A Bodybuilder Is Born: Episode 45 - The Gym As Therapy!

Some people pay therapists to listen to their problems. For those of us that have devoted our lives to hard training, there's no need for that. The weights are our therapists and the gym is our therapy. Read on.
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Article Summary:
  • Ron receives a phone call from Randy who is having a very hard time right now.
  • Problems with life make Randy want to skip his workout, but Ron tells him to come anyway.
  • After the workout Randy's problems still exist, but he feels better and is ready to face them.
  • It was about five P.M. when my cell phone rang. Nobody calls me on my home phone anymore except my mother, because I have given everybody I know and do business with explicit instructions to never call my house phone.

    It's not that I am paranoid about giving that number out, it's because whenever my twelve-year-old daughter Marisa is home, she is on the home phone with her little friends, usually talking crap about whichever friend is not hearing the conversation at the time. While she has the house phone in her left ear, her right ear is typically glued to her cell phone, which looks exactly like mine except for the pink cover. My cover is fuchsia. Her downloaded iTunes playlist is blaring from the computer in front of her, as she is madly typing away to yet more friends on AOL Instant Message.

    I just saw a report on CNN that called my daughter and her peers 'Generation M.' The M stands for multi-tasking. Actually, I am quite impressed with how many things this kid can do at one time. Unfortunately, cleaning her room or changing the cat's litter box are not among the tasks she can manage to perform in this maelstrom of frenetic activity.

    Ron's Daughter Tends To Have At Least One Phone Glued To Her Head.
    + Click To Enlarge.
    Ron's Daughter Tends To Have At
    Least One Phone Glued To Her Head.


    A Troubling Situation

    It was Randy calling, and he sounded pretty down. He told me he was going to take a couple weeks off from training, so he would not be able to meet me the next day to do legs.

    Apparently, there was a lot going on in Randy's life that I had no clue about. His mother had just been diagnosed with breast cancer, for one. It had been caught very early on, so her chances were actually quite good, but it was still a very troubling situation for the whole family.

    Unfortunately, that wasn't the only source of grief in their home. His younger brother Mark, who I had met when Randy brought him to the gym over a year and a half ago, was now sixteen. Mark had not taken to health and fitness after our workout together, as we had hoped he would. Instead, he was a regular user of the drug Oxycontin, which has been described by many as 'heroin in a pill.' How's that for lazy?

    What Is OxyContin?
    OxyContin is the brand name of a time-release formula of oxycodone produced by the pharmaceutical company Purdue Pharma. It was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1995 and first introduced to the U.S. market in 1996. By 2001, OxyContin was the best-selling non-generic narcotic pain reliever in the U.S.; 2008 sales in the U.S. totaled $2.5 billion. An analysis of data from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration found that retail sales of oxycodone "jumped nearly six-fold between 1997 and 2005." Mundipharma distributes OxyContin in Australia, China, and Europe. In 2001, Purdue Pharma briefly suspended distribution of 160 mg tablets in the U.S. because of the "possibility of illicit use of tablets of such high strength."

    At least previous generations had to go through the unpleasant process of tying off their arms and jabbing needles into their veins - these kids today just pop a pill. That way, they still have a free hand to instant-message and search for songs on their iPods.

    I'm not trying to joke about a very serious epidemic here, really. I've seen drug addiction close up and it's not pretty. Like other drug addicts I have known, Mark had also been stealing from his family to support his habit, which in the case of Oxy's, is not cheap.

    Some of mom's jewelry was now gone forever, as were various items of Randy's, including a baseball signed by Ted Williams that was worth more than the car he drove.

    Mark was in a court-ordered rehab at present, and to really put the icing on the cake, Randy's sales at the dealership were way down, and his job was in jeopardy. From the weariness in his voice, it was clear all of this was wearing on my young friend.

    It Was Clear All Of This Was Wearing On Randy's Mind.
    + Click To Enlarge.
    It Was Clear All Of This Was Wearing On Randy's Mind.


    Working Things Out

    "I need some time to straighten all this crap out," was what he said. Having been through my own share of crises and drama in the twenty-one years since I started lifting weights, I knew that this was not the solution.

    "Randy, I want you there tomorrow, and we are starting with squats, as usual," I replied.

    "Ron, I don't think that's a good idea," he said. "There's just no way I could concentrate on my training right now. I've got too much s**t on my mind."

    "I know you do, and that's why you need training now more than ever. You need something to take your mind off of all those problems. It's not easy to do, but it can be done."

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    I thought back to times when I dropped into the gym after having a particularly nasty argument with my wife Janet. In case I have somehow presented a false image of idyllic bliss in which it's all baby talk and cuddling between us, now the truth can be told.

    There are times when I swear that if my wife had the magical power to banish me to some fifth dimension of darkness and pain (kind of like Detroit), I'd be gone, and not even some fancy TV psychic like John Edwards would be able to get me back.

    Anyway, I would start those workouts feeling lower than a slug's belly and about as enthused as emaciated celebrity Lindsay Lohan at a buffet, but eventually, once I got a little sweat and pump going, I would always feel a little better. By the end of the workout, my problems were still there, but at least I had been able to escape them for a brief time, and facing those problems head-on didn't seem such a hopeless prospect.

    I guess you could attribute that to the rush of endorphins that any type of rigorous exercise will impart, and in that sense it's not so different from drugs - except that it's legal, it's healthy, and it's productive! Then I thought of yet another reason why training during times of trouble is a good idea.

    I Swear That If My Wife Had The Power To Banish Me To Some Dimension Of Darkness And Pain, I'd Be Gone.
    + Click To Enlarge.
    I Swear That If My Wife Had The Power To Banish Me
    To Some Dimension Of Darkness And Pain, I'd Be Gone.


    A Little Psychology

    "Randy, probably the worst feelings you're experiencing now are helplessness and uncertainty. You feel powerless to help your mother and your brother, and you don't know what's going to happen with them, or your job, for that matter, right?"

    "D@mn Ron, did you take the Dr. Phil online psychology course or something?"

    "They wanted five hundred bucks, so I said forget it. Just answer me, please."

    "Yeah," he shrugged. "I guess that's about right, all that. It's just so overwhelming, everything at once, like I can't breathe."

    "I know, I know. We all go through these times. It's just a part of life that can't be avoided. Stuff happens. But that's why your training is so important. No matter how messed up and confusing other things in your life may be at times, you can always count on the gym. It's the one constant thing in your life you can rely on to be there for you when everything else seems to be falling apart."

    Randy let out a huge sigh over the phone. "Okay, I'll be there." Sure enough, he was at the gym the next day. I won't lie and say he had the best leg workout ever, but he wasn't dragging his @ss the way you might have expected him to.

    He was a lot quieter than usual, and I could tell he was making a solid effort to focus on the workout, and to drown out the nagging voices of worry in his mind. When it was over, he dropped a real bomb - no, not an attack of flatulence, more like something he had been waiting to tell me.

    He Didn't Have The Best Leg Workout Ever, But He Wasn't Dragging His @ss The Way You Might Have Expected.
    + Click To Enlarge.
    He Didn't Have The Best Leg Workout Ever, But He
    Wasn't Dragging His @ss The Way You Might Have Expected.


    Look On The Bright Side

    "I got a call last night from Bill, the manager of my dealership. He let me go."

    "Oh my God, Randy, I'm sorry to hear that." That call couldn't have come too much later than when I had talked to him. "What are you gonna do now?"

    Randy shrugged his shoulders, and for the first time that day, cracked a smile. "I don't know. I'll figure it out. I'm a smart guy and I work hard, there's got to be something out there for me."

    "Well, look on the bright side," I offered. "Until then, you can train with me all the time and you'll have time to eat more solid meals instead of drinking so many shakes and eating so many bars all day."

    "Yup," he agreed. "Same time Thursday for shoulders and triceps?"

    "Definitely," I said.

    At Least Randy Can Get In Some Solid Food More Often Instead Of Shakes And Bars All The Time.
    + Click To Enlarge.
    At Least Randy Can Get In Some Solid Food More
    Often Instead Of Shakes And Bars All The Time.


    Not So Bad

    Randy's problems weren't going to be solved by training, nor would working out make them go away. But they wouldn't seem quite so bad when he was straining under a load of heavy iron, his muscles pumped and blood coursing through his body at a rapid rate.

    Some people pay therapists to sit there and listen to their problems. For those of us that have devoted our lives to hard training, there's no need for that. The weights are our therapists, never judging us but always there when we need them, and the gym is our therapy.

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    About The Author:

    Ron Harris is the author of "Real Bodybuilding: Muscle Truth from 25 Years in the Trenches," available at www.ronharrismuscle.com.

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