Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Thoughts on Tribal Behavior

I have noticed a certain set of behaviors in myself and others which I will refer to as "tribal" behaviors, because they are centered around the belief in the inherent superiority of one's own group or "tribe".

I first noticed this in terms of my own attitude and that of others in the bodybuilding tribe.  When I use the term "bodybuilding" here, I mean something rather narrow.  I mean competitive, sanctioned, official bodybuilding.  I don't mean hobbyist body shaping, or recreational lifting, or power lifting or cross-fit.

I spend enough time reading the various bodybuilding forums online, that I unconsciously started to adopt a supremacist view of bodybuilding as over against all other forms of physical activities.  Without even noticing it, I began to assume that everyone in any gym I frequent has the same body goals as myself, and that most are simply unaware of how to attain them.  This is of course, a fallacy.

Some prefer more "functional" kinds of fitness, such as cross-fit or even (dare I say it?) running!  And in my conscious mind, I realize that this is good and okay.  But in my unconscious mind, I began to forget this, and to assume a superiority of the goals and aspirations of my own tribe.  An example is this:  Whenever I see a new person in the gym, I assume that he or she is a prospective bodybuilder, and I begin to mentally craft a program that would take them in the direction of bodybuilding success.  I make a mental picture of what the person will look like after 3, 4, 5 years of bodybuilding training.

But this morning on my way to work, I saw a young woman running down the street.  She was graceful, fluid, light on her feet, and FAST!  I thought to myself (brace yourselves):  it is okay that she is not trying to be a bodybuilder.  She is perfect as a runner!

And from that brilliant little realization came all these other thoughts about my tribal thinking in so many areas of my life.

Nowhere is it more prevalent (in my case, at least) than in the car hobby.  I like old American cars from the 1950s and 1960s.  That's pretty much it, for me.  There are outlier cars I like, of course.  A few modern cars, a few European cars, a very few Japanese cars, etc.  I also like "old school" pre-war hot rods.  I'm narrow; I admit it.  I have identified a tribe, and I stick with my tribe ... because it's the best!

But my son's experience in the car hobby has given me pause to think.  His passion for the car hobby exceeds mine, and he belongs to my same tribe.  But he mingles extremely successfully with those of other tribes (the import "tuner" crowd, sports car types, the resto-mod group, the off-road truck tribe, and pretty much any other car hobby tribe that is out there).  He has a wonderful way of expressing his central passions without in any way negating the validity of the passions of those in other tribes.  I could learn a lot from him!

It is similar in music.  I like garage rock and psychedelic music from 1965 to 1971, and that's pretty much it.  That, and Anglican Church choral music.   And blues.  My son, on the other hand, can appreciate garage, psychedelic, and blues music, without limiting himself in that way.  He is friendly with my own musical tribe.  But he connects successfully with so many other musical tribes, such as Techno, Electronic, and Dubstep.

In thinking about my own tribal behaviors, I have tentatively come to the conclusion that it is okay to view the distinctives of one's own tribe as superior.  I mean, really, how could you not?  I think that it becomes a problem when we become so narrow-minded and petrified in our minds and souls that we cannot be happy for the beauty that others have found elsewhere.

I am still thinking this through, so I would value your comments on the subject!

Monday, August 26, 2013

My Cumulative Progress from My Last Five Years in Bodybuilding.

I don't often quote George Bernard Shaw, but for purposes of this blog entry, I will:
“People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.”
In late 2007, an Anglican friend (from my parish at the time) stated that people unavoidably lose muscle mass every year after the age of 35, regardless of exercise and diet. 

To me, this sounded like the sort of defeatist thing said by the kind of person not willing to work hard enough to make progress.  

I set out to prove my friend wrong. I gained 15 pounds of muscle in 5 years. 

 June, 2008 on the left. August, 2013 on the right.

I realize that not everyone (yes, Mom, I'm talking about you!) would view this as progress.   
Tastes vary in that regard, of course.  But I am still happy about the changes I have been able to make to my physique while in my fifties.  I look forward to carrying another 15 pounds of muscle by age 60!

Monday, August 19, 2013

My Daughter's First Time Driving in the Woodward Dream Cruise!

Driving is a major rite of passage in my family, and one of the sub-elements of it is a kid's first time piloting his own car in the Woodward Dream Cruise.

This year, it was my daughter Violet's turn to drive her 1967 Mustang GT in the cruise!

Monday, August 12, 2013

R.I.P. - Terri Harris

It is with extreme sadness that I note the passing of one of female bodybuilding's finest competitors, Texan Terri Harris.  I know I have a LOT of "favorite bodybuilders", but Terri really was one of the great ones.

I almost got the chance to meet her at Masters Nationals in July, 2011.  She was in the host hotel, standing in front of the elevators, talking to friends.  I truly wanted to meet her and tell her how great she had looked on stage, but I didn't want to interrupt her conversation with her friends.

Later, after finding her on facebook, she told me that I should have interrupted to say "hi", and to be sure to do so the next time.  Now, sadly, there will not be a next time, at least not this side of "Jordan's flood".

As I got to know Terri a bit through her posts on facebook, it became evident what a sweet, humble, and wonderful person she was.  Such a sweet spirit.

Reports vary as to whether she was 49 or 50 years of age at her death from a heart attack, but she definitely didn't look it!  She had just made her Pro debut in bodybuilding at the Tampa Pro, two short days before her death.

R.I.P., Terri Harris.  You will be sorely missed!!

Susanna Tirpak!

I'm going to let the video do the talking.

The fabulous Susanna Tirpak, a female bodybuilder from Budapest, Hungary!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Bodybuilding Addiction

My wife recently asked me whether my bodybuilding addiction is merely a substitute addiction for my (now abandoned) alcohol addiction, or a separate addiction in its own right.  I don't know how to answer that question, but I can say for sure that bodybuilding and the lifestyle around it are quite addictive.

As a rival addiction to drinking, bodybuilding makes an excellent choice because, when done right, it cannot coexist with even a moderate amount of alcohol intake.  It is one or the other, at least for me.

In his book, 
Addiction and Virtue: Beyond the Models of Disease and Choice, Kent Dunnington explains how addictions are "totalizing" entities in the addict's life.  One plans the events of one's day around the "next cigarette" or the "next drink".  Or, in my case, the next cardio workout, the next weight workout, or the next 50 grams of protein.  As with any addiction, healthy or unhealthy, rival pursuits get shoved aside to support the addictive behavior.

How did I become addicted to bodybuilding?  It would be a long story to tell in its entirety, but I can trace it back at least as far as a Captain America coloring book which I owned in elementary school.

I remember being especially impressed by Captain America's quadriceps, and in particular his Vastus Medialis muscles.  The looked like some manner of teardrop shaped land speed record car one might have seen on the Bonneville Salt Flats in the 1960s.  They blew mind mind entirely.

But my newfound fascination with bodybuilding (I mean, such as it was.  I hadn't even heard the term "bodybuilding") went dormant for many years.  Sure, I saw Dave Draper on The Beverly Hillbillies.  And I will admit that the weightlifting unit in my high school Physical Education class was less loathsome to me than playing sports.

But, as I say, the thing was in a long dormancy, until I happened to notice a photograph of Kay Baxter, around 1983 or 1984.  Her shoulders looked inhumanly large; I loved them!

So, in 1984, I joined a gym and began my own bodybuilding journey.  I muddled along, probably spending more time reading the various bodybuilding magazines than I spent actually in the gym.

In 1988, my wife and I moved to Southern California, where I joined a Gold's Gym.  It was a much more serious gym than I'd belonged to before.  And I met my first training partner, Steve.  I credit Steve with demonstrating to me the intensity necessary to actually make muscles grow.  It was a lot more than I thought!

In 1993, at the age of 35, I entered my first bodybuilding contest.  It was sanctioned by NGA, a natural bodybuilding federation.  I placed 5th out of 6 competitors in the lightweight class.  My contest prep was completely misguided!  I starved myself, did no cardio, and lost a lot of muscle along with the fat to get down under 152 pounds.

Then, the addiction went dormant (or semi-dormant) again for a while.  I worked out lackadaisically, never making progress or building muscle, simply "managing the decline" in the same way I see so many in the gym still doing it.

But then, about seven months before my 50th birthday, I suddenly got the inspiration to compete again.  This time, I did it right!  I hired a coach for training, and then coaches for the contest prep.  I figured out how to get spray tanned correctly, so that my skin did not have a sickly, pale green tint as it did in my first contest.  That was in July, 2008.

After two more contests, in 2009 and 2010, I again tried to forget about the addiction.  But my life took some directions I did not like, including occasional binge drinking.  So, I have thrown that drinking addiction over for the bodybuilding addiction once again.

I'm currently 7 weeks out from the first of three contests I plan to do this fall.  Watch this space for further details!