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The bodybuilder - Claudia Altès Lucas
In just two years, the 15-year-old from the Torreforta area of Tarragona, has won gold medals in the under-21s female category in championships in Barcelona and around Catalunya, and was runner-up in the Spanish national competition. "I took up bodybuilding when I was 13 because I was unhappy with my size and weight. I was very skinny at 50 kilos."
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The body double - Aitor Chico
"Facially I look nothing like him but that's not important because he does all the facial shots himself. I do lots of shots dribbling the ball and taking on other players. When the advert comes out the viewer thinks it's Messi dribbling but actually it's me."
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The naturist - Joaquim Plana
"Naturism is more than simply taking your clothes off. It is a way of life, of living in harmony with nature. It is about having respect for yourself and for others."
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The cosmetic surgeon - Dr Vicente Paloma
"It isn%u2019t a replacement for exercise, rather it complements it. Surgery can improve confidence and encourage a healthy lifestyle, as well as improving on what nature has provided. In my experience it gives people a great deal of self-confidence, and a greater desire to look after themselves, to go to the gym and watch what they eat."
Bodies—we all have one—and in the month of August they’re on show everywhere you look. From the sculpted torsos on the beach at Mar Bella, to the controversially under-dressed tourists wandering the narrow streets of El Barri Gòtic, you just can’t get away from them in the summer.
Tall or short, young or old, fat or skinny—the human form comes in all shapes and sizes. To mark the month when our physiques are at their most on show, Metropolitan spoke to four locals whose relationship with the body has led to fascinating jobs and hobbies.
When Claudia Altès Lucas was 13, looking in the mirror made her unhappy. She thought she had a body that was too scrawny but rather than accept a physique that left her lacking in confidence, she joined her local gym and started lifting weights. Two years later and Claudia is already a champion bodybuilder, achieving rapid success in a world traditionally dominated by men.
In just two years, the 15-year-old from the Torreforta area of Tarragona, has won gold medals in the under-21s female category in championships in Barcelona and around Catalunya, and was runner up in the Spanish national competition. “I took up bodybuilding when I was 13 because I was unhappy with my size and weight. I was very skinny at 50 kilos.” Taking the matter into her own hands she joined her local gym and started to work out. “I was determined to do something about it, to be bigger and stronger, so I started going to my local gym in Torreforta. Since then Altès Lucas has developed a real passion for the sport. “I love going to the gym and training and in March this year I entered my first competition, the ‘Promising Talents of Catalunya’, and won. I have always looked after my health and I have always been into sport, but I really love bodybuilding”.
In the short time that she’s been practicing the sport, the teenager has competed in many competitions but still suffers from nerves before a meet.“Sometimes I get quite nervous before I go out on stage. But as soon as I’m out there I relax and enjoy myself.”
In order to compete at competition level, Altès Lucas has a grueling schedule and normally trains five or six times a week. Her gym work includes lifting weights for 90 minutes and doing another 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise. She now says her physique has boosted her confidence and happiness as well as her strength.
“It’s still a very masculine world, and some of my friends and teachers have discouraged me from training. They want me to give up because they worry I will get too big.” But not to be discouraged from her new love, Altès Lucas said, “I’m going to carry on. I have two other friends who are very encouraging and I’m not the sort of person to quit something I love because other people disapprove.”
THE BODY DOUBLE
Aitor Chico’s 1.69 metre frame has won him a job working alongside, arguably the world’s greatest footballer, Lionel Messi. Chico has performed as the Barça striker’s body double in two adverts for sports giant adidas. The 20-year-old from Barcelona stands at exactly the same height as the Argentine ‘FIFA World Player of the Year’, and was picked because of his similar build.
“I’m on the books of the model agency Teresa Gimpera and I passed two sets of auditions before landing the Messi job.” They may have a similar build but Chico explains he doesn’t have to look exactly like the football star in every way. “Facially I look nothing like him but that’s not important because he does all the facial shots himself. I do lots of shots dribbling the ball and taking on other players. When the advert comes out the viewer thinks it’s Messi dribbling but actually it’s me.” Describing the differences between himself and the Argentine player he said, “His legs are more muscular than mine, but apart from that our bodies are similar. My hair looks like his from behind as well.”
Chico was lucky enough to met the 23-year-old football star while filming an advert for the adidas F50 Tunit boots at the Estadi Olímpic last Christmas, alongside the French former footballer Zinedine Zidane and his body double.
Chico, who studies at INEF (National Institute of Physical Education) in Barcelona and plays a lot of indoor football said, “It took us a whole day to film the advert, from 7am to midnight.” This wasn’t the case for the footballer; his work load was dramatically less than Chico’s as Messi didn’t have to be there for the whole filming, staying only to shoot those important facial shots. Speaking of the experience Chico said, “I’m right-footed, but Messi is left-footed and at first they asked me to dribble with my left foot. But I was pretty bad at that, so in the end I did it with my right foot. It all happens so quickly in the advert the viewer can’t tell. I had to dribble, take some corners, do step-overs and shoot at goal.”
Chico has since filmed another advert as Messi’s double for an adidas tracksuit which has not yet been screened. He’s hoping to carry on appearing as the footballer in the future. “I don’t get as much money as Messi but the pay is still pretty good.”
THE COSMETIC SURGEON
Leading cosmetic surgeon Dr Vicente Paloma insists exercise is not the only way to sculpt a person’s body. He has been operating on patients seeking to improve their appearance for more than 20 years.
Late spring and early summer sees a rush of enquiries from people looking to improve their body for the beach—in what he calls “Operation Bikini.” Speaking to Metropolitan he said “Most of our consultations come in late spring and early summer when people start thinking about going to the beach.”
Dr Paloma, who operates at the Teknon Medical Centre in the city of Barcelona, said the profile of the average client has changed “beyond recognition” in the two decades he has worked in the field. “When I first started cosmetic surgery was available only to a select few, now it is affordable for almost everybody in Spain. Our most popular operations are breast enlargements for women and abdominal surgery for men.”
In an additional shift he says, nowadays around 20 percent of the centre’s clients are men—20 years ago that figure was under one percent. “It’s because men are taking more care of how they look and of their general health.”
However Dr Paloma warns that surgery is not an alternative to exercise and healthy eating. “Surgery is about physical and mental health. It isn’t a replacement for exercise, rather it complements it. Surgery can improve confidence and encourage a healthy lifestyle, as well as improving on what nature has provided.” He continued, “In my experience it gives people a great deal of self-confidence, and a greater desire to look after themselves, to go to the gym and watch what they eat.”
The recent recession means Dr Paloma can no longer take his own holidays during August. “It is now our busiest month, because of the economic crisis lots of people are scheduling operations during their August holidays rather than taking extra time off work.”
Joaquim Plana believes the human body is too often constrained by clothes and he likes to remove them whenever practically possible.
The 56-year-old is chairman of the Club Catalán de Naturismo, which has members of all shapes and sizes, aged from three to 82. Plana, who has been practicing nudism for 25 years, says we should not be ashamed of our bodies, and believes shedding our garments in public has great benefits. “Naturism is more than simply taking your clothes off. It is a way of life, of living in harmony with nature. It is about having respect for yourself and for others.” Conceding that a fundamental part of the movement is being naked, Plana explained, “We enjoy being without the constraints of clothes and it’s not just on the beach, we like to practice nudism by lakes, in the mountains, in the snow, wherever. Whenever clothes are not necessary we like to take them off.” Explaining the appeal Plana added, “It’s about the sensation of freedom you get from not wearing clothes, of feeling the air and water on all parts of your body.”
There are around 650 naturists in the club but Plana observed new members can be shy about revealing their naked bodies in public for the first time. His advice is to start off practicing nudism at home.
Nudists are protected by the Spanish Constitution and the law does not prevent the practice in any public spaces. The Club is aware of the two or three men who frequent the boulevards along the city beaches in Barcelona but Plana himself does not practice nudism in the city.
A father-of-three from Girona, says he does not believe we need to strip off everywhere. “Being nude in a big city is not ideal, because there are so many people and you are constantly bumping into them. We don’t have a problem with people who want to be naked in the city and we wouldn’t want to restrict their freedom to do it. But we don’t believe we have to be nude everywhere.”
According to Plana, there is far more to the naturist movement than being naked. He describes the close link between nudism and environmentalism, and says many members are also involved in the ecological movement, vegetarianism or animal rights. “Naturalism is a very broad philosophy, it’s about more than simply taking off your clothes.”