Thursday, May 20, 2021

Insanity or Inspiration

When I was a young kid my Dad took me to see a foreign film called Aguirre, The Wrath of God. It is
about a Spanish expedition in South America searching for gold. Their power hungry leader, Aguirre, ruthlessly endangers his army and plunges them deep into the jungle. In the final scene he is the sole survivor floating down the Amazon river on a raft and speaking about the great cities he will build and the powerful kingdom he will establish there. He was moments from death and powerless yet was totally convinced that he was still going to conquer and rule the Incans. 


Sorry for the spoiler, but that scene has always stuck with me. It has caused me to question if there is a fine line between obsessive insanity and persistent inspiration. Many of the greatest battles we face are mental and psychological ones. I have always been fascinated by the concept of people doing what others said was impossible. Sometimes those achievers are labeled as being crazy Some examples of this are:

Sir Edmund Hillary climbing to the top of Mount Everest

Roger Bannister breaking the 4 minute mile

George Hood maintaining a plank position for over 8 hours

Luke Aikins jumping out of a plane without a parachute and safely landing in a net

I previously shared a post about James Lawrence, a.k.a. The Iron Cowboy. Several years ago he completed 50 triathlons in 50 states in 50 consecutive days. Since that time he has undertaken a bigger challenge of doing 100 consecutive triathlons. As of today, he has completed 80 triathlons over the last 80 days and intends to keep this up over the next 20 days until he hits 100. That's a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, and then a 26.2 mile run for 100 days in a row!

Surprisingly, doing amazing things doesn't always bring you admirers. I know James has taken some flack from some who criticize him saying these are not actual sanctioned races but just putting in the mileage. Even people from the Iron Man organization have gotten on him over this which is mind blowing since he is only bringing more publicity to the sport. What he is doing is an insane physical feat and because of that, it is an even bigger mental accomplishment. I'm not a triathlete, but I've got a ton of respect for what he's done. 

Most of us are never going to attempt a world record or do an extreme physical accomplishment like those listed above, but we still need the proper mind set, determination, and commitment to do anything worthwhile. 


Remember, when you are persistently working towards your goals you can accomplish what others say is impossible or even more important, what you once considered to be impossible. There may be a fine line between insanity and inspiration, but time will tell the critics which side you were on.

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Movie Star Makeovers

I've always been impressed when a movie star makes a drastic physical transformation in order to portray a character in a film. This is usually the case in superhero and action movies. Many months prior to shooting, these actors are working hard around the clock and have unlimited budgets for personal trainers, dieticians, and other experts to help them achieve a very muscular and fit look. As you can see below, Christian Bale has gone through a range of extremes for a variety of movie roles.

It's always surprising when you see one of these stars in a different movie a year later and they look just like a normal person again. This just goes to show how important consistency and lifestyle change is for long term results. When they stop the extreme measures they were taking, they return to their "normal" selves. Frequently when you see someone make one of these amazing transformations in such a short amount of time, people will accuse them of using performance enhancing drugs like steroids. Some critics accuse anyone who has larger muscles than them as being on the juice, but there are also less jealous observers out there with very valid concerns about these fast and drastic results.

I have no problem if someone decides to include pharmacology to prepare for a movie role or if they just want to change their personal appearance. It's not like they are an Olympic athlete and have rules against doing so. What I do have a problem with is when they claim it's all natural and that everyone can accomplish what they did if they eat 6 chicken breasts a day and just work hard. Over the years I 've seen so many people promoting celebrity workout programs or diets so you can look just like them. I find it equally disappointing when athletes promote supplements and credit them as the reason for their success or amazing physique.

Last week I saw the video below by Josh Brett. He's created some great Youtube videos about the fitness industry and does such an excellent job sharing insights about this Hollywood makeover process. I have been saying so many of the things mentioned in this video for years, but his presentation is much more professional than anything I could produce on the subject. I highly recommend you watch this eye-opening short video.

By the way, I'm a fan of every single actor that is featured in this video so I am not hating on them. I really can't say I blame any of them if they do use PEDs to prepare for a movie role, but I don't appreciate when certain media sources attempt to make the results you see on the big screen appear to be the result of just hard work, especially when they are trying to sell you something to get the same results but they ignore a very large part of the equation to their getting such drastic results so fast.

I'm a big fan of goal setting, hard work, and competition, but I'm also a fan of the truth. Many of today's youth are deceived and have unrealistic physical and beauty standards to live up to thanks to social media, filters, photoshop, and performance enhancing drugs. That is why I tell clients to measure their health and fitness progress against themselves as opposed to the stars they see on the big screen.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Bodybuilding Insights

Last week Big Ramy was crowned the 16th man to win Mr. Olympia since the contest started back in 1965. The first time I remember seeing a bodybuilder was as a little kid in the late 70's. I was watching The Streets of San Francisco and a particular episode featured Arnold Schwarzenneger as one of the characters. Later in the 80's I'd watch Lou Ferigno as The Incredible Hulk each week. Muscles eventually got more mainstream over time thanks to Hulk Hogan, Sylvester Stalone and many others in sports, entertainment, and Hollywood.

Around 1999 while waiting for a prescription to be filled, I sheepishly picked up a body building magazine for the first time from the magazine rack. It was Muscle Media, which was Bill Phillips magazine. It fell open to a page featuring dozens of before and after pictures of people and I was blown away when I realized that the amazing transformations took place over a short period of 12 weeks. I was equally impressed by the fact that most of them were regular people, not professional bodybuilders. It motivated me enough to actually do the challenge myself. It went pretty well. I lost fat, gained muscle, and got much stronger. Completing the challenge and seeing my own improvements was one of the things that motivated me to go into personal training over 20 years ago.

My Body for life results

Since that time I have followed bodybuilding kind of like I follow MMA. I find it very entertaining and I appreciate the athletes hard work but at the same time I've never aspired to be in an octagon or posing on a stage. I enjoy lifting weights for conditioning and for the health benefits, but I have never been strong when it comes to muscular strength. I was always the tall skinny guy who was good at sports but could hardly do a pullup. My passion was playing basketball and later running and those activities don't usually produce swole physiques. 

Since I moved to Ghana over 3 years ago I have really struggled with exercising. I love basketball but have had a hard time finding decent facilities or people who even want to or know how to play. It's always so hot and humid so running is a miserable, sweaty experience here that can only be done during certain hours of the day.

Last month I decided to check out Agyefam gym which is about a mile away from my house. It can't hold a candle to most facilities back home since the equipment is very old and not working so well but the environment makes all the difference for giving me the motivation to work out. I'm not a fan of the. limited hours, crowded rooms, or the loud music they play, but it's easier for me to have an intense workout among other people as opposed to being alone at home and just going through the motions.

This gym has all kinds of patrons. There are some big, strong experienced lifters, as well as rail thin novices, but it provides an energetic environment to help people workout. So, for the next several months I am going to focus on bodybuilding since I don't have a lot of other exercise options. We will see what kind of progress a 52 year old man can make over a couple months.

Even though I have never considered myself a bodybuilder, I still appreciate the sport and the many athletes I've followed over the years. Some of my favorite bodybuilders include:

Guys from the 70's and 80's- This obviously includes Arnold Schwarzenneger, Frank Zane, Franco Columbo, Tom Platz, and Lee Haney. I really liked the proportions and appearances that were common during this era.

Athletes from the 90's were incredibly competitive- Kevin Levrone, Lee Priest, Flex Wheeler, and Shawn Ray had great physiques. This was also when Dorian Yates started ushering in the mass monster stage. Guys went from being huge, to massive, to freakish.

The 2000's and beyond.  Even though I can't relate to the insane figures of many of these athletes, I have a lot of  respect for the repeat champions like Dorian, Yates, Ronnie Coleman, Jay Cutler, Phil Heath, and others. Recently I've been enjoying all kinds of entertaining interviews from these guys. It's so interesting to hear stories of their training philosophies, competitive natures, and different personalities. 

Professional Bodybuilding may have a dark side with performance enhancing drugs, body image issues, and focusing strictly on aesthetics, but even so, I admire the athlete's accomplishments. Even with the aid of steroids and other PEDs, and even though many of them already have incredible genetics, it still requires so much discipline and hard work to do what they do. The camaraderie and sportsmanship I've seen from those competing in the sport is also commendable.