In an interview with Tim Ferris, Arnold Schwarzenegger described how bodybuilding-the activity, not the competitive sport-has not always been popular.

Doctors, coaches, and those in the know recommended against using resistance training. He said people were afraid it would inhibit performance and make you dumb.
This, of course, is nonsense. Health is wealth, and a sound mind requires a sound body. Being strong makes you harder to kill. But when you think about it, the practice seems a little silly.

Spend hours doing repetitive motions with welded lumps of iron so that the muscles they work will grow.

Teach yourself to enjoy pain, delay gratification, and value the process of building something.

The muscles grow, and so what?

You look better.
Feel better.

Perform better.

Develop discipline.

Have a sense of personal strength that stays with you when you leave the gym.

But what good is that strength anyway, when it really comes down to it?

I’ve never been in a situation where I had to lift 500 lbs off of the ground in perfect conditions, like I have in a gym.

Rather, I have to carry couches at strange angles up flights of stairs and set them down without doing any damage to my body or to property.

It seems a little ludicrous to grab 125 lbs in each hand and then squat on one leg.

But hauling heavy luggage on foot from train stations to apartments when traveling is easier than it would be otherwise.

Obviously, life in the 1st world in the 21st century isn’t very physically demanding. Unless you have the cash to pay someone to do them for you, those are necessary tasks.

You only miss strength when you don’t have it.

You don’t wish you had it until you need it.

Being strong saved my life.

I was in line at Kroger. I was flipping through a magazine when the woman in front of me turned to me quickly, her suddenness grabbing my attention.

“Get down-they’ve got guns!”

I dropped to the floor and questioned her. She told me that a crew of armed men had stormed the store.

The news had been awash with random terrorist shootings and stabbings. The threat of terrorist was real and rampant. Now it was imminent.

You always think those things can’t happen to you. You see them on the news, and while they seem unfathomably horrible, they’re processed through a screen.

Tiny pixels recreating people.

Thousands of miles away.

People you don’t know and will never meet.

The Columbine Massacre happened in my hometown. A decade and a half later, a student entered my high school with the intent to kill many. Tragically, he murdered one girl and then blew his head off when the school resource officer drew on him.

Thank God that officer was there.

I was long graduated, but friends had younger siblings there at the time. None of them were harmed, but nonetheless, it was a chilling reminder that there is no way to predict when someone will enter your world with intent to kill you.

Crouched between a cash-register and a soda machine, I couldn’t believe that this was it.

My time to face death had come. What were the odds the gunmen would pick me out for slaughter?

How many would die?

I have never felt so powerless. Totally at the mercy of another human being. A gunman looming over me as he turned into my line and splitting my body wide with bullets seemed seconds away.

Then I remembered that this was Texas. Someone here surely had a gun on them, and would stop this attack.
But no sounds of defense were made. I could hear a clamor, things being knocked loudly to the ground and muffled voices.

No one had come to the rescue.

I thought of my brother, how sad he’d be if this was all to pass, and how badly I wanted to see our lives play out together.

Of course, I thought of my mother.

And the dogs. I love Titan and TJ.

Fuck this, I thought. No one was going to rescue me. No one was going to stop anyone from doing anything. I was not going to sit around and wait, frozen, for death to greet me like the people around me.

I wasn’t dead yet.

To my left was an aisle, and at the other end, the deli. There lay an exit, I figured. How quickly could I make it from my spot to the other end of the aisle? Quick enough, I figured, that any gunman wouldn’t be able to fire accurately from their position in so short a time. By the time I’d be in their sights, I’d be out the back door.

I made a split-second decision and bolted. Low to the ground as possible, I ducked from my nook to the aisle. Then I bolted into a full-fledged sprint.
Now, I’m not fast, by any means (I ran a 5.08 40 at The Decath10n), but then, I was Usain Bolt.
Faster. I was The Flash. I was Superman on foot. A human Lamborghini with life as its mission.

Like a silent homing missile, I searched at light-speed for the exit. After several dead-ends, I found the loading dock and bolted.
I bolted past several others. They were in the back of the store, and weren’t sure what was happening, but knew leaving ASAP was a good idea.

One group of them were friends I had come in with. I urged them to move quickly. Once outside, some were milling about, wondering what to do.
I led my group on foot to get as far away as possible as quickly as possible.

I could have easily run 5 miles to safety, if needed. We hitched a ride home unscathed.

Soon, it was revealed that the armed men were not terrorists, but robbers, looking to knock over the bank at the front of the store.

But no one knew that at the time.

The danger was still real.

Had I been out of shape, untrained, and soft, there is no telling what might have happened to me.

If the circumstances had been more dire than they were, I may not be writing this today.

It is well and good to talk about functional strength as carrying couches and doing the grunt work of daily life with more efficiency, but what is its true purpose?

Survival.

I train hard to look great.
I train hard to perform well.

I train hard to make the most of my life.

In the sport of life, winners prolong death and get the most of their time here.

Losers waste away and become victims of circumstance.

Train hard for the sport of life.

You don’t have another option.

 

In iron,

 

Michael

 

 

 

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