March 25, 2002

The Better, the Worse, and the Uglier

I just returned home from a week in L.A. Take South Beach in Miami out of the equation, and no place on earth is more tuned into fitness than Southern Cal. I had the opportunity to spend a good amount of time with my friend and mentor, Joe Weider. I feel a great kinship with Joe and while his company has grown into a mammoth organization, his deep-rooted personal driving force to spread the word of health and fitness throughout the world is unchanged. He's a true fitness leader, a legend, and a man who most definitely walks the talk. As always, he taught me and inspired me. His passion has certainly rubbed off on me, thus, I'd like to pick up where the last Update left off providing new and valuable information that can only make you a better informed fitness consumer, and can help you take a step toward achieving whatever fitness goals you've set out to achieve . . . oh . . . and then allow me to share some of my recent conversation with a female bodybuilder.

In the last update I discussed, "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly" of the current fitness marketplace. My trip to L.A. revealed, the good got better, the bad became worse, and the ugly is now even uglier! Let me explain . . .

The Better

Last update I shared the value of a not-so-new but growing-in-popularity exercise aid called the Stability Ball. I explained how valuable a tool the Stability Ball can be for exercise directed at improving real world performance and function. I've always found the trainers in Southern California to be a step ahead when it comes to trends and innovations. Spending some time at both LA Fitness in Woodland Hills and Gold's Gym in Redondo Beach, I was thrilled to see a small army of trainers using core boards, stability balls, medicine balls, and full body integrated movements to train their clients. Why was I thrilled? Because finally a trendy fitness ideology based on sound science rather than hype and nonsense is finding its footing, and through that footing greater numbers of people will experience the benefits of Core Training. I've always believed the truly Professional Trainers (who make up a small percentage of the sea of individuals that carry business cards that read "Personal Fitness Trainer") to be the ground army, and finally this army appears to have some new weaponry that people are actually buying into.

Core training asks you to perform movements during which the muscles interplay just as they do in real world movement. We rarely if ever actually perform our daily functions by sitting against a back support and pulling or pushing as exercise machines ask us to do. Reach up to grab a cup from your cupboard. Notice how the body moves. You reach, you twist, you balance, and you move the hands in movements that are not predetermined (not guided by the arm of an exercise machine). Bend from a standing position to tie your shoe. Are you using abdominal muscles? Yup. Back muscles? Quads? Uh-huh. Are you moving in a single plane, or in several planes? Do the arms move independently allowing full movement at the wrist? When you begin to notice the intricacies of real world movement, you'll come to understand the limitations of exercise machines.

One of the great thing about core training finding its place is . . . you don't need expensive equipment. "Core boards" or "wobble boards" allow you to do standing movements, pushups, and a variety of exercises that require balance and stabilization far more than conventional health club movements. You can get your own wobble board for under $50. Combine that with a couple of medicine balls of varied poundages, a few sets of dumbbells, and a stability ball and you've got a great home gym for under $150. And if you don't want to even invest that much . . . take some of the air out of the old basketball you have in the garage and perform pushups with one hand on the ball . . . and eventually, both hands. Do your standing overhead presses standing on one leg. Expand the one arm shoulder press to a full body movement that brings the dumbbell from the floor to the overhead position for repetitions. These all ask the body to perform as it does in daily life and can all improve upon posture, form, and musculature, body composition, and function.

The Worse

Last Update I spoke about ephedrine and how it's hidden in products. Now there's a new marketing trend. Some clever companies are replicating pharmaceutical packaging and advertising, patenting formulas and trademarking names in order to sell ephedrine products under names not readily identified. They patent a brand name, and promote by omitting from their ads what the actual ingredients are, making this patented brand appear to be a new discovery. The marketing is powerful, the products are expensive, and the risks of blood pressure irregularities, heart arrythmias, and circulatory problems are no less prevalent. In fact, many of these products add other stimulants into their patented formulas. While L-Tyrosine, an amino acid, is sold as a mood enhancer and altertness aid, it does have stimulant properties and when "stacked" with caffeine and ephedrine increases the power of the buzz. Add yohimbe into the mix, which is marketed primarily as a male sexual performance enhancer, and the stimulant effect is perpetuated further. I know there are many bodybuilders who are willing to take risks, and are used to stacking drugs (more on that to come) . . . but hopefully most of them are making informed decisions. When a label shares a product name that appears to be "a new breakthrough," and that product is actually a mix of herbal stimulants being sold as a fat burner or metabolism booster, consumers are clearly being misled, or at the very least under-informed. I won't name any brands . . . at least not right now . . . as I believe my description of the marketing ploy will help you to identify these products . . . but I would urge you to carefully peruse ingredient labels of any supplements you're considering, and to identify the potential risks of everything listed.

The Uglier

I'd actually thought I'd seen it all when it comes to bodybuilding and drugs . . . but I must admit, even I was taken aback during a recent conversation.

I met a female bodybuilder who seriously looked like a very very muscular man wearing women's workout clothes. For now I'll keep her identity private, but I am trying to get her to speak honestly of her experience on my radio show. From her calves to her lats she is massive and veins protrude proudly from every extremity. I don't mean to cast judgement by in any way insinuating she she's "ugly," although she plainly confesses her physique is not what she aspired to create. I do, however, find the situation that she described to me to be grotesque. She read this before it was posted and gave me the green light . . . in the hope her story might prevent some people from sharing her experiences.

This massive bodybuilder told me she started with an 8-week cycle of the anabolic steroid primobolan and was told it would enhance her muscularity. After that cycle she competed and placed in the top three in her first amateur bodybuilding show. She was hooked. That cycle led to another, and another, and with each steroid cycle her dosages increased. As she grew, she needed more to grow further, and she wound up taking excessive dosages of drugs that are extremely hard core and can permanently alter female characteristics. She started using Growth Hormone, first 1 i.u. a day, then she doubled her dosages, and ultimately quadrupled them, using anadrol, a very powerful steroid with serious potential for side effects, to "maximize" the effect of the GH. So why did this shock me so greatly? I guess the shock effect started when she showed me her high school picture. She had been a beautiful feminine girl. She had been a gymnast and had a petite and lean body. I've seen physique transformations, but this was a change I'd never seen before. Today her skin is riddled with acne scars, her voice is gruff and deep, she goes for painful electrolysis to try to control the hair growth on her face, her abdominal region is completely distended to the point that it looks like she has a basketball in there, and she discussed a few sexual changes that I believe remain better left unsaid. She feels that she can no longer win bodybuilding competitions because her body is permanently disfigured due to the abdominal distension. She has radical mood swings ranging from suicidal depression to uncontrollable anger. She trains in the gym 2 hours in the morning, trains clients as a personal trainer (although she doesn't hold a certification) in the mid-afternoon, and returns to the gym for another 60 minute workout at night. She earns a good amount of money "training" clients, although she admits many of her "training sessions" are outside of the gym and very unconventional. She's developed arthritis in her joints and takes a very high dosage of prescription pain medication to get through her workouts. The worst part of all is . . . despite her income, she's over $40,000 in debt, she's unhappy with her appearance, but (here comes the shocking part) . . . she refuses to stop taking the drugs!

I know many young men and women who get into improving their bodies are swayed toward steroids, and I continually hear . . . "but they're not addictive." The promises most first time steroid users make almost always include, "I'll only do one cycle." I share this experience only because I want to point out that although there may not be a chemical addiction, there's no question in my mind this woman has a serious addiction run out of control. Steroids alter body chemistry, and while I can certainly understand the reasoning behind professional athletes and bodybuilders who earn their living going to extremes facing the risks in hope of a greater reward, I can't justify "recreational" use of anabolic steroids. The drugs being transported and sold on the black market . . . not to professional athletes who earn their livelihood through their physiques . . . but to high school and college students, weight trainers who believe it's a shortcut to excuse their poor dietary habits, and . . . to women . . . is honestly one of the ugliest issues I've personally come across in an industry founded on such noble ideals as health and fitness.

So back to Joe Weider . . . his mission is noble. Sure his magazines are crammed with ads for products, some of which are questionable at best . . . but that's how magazines make money. That's how magazines stay in business. If you would pull the advertising out of every Muscle & Fitness magazine, you'd be left with some highly valuable lessons in kinesiology, exercise program design, nutrition, and biochemical science. Just as this female bodybuilders growth led her to a point where her physique exceeded her initial goals and ran out of control, when a company starts with a noble mission and experiences phenomenal growth because of the passion behind that mission . . . it's understandable that the company takes on a life of its own. Don't allow your perceptions of "the company" to sway your understanding of "the man." Joe Weider has brought fitness into the mainstream. His magazines have been the initial training resource for many of today's fitness leaders. He greets everyday, even now, in his eighth decade, with the pursuit of his mission . . . to spread the word of health and fitness. I intend to pursue that mission . . . teaching people to achieve bodies that not only look great, but perform exceptionally well . . . without the use of drugs . . . without a reliance on addictive and potentially harmful supplements, without offering quick fixes, miracle solutions, or amazing new product releases. I'll continue with the mission to empower people, to spread a message of fitness truth, and to help people rise up to . . . the Best They've Ever Been.

And if You Live in South Florida, or Want to Take a Trip in May . . .

It's your last chance! The last seminar I'm doing in South Florida this year is only weeks away! We have attenders registered from all over the country and it promises to be the most life-changing seminar event I've ever conducted. Ever!

The "Best" Seminar, entitled "Breakthroughs" is taking place May 16, 2002 at the 17th Street Marina Marriott in Fort Lauderdale and it will deliver all the hard hitting fitness honesty of my previous seminars, but with entirely new material. Not only will you learn how to shed fat once and for all, not only will I cover core training principles anyone can apply, not only will you learn how to totally reshape your body virtually any way you want to, not only will you learn how to see through all of the food label fraud and deception, not only will you develop complete clarity about what you should eat, but you'll also learn:

  • The real story behind low-fat, low-carb, and low-calorie diets and the shocking alternative that offers a guaranteed path to long term weight loss

  • What five supplements have value for those seeking fat loss and/or muscle gain

  • How a nutritional concept called the Caloric Stagger can fire up fat burning

  • How two concepts, Cycle Training and Linear Periodization give you control over the amount of muscle and lean body mass you develop

  • Secrets of the top fitness competitors

  • How supplement companies blatantly lie and why some popular products may prove life threatening

Now that's a lot of promise for 3 hours, isn't it? Well, after 20 years of conducting and perfecting my seminars, I'm 100% comfortable making the promise. I'll even go as far as to say the topics I promised here don't even begin to scratch the surface of the material covered in this 3-hour event. I'll help you steer clear of "The Bad and The Worse," teach you how to integrate all that's "Good and Better." I'll even expose the little known realities behind "The Ugly and the Uglier." Why should you attend? Because you're tired of not loving the body you're in. Because you deserve to look and feel exactly as you wish you could. Because the daily tasks that prove challenging can and should be simple and enjoyable. Because you and optimal health should walk hand in hand. Because you want to be in control of your energy levels, your metabolism, and your mood. Because you no longer want to be tricked and fooled by unscrupulous product marketers. Because it's time for you to be . . . regardless of your present age or physical condition . . . The Best You've Ever Been!

Register NOW!

Don't put it off. Get on the path toward being the Best You've Ever Been. Commit to being there! This one's open to 1,000 people, but it will sell out. I'll be talking it up on my radio show, on ZETA, and during all of my appearances between now and then, so our posting of the words "Sold Out" is only a matter of time. You can call Holly in my office to reserve your seats (which will be $75 but are still avaiable for only $39.99) or register online. Don't miss out. Register now!

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Previous Updates:

Update 2/15/02 - the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Fitness

Update 1/14/02 - Counting Calories
Update 12/28 - 'Twas the Night Before New Years
Update 12/8 - The New Electronic Ab Offerings
Update 12/12 - The "Magic" is Within You
Update 11/20 - Holiday eating!

Update 11/3 - Weight Loss Bread and other Nonsense!
Update 10/29 - Supplement Values
Update 10/3 - Getting Back to Doing What We Do
Update 9/19 - Tragedy and Love, RE: Sept 11
Update 8/15 - Myths, Fallacies, False Beliefs
Update 8/1 - The Internet, Leptin, Steroids, and more
Update 7/9 - The New Supplements
Update 6/14 - Seminar offerings and clarity on "Brownies"
Update 5/29 - Lose Weight, Eat Brownies?!?!?
Update 5/1/01
- Pizza, Beer, and Fitness
Update 4/7/01 - "Phil-osophies" and Rip-Off Realities!
Update 4/1/01 - Gourmet Recipes!
Update 3/15/01 - Research Has Proven?
Update 3/1/01 - Preparing for The New Infomercial
Update 2/1/01 - Time, Space, Matter, and Energy
Update 1/15/01 - Atkins hits the UK
Update 10/7/00 - Supplements, Additional Clarity
Update 7/27/00 - The Experts Round Table, Almada, Colgan, Parillo
Update 7/3/00 - Core Training & Metabolism Boosters

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