CHANGED MAN

Kenny Chesney's triceps are straining as he pushes his body up between two parallel bars - an impressive feat, considering there's a 45-pound weight hanging from his waist. Beads of sweat dot his forehead, but with a determined grimace, he repeats the exercise again and again.

To the non-hard-bodied masses, this looks like a form of torture. To Kenny, it's all in a day's work.

"I've been working out this intensely for about three years," he explains, resting for a moment on a weight bench. "I've always been active, but in the past three years I've been working out like a pro athlete. It's changed my life."

When Kenny burst on the scene in 1993 with his debut single, "Whatever It Takes," he looked like many other male singers of that era, sporting jeans, a big belt buckle, a boyish, round baby face - and a few extra pounds.

"Back then, when I was on the road I'd get offstage and eat pizza at 2 o'clock in the morning and drink a bunch," he remembers. "You do that for two or three years and, all of a sudden, your jeans don't fit the same.

"I look back at pictures from that time and I don't look like the same guy. I'll never go back to eating like I did."

These days, Kenny's diet is strictly monitored by Daniel Meng, the personal trainer he's been working with since 2000. Daniel recalls their first meeting. "Kenny was a typical guy who lifts weights and doesn't know what he's doing," he notes with a grin. "All he did was stuff for his chest, his shoulders - things that impressed people. So our main concern, initially, was getting his whole body in shape at once, and getting him cardiovascularly in shape.

"He listened to everything I said," adds Daniel. "He didn't complain. But the major thing was his eating. When I started going on the road with him full-time, that was the biggest curveball. He didn't realize what it took to really get lean."

What it took was cutting out nearly all of Kenny's favorite foods. "I love pizza, ice cream and cheeseburgers," admits Kenny. "I grew up in the country; I love fried food. And I haven't had a lot of fried food, cheeseburgers or pizza in the past couple of years.

"But one thing that helps me get through eating broccoli, chicken, carrots and egg whites all the time is, on Sundays, I can eat anything I want to, and as much as I want to. So, when I get to Wednesday and want something other than what's on my diet, I go, 'If I can just wait a couple more days, it'll be Sunday.' When Sunday comes, it's that much sweeter."

Kenny's body is not the only thing that's different. "I've changed in so many ways," he states. "I'm not the same person I was five years ago. I'm not the same singer or entertainer. I think I'm recording and writing better songs now, and singing better in the studio.

"With changing my body like I did, it gave me a lot more confidence onstage. There's a difference between being cocky and being confident. I feel very confident when I go onstage now. I didn't feel that way when I had a gut hanging over my belt buckle."

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