Today’s article was inspired by my glorious 40th birthday and my brother’s wise input (he came as a surprise guest from Germany – best gift ever!!)
Needless to say, we spent my big day in the gym…but not any gym; we trekked out to Bev Francis powerhouse gym in Syosset, Long Island. For the uninitiated, Bev’s is more or less considered to be the best gym on the East Coast in terms of equipment and atmosphere. And it delivered! Aside from Gold’s Gym in Venice Beach, I have never seen so many cool toys in one place. Another nice feature is that people there actually work out as opposed to be sipping lattes and chatting on their phones.
In short, we had an outstanding workout but in days after we discussed how the gym is symptomatic for the sport of bodybuilding. Bev’s is off-the-beaten path and hard to find, just like bodybuilding is a niche sport. The difference to other niche sports is that bodybuilding is met with way more prejudices than let’s say, lacrosse. Usually, people that are overly muscular are being labeled as not so bright, aggressive, etc.
One of the reasons: it is rather difficult to hide muscularity (no lacrosse player would take his stick into the subway and start bouncing the ball incessantly). Then, there is a certain standoffish-ness from the bodybuilding scene itself; many top level pros and amateurs are almost proud to be outsiders and behave accordingly (the Affliction and Ed Hardy shirts really need to go!!!).
I do not even want to get into the whole drug discussion; it would lead too far. Just as a footnote, drug use is as rampant in bodybuilding as it is in other sports, but the visibility is much greater in the former. Lance Armstrong used a lot of drugs, but never weighed more than 150 lbs soaking wet, so most people would not label him as a typical steroid user. Things are quite different when someone sees a 280 lbs competitor. Again, I am not justifying anything, but merely pointing out a different perspective.
Moreover, there is a great degree of misinformation about the sport and what it can do for people which then obscures its beauty (yes, this article is going somewhere). Granted, I am being heavily biased being a competitor and personal trainer in NYC but I believe that bodybuilding has huge benefits for anyone. First, lets clear up the semantics: when I say bodybuilding I mean that in the truest sense of the word: anyone who picks up a dumbbell to improve his/her physique. This does not necessarily mean weighing 280 lbs on stage; different people, different goals…
Bodybuilding can be extremely positive and empowering! The main reason I love BB is the element of control. When my mother was very ill, the gym was my sanctuary. No matter what goes on in the outside world,100 lbs will always be 100 lbs. Plus, once you have created your own physique you realize anything in life is possible!
Another thing that is baffling to me is that most people join a gym with the intent to get leaner and/or bigger. Ok, let’s take a look around and see who are the biggest and leanest people on the planet? That is right: bodybuilders! So maybe, just maybe, in some crazy twist of the Universe these guys might be on to something and could be able to help you on your journey.
By the same token, dear bodybuilders, enough with the low pulled hoodies and the 1,000 yard stare! Go out and talk to people! We can all coexist and make the world a prettier place!