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After a fruitful off-season in which I had built some good size and strength, it was time to lean out for the summer and more importantly, for my contest in September. That meant that cardio, which had been minimal during those cold months of heavy lifting and stuffing my face with obscene amounts of food, was back as a regular part of my workout regimen.
Randy, my protégé and copycat, was also doing cardio. Of course, his only motivation was to, and I quote, "make all the babes drool over my six-pack at Hampton Beach this summer." I will be sure to bring some Kleenex along and walk ten steps behind him, dabbing away at all the excess saliva on the chins of his female admirers.
Randy preferred to walk fast on the treadmill, while I like the Precor elliptical runner as it's easier on my knees. The two are right next to each other in my gym. We are also different when it comes to what we do while we perform our cardio.
I put my headphones on and blast my CD player, with burned compilations (all legally downloaded, of course!) with driving rock music from bands like Disturbed, Marilyn Manson, and Godsmack.
There may also be some tracks from less macho musicians as Avril Levigne and Britney Spears, but you don't need to know that. Randy prefers to read, and his gym bag is always full of dog-eared bodybuilding magazine he pores over as he sweats and burns fat.
To each his own would normally be the case, but not with Randy and his magazines. He is never content to merely read them, he also feels the need to engage me in discussions about every little thing on the pages before him. It's the same thing every time. He will call my name, and I ignore him, pretending I can't hear him over my headphones.
That only buys me about two seconds of peace before he taps me on the shoulder. Sighing, to show that I would much rather be listening to good tunes than debating someone's calf routine or whether beef is a better protein source than chicken, I remove the headphones from the ear facing him and say, "what?"
Today he was really eager to talk, which had to mean he was looking over the latest gossip and news items about the pro bodybuilders.
"Did you hear about ----? He just got busted again for receiving steroids from China in the mail! And ----- just got out of jail for steroids."
He flipped a few more pages in the gossip section. "----- just left his wife and kids and now he's with this bimbo fitness pro," he continued, "and online last night they were talking about how ------ looked so bad at his last show because he's a big Nubain addict. Can you believe these frigging guys?' He said this with genuine disgust. "Some role models they are." He was clearly waiting for some reaction from me. "Doesn't it piss you off?"
"No, I honestly don't even care anymore." Randy was mortified.
"How can you say that? We are supposed to look up to these guys!" The kid was on a holy roll with this. "They are professional athletes, aren't they?"
"Yes they are. Which means what? That they are exceptional at their chosen sport. Nothing more, nothing less. Charles Barkley said 'I am not a role model,' and I think that was one of the most genuine and meaningful statements to ever come out of an athlete's mouth."
"Yeah, but. . ." Randy trailed off. He didn't really have any rebuttal.
"Randy, look at something like the Kobe Bryant incident." I knew this would work because unlike me, Randy actually watched professional sports and was somewhat of a fan whenever it came down to playoffs. "Does what Kobe does in his personal life off the court make his achievements and skills on the court any less impressive? Was he a better player when you thought he was a Boy Scout? Let's broaden the scope of this. There have been plenty of brilliant people with drug problems through history. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Freud were both addicted to cocaine."
"Sir Arthur who? What did he, invent the Conan the Barbarian character?" At least I think he knew who Sigmund Freud was - I hope.
"Okay, let's make it easier. There have been many famous rock stars and musicians who struggled with alcoholism and drug addiction. But you still love and appreciate their music. Hemingway was one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century, and also happened to be an incorrigible drunk. Is any of this getting through to you yet?"
"Not really, because bodybuilders are supposed to be role models, at least more than those other types of famous people."
"Right, and why is that? It's because this is the only sport where most of the fans are trying to be stars themselves. How many guys watch baseball and then spend two hours a day, six days a week practicing so they can be the next Barry Bonds? So because most bodybuilding fans are trying to look like their idols in the IFBB, they try to emulate them down to the last detail."
Randy had now tossed the magazine to the floor. He hadn't been paying attention, and had almost hit the leg of the woman on the treadmill next to us. Luckily she was so entranced reading the subtitles on the TV monitor now showing Regis and Kelly that she hadn't noticed.
"Okay then, so see what I mean how these guys are letting us down getting into legal problems and everything?"
"Look, you can train the way these guys train and eat the way they eat, but it has to end there. If Jay Cutler buys a lime-green Mercedes Benz and enjoys foreign films, does that mean you have to?"
"I work at a Ford dealership," Randy reminded me. "And foreign films? They make movies in other countries or something?"
"You're missing the point. You need to separate the physiques of these men and the hard work that went into them from what they do in their private lives." Randy snorted.
"Yeah, because they're a bunch of degenerates these days."
"That's not true at all. I know plenty of top amateur and pro bodybuilders, and at least ninety percent of them are solid, upstanding men and women with integrity and character to spare. I'm not saying they all have haloes gleaming around their heads, but they are good, decent people. But bodybuilders are human beings. Just as in any cross-section of the population, you will always have a few that are into drugs, criminal activities, that are violent, whatever the case may be. That doesn't mean you can't look at their photos in a magazine or on the Internet and draw inspiration from them. It doesn't mean that they have nothing to offer when it comes to showing the rest of us how to train hard and eat right. I know it's very hard to look past the lurid gossip and appreciate what these men and women have done and continue to do as athletes, but you really need to try."
Randy was pensive. He looked over cautiously.
"What about you, Ron - you're not a role model?" This was a question I am never comfortable answering.
"You know what? I don't know. I train hard and eat right and do my best to show as many people as I can how they can do it too, but I am not an angel. I'm not Jeffrey Dahmer or Pablo Escobar, but I am just a human being like anyone else with my good and bad points. If some people want to consider me a role model because I have a wife and kids, am somewhat successful in my industry, and stay out of trouble, fine. But I would never stand up on a pedestal and proclaim my perfection to the world. Every single one of us has faults and makes mistakes. The faults and mistakes are just different for all of us, and when you are in the public eye as a professional athlete, the whole world knows about them."
I looked down at the display on my machine. Thirty-two minutes, and only 410 calories. If I had been rocking out to my CD player I would have kept a faster pace and would have been up over 500 by this point. I scowled, considered telling Randy this, and instead said nothing. Randy was now watching Regis and Kelly with his mouth hanging open, as the Olsen twins were now the guests.
"Jailbait," I said.
"Na ah, they just turned eighteen, dude."
"You doing okay at work, selling some cars?"
"Yeah," he replied, only paying half attention. I reached over to the newspaper someone had left on the machine next to me, where something had caught my eye.
"Best Buy is having a big sale on CD and MP3 players starting today. I think you should go and pick one up immediately."
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