Bottled Up Success

So, Lance Armstrong, Barry Bonds and Marion Jones walk into a bar…

Just kidding.

But all have something in common; they all inspired up and coming athletes to chase their dreams and leave their mark in the world of sports. Yes, it’s true, they took performance enhancement drugs to endure the strain of their respective sports, but does that take away from the fact that they gave people hope, worldwide? They used steroids and some deem that choice to be a breach of the public trust. But really, who are we to judge these players on how they make a living and what they do to be an inspiration? You’ve  heard me talk about this before; the public feels a sense of ownership over players because they thirst for their outputs. But if you push, shove and demand something from a person, you can only expect one of two things in response; they break under the pressure…or find a way to get bigger, stronger and faster and meet your expectations.

steroids

When I was just a baby Zeus of 21, I got a firsthand look into the world of steroids, from my first ” real” trainer. He would go meet some kid at night, take a brown bag, handshake him some money and then start the transformation process 30 minutes later in his room while I relaxed and ate his mom’s cooking. I admit, I was curious about it, I was told I was too young and didn’t need it. So, even though I was on the outside looking in, I became immune to the sight of needles and bottles and indoctrinated to think that such things were just business as usual– a normal day in the neighborhood, if you will.

My trainer was an up-and-coming bodybuilder and made a career choice that, once coupled with his drive and natural talents, could take his practice to the next level and that next level could very well change his life. So, to be clear, he didn’t meet that kid and get that brown bag because he was a dark and shady character, he did it because to him, opening that bag granted  him access to the ‘come-up/Cinderella story’ or,  American Dream.

marion flag

If all you needed was the contents of a brown bag to make your dreams come true, are you sure you wouldn’t be meeting ‘some kid at night’ too?  To what capacity are we allowed to judge how an athlete chooses to provide for himself and the people around him?

Aspire to In….never mind

12.7 million people are diagnosed with cancer per year and 7.6 million of them actually die from the disease. With dire numbers like those, the idea that those affected by the disease could lose hope makes complete sense until …

lance

It’s a bird!  It’s a plane!

No… it’s Lance Armstrong on a bike racing up the mountains in France carrying the hopes of every person touched by cancer. We cheered for him, copped his LIVESTRONG apparel and felt that he was the living embodiment of triumph over unspeakable odds. Sure, he took steroids while doing this, but, so what, exactly?! His steroid use shouldn’t take away from his worldwide impact or the way he left a legacy of hope and possibility everywhere he rode.  If you really think about it, Lance was a martyr. In return for the hope he gave, he was stripped of his medals, endorsements and millions of dollars.

* excuse me while I put on another ‘LIVESTRONG’ wristband and maillot jaune replica*

” Let Those of Us without Under Armour Cast the First Stone”

So, if I say that Lance is martyr and you (‘you,’ in this case representing the media, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the legions of fair-weather fans) say he’s a charlatan, really, which of us is able to define and decide what is unethical? Well, WADA says:

“Anti-doping programs seek to preserve what is intrinsically valuable about sport. This intrinsic value is often referred to as ‘the spirit of sport’…it is how we play true. The spirit of sport is the celebration of the human spirit, body and mind, and is characterized by the following values:

  • Ethics, fair play and honesty.
  • Health.
  • Excellence in performance.
  • Character and education.
  • Fun and joy.
  • Teamwork.
  • Dedication and commitment.
  • Respect for rules and laws.
  • Respect for self and other participants.
  • Courage.
  • Community and solidarity.

Doping is fundamentally contrary to the spirit of sport.”

Fair. But how is Lance’s ability to hire a team of scientists to make his body a finely tuned machine any different than athletes that train in thin, mountain air, to make playing on flatland fields a breeze?  What about athletes are wearing the latest aerodynamic Under Armor body suit to sweat less, and keep their heart beats lowered? In my tenure as a football player, I drank Pedialyte before and during every game because I knew it had more carbs than water or Gatorade and would give me more energy than my competition. Am I a cheater? Is secret Pedialyte the line in the sand between ‘playing true’ and playing trifling?  Or was I just smart and thirsty?

For a host of reasons, misinformation is shading the truth. Here’s the thing, athletes will tell you that (as is the case with altitude training, borrowing your baby brother’s snack and secret bodysuits), if you are not a naturally gifted athlete who trains hard and stays hungry, steroids will never change that. Ever. You are not Jack and steroids are not magic beans that will instantly shape, define or provide your body with the athleticism. They’ll only advance what you’ve been gifted with and that for which you worked.

My point is simple; every athlete is in competition with the human next to, behind, ahead and in front of them. The point of sport is to compete and to win. The way to win is with an advantage–preferably, one your competition knows nothing about until they lie in its wake. Every athlete makes choices about how they choose to advance, so why is the choice to use steroids—as a means to advance and ultimately, win—the thing we’ve deemed as unacceptable? Anabolic steroids have their place within sports. But just like any other drug, they should not be abused.

If WADA and the rest want to truly preserve the spirit of the game, they should do so by acknowledging that every day, athletes will find new ways to gain an edge—THAT is the true spirit of the game. Rather than ignoring and banning that edge, people should seek to understand and regulate it.  Create controlled human studies that lay to rest all the myths and rumors that surround anabolic steroid use. In doing so, remove the stigma attached to its use and teach athletes how to do it safely.

* heads to dexters laboratory… for a protein shake, of course *

http://www.wada-ama.org/rtecontent/document/code_v3.pdf

http://www.celegene.com/world-cancer-day-a-single-day-is-never-enough/

YOUR NEXT REP: Follow me on Twitter and IG  and feel free to share and comment.  All workout (and thought) partners are welcome!

12 Seasons a Slave

 

With this week’s ESPY awards looming and Lebron’s decision to leave The Miami Heat, Sigh. It hurts; I’m just taking it one day at a time I’ve been struck by the tenor of the conversations I’ve heard about his exit.

‘Burn his jersey in the street!’

‘Who is he to leave, after everything the Heat gave him!’ 

How dare he go back?!’

The thing is, LeBron is not property; he’s a person. He’s a man. And he made a decision (albeit a painful one that kept me up on Friday night) about his life and future.  But the more I heard people’s commentary becoming increasingly angry and entitled, it made me feel less like they were talking about a wildly skilled athlete making a choice to play elsewhere, and more like…well, a group of slave owners upset that their best nigger escaped last night. And that led me to think more about a whispered conversation that fans and academics alike have had about how the team owner/athlete relationship bears a striking resemblance to the slave master/slave one.  I don’t think players are slaves, but I do think fans can act like  property owners; they don’t actually care about the person, just the athlete in the jersey and the name on its back.

slave athlete dichotomy

State line:

6’1: 290

Bench press : 32x

40-yard dash: 4.9

3 come drill: 5.2

In 2011, these were the numbers I tested at during a combine for the Harrisburg Stampede revolution of the SIFL. These stats made me a high-performance athlete or (if you’re into the whole ‘team owner as slave master/athlete as slave’ paradigm) the best new buck on the slave auction block. Based on my stats, I got signed instantly and earned an amazing opportunity to change my life.  I get that technically, my team (and I suppose, my person) was ‘owned’ and liable to be used as the coach and owners saw fit. Except, as much as I loved playing football, I distinctly remember the bloodlust in the fans’ eyes. They’d yell your name until their vocal cords gave out under the pressure if you made the touchdown but heckle and hate if you didn’t—and all within a 10-minute span.   They could turn their unconditional love for you into unbridled rage, on a dime.

So, as I reflect on my time on the field, I can’t say I ever felt  like a slave, but I can say that I got the sense that fans felt they had the deed to players’ bodies, and could brazenly comment on their successes and failures as they saw fit.

And maybe this comes from the idea that successful athletes are the ultimate Cinderella story; where else can a kid’s game generate enough  money to secure their family’s future for generations to come? Where else can your actions impact the lives of people who have never met you, but look up to you as an exemplar for drive and dedication? Only in the wide world of sports. On the field/court/green, regular men and women can literally and figuratively become the very superheroes they use to watch  as wide-eyed children. Owners and team scouts  look at who is ” bigger, stronger, and faster” but on paper, they define it as searching for the “better athlete.” Does that mean that we, who simply love the thrill of  developing our bodies in the gyms are only buffing up for the slave auction, in a sense? If I let you tell it, probably.

athlete benching

Nevertheless, we can’t negate the fact that America has a deep-seated fascination with the “strong Black man.” For centuries, the Black man has been labeled ” aggressive  and hyper-masculine.”  Really, any show of  black male bodies engaged in any display of labor, sex/lust, aggression and/or sport exploited the stereotypes of America’s institutionalized racism. To be clear, I’m (obviously) not saying that black men shouldn’t push and challenge their bodies to be finely tuned machines (Frankly, if you tried that you wouldn’t be employed anywhere because somewhere, some kid is working harder than you…plus, read my blog; clearly,  I dig working out)   but I will say this sort of thing could make a person question what motivates owners to market, screen and show appreciation for the human form and choose players that allow them to have the best “team” possible.

jumping athlete

Nothing irritates me more than when sportscasts display team owners luxuriating in their owner’s suites during the game while their players leave blood, sweat and tears on the grass.  Mainly because at that moment, the game seems to be less about the love of the game and more about money. Now I know you’re saying “Well, the majority of these players are Black or Hispanic and the owners are typically White … Look at the neo-slavery!” Right you are, my righteous brother *grabs bean pie and straightens bow tie*  but just before we try to televise the revolution, consider this*;  It’s true,  more Blacks than Whites play basketball, football, track, and baseball. However:

  • More Whites than Blacks play ice hockey, tennis, golf, swimming, polo, archery, wrestling, boxing, body building, volleyball, gymnastics, downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, rock climbing, triathalons, marathons, and horse racing.
  • More Latino/as  than Blacks play soccer (the most popular sport in the world).
  • More Asians than Blacks compete in tai kwon do, karate, sumo wrestling, and other martial arts.

The difference in race ratios lies in neighborhood athletic opportunities, cost of equipment/club membership, and parental/peer encouragement. Have you noticed that the vast majority of American Black athletes originate from poor neighbourhoods? Have you noticed that the sports at which American Blacks excel  are usually the ones with the lowest entry costs? In most cases, all you need in the way of gear is a pair of sneakers and a ball.

So, back to my original question; who is really cracking the whip? Who is really building auction blocks that hold ball players, shackled and against their will? I think it’s the fans. I have been saying for years that fans are a façade; they not real and extremely fickle. We burn players’ jerseys when they leave and send death threats to their houses when they lose a big game. In some ways, fantasy sporting games are a microcosm of the slave trade. Think about it; we put a price tag on a players’ physical ability, raffle him off to the highest bidder and value the player as long as he can obtain points to help acquire weekly wins amongst our peers. Honestly, we don’t care about the players’ personal lives, mental problems, or their post-career quality of life because we need them to run fast and far and get these points. To make important plays and give it all they’ve got because they are built like oxen anyway and that means…more points.   But god forbid all that running takes a toll on a player’s body. Then, as quickly as we loved you, we turn and set our sights on another, stronger, younger, beast…because that’s where the points are now. NEXT!

jeering fans

Fans have somehow begun to think that players owe us but they don’t. Charles Barkley once opined,  ” I am not a role model,” and, as I look at how players that ‘dare’ to get injured, to make decisions for themselves or worst of all—leave their team are treated.

Players are people. Not property. Not slaves. Not jerseys. But rather, humans with exceptional skill, talent and drive. Now grab some popcorn, and enjoy the show.

*https://carace.wikispaces.com/How+does+race+affect+physical+and+mental+abilities%3F

YOUR NEXT REP: Follow me on Twitter and IG  and feel free to share and comment.  All workout (and thought) partners are welcome!

 

Squat Life vs. Shot Life

* drinks protein shake and does a couple push-ups to get my chest up for this comment *

                  ” squats do not make your butt bigger !”

It’s all a fraud. From 30-day squat challenges, to countless posts about how squats will give you the perfect ‘apple bottom’ you’ve been searching for, you’ve been hoodwinked! Bamboozled… in a sense. Now, conventional wisdom says  if the gluteus maximus  (which is the largest muscle in the human body) is worked out until you can’t sit straight, it will, in turn,  grow and somehow gain 20 inches seemingly overnight. You may have even seen some before and after shots to ‘prove it,’ Well,  check her passport for new stamps  because anyone who did  that pretty much booked a round trip to the Dominican Republic and voila: the dream came true.

before after squats

She’s not telling you that though. Instead, she’ll post countless pictures extolling the benefits of squats. Listen, who am I to judge? DR is gorgeous this time of year.   But just before you book your trip, give me a second to propose the idea that looking healthy is never  better than being healthy.

No generic exercise can help you perfect your butt. Keep in mind no two individuals react to an exercise regime in the same way — everyone’s fitness  journey will be unique. So by extension, no one exercise, workout regime or diet can make you look like your favorite supermodel  if you don’t have her genetics. What these articles and pictures do is exploit the idea that big butts make women feel whole or rather, men seem to appreciate them and so women try to acquire them in any way they can. Like, by squatting. One million times a day.

squat challenge

Here’s the skinny (well, maybe I should say, ‘the curve?’):  Butts have muscles just like the rest of your body. So yes; squats will create growth but not the type that most expect. To begin with,  most ladies diligently follow their daily squat challenge chart of an increasingly high number of  squats (most likely in  poor form…but that’s none of my business) but doing eleventy million squats is not the best (or even an effective) way to increase your lean muscle. For example, to complete  250 squats properly, you would need to hold little to no weight. However, to increase lean muscle you need a strong enough stimulus to force your body to change (i.e. develop new muscle). Because the body is a perfect and adaptable machine, as your fitness level improves, you’ll need to hold dumbbells. So by day 25 of the squat challenge, if you’re still doing it without weights, you’re wasting your time.

To be clear, squats are amazing; they’re actually the best total exercise you can do—they build  your core, your legs and have a high caloric expenditure.  Squats can also make substantial changes to your butt if you get under the squat rack and through that can improve your glutes’ strength, shape and firmness.  But that’s it. According to Prevention.com, squats do not make your butt bigger. It’s all in the genes. Frankly, the genetic makeup of the human body accounts for 40 percent of how we appear today.

So, you can squat ‘til your kneecaps pop off, you cannot go from Kate Moss to Kim Kardashian West. You either have it or you don’t.

model

For better or worse, our culture defines women by their sexuality and in many communities, sexuality is personified  as a curvaceous figure.  So,  I understand how that pressure would lead a woman to drastic solutions like butt implants. (Plus, why go to the gym when you know that the way your genetic makeup is set up, you’ll never get what you want, right?)

Obviously I’m being facetious, but in truth, unless your assets to pay the bills, why get implants in your glutes? The issue here is the idea that many people will sacrifice actual health to appear healthy. And I suppose there’s merit to both sides; as a trainer, I could never consign body augmentation. As a member of society I could argue that this is no different from wearing makeup, or purchasing hair. And before you say that the difference is that implants require surgery, keep in mind that there are COUNTLESS stories of  fatal allergic reactions to make-up and weave glue. Women are walking around looking like LeBron because lacefronts have ripped their hairlines to shreds. The point is that much like butt implants which, if all goes well, are perfectly safe, when things go awry, even makeup can cause serious physical damage.

But no matter how you slice it, butt implants and smidge of lipstick do not carry the same risk. Even with the advances in modern day technology many people get implants and inadvertently sign themselves up for  lifetime doctor’s visits. Your butt may indeed get big, but things could go left along the way. All procedures come with the possibility of complications. A short list of nightmares below:

  • Infection
  • Butt implant shifting or rupture
  • Nerve damage
  • Asymmetry

So, is your health worth the risk?  Plus, that last potential side effect should give you a moment of pause; like, what are you going to do with one huge butt cheek and one tiny one? I don’t have the answer to that. But before you decide to take that risk understand that it may not outweigh the reward.

 

YOUR NEXT REP: Follow me on Twitter and IG  and feel free to share and comment.  All workout (and thought) partners are welcome!