by Robert Maxwell
You don’t have to spend very long researching the weight lifting scene to realize performance enhancing substances are a huge part of things. Bodybuilding is of course saturated with steroids, and even powerlifting is increasingly enhanced by pills and needles. It’s easy to see why. A 1996 study by the New England Journal of Medicine found that normal men taking testosterone injections and exercising built more than 3 times more muscle than men who trained naturally. With such compelling scientific proof of steroids’ effectiveness, you might wonder why some strength athletes, myself included, choose to stay natural. It’s a good question, and one for which it’s taken me several years to cement an answer. In my early days of bodybuilding, I was frustrated with what seemed like pathetically little progress on my physique, and particularly tempted to start using something. I almost gave in. Thankfully I became convinced steroids weren’t my path to fulfillment after all, and never took any. Since then I’ve had several people ask why I choose to remain a natural lifter. Here are the 4 most important reasons.
I WANT MY RESULTS TO BE EARNED
When I was 10 or so I became addicted to one of those wonderfully simple, arcade-style computer games. It was called “Bonkheads”, and was pretty much a copy of the original Super Mario Bros., where you knock bad guys unconscious from below through a platform, then jump up top to kick them off. At first I only had the demo version, which included the first few levels. I beat those pretty quickly. Then my birthday rolled around and Dad presented me with the full version on disc. I was thrilled. I now had 144 levels of bonking fun to look forward to. My joy soon turned to frustration when I realized the game was way harder than I expected. I couldn’t even make it past the second land without hearing the deep voice of the game’s evil boss, Shrew Man Chew, announcing “GAME OVER”. Then I discovered cheat codes. With just a few keystrokes, I could clear the entire level of baddies instantly. With this method I quickly plowed through the game. Trouble was, I wasn’t satisfied. Cheating got the end result I wanted, but it didn’t feel very good. In fact, it felt worse than losing. I learned my lesson, and started playing the game cheat-free again. It took a couple years, but eventually I got good enough to beat it without codes. Fast forward 10 years or so and I was tempted to cheat again, in a big way. Steroids. If I’d given in, as with Bonkheads, I’d have gotten the desired result – big, strong muscles. But I wouldn’t have the satisfaction of earning them solely through my own efforts, and that, for me, would ruin everything.
ENHANCEMENT WILL HARM MY CHARACTER
I have always tried to earn the things I want in life. I believe entitlement breeds dissatisfaction, so I try never to feel entitled about anything. This is a quality I believe is crucial to manhood. No one likes spoiled, entitled people, and they usually don’t like themselves, either. That’s because they don’t have the satisfaction of working hard for the things they want, and succeeding by their own strength. I’m not saying steroid users don’t also work hard. Many of them have more dedication in the gym than regular people have in any area of life, but the fact remains that the strength of a steroid user is never entirely earned. It’s bought, and this has a detrimental effect on their character. Natural lifters quickly learn that gaining strength drug-free takes patience – lots of it. It also takes humility, since the fitness industry will always be filled with bigger, stronger people than them, some of whom are doubtless enhanced. The physical development that happens in the weight room is only part of the package. The mental benefits are huge too, if you’re willing to endure the slow, hard, boring process of building yourself up naturally.
I WANT TO BE AN EXAMPLE TO MY CLIENTS
I hate how the fitness industry fills people’s vision with huge, muscular, shredded individuals that are presented implicitly or explicitly as natural athletes. This is most often a lie designed to sell workout programs, magazines, or nutrition supplements. The implication is that if you’ll only buy the product advertised, you’ll look like the puffed up model in the photo. Most young men who start lifting do so because they’ve bought into this lie. This trend runs rampant through popular muscle magazine and websites, and is a big part of the reason 90 percent of the fitness industry is bogus. When I started my online strength coaching business, I wanted to offer people the truth, not more of the same tired old lies. That means staying 100 percent natural myself, so my clients know that the methods I teach and results I’ve gotten are within reach for them, too.
STEROIDS HAVE HEALTH RISKS
I find it amazing and disturbing how many athletes opt to use anabolic steroids given the long list of proven health risks. Weight training is supposed to improve health, but performance enhancers do the opposite, negating one of the main benefits of exercise. In men, anabolic steroids are known to increase risk of prominent breasts, severe acne, premature baldness, testicular shrinkage, impotence, prostate enlargement, tendinitis, high blood pressure, circulation problems, high cholesterol, and a handful of psychiatric disorders. That’s not a complete list, either. I love building muscle and getting strong, but not at all costs.