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California Thor: A Conversation w/Mark Raines…

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Mark Raines is a man known by many talents, yet to many he is and will always be California Thor. A man taking the lessons of life and using them like Thor’s mighty hammer and smashing through obstacles, with one goal in mind. That is moving forward. Not stopping, regardless of the struggles. Keeping faith with his beliefs in God and family; yet staying extremely hip and modern. Having the ability to reach young people without seeming like a hypocrite and or old fashion.

Mark Raines is neither of those things and by his actions; is already a superhero of the hearts and minds to his fans and his family.  MILANO411.com had heard rumors of this man prior to the FRIENDING and eventual contact via our FaceBook page. Yes, gentlemen, when MILANO411.com contacts you; we mean business. That encounter was more than just business, it was rather an awakening and a great learning experience too. See, our magazine always wants to profile those muscle guys and lifters from the muscle-culture community, also known as bodybuilders; that inspire and transform minds for the better. Men that spend more time building something possible and positive for their fellow man and womankind too; versus, endless juvenile meme dribble through the social media sphere. The greatest invention since the great Library of Alexandria in ancient Egypt; and it’s used to push hate (mostly powered by Russian cyber-terror agents), and stupid high-school humor. That normally offends and separates. Mark Raines is not in those camps and uses all his social media platforms to inform, bring together people through positive community building, and love. So having all those great traits made him a candidate to be interviewed. He and his ideals are aligned with what we try to push in our magazine, by hoping to raise consciousness on a subject that sometimes gets intellectual scorn. That being fashion.

But fashion also has the ability to change the world and lives, when focused. Another thing that also sometimes receives ridicule is MUSCLE. But what is muscle, but another form of fashion expression! We use the publication to pay homage to what we lovingly call The Gorilla Suit. What is The Gorilla Suit? It is a term our staff uses to describe the muscle that a man has crafted or “sewn” like a seamstress or tailor. Putting time in it’s design, thus confirming to the world that he has the same DNA of the sculptors of the ancient past or the great Italian Renaissance. The cut, shape, color, and final presentation is all controlled by you. The gym is also an equalizer of life and all are equal in front of it’s metal. Mark Raines has proven that his Gorilla Suit is crafted with the finest fibers and his style can’t be easily mass-produced and placed on a mannequin. Rather it must be forged like the mighty hammer of Thor. So come discover the philosophy, loves, and wisdom of the master tailor of The Gorilla Suit. For Mark Raines has sewn one fine one and complimented it with a mind to go with his very sexy masculine form. Ciao from Milano…Gio Benedice.

  1. In 100 or even 500 years time in the future, what do you want a history teacher from the future to say about Mark Raines?

Wow. If anyone even remembers my name or my social media alias California Thor in a 100 or 500 years, that would be pretty cool! My hope is by sharing my creative passions, fitness motivation, my personal story, and the overall theme of “never give up” to my high school students, friends, family, and thousands of followers online my life will positively impact individuals of all ages today who will perhaps share those lessons with future generations. It’d be really sweet if the history books said that somehow I helped men and women have a better sense of self and a healthier  body image, plus made it cool, socially acceptable, and masculine for men to be vulnerable, creative, and compassionate.

  1. What is your philosophy on life as it relates to both gym and out-of-gym activities?

I believe that challenges are an opportunity for change — it’s our choice how we respond to them. I read a quote just recently from Denise Frohman that said “Your wound might not be your fault, but your healing is your responsibility.” Everyone has bad things happen in their lives. Everyone faces difficult challenges. To each individual, those bad things and challenges can be life-altering, whatever degree of difficulty they may be. I’ve personally been through years of tough times recently, with my own health struggles and my mom’s cancer battle. Most of the time we cannot control these painful circumstances that we find ourselves in, but we can control how we respond to them. I think it’s so important to feel sadness and grieve the awful things that happen to us, but that grieving should eventually lead to a turning point, a rising from the ashes so to speak, where we pick ourselves up and use those challenges as fuel for growth and change.

  1. MILANO411 has been watching you for a long time from our FB page. We feel that you’re a hero! What does that word mean to you and your experiences? Especially those with your mother? We feel that you are the best son, a family could have. What can you impart for muscle men and the beautiful women that love them, or anybody; that is going through tough times associated with family health?

Thanks so much! I was a big superhero fan as a kid, because I liked how much they stood for things like truth and justice, plus the costumes were pretty cool. Aquaman was my original superhero favorite, because I was always a beach kid. Thor kind of happened later in life, as I grew my hair and beard and made gains in the gym. To me, a hero is an ordinary person who rises to the occasion during extraordinary  circumstances. There are definitely days I don’t feel very heroic, but I sure have tried to do my best. My older brother and I are very fortunate to have been raised by two loving parents who have  continued to love and support each other (and us) for 55 years.

They both exemplify that definition of a hero. My dad’s greatest influence in my life was the idea that you always give a 100%, regardless of what you’re doing. When he retired, after a 31-year career in the Navy, he was the Chief of Staff over all the oceanographers and meteorologists in the entire Navy. His retirement was a week-long military celebration of his dedication to his profession that I’ll never forget. I also know that my love for the beach and the ocean is grown out of his ocean-based career and our family’s life always living near a coast.

Because Dad was deployed on submarines much of my childhood or traveling for work in my youth, my mom was often basically a single parent, and it felt like she, my brother, and I grew up together. I was a very small, unathletic child and teenager, and I rarely attended a school for more than two years due to our family’s military moves. I was often physically bullied or made fun of in new communities because of my size, lack of athletic ability, or just because I was the new kid. During those times, it often felt like Mom was the only person who believed in me, especially in the times when I didn’t believe in myself.

On many occasions she came to school and advocated for me. She has been a constant source of support, encouragement and love my whole life. When she was diagnosed with an incurable ovarian cancer five years ago, it rocked our family’s world. But the way she has battled to beat all the odds through tons of challenges, like multiple surgeries and chemotherapy, and continues to do so much for others is a major inspiration to me and anyone who knows her. And my Dad’s devotion to her as her primary caregiver to me is his most important legacy. My main advice to anyone dealing with a family health crisis is something a mentor shared with me: you will never regret spending time with your family but you WILL forever regret the time you didn’t.

 

  1. Why did you leave teaching?

I am on a one-year educational sabbatical, and I will return to teaching in San Diego in August 2019. I have taught for 18 years, and I’m fortunate enough to work in a school district in San Diego that supports its teachers and their continuing education which made this leave possible. For the past five years, I have spent a total of about a year and half visiting my parents in North Carolina (if you add all the separate visits together) to help during Mom’s cancer treatments, traveling back and forth from California to North Carolina, including every school break and for some extended times around Mom’s surgeries. My brother and I have taken turns to make sure my parents didn’t have to be on their own during this time. This year-long sabbatical I started last month gives me the opportunity to live with my parents and help them for an entire year, while also working on a master’s degree in Communications online. I teach media, television and film communication in my high school classes, so I’ll be able to bring back what I learn to my students.

 

  1. What values do you try to convey in your youth ministry and mentoring?


Some of the values are the same that I try to teach in my high school classroom: respect for others, teamwork, time management, and personal discipline. I actually care more about those employability skills and lessons in kindness at the core of what I teach, than the specific curriculum. We need this generation to grow up to be caring, reliable agents for change and good. But in ministry, I can also share more of my personal testimony about how God has seen me through some extremely tough times, and about how experiencing an authentic relationship with God through prayer, Bible study, and community can transform you in the image Christ for the sake of others and yourself. I honestly don’t know how I would have made it through the storms of this life without my faith. It’s been awesome to also share my faith online through social media. I recently received this message from a follower, and it’s the type of message that motivates me to keep sharing my story:


From a Mark Raines Fan:

“I need to tell you what an impact something you said made on me and my thought process. You were talking about faith.  And what it takes to maintain that even when everything else is falling apart around you.  Well.  That was me.  Literally.  And I had just thought ‘why do I even bother praying…he doesn’t hear me.’ So I stopped.  And got angrier.  Which is a complete 180* degrees for me as I’m always super upbeat and positive.

Fast forward a few weeks and I’m mindlessly scrolling through IG and I see your page and that you were friends with a few of my friends.  Cool I thought let me check his page out.  The first picture I clicked on talked about holding on. Faith. And your always present “never give up.” Do you know from that day on I woke up?  You even commented back to me and it was so supportive and positive and I was like ‘well….this guy is a big shot and he took the time to answer me.  What a nice dude.’  So thank you Mark. For just being unbelievably kind.  Do you even realize how rare that is in our world today?  It’s easy to be friendly.  But kindness is a whole different ball game.  It takes a conscious effort to be kind.  To give of oneself.  Even to a stranger such as I.”

  1. Besides the gym, what else gave you the strength to persevere through these overwhelming times? With your brain health struggles and also the health challenges of your mother?


I know a lot of people through so many aspects of my life, but I also have a very tight circle of close friends who I regularly share my struggles with, either in person or by phone, including college friends, ministry friends and pastors, some former students, close friends I’ve met through my California Thor Instagram, and current or former co-workers.

The wisest thing I did in the years since my neurological speech problem started was to start meeting on a regular basis with a pastor/counselor to help me navigate grief and what basically amounted to personal trauma. I think a lot of guys are hesitant to go to counseling or share at the depth that’s required to heal, grow, or change. I’ve been that guy, but now I’ve seen how important that has been in my own personal transformation.

7. What are the reasons as to why you’re exceptionally passionate about living the health and fitness lifestyle?


I’ve been interested in fitness since I was young, and I used to buy a lot of the fitness magazines when I was teenager, but I was so small with very high metabolism, I couldn’t see much growth and didn’t really have anyone to guide me. In 1992, I did a television series as a reporter for a local TV station, where I tested a personal fitness and nutrition program and it changed my life. I put on about 25 solid pounds, all while not looking particularly great struggling through the workouts on TV. Haha. I have worked out ever since, and I’ve worked on and off with different trainers over the years. So, when my speech struggles led to the drowsy side effects of Parkinson’s medication, at first I was really struggling to get to the gym. My sleep patterns were all over the place and I was waking up super early with nothing to do. So one day in August 2012, I was up early, sad, mad, and frustrated, so I went to the gym. I immediately saw an increased energy boost until about lunch that day, and I haven’t missed a day doing some kind of fitness or workout since that day.

  1. Are there any particular bodybuilders or fitness models that you admire?


I’ve been fortunate enough to attend and work at the biggest fitness shows like The Arnold and The Olympia with my sponsors Metabolic Nutrition and Flex Comics, so I’ve seen or met some of the big names in the fitness industry, and I really do respect the work, determination, and consistency it requires to get to that level. But, honestly, I’m more interested in the people of all walks of life who are just trying to eat right and get into shape — they motivate me daily. That’s why I follow back almost as many people as Instagram allows. I am also particularly inspired by those who overcome adversity through fitness, like Collin Clark, an Indiana bodybuilder who has Down syndrome, or Adelfo Cerame Jr, a champion wheelchair-bound bodybuilder.

9. Do you have any plans to compete or to pursue a career as a fitness model in the future?


I feel like I train like someone who competes, but at this point I actually enjoy that my training is just about my health and fitness, plus motivating others. I do really respect all levels of fitness competitors, but I don’t have any plans to do that in the near future at this time. I’ve said maybe one day when I stop teaching high school full time I’ll compete in the over 50 or over 60 class just to challenge myself. I’ve enjoyed my introduction to fitness modeling in recent years, and I’ve already worked with some great photographers, so that’s definitely something I would consider continuing or being open to doing more often. It’s been a fun surprise opportunity that I never imagined I would have in my late 40’s.

  1. In these crazy times, on your cross-country trip across the United States to reach your family; what did you learn about America? Where are we possibly going? Who are we, etc.?


On this particular solo, cross-country trip, where I also did five fitness photoshoots, unfortunately, the biggest lesson I learned is to get more sleep and drink more water. It was a brutally long and hot trip across the South in July 2018 that took me awhile to recover from. The last time I drove across country was with a friend in 2011, when my neurological speech problem was at its worst. (I had not been connected to the right neurologist yet who ultimately put me on Parkinson’s medication that now controls my speech.) On that trip, I was blown away by the heartfelt compassion I experienced everywhere from strangers.

When you are struggling with your speech, it’s not something you can really hide when you have to order a meal or beverage or ask someone for directions. That summer, and honestly the whole year my speech was impaired, it really renewed my faith in humanity. Everyone I came into contact with was patient, willing to help, and not condescending in the least. When you are at a point in your life, where you have to ask others for help, it’s very humbling, but it also teaches you just how important is it to ask for assistance when you need it.

11. Explain your tattoo?


I’ll start by saying it was 13 ½ hours over four ink sessions that were extremely painful! But, it is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. My tattoo is an image of a full-color lion that is on my entire left side. The lion represents Aslan, the lion from my favorite childhood book series, the Chronicles of Narnia. In that series, Aslan represents God, and to me the tattoo reminds me of the strength, courage, and perseverance that I could have only experienced through God during so many tough days. Below the lion is the scripture: Ephesians 1:1-14. That particular verse reminds me that I am loved, blessed, accepted, and hopeful, regardless of circumstances.

12. What do you believe the future has in store for you in the health and fitness industry?

You know everything that’s happened to me so far has been such a rare and surprising gift, particularly at this point in my life. It really does feel like I am living a redemption story in real time. Because this experience was so unexpected, I have no idea what’s next. I think it would be awesome to find ways to combine my experience in education, fitness, and television performance and production into more opportunities to motivate others to Never Give Up.

PUBLISHER’S NOTE: On the behalf of the staff of MILANO411.com, Mark Scott, and Jessica Hayden; we would like to sincerely thank Mark Raines for taking the time out of his very busy professional schedule and dealing with the personal challenges his family is experiencing and triumphing over adversity. Mark Raines is a superhero in our books. Thanks for talking to us BRO! Article written by Mark Scott, MR. MILANO411. Edits by Jessica Hayden, Senior Editorial Manager (NYC office) and Luigi Vicaggi, Marketing & Muscle Community Relations Manager (Milano office).

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