Can you guess who is the odd one out from this trio of rogues:
a ) Arnold Schwarzenegger
b ) Lou Ferrigno
c ) Jody Raynsford
Did you guess?
Yes, you’re absolutely right.
It was a) Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Why? Because myself and Hulk-of-a-man himself, Lou Ferrigno, have both ‘endured’ training for something that’s very important and new to us in challenging circumstances.
No, really, humour me for a second.
Watching Pumping Iron again the other night (if you haven’t seen it, you really much catch it – it’s currently on Netflix), reminded me of the time when I was training to run the Marathon des Sables.
Of all the goals I’ve set myself in life, at the time, this was the biggest thing I’d ever set my mind and body to do.
It required six full-on months of training and a whole heap of commitment and investment not only in terms of money but also time. And I was combatting the constant fear that a) I couldn’t do it and b) I might die.
In hindsight, it’s funny I even saw these as fears.
But that’s what fear is about…
In Pumping Iron, Lou Ferrigno was planning to take on his biggest challenge ever: toppling Arnie from the crown of Mr Olympia. Arnie was the title-holder – in fact, he’d won it six times – and was solid in his position at the top.
Ferrigno had just jumped to being professional and was learning the ropes – albeit with a whole lot of help from Joe Weider and his father, the brilliant Matty Ferrigno (Pumping Iron is worth watching just for him, his fatherly pride on show and his motivational speeches to Lou).
There a section of the film which struck me.
In one scene, Arnie is seen coming out of the sea on a warm sunny day in California surrounding by women and dozens of other bodybuilders.
He later walks into Golds Gym, the bright, airy space filled with bulging biceps and chests bursting out of shirts.
The place was a Mecca for bodybuilders.
Arnie owned that space. He walks around talking, joking, giving advice to younger bodybuilders… before getting down to business, training with some of the guys who he’d be competing against at Mr Olympia.
It was conducive to winning.
Contrast that with Lou Ferrigno’s surroundings… a dark, cramped little community gym in New Jersey that couldn’t have been further away from Arnie’s bodybuilding Elysium.
It looked like a dungeon.
It was depressing.
That’s when it hit me that I was like Ferrigno in this situation.
I spent hours and hours training in almost exactly the same kind of environment… a council-run gym where half the equipment didn’t work, no-one in there was really serious (or under 60) and it had that weird kind of smell…
(They’ve since knocked it all down and rebuilt a state-of-the-art gym in its place, thankfully).
But like Lou Ferrigno, it kinda didn’t matter.
It almost felt like the harder you worked, the more you defied your surroundings.
Tellingly, in Pumping Iron the subsequent scenes show Arnie and Lou contorting their faces in all manner of ways as they go through their routines.
At the point their pain was the greatest, it really didn’t matter what their environment was like.
They were doing the work.
That’s how I felt, too.
I knew when I’d finished my two hour gym sessions (one hour of which was solely on a treadmill… oh, the pain), I knew I’d worked the hardest of anyone else in that gym.
I’d worked as hard as I could.
That’s how I could put up with the dodgy lights, weird smell and yearning to be somewhere with at least another runner who’d share my pain.
Environment does affect you.
You do benefit from who you surround yourself with.
But sometimes it is possible to use your surroundings to motivate yourself in ways you didn’t expect.
What comes from within is ALWAYS more powerful than what affects you from without.