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I had a couple of thought provoking conversations last week. The first occurred while I was out and about running some errands. A young man approached me and posed the question, "If I started taking steroids, how long would it take me to get really big?"
For some reason I was feeling particularly blunt, so I responded to him that he would get big at about the same rate as his testicles shrunk up into little raisins and he grew breasts. Now, this type of talk usually at least gets a guy's attention, but this fellow pressed on. "Yeah, but how long would it take me to put on a lot of muscle and get rid of this fat?"
Even after I repeated my dire prognosis and listed a few of the other side effects of steroid use he seemed unfazed. "I don't care about all that; I just want to put on some muscle really fast."
I was a little incredulous that anyone with enough macho inclination to want to be more muscular would not care about testicular atrophy or gynacomastia, not to mention heart disease, so I tried a different tact and asked him about what types of workouts he was presently doing.
I thought perhaps this fellow was just frustrated that he wasn't getting the results he wanted from his training. In this case, I could explain to him the importance of doing heavy compound exercises like squats, deadlifts, overhead presses and bent over rows if he wanted to put on muscle and lose fat as quickly as possible.
I realized that it was probably time to get back to my chores when he told me that he wasn't actually working out but wondered if twice a week would be enough if he was also taking steroids.
Fortunately, the next conversation that gave me pause to reflect was a little more uplifting. A member of our fitness center told me how much he was enjoying the karate classes that Sensei Young is offering at our facility. He did express, though, a little disappointment that it seemed a little harder to learn the techniques than it might have been if he had studied this as a younger man.
Rather than giving up or complaining about something he couldn't change, however, he concluded that it was just going to take him longer to get where he wanted to be. We joked a bit about youth being wasted on the young and that sort of thing and finally reached a consensus that time was going to go on whether he continued to study martial arts or not.
The cynic in me is afraid that the attitude of our friend who wants to be big and impressive looking as long as it doesn't take any real effort is more prevalent than the wisdom of our karate student who recognizes that change takes time and that anything worth obtaining takes work.
I don't know whether marketers are buying into the "something for nothing" attitude that already exists or if they have helped create it, but we are constantly bombarded with the message that we can instantly and effortlessly change our lives with the right product, diet plan, etc.
The optimist in me sees folks of all ages, sizes and shapes coming into our fitness center and plugging away at whatever type of exercise they do. I like seeing the young folks who are lifting hard and obviously reaping the benefits, but I am even more impressed with the middle aged, obese members who come in and continue to exercise without being able to see any day to day change in their physiques. Of course these are the same members who tell me how much weight they have lost in the last two years and what medications they no longer have to take.
Unlike our friend looking for short cuts, these folks know that if you want to change your health and fitness, you have to change your behavior. Despite all the ads for magic bullets we hear, it simply doesn't work any other way.
It doesn't take a heroic effort or change to start improving our health, but it does take change. As our karate student so wisely decided, time is going to go by whether you make these changes or not. Why not start now and watch the rewards accumulate as time goes on?
Dr. Corey Pavitt is a chiropractic physician, competitive bodybuilder, and a recreational yoga, cycling and hiking enthusiast. He and his wife Ellen own and operate Pavitt Health and Fitness. His Wednesday Juneau Empire column has run over nine years and will continue in addition to this bimonthly article.