Monday, April 30, 2012

Is Bigger & Stronger Really Better Faster?

Ever since the late 1970s, Americans have been slowly getting more and more obsessed with their self image. Take the G.I Joe action figure for instance, when it came out in the late 60s it had the body construction of a average male of the time. As time went by, and as newer editions of the action figure came out, it seemed to be getting more and more built and buff. When we compare it with the action figures of today, it is like day and night. I looked into various things to figure out what set off this sudden jolt of having the need for the perfect body. Throughout my research, I watched a documentary on body image, I interviewed friends and gym trainers who I have known for a while, read handfuls of articles, and even visited numerous gyms to see if the location had an effect on the clientele and demand of results.

Through my studies, I learned that the obsession over body image begun when Arnold Schwarzenegger started doing body building competitions in America and getting more and more popular with the people. He would always say “I wake up every morning and train at the Venice Beach Golds Gym” along with all the other body builders. Spectators liked what they were looking at and the body building industry took off. Everyone wanted to be a part of the action, everyone wanted to be the biggest, baddest, strongest person in their gym. This is where the craze of body building all started.
Along with massive demand for the same thing, comes competition. When everyone starts wanting to be the biggest and strongest, that is going to lead to people doing whatever it takes to outdo one another. This is where the market for supplementing started. Whether it is off the shelf products or whether it is steroids and human growth hormones. Anyone whose into body building whether they want to get lean or want to get buff took supplements at one point or another if they were serious about getting the results they were after. Supplements of today definitely give the consumer the motivation to work harder because mentally they believe that whatever they are taking will make them bigger, stronger, faster. Only by looking at body builders of today and comparing it to the ones of the 1970s and 1980s will provide a clear image.
Taking into consideration that ONLY supplements are a twenty-four billion dollar a year industry in America, that should show how badly we want the best when it comes to those who actually feel the need to achieve the highest possible. Along with having that large of a supplementing market, as a country we are also the greatest consumers of pills in general. Whether its medicine, vitamins, supplements, etc. There will continuously be a lot of controversy and arguments politically about drugs and body enhancements but that definitely will not stop the person who is dedicated to get their hands on a certain product.
From what I have learned, people started supplementing because they wanted their bodies to be the best it can be. Personally, the reason I supplement is because I am not satisfied with the results I get the natural way. For me, it takes too long and it simply does not make me happy. The mentality I have is due to seeing all the monster guys in my gym who are on steroids or other extreme supplements. When I spoke to my friend who is a trainer at my gym, he told me the same thing that I was thinking. He said “All the guys I see coming in here expecting to get built or cut the natural way, usually end up supplementing because of all the peer pressure they feel when they see others getting the results they want in a faster and bigger manner”. He also told me “I have trained a lot of people who come in here with no set intention to supplement or even having any knowledge about it but they just end up getting sucked into it”. 
This all seemed a bit overwhelming for me so I laid back for a second to try to absorb what is going on around me. I felt even more confused when I took into consideration that I go to the gym at least 5 times a week and I do not see any of this in person. It all seems to be done under the table. When I stepped back, I thought I should visit a few gyms around me to see if the environment changed the goals and the attitude of the clients. I visited three gyms; one being the SRC on the CSUN campus, the second being LA Fitness in the center of Hollywood, and the third being 24 Hour Fitness in the heart of the NoHo Arts District which happens to be the gym where a lot of famous people go to. Our SRC is a pretty mellow, innocent, recreational place. I feel that it is somewhere you can go to hang out with a group of friends compared to a hard core gym where you would see built people left and right. When I visited the LA Fitness in Hollywood, the place seemed pretty run down and shady. I guess the reason for that was because memberships are usually twenty five dollars a month and probably because of the “diverse”  crowd of people you would see in Hollywood. I did not seem to spot anyone with the body of someone who supplements. The explanation for that might be because the clients over there were lower income and probably can’t afford the pricey supplements. Finally, going to my favorite gym of all, the NoHo Arts District 24 Hour Fitness was like a breathe of fresh air. This place is my all time favorite gym. I can eat and sleep there if the amenities permit. A lot of famous hollywood stars show up at the gym and its a pretty typical thing. Due to the higher class of the clients at this gym, you tend to see people who strive for more because financially they can afford to. At the 24, its rare to see someone WITHOUT built arms or have a nice body definition from head to toe. Apparently money does play a big role body image. 
When it comes down to it, I am one hundred percent for supplementing, no matter what it is. Whether it is off the counter products, things you can only get online, things you need to be over the age of eighteen to purchase, or even steroids. But what I am against and always will be against, is supplemental abuse. This is what causes all the controversy when it comes to the subject. This is what can cause damage to the human body. I feel we are all responsible for what we put in ourselves but we need to have control over it and do everything in a responsible manner. In America, the demand for being the best will never go down. This is just the way we are as a country. When I link this to body image, it only adds up to us gym rats taking more and more supplements and just getting out of hand. What I hope for on the other hand though is that people get more and more educated on the subject so they will not hurt themselves in the long run.

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