Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Example

If you get into enough conversations (or flame wars) about steroid use in sports, or amongst gym rats, you'll eventually find someone who seemingly injects a caulking-gun quantity of common sense into the whole conversation by asking the question: What difference does it make what someone does with their own body? It's nobody else's business but theirs! Or, something to that effect. That often appeals to my strong desire to be a (sort of) unique individual.

Still, I know better. People are watching, and learning, from people all of the time. Sure, it's up to people to figure out for themselves who is worth being elevated a good example of anything. I'm not trying to remove personal responsibility from the equation. Others simply may not have the deductive reasoning or the experience to determine what's a good example for themselves.

Yes, I'm going to bring up the children. It's so cliched at this point but it's also so true. I think that people dead-pan it as a cliche in the first place because they're trying to hide from the awesome responsibility of molding a weak human mind into something strong. A kid's mind is equal parts skull of mush and a steel trap. I learned something from having my 3 year old godson live with my wife and I for several months: never under-estimate the power of the example that I set. Kids are looking to adults for ways to behave. With the proliferation of fat bastards in the USA in turn producing fat kids, most Americans aren't doing a good job.

On the flip side, what does it say when kids then turn to athletes and assorted weightlifting freaks for how to be big and strong? Is drug use part of the answer that we want to give them? If you think back to, "Bigger, Stronger, Faster," the Bell brothers, along with several other people who showed up the film all claimed Arnold as an inspiration. Drug use, like it or not, is linked to getting strong. Is this right? He showed them something, regardless if they read this god-awful book or not!

I never really realized how strong that link was until the past several months. While I'll admit that I do have a pretty good build and I'm pretty strong, I will never claim to be anything resembling the potential that steroids can deliver. Yet, for some bizarre reason, I've been accused by a couple of guys of using steroids this year. I had to laugh at it because I know that I don't look anything like a juicer. That's when I realized something: that's how heavily-welded together PED's and strength training are: people who are really strong must be using something. Sad.
So, some kids may not have developed the ability to reason what a strong, healthy body should be. Some guys are dumb enough to think that you don't get that without steroids. What about those who don't know what strength and health looks like? Nonsense? Well, not if you're a woman! There's where the confusion grows thicker. Women shun real strength training, either voluntarily or by being compelled to by others because strong-looking women are misrepresented. We could have a long debate about whether men or women fuss more about the way their bodies look but we can't dispute the fact that women flock to aerobic classes and cardio machines in droves because the idea is out there that strength training could make them look something like this:
Do I really have to mention that kind of look comes mostly from systematic steroid use? The fact is that women simply don't have the same amount of muscle mass as men do. Sensible strength training won't come close to making a woman man-looking. It takes some pretty intense hormone manipulation, naturally or otherwise. The notion still remains out there that real strength training makes women into men. Where's this generation's Pudgy Stockton when you need her most?
As much as we'd like to think of individual choices as occuring in a vacuum of space that doesn't affect anyone else, that isn't true. Every generation puts forth what they think people should act and be like to the generation that follows. In our subculture, the images and notion of strength are skewed. Out of focus. Since the 1960's, steroids have heavily re-arranged what strength is and what it should look like. All of this was done with no regard as to what the next batch of would-be followers would think. If you're an adult reading this, remember that the way of our culture is ours to mold. Always remember that everyone is watching, men, women and children alike. The question is: are we showing them something that they all should be seeing? Are we really telling the truth?

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