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WHERE IT BEGAN

WHERE DID IT BEGIN FOR YOU? 

Think back to the first inspirations you’d had to make you want to lift weights, body build, or compete in sports. What are your earliest memories? It could have been seeing Arnold on Wide World of Sports as he went from a huge muscular phenomenon to an absolute freak as the muscles flexed and his body became statuesque. It could have been your father or brother or neighbor or seeing professional athletes up close at your first real sporting event.

It could have been the “Feats of Strength” freak at the carnival sideshow, or a movie clip from one of the “Beach Blanket” movies. It could have even been Jack Lalane with his chair “breathing in, breathing out…” as he brought fitness to the living rooms of women  all over the country in the ’60’s.

WHERE IT BEGAN FOR ME

There are two distinct things that stand out from my memory that helped to shape my life as a bodybuilder.

I must have been 5 or 6 years old. A guy from down the street, Wally, who came around infrequently, came walking from the end of the block in skinny, rolled up jeans, white Converse tennis shoes, and a white t-shirt that fit him like paint. He was smart, articulate, and kind with a joking demeanor. His shoulders hid the sun, his arms contoured and veiny, lean as a hunting dog, stuck from his shirtsleeves like deli salamis. His black Elvis “waterfall” hung over one eye and it took all of us to get the courage  to ask him our request. The reputation was that he could lift a car off the ground by the bumper.

“do, do, do…uh, can you, uh, maybe uh, lift a car up, uh…someone said you could…once”

Jumping around him like sparrows, we waited for his response. A ’60-something Buick Electra with fins as wide as his shoulders sat in the street.

“Will that do?” he nodded in its direction.

We squealed and clapped like we were getting ice cream. He stepped off the curb, set his feet firm and feigned straining like an actor in a Hercules movie. In whispers and a hush we dropped our jaws, awestruck, as the frame rose, the leaf springs stretched and the wheels came up as if it were a wagon instead of 2500lb. automobile. We were speechless. He dropped it in a thud as it shuddered back to resting, while we squealed inaudible fragments of unrecognized speech. He wiped his hands on his jeans, smiled amusingly as if it were routine, flashed a bigger grin and walked away as if we’d only broken his stride on his way to greater things.

Five of us squirmed and wriggled the bumper in unison grunts, not budging more than a rock out of the wheels. We laughed and backslapped and wiped our brows like we’d seen cowboys do  after a day on the range. I tried secretly, daily, for a week following the feat to see if I could work up the strength, as if will alone would carry me, to help me somehow miraculously lift it. But it never budged. One guy, by himself, lifted the thing off the ground. He was an immediate hero, an enigma to us kids in Red Ball Jets. I can still see his traps flex and his back stretched wide, the shoulders and triceps tighten and the biceps contract.

What impressed me more than anything in that moment was his humility. He didn’t ask for money, or a favor, or anything of us. He didn’t brag or debate, he did it our of the sheer joy of knowing that he could. He did it as if it were part of his daily walk, “…say hi to Mr. Brown,…lift a car off the ground…wink at Sandy on her porch…”

THE SECOND TIME INSPIRED

The second instance was an epiphany of sorts I’d gotten from going to church. I sat a few pews behind “George” who was 7 or 8 years older than me, a whole lifetime at my young age. I purposely looked for him every week. He would lean on the pew in front of him and the definition in his triceps would jump out from under his shirt sleeves. I swore one day to have arms like that, cuts like that, lean muscles that flexed when I moved; a bulging slab of definition that snuck from my shirt cuffs because it couldn’t be contained.

I didn’t know the muscles names but I knew that being a rail of a kid with zits bigger than my arms was not the way I wanted to go through life. The way the girls sidled closer to him, the audience he’d attracted, the turning heads, stealing smiles and coy glances; the powerful charisma he gave off and the attention he received made me decide he was the kind of guy I wanted to be. He was not cocky about it, just confident, polite, nice; a guy you’d want to be friends with, if he’d let you.

MY TURN TO INSPIRE

Little instances like that multiplied and compounded my fascination. I began reading muscle mags, asking older kids about weightlifting, asking why they did certain movements, trying things through feeling how they worked, climbing ropes, doing pushups, eventually pushing to do more in gym class and on teams rather than getting away with doing the least possible. I began at 14 and never stopped learning, sharing, growing, training, giving, believing, receiving. And my arms are awesome, naturally!

By doing more, paying attention and educating myself, unafraid to ask questions or seek challenges with my own body, the fascination became passion and the passion became vocation. The gym became my office and bodybuilding became as much an aspect of my being as the clothes I wear. I gave to it and it gave back in equal measure.

I’ve been blessed by the lives I’ve touched playing this weight game. It has opened many doors and led me on great adventures. I feel good knowing that over the years I’ve not only shared friendships and raised families with my peers, but more importantly, worked out and trained with every one of them at one time or another, giving this simple thing I have to share, with those I care about and love.

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THE PRESENT

Imagine there is a bank that credits your account each morning with $86,400. It carries over no balance from day to day. Every evening it deletes whatever part of the balance you failed to use during the day.

What would you do? Draw out every cent, of course!

Each of us has such a bank. It’s name is TIME. Every morning, it credits you with 86,400 seconds. Every night it writes off, as lost, whatever of this you have failed to invest to good purpose. It carries over no balance. It allows no overdraft. Each day it opens a new account for you. Each night it burns the remains of the day. If you fail to use the day’s deposits, the loss is yours.

There is no going back. There is no drawing against the “tomorrow.” You must live in the present on today’s deposits. Invest it so as to get from it the utmost in health, happiness, and success!

The clock is running. Make the most of today.

 

To realize the value of ONE YEAR, ask a student who failed a grade. To realize the value of ONE MONTH, ask a mother who gave birth to a premature baby. To realize the value of ONE WEEK, ask the editor of a weekly newspaper. To realize the value of ONE HOUR, ask the lovers who are waiting to reunite. To realize the value of ONE MINUTE, ask a person who missed the flight. To realize the value of ONE SECOND, ask a person who just avoided an accident. To realize the value of ONE MILLISECOND, ask the person who won silver in the Olympics.

Treasure every moment that you have.

And treasure it more because you shared it with someone special, special enough to spend your time. And remember that time waits for no one. Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is mystery. Today is a gift. That’s why it’s called “The Present.”

 

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REMEMBER THIS

The memory is so good it remembers even the things you choose to ignore.  It records the first smile your mother gave, your first kiss on a first date, bruises, grades, kindnesses, hurts and escapades; every nuance of emotion from gripping fear to jumping joy.  The more you choose to remember, the deeper imbedded it becomes.

So soak up life.  Sponge it up with all the gusto of the first home-cooked meal in a month.  Eat foods so alive they burst and pop and explode inside your mouth, like meatballs made of Poprocks, like sour or hot or luscious spaghetti sauce, enough to elicit drool.

Ride your bike with abandon and speed until it feels like the wheels are wobbling off. Run with arms and legs churning as if a dog were nipping at your jeans. Then lay to look at the clouds and the sun, long enough for the whole panorama to transform as far as you can see. Drink it in like you did the coldest drink on the hottest day. Attach your imagination to it, until that scene changes and you become it; lose yourself in the wonders you’ve found.

Listen in silence to the world the ears offer.  Separate the nuances of sound until the noise becomes one, then returns back to nothing.

Notice sunset, sunrise, full moons, winter brightness, blue skies over blue water seen through 20 feet up through a Tidy Bowl sea.

Remember friends, all the good things and even the bad; remember what they say you did, even though you can’t.

Take to heart and memory a whispered breath in your ear, as it moves across the creases, bringing the lobe’s hairs to attention and the hackles to dance beneath the hairline.  Remember what was said, the cadence, inflection, emotion and the ripples it sent. Remember who said it. Remember the clothes and the day and the scene and situation. Recall where you came from, and from there, where you went.

Remember music and words and books and authors. Quote poetry, learn something moving to recite verbatim; a speech, a line delivered with such conviction that emotion quivers on the eyelid’s rims as it’s spoken, from both you and the listener and any audience present.    Remember how good it feels to be alive.  Recall how pain feels but don’t dwell in it.

Take in every aspect of every thing, the way a newborn sees for the first time; observant, patient, unhurried, mesmerized by the lines of a face or the whiskers of a cat, or the way the wind moves the drapes and how the shadows dance.

Remember that you have an endless supply of storage space in your head and take your life to the end in pursuit of filling it with places and friends, feelings and scenery, beaches and crashing waves, embraces and tastes and fragrances from the person whose lips lay close to you; the scent of skin, hair and mouth of true love when you know it. Pay attention, you’ll know it.

Check out the petals of flowers and their symmetry, their depth of color, detail, life, and consistency. Notice all the balance and beauty that God creates with and remember to say “Thank You.”  See the hidden, hear the distant, touch the near, taste forbidden.

Remember manners and dreams and directions and birthdays.  Remember artists and teachers and idols and leaders and the stranger who lent you a hand. Remember those who smiled back when it’s you who led.

In each day an array of seemingly mundane events occur, yet somewhere hidden in the work or TV show or demands from others is a hidden gem of what you must learn.  Like each raindrop carries a grain of dirt, each insignificant quirk has something in it to learn from, so remember.  Remember all that moves you, to tears, to joy, to sorrow, to euphoria.  Your heart and brain were meant to feel those things; memory is the chain that links the life in little vignettes from birth to death,  so remember everything in between as only you were meant to experience it.

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CHLOE SANNITO FIGURE PHENOMENON
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Chloe Sannito is going to be a competitor to watch in the NPC Figure Division. She won her first show, took overall, and went on to take 2nd place in the Chicago Iron Man against a very competitive field. This, and the fact that she is only 17 years old and a high school senior; but more than that, she battled childhood obesity, then turned the tables on being called “the fat kid” to now being the “fit kid.”

This girl inspired me as soon as she stepped on stage. She was an easy winner in this small group, but she still gave the audience her best shots, every one of them; and was a definite crowd pleaser.

Leg development in any physique sport is the determinant of the best conditioning, the hardest worker, the one paying attention to the details. Chloe Sannito had the best legs I’d seen all summer in any women’s division of Michigan Bodybuilding Competitions. When she turned around to show back, hamstrings and calves, the audience let out a simultaneous, “wow.”

She looked young, but who would have guessed 17? By the end of prejudging everyone knew who had the most outstanding physique of all the women at the 2013 Midwest Muscle Challenge; by the end of the night, the buzz about Chloe Sannito, “the teen figure girl,” was,  “who is this girl was and where she came from? “

Standing around to congratulate her later, I stood next to other admiring fans; the one closest to me happened to be her mother, who was beaming. She proceeded to tell me the remarkable transformation of this young girl from an 185 pound freshman from Crown Point, Indiana, to this high school senior at 110 pounds, winning the NPC Figure Competition; blowing everyone away in this, her first show.

Listen to this inspiring interview with Chloe as she tells of her ordeals, training, diet and thoughts on competition in the figure division of the NPC.

 

 

THE (NEW & IMPROVED) Old School

 

Out one evening, I asked one of my son’s young friends for his email and phone number because I’d wanted him to do some graphics work for me. I pulled out a pen and notecard and he looks at me and says, “oh, old school.” It was a hilarious realization to him, that we could share information without fumbling with our phones, but the pen and paper were the correct tools for the job at hand. The situation was instantly remedied and there was no amount of shouting our emails or numbers out over the din of the club. It made me think of other recent times when just finding  someone with a pen was a task.

This also made me think to get away from the saying, “old school” as it applies to fitness in general and bodybuilding in particular. When someone’s playing “hopsquats” with their “TRX Bands” or “lunging squats” on a Bosu ball, don’t call my pull ups, benchpress, or squats “old school.” These exercises, plus many other “old school” barbell and dumbbell movements, made every champion in every sport, from The Olympics to the Superbowl and are still the best tools for the job. I guarantee they didn’t do it with “Exerbands, Bosu’s, stability pads or TRX bands.” I guarantee Arnold, Coleman, Cutler or Heath; Wilkins, Garcia or Kyle owes their “perfect, best in the world, physiques” to weights. I guarantee every body you see on every magazine cover, male and female, was created with weight-based workouts. Every speed athlete, every sport, every age, every country, trains “old school.” So put down those “shake-a-weights” and pick up some real weight.

You can supplement your warmups or workouts with these “new, improved” trendy “shortcut” tools; but like supplements to nutrition, you need real food, you need real weights, barbells and dumbbells, to make significant, constant progress. So don’t try to say you’re “training with TRX Straps”, you’re not. You’re playing. You’re using toys instead of tools. A workout requires “work.” You don’t need functional training when everything is functioning fine. You are not building size, shape or stamina by shaking ropes or slamming a medicine ball at the floor. You are ticking time off a trainer’s watch, while they create these ridiculous, awkward movements that make you nothing but noisy and tired.

Saying weights are “old school” is like saying cash is old school; see how “old” it is when you need something in a foreign country. Did you ever coax with plastic when you really need a special favor, room, meal? Cash talks, just like whole foods talk, and weights talk, while trends walk; they come and go, but they always go away. Some offer challenges or look pretty or fun; but face it, the “new school tools” are for play. Real athletes use real weights, real workouts, real food and real sweat.  And don’t even get me started on Zumba. I know people who sweat like that sitting still!

 

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THE FRESHMAN

 

 

Keynote Speech to the Candidates for the Balanced Man Scholarship; presented by the

Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity at Lawrence Tech 2013

 DIG DEEP, REACH HIGH 

Many of you are students of Architecture. When constructing a skyscraper, you must dig a deep foundation in order to reach the greatest heights. The deeper the foundation, the higher the structure. Let your educational roots be set deep in this base of knowledge, so your mind may soar to its optimum expression.

As freshmen, you have 3 primary areas of growth ahead of you:

  1. Scholarship
  2. Involvement
  3. Relationships

SCHOLARSHIP

You are now in the farm club. You made it to college. You are on a new team. Your talents and abilities brought you this far. They will sustain you. This opportunity is a test to see what you’re really made of. Let it prepare you for the big leagues of life. In order to be a superstar of scholarship, you must use:

  • intelligence
  • common sense
  • available information
  • intellectual property

Intelligence got you here. Your proven methods of study, application, understanding and research, got you here. The better you utilize the new assets available to you, the professors, subject matter experts, peers and knowledge base, the more you will exploit your own resources and the greater your intelligence will grow. Continue reading