Live it, Love it

Arnold Schwarzenegger believed in enjoying his bodybuilding lifestyle, not becoming a slave to it. In this classic scene from the ’70s, Arnold (far right) takes in some beach activity with longtime buddies Frank Zane (far left), Dave Draper and Betty Weider (second from right), plus a couple of her friends.

Do you want to know what genuine “in the trenches” training is? Hear me out. When I started training as a teenager in 1962, the last bus from Graz, where my gym was, to my home in Thal was 7 PM. My workouts finished after seven, so I would ride my bike home after every training session. Because my arms would be so numb from the training, I often couldn’t control the bike, and I’d fall into a wayside ditch. Now that’s “in the trenches” training.

It was a fantastic feeling sitting in the ditch with my arms aching. My arms were so numb that I couldn’t comb my hair the next day, but the muscle soreness meant my muscles were growing. A whole new world, in which I was the boss and in charge of my destiny, had opened up. I realized that I could make myself into the person I wanted to be, as long as I stayed focused and dedicated to reaching my goals. If I had to choose one word to describe bodybuilding, it would be “joy.”

As I became older, I retained that enthusiasm, not just for bodybuilding, but for life itself. The positive attitude I apply to all aspects of my life has its foundations in bodybuilding.

A great thing was the pace of my progress, and the time I allotted to it was of my own making. That’s what I urge each FLEX reader to do. Set your own goals, apportion the correct time to work for those goals and then enjoy! I can think of no better way to embrace life than to bodybuild. The act of building and strengthening one’s muscles through training and sound eating habits is an affirmation of the miracle of the human body itself. Ways to do that are abundant in the pages of FLEX. In this month’s issue, for instance, we have a feature on Mark Dugdale and Troy Alves training for a classic V-taper physique; an article on the lowdown on which supplements will boost the effects of a lowcarb diet; and the continuation of the Brute Strength Program and its radical approach to muscle and power gains.

Use FLEX as your personal trainer. Get out of it what you want. Above all, enjoy your bodybuilding. Don’t be like some people who lose sight of the joy of bodybuilding and have managed to sap it of its life. I see bodybuilders today, and not just professionals, who have turned themselves into slaves to their sport. Men and women in the gym and even at the Arnold Fitness Weekend expo walk around with somber expressions.

They carry gallon-size plastic jugs of water, as if their bodies will need that amount during the next few minutes. They have to eat every two hours, no matter what, and they eat nothing but chicken and rice, even though the next contest is months away.

When I was competing, sure, we were serious about training, but we enjoyed our gym time and always had a spare moment for a joke or a friendly smile. The only water we ever needed was supplied by the gym’s water fountain.

When it came to eating, we also followed a practical philosophy. We made sure to eat three substantial bodybuilding-friendly meals a day and then add protein or nutritious snacks between those meals to stoke the muscle-building furnace.

Often, after workouts, a group of us would have a feast at the Rose Cafe in Venice, California, or at Zucky’s Deli on Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica. In the weeks leading up to a contest, our diets would be clean — chicken or fish, rice and vegetables — otherwise, we’d order hamburgers or steaks, put ketchup on top and enjoy our meals immensely.

My point is that there’s no good reason why you can’t enjoy your life and bodybuild at the same time. Bodybuilding should never be a burden, something that impedes the rest of your life. When that becomes the case, you may need to reevaluate your approach to bodybuilding and to your life in general.

So, put down that gallon jug, stop yourself from trying to work out the calorific value and macronutrient breakdown of a Korean yam, get out there and enjoy your bodybuilding experience. Believe me, the more you follow the FLEX philosophy, the more you will enjoy bodybuilding and the better your results will be.