Last Saturday, Men's Fitness lost one of its best models, ambassadors, and all-around favorite people. It’s not an exaggeration to say that Greg Plitt had one of the most iconic physiques of all time, and was among the most popular and inspirational figures the fitness industry ever produced. And while gym-goers everywhere will miss him, those who knew him personally more fully understand what a devastating loss this is—not just to an industry, but to the world at large.
I met Greg 10 years ago when he modeled for some workouts I edited for Men’s Fitness, and we became friends right away. I can tell you that Greg was exactly the kind of person all his followers hoped he really would be—a genuine superhero. There seemed to be nothing he couldn’t do. He was a champion athlete, a captain in the Army Rangers, a fitness model who sported a second-to-none physique year-round, a burgeoning television and movie star, trainer, life coach, and overall force of nature.
I visited him at his apartment when he lived down the street from me in New York City. He had an armoire in his room that looked like something crafted in the Victorian era. I asked him where he got it and he said, “I made it.” Carved it himself in his spare time. No big deal.
Greg was a Renaissance man. He had good looks and great genetics, but he wasn’t content to rely on them. He was always learning new things and challenging himself. He wanted to learn the guitar so I showed him a few chords. He seemed to be as excited about that as he was over victories that were far greater.
As his star rose and Greg moved to L.A., I saw him less frequently. Sometimes more than a year would go by without us seeing or speaking to each other. But when I did run into Greg, he knew me right away. That megawatt smile would spread across his face and he’d charge through whatever crowd of fans he had drawn to give me a big bro hug. And he always wanted to know how I was doing and if there was anything I needed.
Greg never forgot his friends, and refused to let his own celebrity overshadow any time you spent with him.
For a guy who had so many fascinating stories to tell about life in the Army, making movies, partying in Hollywood (and yes, enjoying having his pick of women), Greg was much more interested in how somebody was bettering him or herself—how much weight they’d lost or how they were going to keep that promise they’d made to themselves a long time ago.
Almost as hard as accepting that Greg is gone is that he actually could die at all. He seemed invincible to cigarettes, alcohol, war, the wrath of ex-girlfriends… and time. Greg’s mortality is a reminder that even the fittest don’t always survive, and that we all need to appreciate the people we love because they can disappear permanently. And they often do when we’re least prepared for it.
It’s also a reminder to appreciate our potential as human beings and all the things we’re capable of, from building an outstanding body to becoming an outstanding leader, friend, and humanitarian.
That’s what Greg was—and those are the things he wanted for everybody.