Musings of a Grumpy Old Man and Why Kids Today Have It So Darn Good (at Least in the Gym)

So, I was just sitting here earlier today, shooing some young whipper-snappers off my lawn, when it occurred to me that kids really do have it better today than when I was growing up.

Not so much in terms of jobs, economic mobility, etc. (heck, even us old folks don’t seem to have that anymore), but in terms of training and especially in terms of lifting.

Way back when dinosaurs roamed this great land and you couldn’t stand still for long without melting the soles of your shows (the Earth was still cooling you see) – so basically before 1985 – if you said out loud to someone that you wanted to be a bodybuilder you would have been ridiculed. The only reason anyone went to a gym was to…well actually almost no one went to the gym. Weight training was not a part of high school sports because “bulk” (aka “muscles”) only slowed you down. It might be okay for the occasional high school line backer to lift weights but even he couldn’t do it often for fear that those muscles would not only slow him down but tighten him up so badly that he couldn’t move. And a girl lift weights? Not even if everyone thought she was a lesbian (which she would never admit back in those days by the way).

Nutrition consisted of pretty much anything you could put into your mouth, well sweets weren’t good so you only had them after dinner, but there was no real talk of protein, fats, carbs, or anything else.

Now, some people may still be ridiculed for wanting to be a bodybuilder, but today you have guys (and gals) openly talking about working on their “six pack,” adding a few pounds for the summer, and proudly taking pictures of themselves while locked in their bathroom to show off any new gains (okay, so maybe bodybuilding isn’t completely out of the water closet yet). And it seems that everyone is aware of their diet these days (did you see what I did back there with “water closet?” cute, huh?). Though most of us clearly don’t pay attention to nutrition despite knowing the rules.

So, all in all, I think that there are advantages to training in the early 21st century, even without flying cars. What do you think?

Next up: why you are driving to gosh darn fast!

Early Inspirations

Even though I’ve obviously never been a serious bodybuilder/weightlifter, for as long as I can remember I’ve had an interest in the sport. Though there are those who don’t really think it’s a sport. But at the very least it’s a competition, albeit a subjective one from a judging point of view. Much like boxing is when I come to think of it (barring a KO). I’ll call it a sport anyway as it is a competition, it does involve training and much like professional football and baseball they like to pretend that there is no steroid use or abuse (“no, really, I just naturally have 23″ arms and can bench press a Ford F-150 judge…”). But, I digress…

As I was saying I’ve always had an interest and I must say it was this interest that first led me to pick up a weight in my teen years when my father one day bought a weight set (I suspect that he was a bit of a frustrated bodybuilder himself looking back on it). That and the fact that I never really identified with the “jocks” in high school and was actually afraid to work out with them. Of course, back then weight lifting was not really advocated by the coaches, especially for those of us on the track team who were not in the strength related field events (i.e. shot put). Also, my high school was not well equipped in the weight room department. I remember we had one Universal Lifting machine in a small store room just off the gym near the custodian’s office. It was tough in those days. Today, by comparison, I understand that the weight room at my old high school takes up what used to be the entire wood shop. But, again, I digress…

Anyway, I’ve often wondered if my interest stemmed from my early reading of comic books (back in the sixties kids actually read comic books, today it’s mostly 20-40 year olds). But not because comics were filled with hyper-muscled heros (and women very blessed by mother nature by the way, but not as well endowed as many of today’s super-heroines), but because of the ads that filled the pages of every book.

You see, I think Charles Atlas, Joe Weider, and other gurus of bodybuilding understood that the boys reading comic books were the boys who would become the teens who would want, nay yearn, for their products with the promise of building muscle, defeating the bully, and getting the girl. And, they were right. While much of the public at the time saw bodybuilders as oddities or worse yet, freaks, the men who sold muscle building “systems” knew that behind every skinny kid lived a super-hero waiting to get out.

Well, it worked for me…but not completely. Though I have always had an interest and have tinkered with weights – getting serious about it here and there (see my earlier post on bench pressing) – my true love revealed herself later. Yes, I’m talking about theatre and let me tell you, theatre is a demanding mistress (or mister if you prefer). Takes a lot of time and effort, more so than most people think. And let’s not even talk about work and other life commitments! Okay, excuses all, but I’m sticking with it. We all make priorities in life and somewhere along the line bodybuilding for me fell to the middle of the priority list (at least not to the bottom as it clearly has for so many Americans).

I’d be interested to hear about other people’s early bodybuilding inspirations and/or stories. I’d even like to hear about comic books and theatre too!


Dave Draper ad for Joe Weider
I remember this ad clearly. Dave Draper in the sixties was something to behold. He is still an active bodybuilder today and still sports those impressive arms.
Arnold Schwarzenegger early ad for Joe Weider
When I first saw this ad I wanted those wrist weights. I thought for sure I’d look just like Arnold even though I was only eight or so at the time!
Early Charles Atlas Ad
Don’t we all know about the “Insult That Made a Man Out of Mac” the original bodybuilding ad.
Arnold Schwarzenegger and Betty Weider in a Joe Weider ad
Picking up women was a strong theme in these ads. FYI I believe that the lovely young women who Arnold is holding up is Betty Weider, Joe’s wife.