One of the keystones of bodybuilding is that, ideally, it enhances the natural perfection of the human form. Bodybuilding at its highest degree is the celebration of the possible, the physical transformation that only resistance training can create. The cosmetic aspect of bodybuilding is the surface manifestation of hours spent in the gym and attention paid to diet and lifestyle.
Again and again I hear the same mantra: A photo inspired me to start on my path in bodybuilding. It is never the written word; that comes later. As Arnold always said, “The want precedes the will.” The photograph is usually the basis of the want. Reading and learning about the subject is part of the will.
IRON MAN is all about the lifestyle of bodybuilding, and while the cosmetic aspect probably fueled the “want” for most of us, bodybuilding is really about choices. The choice to begin bodybuilding starts a cascade of decisions that form the habits of a lifetime.
When I was a teenager, all of my friends smoked; I did not. It was the same with excessive alcohol use. I was able to resist the peer pressure because I was a bodybuilder. Eating junk food—no way, simply because it was incompatible with bodybuilding. Every bodybuilder I know in my age group who’s still training will tell you the same story. The bodybuilding mind-set—let’s call it our set of self-imposed rules—impacts our lives on many levels, from choice of friends to choice of food.
Bodybuilding is about pleasure—the pleasure of accomplishment, the pleasure of strength that enhances our lives physically, mentally and emotionally. One of the unique aspects of the pleasure is that it can be enjoyed only through personal effort—it can’t be bought. So the process, the ritual, becomes the path to the pleasure. Eventually, the pleasures of the ritual move ahead of the cosmetic rewards. You can’t always make progress in the physical sense, but that doesn’t diminish the pleasure of the workout.
Arthur Jones, brilliant as he was, never understood that process. For him the only usefulness of the workout was that you got bigger and stronger from it. Not so with Arnold, who talked about the pump in pleasure and sexual terms, and he was right. Lifetime bodybuilders understand why the workout and all the rituals that go with it are so personally satisfying and stimulating. They enjoy the feeling of working out and know that it’s one of life’s greater gifts.
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