25 Years of Watching the Freak Show at the Gym

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In all my years at the gym, I can conclude that if you are mentally fragile, you will always be susceptible to a break down. If that happens, that hot bod you worked hard for can get out of shape very quickly.  In my 25 years as a trainer and gym rat, I’ve seen many men and women with sought after bodies let themselves go and quit working out because they couldn’t handle the adversity and pressures of modern living.

Anybody that goes to a gym will understand exactly what I’m about to say. You see it all the time – men and woman temporarily getting in great shape. Then suddenly, they fall back into their bad habits and end up back the way they looked before. I consider these the lucky ones. For others, the stress of life can lead them to a much darker place where substance and self-abuse becomes the survival mechanism. This is self-destruction is all a result of not learning how to overcome adversity. I’ve seen this pattern in my 25 years in working at a gym.

When I first joined Gold’s and World gyms in the early 80’s, I saw a lot of massive people come and go over the years at both places.  I saw guys and gals in their bulking up stage get bigger than you can ever imagine. I’m not talking about the pros like Ferrigno or even Arnold that I would see regularly. It was the amateurs that I was most impressed with. Some of these guys came out of nowhere and were up to a hundred pounds bigger than the pros. They would make your jaw drop if you saw these exaggerated masses of muscle.

Most of the time, I thought for sure some of these no-name colossal monsters would be the next world champion bodybuilders. But to my surprise, just a couple of them ever won anything significant. Some of these amateurs continued to beef it up and train at the gym, but after losing a contest or two, the majority of them withered away and then disappeared. You would constantly hear stories about how some of these big monsters would shrink back to their normal size when they got off the drugs, become fat and out of shape, and then seem to vanish from the face of the earth. They just couldn’t handle the setbacks. Every now and then I would occasionally bump into an old friend from the gym back then. The conversation usually ends up with some reflection on past gym members.

“Hey, do you remember that really strong kid that used to always wear those short-shorts?”

“Yeah, he was super strong. He had the biggest triceps I’ve ever seen. What ever happened to him?”

“You wouldn’t even recognize him. I ran into him the other day. He’s almost 300 pounds and doesn’t even work out anymore. Somebody told me he lives in his car.”

I’m not picking on bodybuilders either. I’ve seen weekend warriors, beautiful models, and actors who were in shape fall apart from the constant disappointment of life’s ordeals. Some survive and continue pursuing their dreams, but others never recover from the harsh pain of adversity associated with the pursuit of stardom. For those who couldn’t handle the emotional suffering, unfortunately a long and horrible road of self-destruction can be the norm. I knew this actress that I was sure would be a big star. She was beautiful and always up for huge movie and television parts. However, she never got that big break. Sadly, the constant rejection really took its toll on her. She stopped going to the gym and I haven’t seen her since.

“Hey, you remember that gal we all thought was going to be a movie star?”

“The one with the legs? Man, was she hot!”

“Ran into her the other day. She ain’t hot anymore. I heard she got hooked on drugs. What a shame.”

Sad conversations like this are way too commonplace between personal trainers in the gym world. So it doesn’t matter how beautiful and strong you look on the outside. If you’re weak on the inside, you will always be vulnerable to a mental collapse and live a life of misery. I used to be mentally weak too as I had my many moments of near psychological break downs. However, I vowed to never to be so again. I realized I had a choice. Through hard work, discipline, and dedication, I have changed my mind set. With this mental toughness blog, I will give you plenty of tips and information on how you can get mentally stronger as well.

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