All of us who lift weights or bodybuild know things, painful things, about lifting that we normally don't share with beginners because, frankly, no one ever filled us in on these secrets beforehand and we're all still pretty chafed about it.
But I'm feeling uncharacteristically nice today, so if any of you out there are thinking about taking up lifting, here are a few of the distressing truths you'll soon come to realize.
1 – You'll only really look good for a month or two a year... probably in summer.
No one ever bothers to tell you that the guys pictured on bodybuilding websites don't normally look all ripped. Most of the time, they look like Fat Thor, or that their high school nickname was Billy Bob and Coach Kilmer wanted them to play in the big game for West Canaan, even though Billy Bob has a concussion.
It's only when they get ready for a contest or, if they're amateurs, when they get ready for summer that they start to get the body of pre-Thanos Thor.
That'll probably be you too, because walking around all year-round with body fat in the single digits is about as easy as running a marathon every day while wearing one of those goofy T-Rex suits and carrying a serving set of tea cups.
But hey, two months of looking good is better than zero months of looking good.
2 – You'll get to know what being old feels like, years before it actually happens.
Let me clarify this a bit. You'll feel fine, even great, once you've been lifting weights for a while... as long as you're sitting perfectly still.
If you are moving, well hello old guy who does commercials for those walk-in bathtubs! You won't just "get up" in the morning. You'll be so achy from lifting that you'll actually have to unfurl yourself out of bed, once piece at a time like some cheap piece of mass-produced furniture from IKEA.
Some parts will wake up faster than others, but until all your decrepit joints are in sync, you'll do a kind of an answering-the-phone-with-your-pants-around-your-ankles walk that would cause an Elementary school administrator to pull over and offer you the custodial job recently vacated by the passing of Dale, the funny-in-the-head janitor who died last Tuesday.
But it's all worth it, of course.
3 – People will assume you're stupid.
Once you start filling out your T-shirt with muscle, people will assume your brain is inversely proportional to your degree of muscle. You'll be regarded much the same way as Fran, the squeaky voiced, large-breasted but dim-witted hooker in that 80's movie, The Man With Two Brains:
- Dr. Michael Hfuhruhurr (Steve Martin): I can't.
- Fran: Can't what?
- Dr. Michael Hfuhruhurr: I can't inject you with window cleaner.
- Fran: I don't mind. Hey, what does it do anyway?
- Dr. Michael Hfuhruhurr: It causes your brain to die.
- Fran: I don't mind.
No one will take you seriously about anything, unless it has to do with the bench press or protein requirements.
And if you do say something smart, people will be thunderstruck. They'll regard you the same they would if they met a chimp who learned how to use the toilet, or some four-year old who learned the lyrics to Itsy-Bitsy Spider. It'll all feel pretty demeaning.
4 – You'll start looking for any excuse to take off your shirt.
There'll come a time – probably a few months after you start training – that you'll start feeling a little cocky about your new body. You'll be like some fool who learned a few words of Spanish and then looks for any excuse to go to a Mexican restaurant to proudly exclaim "Muy bueno!" when the doesn't-give-a-shit waitress comes to clear his plate away.
But instead of showing off your linguistic aptitude, you'll start showing off your torso by taking off your shirt in front of an audience whenever there's any excuse to do so, whether the thermometer inched up to a sweltering 71 degrees or you just need to push the trash dumpster out to the street.
It'll take all your restraint not to strip off your suit jacket and shirt at a funeral because carrying that casket would really make your delts pop. Likewise, you'll never again pass a mirror, window, or back of a shiny spoon without catching an admiring glimpse of your wonderfulness.
It's pretty sad, but like I said, it's all worth it.
5 – You'll never again eat anything that tastes good.
You poor bastard. You're now going to eat for both muscular size AND fat loss, a Houdini-like nutritional trick that, while not impossible, is kind of like going camping and trying to start a campfire underwater on the bottom of Lake Winnibigoshish.
Besides that, your diet isn't going to have a lot of variety. Let's put it this way:
You know how you've been feeding the family dog the same kibble every day for his whole life?
Well, next to your new, bodybuilding diet, the dog's diet is a wild, gastro-fusional delight that does the cha-cha on the tongue. Everything you eat from now on until you set down your last dumbbell is going to be from a painfully short list of standard high protein, low-carb, low-fat, low-taste, bodybuilding foods.
And you'll never taste sugar again. Instead, you'll swallow so much artificial sweetener that every year you have to send your liver to Switzerland to have it Martinized with non-flammable solvents, pressed, and sent back.
6 – You'll find that your newfound strength isn't really much good for anything.
You may really be a superhero in training, but most of the time, you're either Superman with a piece of Kryptonite lodged in his shorts or Tony Stark with a shorted-out arc reactor in the middle of his chest. In other words, you're usually too sore or too tight from the previous day's workout to actually do anything of use.
Let's put it this way: You won't even be able to pick up a kitten without warming up and doing a few pick-up-the-kitten ramp-up sets (where you start by picking up a light kitten and progressively working up with heavier kittens until you can pick up the work-set kitten).
But it's all worth it, of course. (Isn't it?)
7 – Girls don't really go for muscular guys.
It's the ultimate cosmic joke. You started bodybuilding so you could be more appealing to women, but most women don't like the overly muscular look.
It's the real-life equivalent of that O. Henry short story where the guy sells his watch so he can buy his luxuriously long-haired wife a set of combs, completely unawares that she had cut off her hair and sold it so she could buy him a chain for his gold watch, so they get hugely bummed out and end up dead in a tragic murder/suicide.
Okay, that last part didn't happen in the story, but it might as well have. By the way, do you hear that noise in the background? It's the goddam' universe laughing at you.
Oh sure, a lot of women will mock-fawn over the idea of muscular lifters, the way they do with Chippendale's dancers, but a lot of that's for show, the way a group of guys hoot and holler when Billy Bob shoots a can of Lone Star. The women wouldn't dare date one of those washboard-ab guys... or, for that matter, you.
Instead, they go for guys with cute little-boy butts and "toned" arms who are dead ringers for pre-Batman Robert Pattinson, complete with the glittery, bedazzled skin. Or maybe guys who look a little like Miley Cyrus. Scratch that. Exactly like Miley Cyrus.
But maybe, just maybe, you'll ironically find someone who doesn't care for such superficialities as physical attractiveness and she won't mind your muscles and will love you for yourself.
Sure, keep telling yourself that. But it's all, of course, worth it.
Okay, It Really is Worth It
I may have painted a depressing picture of lifting weights and bodybuilding, but I'm kidding. Mostly. Kind of. While our pursuit has its definite drawbacks, there are also plenty of reasons why we love it and continue to do it.
Lifting is, if it's done sanely, healthy. It teaches us things about a whole host of "ologies," from basic biology and physiology to endocrinology. It fosters friendship and camaraderie. For those in need, it's therapy. If you try hard enough, it can even be meaningful or spiritual.
And it really is useful, as strength always makes life easier, whether you're carrying groceries, digging ditches, or fighting the aliens when they come.
Oh, and plenty of women do like it, particularly if they work out, too. So I'm told, anyhow.