MUSCLED UP OR BOUND BY OBSESSION?
What are your thoughts on professional bodybuilding? I only ask because I have a nephew who’s just turned 16 and is absolutely obsessed with the sport. His mother and I worry about the dark side of things – eg. steroids and so on. But my nephew wants a weight set for his birthday. Any advice you can offer would be appreciated.
Doris in Manatoba
Dear Doris with Dumbbells:
You’ve asked two very different separate questions; the first regarding what is laughingly consider ‘pro’ and ‘a sport’; the second – an inquiry about becoming physically fit. So, permit me to answer these polar opposite concerns in turn, with the disclaimer that I, of course, am not a physician.
No, some hulking 300lb. brute will have no shame in going before a television camera with biceps the size of most average men’s thighs and declare that he built such extraordinary girth through vitamin supplementation, healthy eating and sheer will power alone. To admit otherwise would force a competitor out of competition.
Yet, year after year we see a healthy sampling of these ‘unhealthy professionals’ succumb to a barrage of ailments, even death, while still in their late twenties and early thirties.
So, does every bodybuilder on steroids die early of a side effect?
For every physician who goes on record claiming steroid abuse provided the catalyst for these illnesses there are two or three others – usually funded by some pharmaceutical company exploiting young impressionable men as their guinea pigs – who will suggest that any illness, whatever it may be, was destined to happened to the individual in question with or without steroids filtered into the equation.
To be clear – steroids are an accelerant, nothing more.
The surge of false energy that follows convinces the mind that the body is stronger than it actually is and, as a result, a man on steroids can lift more weight, harder and for longer periods of time, so that the body is thrown into overdrive 24/7.
There are all sorts of different steroids.
The problem with steroids is that they accelerate not only the external appearance of the body but also its internal workings. Heart rate and blood pressure rise and the aging processes go into overdrive, wearing out such vital organs as the heart, liver, lungs and kidneys.
I understand perfectly why your nephew is ‘obsessed’ with the sport in general and bodybuilders in particular.
And anyway, artists of humanity have always had a curious predilection for extolling the virtues of an overtly muscular male form: Michelangelo’s statue of David (right) and his painting of the very chiseled hand of God touching a rock solid naked man’s (below) being but two prime examples.
You would do wise to point out to your nephew – or, more ideally have some male figure illustrate the point for you – that the irony of bodybuilding on steroids is that it makes you look as though you could uproot an entire tree and carry it over one shoulder like a match stick, but in actuality these drugs have weakened virtually all normal functions within the body – including physical strength. Bodybuilders on steroids are frequently prone to bouts of lethargy, physical exhaustion and mental blackouts and these symptoms only increase as the drug abuse wears on.
For these boys, an average or even slightly above average male physique doesn’t appear normal.
And even if this disproportionate physique is attained, the goal of being bigger than big is never quite reached to their full satisfaction of the bodybuilder. As time wears on, setbacks of either illness or injury lead to inevitable pauses in their regular workout regime with a reduction in their girth that these boys find appalling – even depressing.
There are too many reasons to list herein as to why super huge is a bad idea. Suffice it to state for the record that personal mobility, finding clothes that actually fit and frequent outbreaks of surface acne fall to the bottom of this list of negatives when one is facing drug induced leukemia or a malignant brain tumor.
Finally, steroids – though readily available in every venue from the high school gym to the local health club – are against the law.
There - so much for the first part of your question. As per part two, my advice is quite simple and infinitely shorter to digest: buy your nephew his weight set.
The Crabby Critic