levrone Classic raised more than $5,000 to contribute to the Grant-A-Wish Foundation, which aids terminally ill children. This year's goal was $10,000.
The show actually was in two parts: a morning "pre-judging" session, during which the contestants posed and paraded in front of a panel of judges; and the evening finals, when the contestants posed and paraded again and the winners were announced.
"People are really getting into fitness and want to look good," said Mr. Levrone, who has made a comfortable living through bodybuilding and plans to open his own club in Severna Park next month.
But he added: "Some people take fitness to the extreme and scare me sometimes."
Which is an honest assessment when you see that nearly everyone sitting in the audience is deeply tanned and wearing skin paint to make them seem even darker.
"The darker your body is the more the muscles will seem to stand out, show and look more 'cut,' " said Carol Friend, a 5-foot-3, 135-pound secretary/personal trainer from Prince George's County. She wears a midriff T-shirt that displays rippling, washboard abdominal muscles.
Ms. Friend said there are only a few bodybuilding shows in this area every year, and many spectators come not for the show but to swap stories.
"Everybody on that stage is hungry and wants something decent to eat," she said. Like others in the audience, she sipped regularly from a jug of mineral water.
Tya Thompson of Bowie brought her daughter Aja, 4, to the show to let the child see other bodybuilders in hopes it might explain why "Mommy does this to herself."
"It makes you feel good about yourself, "especially when people start to take more notice of you. But some people are obsessed."