We've all been taught that dedication and discipline are great virtues. Work hard at something and you'll earn your just
rewards. Work harder at something than anyone else and you'll be the best. Oh, but if life were only that simple.
Dedication and discipline are great indeed, but other variables are involved in all of life's quests. Tunnel vision, an
all-encompassing focus on the finish line, can keep you clawing towards the end, but it can also block your view of the
Take off the blinders for a moment. Virtually all of the richest people in the world inherited what you and I would consider great wealth (all but five on a recent Forbes 400 list). Bill Gates aside, it almost always takes generations to accumulate billions. Likewise, if you weren't born with the genetics to grow to a height of at least seven feet, you can pretty much discount playing center in the NBA, and, Spud Webb aside, it'll be damn hard even to play point guard at a height of less than 6'2". That's just the way the ball bounces. Closer to home, nearly all the best bodybuilders in the world were blessed with tremendous genetics. Sure, you can train harder, diet stricter, utilize all the state-of-the-an legal or illegal accompaniments you can get your hands on, but here are the hard facts: Those with the natural-born structure and metabolism to most easily pack on lean muscle almost always win in the end, and the further you advance up the contest hierarchy of our sport the more evident this truth is. On today's Mr. Olympia stage, after going through all the training, dieting and supplementing, only the most gifted of the most gifted win.
But wait. Before you curse your parents or throw down this magazine and grab a box of jelly donuts and a fifth of scotch, remember that everyone can benefit tremendously from bodybuilding. Weight training is still the best method for gaining the type of body you want, whoever you are and whatever your genetics. We all can make significant positive changes in our appearance through bodybuilding.
Genetics or not, the reality about bodybuilding is that practically everything we do, eat or even breathe affects our bodies.
Therefore, as the cliché goes, we're bodybuilders 24 hours a day. For better and in some cases for worse, a lot of us never forget it. Many trainers spend 10 percent or more of their waking hours in a gym and the other 90 percent thinking and dreaming about getting back to the bench press. Life for these perennial gym rats is a strict regimen of sets, reps and rest periods, enlivened only by protein intake, steroid stacks and sodium restriction.
Tunnel vision creates a paradox for bodybuilding enthusiasts. On the one hand it can, in the form of dedication and discipline, contribute to success. On the other hand it can manifest itself in a suffocating, unhealthful mindset. Many trainers define themselves almost exclusively through bodybuilding. They participate in no other physical activity besides weightlifting because basketball or bowling might steal a little precious energy from their workouts. They evaluate all people, places and things by how these people, places and things affect their physique goals. They're iron-pumping zombies and proud of it. Sometimes this super dedicated lifestyle pays off as planned. Sometimes if they have the right genetics, and sometimes even if they don't, the bodies of these people thrive on this regimen.
But what about the people inside the bodies? Knowing what we already know about the odds of any but the most genetically blessed rising to the top of the competitive physique world, to what end are some people concentrating excessively on bodybuilding? Wake up, zombies! Read something besides the articles on this website, muscle-heads! (But, of course, don't stop visiting this website.) For your own well-being live a well-rounded life. Cultivate friends and interests outside the gym. There's a big beautiful world beyond the barbells and protein shakes. Don't become a slave to a preacher-curl bench and a variable-speed blender.
Breaking the spell of tunnel vision is not just good for your spirit, your mind, your soul; it is also good for your body. Muscles thrive a little too comfortably on routines. To keep sinew changing for the better, you sometimes need to break up the usual mix. Don't be afraid of a high-fat meal every now and then. It can give your contented metabolism a jump start, setting it up to better respond to a low-fat diet. The same can be said for laying off supplements for a week or two, allowing them to have a greater effect when you pop them again. And don't fear a few days (even a week or more) away from the gym. Vacations foster recuperation and set muscles up for a growth-inducing shock when you return to the barbells. Other physical activities-running, cycling, basketball, swimming, whatever - in moderate doses are not enemies to muscle growth. Change and variety are good. They're what keep your muscles guessing, altering and growing to meet unexpected challenges.
Tunnel vision is both a blessing and a curse. Discipline and dedication are good, but they can be taken to extremes. They can crowd out some of the real pleasures - a social life, unencumbered free time, the occasional pizza and beer... Success in bodybuilding does require dedication and discipline, but even Mr. and Ms. Olympia should allow time for all the other fun things in life - and they do.
Few of us possess anywhere near the potential needed to reach the top of Mount Olympus, and yet many of us pursue bodybuilding with a tunnel vision, an all-encompassing passion that exceeds that of the best professional bodybuilders. To what end?
Take off the blinders. Be honest with yourself about your potential. Live a well- rounded life for the betterment of your mind, your spirit and your body. Bodybuilding tunnel vision to the extent that it means training dedication and a belief in the power of barbells and protein is a positive force. But never allow tunnel vision to trap you in a one-way passage with no light at the end. Experience that big beautiful world outside. Live in it. Get out of the tunnel.