Raise a hand every one who have been to Gold's in Venice, CA. Yes, the famous one by Muscle Beach. All the pros are stacked thick, and if you ever wanted to live the bodybuilding lifestyle, this is the place to be. But does this automatically make your training more effective?
Is there a good reason for why every wannabe-pro who won a couple of local contests joins the lemming-trail to southern California? As usual, there are pros and cons of "getting serious" vs. sticking to your local dungeon, regardless of your dreams and expectations.
First off, very few make it to the top. In order to do so, you have to be crazy in more ways than one, blessed beyond belief, and lucky to survive. The successful guys who packed their bags and headed for fame and stardom can be counted on your fingers and toes - the losers require a calculator.
Personally, I would never go for a pro career. Not only because I see little reason to put myself through the sacrifices, but because it's such a long shot. It's like emptying your retirement funds and putting it all on the state lotto, in the vague hope of striking it rich.
So, whether you have serious thoughts about giving the pro circuit a shot, or if you're just silently cursing the boring, uninspiring town you're stuck in, let's take a look at things from a more objective perspective.
Of course it's more inspiring to be around other serious people, and chances are some of the positive spirits will rub off. The bad news is, that at the same time you might be picking up some bad habits. Keep in mind that the pros are hardly known for living healthy, well-balanced lives.
If you live amongst them, you're running serious risk of getting your perspective skewed - what is normal to the pros around you might start being perceived as normal for you too. Also consider that bodybuilders in Venice are a dime a dozen. If you're having dreams of the silver screen and modeling, get a reality check.
California is great, climate-wise. Plain and simple. It hardly ever rains, there's always sun around to get a nice tan, and the beach isn't far away. The BAD news is that as soon you leave the beach, you're in the cancer known as L.A. No offense to those who live in L.A., but it's the worst place I've been to in my life. The traffic is horrible and the air is so polluted that your Kleenex turns black if you blow your nose at the end of a bad day.
If you live in a colder place, you're dressed up more for the better part of the year, perhaps making it psychologically easier not to stay in shape. In CA, you're wearing shorts and a T-shirt almost year-round.
On the flip side, if you live somewhere with snow 6 months a year, there's little distractions. I mean, when your options are to sit at home or be at the gym, the choice is simpler than if you have a game of beach volley, rollerblading, and a variety of other outdoor activities to choose from as well.
Obviously, there are many, many more high-tech machines at any given mega-sized gym. Not just in California of course, but everywhere you happen to be located. A common misconception is that more machines = more effective training. Likewise, many people think new machines are automatically better than old ones. My response: Bulldoggsh!t.
During the past six months I've seen all my old and dear machines being booted out of the Gold's where I train, only to be replaced with high-tech junk. Seriously! It's junk! It seems like the majority of new machines are made to enable people to lift an impressive amount of plates with a minimum amount of effort.
Sure, nice for the ego, but what about actually getting the muscles to work? Not ALL new machines are bad, of course, but it seems like the majority are designed to be ineffective. Keep in mind that you can build an impressive physique using nothing but a bench, a barbell, a pair of dumbbells, and a cable pulley machine. The rest is icing on the cake.
All in all, the location doesn't really matter. Sure, it's easier to get bodybuilding-friendly food, but the bad news is that you have to live in L.A..
It's easier to get variation in your training at a megasized gym, but how many machines would you REALLY use? I mean, 45 machines to rear delts is nice and all, but you'll probably end up using your 2 or 3 favorite machines, ignoring the rest.
Fame and riches? Yeah, right. Unless you're best pals with Steven Spielberg prior to moving there, you're up for a rude awakening. It all boils down to why you work out in the first place. If you're only in it for fame and money, you're grasping for straws. If you're more interested in living a good, healthy life with balance between family, career, and training, odds of success are endlessly better. And you don't even have to move to L.A.
Don't believe the hype. Dorian Yates built his 6-time Mr. Olympia physique in a primitive basement in Birmingham, England, beating the crap out of all the fancy Venice-based guys. It's the spirit, not the location that counts.