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It had now been a full five months since Randy had first approached me and begun his education, and the kid had come a long way in a short time. His bodyweight had climbed from a little over 172 to nearly 185, and without any discernible increase in body fat. More importantly, he was training with precision form and eating all the right foods right on schedule. I had recently convinced him to break up with his girlfriend Tracy, who had been no good for his bodybuilding goals.
The young buck was now dating one of the front desk girls, as well as one of his younger sister's best friends who had been his high school's Prom Queen just two years before. Yes, everything was looking up for my protégé, who had been saving considerable time skipping past many of the mistakes I had made in my early years.
We were training shoulders and arms when I picked up on a weird vibe. Randy seemed preoccupied and nervous, and was barely talking. Not that I encouraged a gabfest in the gym, but he was being unusually silent as he ground out his sets and reps. I waited until we were done and in the locker room before demanding an explanation.
The Big Question
"Okay, what happened? Did you get some girl pregnant? Is your pet Iguana sick, what?"
Randy didn't answer right away. He reached into his gym bag and produced a couple pages of paper, stapled and folded, glancing around to be sure nobody was watching us. As soon as he handed it over and I had a look, I decided to take the conversation outside, even if it was twenty degrees out. What he had shown me was a list of steroids complete with prices that he had printed off the Internet.
"Look," he said, "I haven't decided what I'm gonna do yet, I just wanted to ask what you thought."
"What do I think about steroids, what do I think you should use, do I think you should use them? I'm a little confused here. Be a bit more specific," I told him.
"Uh, pretty much all of that," he replied.
"Alright, well first of all, steroids definitely work, no doubt about that. And to become Mr. Olympia, you would have to use them. Anyone who tries to tell you different is either a liar, an idiot, or both. Look, I am not necessarily for or against steroids. They are a part of almost every professional sport today. But they are not very important in the big picture compared to other factors."
"They're not? So why do so many guys use them?"
"You are trying to be a great bodybuilder. Drugs do not make a great bodybuilder. Without the right genetics, plenty of hardcore training, eating, and supplements, a million dollars worth of steroids and growth hormone wouldn't even matter. I assume that you are thinking about experimenting yourself now?"
He didn't want to commit to an answer, so he just shrugged. "I don't know."
"You don't have to bullshit me, we've been over this before. I am not here to make a moral judgement against you, you can do that for yourself. I will guide you to make the right decisions as far as your physique goes, though. Answer this, do you honestly believe this is the best you can be without steroids?"
"No, I guess not."
"Of course not. You're twenty-two years old and your natural hormones are raging like a wildfire right now. You have made better gains just since I met you than most guys do in a year or more. I truly think you have a lot more growing to do before you even think about steroids. And you may even build such an amazing natural physique that you can be all over the magazines like Skip LaCour and Tito Raymond."
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"I've been on these message boards where a lot of guys my age talk about gaining twenty or thirty pounds in just a couple months, that's all. It sounds pretty incredible."
"First of all, some of these people are flat-out lying. Anyone can say anything in a chat room under some fake name. Secondly, a lot of them are just getting bloated and fat. Some of these web sites let these guys post their pictures with the face blocked out, and believe me, Ronnie Coleman and Gunter Schlierkamp have nothing to worry about."
He had a chuckle at that.
The Tortoise And The Hare
"It's one of those tortoise and hare scenarios," I explained. "A lot of these young guys get big really fast without even knowing how to train and eat right, then when they get off the steroids they lose almost everything they gained. They have to stay on drugs forever because they don't know how to make gains without them. A lot of them end up quitting bodybuilding altogether. They might be racing ahead of you now, but you can be sure that you will pass many of them by eventually. I've seen it a thousand times."
Click To Enlarge.
They Might Be Racing Ahead Now, But You Can Be
Sure That You Will Pass Many Of Them Eventually.
Randy was looking at the list again, and seemed a little sad. I knew he really wanted to get his hands on some of the items listed and start sprouting muscle at an alarming rate.
"So you're saying I should never use steroids?"
"No, that's your decision. All I am trying to say is that you should fulfill your body's natural potential before you consider them. You thought you were training and eating perfectly before you met me, didn't you?"
"Who are you kidding? You thought you almost knew it all. Just a few months later you see how much room for improvement there actually was, right?"
"Randy, I'm not going to try and scare you with some speech about side effects and committing a crime, because those ridiculous tactics never work on anyone with half a brain anyway. You asked me for my opinion, and I say you aren't yet at a stage where steroids have any place in your program. The day will come when you will be faced with that crossroads, but it's still far away."
A Time For All Things
Randy tore the list up, crumpled it into a ball, and tossed it into a dumpster a few feet away. He sighed. I knew what he was feeling. The kid had been consumed with dreams of popping a few pills, doing a few shots in the glutes, and turning into a 250-pound freak within a few months. Many a time I had envisioned the same thing for myself. Patience is the hardest part of bodybuilding.
Even then, muscle gains usually crawl along at a snail's pace. The human body simply does not synthesize muscle tissue very fast despite our best efforts. But the great thing is that all these little gains add up over months and years. Steroids can certainly speed this process up, but they can also prevent a man or woman from ever truly learning how their body best responds to various training and nutrition techniques. Randy had been tempted by the promise of a shortcut, but the truth is there is no shortcut. One way or another, you have to put the work in all by yourself.
I was sure that he would have to make the decision sooner or later, but hopefully I had convinced him to at least take advantage of his young body's own abundant natural hormones before they started to diminish in the late twenties. I knew this kid could get a hell of a lot bigger and stronger without any pharmaceutical help. And then, if he chose to go that route, he would still have been much better off for waiting until his natural potential had panned out.
Randy was getting into his car.
"Thanks Ron, you gave me some things to think about."
"That's what I'm here for, grasshopper," I replied. He looked quizzical. Clearly I was showing my age in referencing a show as old as Kung Fu. "Never mind, I'll see you tomorrow." He backed up and drove off. Randy thought he had been ready to try anabolics after only three years of training and at a point where he was just beginning to learn how to train and eat the right way. I had helped him to see otherwise, at least for the time being.
Unfortunately, there were thousands of other teenagers and young men in the same position who would not have a voice of reason to make them pause and really think about their decision. I wished them all the best of luck, because they are all going to need it. Using steroids before you really know your body is a lot like marrying someone you don't know very well. You might luck out and do okay, or you might end up deeply regretting your rash choice.