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Compare Despair

Whom you compare yourself to can make or break your motivation

Have you ever done this? The other day someone in the gym was telling me how good I looked. Rather than thanking him for the compliment and enjoying the positive reinforcement, I said something along the lines of, ‘Yeah, but my arms suck.’ The person looked at me funny and said, ‘Your arms? What are they, about 18 inches?’ To which I replied, ‘That’s nothing these days.’ Immediately I recognized the stupidity of that assessment, seconds before my acquaintance pointed it out to me.

‘Compared to what?’ was his rhetorical question. I was about to spout off a list of those I consider to have guns worthy of gods, but even as the roster popped into my head, I had to laugh. I tell people all the time not to diminish their accomplishments by using unfair comparisons, and here I was doing it myself. At least I caught the negative train of thought and nipped it in the bud, but it got me thinking. Whom do we compare ourselves to? If it’s the pro bodybuilders in the magazines, that could be a problem.

For most of us the physiques of the pros are unattainable. That’s not a defeatist statement; it’s a fact. Those men and women are born with genetic traits for muscle size and shape and bone structure that are nearly as rare as the genetic code to grow 7′ tall. In addition, steroids play a large role, but it must be said that without the requisite genetics, all the drugs in the world will not transform a genetic average into someone who can stand next to Ronnie Coleman and Chris Cormier on an IFBB stage. Unfortunately, many bodybuilders never realize that and spend years fruitlessly popping pills and injecting solutions in hopes that the next drug cycle will be the turning point.

Can you compare yourself to others at your own gym? It’s probably a lot more equitable, but it’s still a waste of time. Your body is the only gauge of progress and accomplishment that matters. If you’re bigger and stronger than you were a year ago, then you have achieved a meaningful result. We can’t realistically compare ourselves to others because we are all unique individuals. You may have a better physique than everyone else at your gym. The reasons for that could range from simple genetic luck to your vast superiority in knowledge and higher degree of dedication to proper training and nutrition. Conversely, you might train where you’re average in development. Gold’s Gym in Venice Beach would be such a place for most people, since there are so many great physiques from all over the world who have migrated to that mecca.

The bottom line is this: Unless you’re dead set on bodybuilding competition, never let yourself be concerned with how you measure up to others. That’s not an excuse to become complacent, by any means. The name of the game is continual progress; however, the progress is relative to what you have done in the past. If your best bench press a year ago was 250 and now it’s more than 300, that’s excellent progress. It doesn’t matter that your training partner might be able to push up 405, because you’re not him. The same goes for your physique. If you look better than you ever have before, savor the pride in that, set some new goals, and move on to the next level. Beat your previous bests and you’re a bodybuilding champion, whether your picture adorns a magazine cover or just your refrigerator. IM

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