Hench

By Morgan Scott

Guest Post

(HENCH: strong and fit with very well-developed muscles; used about men)

1. Schwarzenegger: the Trendsetting Terminator

I have to admit it, growing up in the 1980s, myself and many males (and females) were in awe of bodybuilding action hero, the Austrian Oak, The Terminator himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Schwarzenegger was of course not the first bodybuilder, but he was the first to bring this bizarre body-expanding behaviour into the limelight, beginning with the release of acclaimed documentary, Pumping Iron.

Schwarzenegger was and is a fascinating man. He left Austria to live the American Dream over in the US. What he didn’t know was that he would become the epitome of the American Dream. He nailed it. His vehicle? Bodybuilding. Schwarzenegger was already a local European bodybuilding champ but he knew America was the place to be to achieve his ultimate dream, to conquer bodybuilding and then conquer the movie business.

After winning Mr. Olympia 6 times he was going to hang up his posing trunks until he was convinced by the producers of Pumping Iron to carry on for one more season. They wanted to follow his quest for a  7th Mr Olympia title, which he ultimately achieved.

Years later in an interview, he confessed that he started to see the ridiculousness of it all, posing in little trunks.

From building up his body, Schwarzenegger went into acting. His breakthrough movie role came as Conan the Barbarian in 1982. The director John Milius actually told Schwarzenegger that he was too jacked for the part and that he actually had to lose muscle weight. This was the opposite of what bodybuilding was all about. However, a large part of bodybuilding is bulking and shredding where you would bulk up in off competition season and shred body fat leading up to one. Schwarzenegger had it covered and got it sorted ready for Conan.

Schwarzenegger had some challenges in his way; his English was terrible and he had a strange accent, plus Hollywood actors were just not huge behemoths back then. He also had a weird unpronounceable name and no acting experience. Well, the rest is movie history.

However, he was unique and he spurred an epidemic of muscle growth. In the wake of the Schwarzenegger phenomenon, gym memberships soared and muscles across the globe groaned and swelled in search for the ‘Pump’ and a body that would have Michelangelo’s David second-guessing himself.

Why do people build bodies in the first place? Why do they emulate Schwarzenegger? Success and motivational coach Tony Robbins tells us that one of the six human needs as to why any of us do what we do is Significance. We want to be seen, we want to ‘be’ somebody and what better way to be noticed, by having to walk into a room sideways. But do we need huge muscles to be significant in the world? At what point does growing your biceps become pathological?

Don’t get me wrong, having an awesome torso is a great thing to have. You look great, you feel great, clothes fit you well and you don’t have to worry about whether your beer belly looks big in this. What I’m wondering about is that line which separates ‘normal’ behaviour and when you enter into an obsessive world where size and body fat percentages becomes body dysmorphia – when the obsession overtakes the rational and becomes a problem, trumping the significance you seek.

2.Experiences

During my time lifting weights in gyms I got speaking to ‘the lads’ squeezing the iron now and again. I was curious as to why they were building such massive bodies. These were not the guys who were training for a particular sport or who were fitness trainers nor movie stars. These guys built for personal goals.

When asking them why they did it, I would usually get one of two answers, one being “Woman” (or men) or as one charming young man put it bluntly “Pussy!” So sex is high on the agenda. The second answer was “Because I was bullied at school.” Both answers certainly lent themselves to the motivation of feeling significant.

Social media, particularly Instagram, has become a cultural mirror feeding a worrying narcissistic trend to achieving the perfect body. Before, we only had floor-to-ceiling mirrors in gyms to flex and pose, to see our progress and satisfy our ego. Now we have a platform to tell the whole world about our triceps with a selfie. Just another way to feel significant, especially if hundreds, if not thousands of followers can double tap on your virtual torso to give you a heart. #mustbewinninginlifenow?

OK, sure, it’s not all about feeding ones ego; it’s also about mastering oneself and feeling good. The body may be the easiest bit of us to master, because even if your soul and spirit are in shatters, at least we might protect them in slabs of muscle.

Lifting weights also feels good. When bench pressing 100 kg you’re certainly in the present and not thinking about that work report. It’s the rush, the pump and even the delayed onset of muscle soreness (DOMS) a couple of days after is a great feeling, we’ve triumphed, we’ve mastered our body.

I do worry that most young men are growing up being seduced by what the media and advertisers portray as the perfect body. Often the ideal is an unrealistic one at that, where anything less suggests unworthiness.

3.Final Thoughts

I remember talking to an old mate, who was into bodybuilding at the time, and he said “I just want to get Huge. I want to be a monster!” He was in his late thirties when it’s much harder to achieve ‘huge’ and he seemed to be a lost boy trapped, seeking a measure of significance.

I asked “But why do you want to be huge?” The chances of becoming a world champion bodybuilder were slim to zero and becoming the next Schwarzenegger, even slimmer. He just stared into space searching for an answer.

Let’s not forget that the idea of the perfect body is driven by profiteers preying on our fragile persona and a need for significance in the world. Just buy this widget and you too can have a body like this. Young men are even turning to steroids to reach perfection sooner, but at what cost?

Can we get more sex without spending hours in the gym? Can we heal our broken selves without having to get Hench? Can we still get in shape and look great without XXL shirts? Sure we can. If it’s significance we seek, can we achieve it in other ways and channel that energy into making a difference in the world?

Damn right you can.

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I’m delighted that professional photographer Morgan Scott shares his images and ideas. His exciting portfolio can be found here: https://www.instagram.com/morganscottuk/

Instagram: MorganScottUK

Twitter: MorganScottUK

Watch out for more posts from Morgan in the future.

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Born to Run: For Mindfulness and More

Have a Fitbit? Do you pound the pavement? Hit the road? Do you do it for body? Or mind? Likely both!

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In January 2017, psychotherapist William Pullen published a new book, Run For Your Life. It’s an interesting read.

Here’s a description of the work:

“Anyone who has ever gone for a run, jog or even a walk knows that uplifting, happy feeling they get at the end of their journey. Some call it the ‘runner’s high’, others put it down to endorphins, here William Pullen teaches us focus that incredible energy to experience our emotions in motion.

“In Run for Your Life, Pullen argues that we need a radical new approach to mindfulness – an approach which originates in the body itself. DRT offers just that.

“Whether the you are looking for strategies to cope with anxiety, anger, change, or decision-making, Run for Your Life offers carefully-tailored thought exercises (and talking therapies for pairs or groups) inspired by mindfulness and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, specifically designed to be implemented whilst on a run or walk. The book is designed to offer space for you to reflect on your practice and see your progress as you run through life’s ups and downs.”

Intriguing.

Pullen, a London-based psychotherapist, came up with Dynamic Running Therapy (DRT) and there’s an app to go along with the book.

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It immediately made me think of the first (silly) article I wrote as a PhD student in London.

(Man, it’s funny to recognize that eleven years have elapsed since the publication of the article above!)

The idea then was that running might alleviate some of the PhD blues. But Pullen has taken it to a whole new (and more) comprehensive level. His book is definitely worth a read.

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nCBASt507WA

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FOR MORE ON FITNESS AND HEALTH

‘Street Portraits’ by Morgan Scott

I’m delighted that professional photographer Morgan Scott shares his images and ideas. Most of the time he works in London as a Business Development Manager for Bijou Commerce. But photography, as he puts it, has been a long-standing ‘passion.’

His exciting portfolio can be found here: http://morganportraits.com/portfolio

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Street Portraits by Morgan Scott

In a multicultural city such as London, you will, for sure, encounter a plethora of amazing faces, fashions, cultures and personalities. It’s a candy shop of choice when it comes to portrait photography opportunities. It’s a great place to immortalize elements of the body.

There are two main types of street portrait photography styles. The first is when your subject is unaware of their photo being taken (at first at least) and the photographer is using a hide-and-seek approach. A good example is Vivian Maier, who used a Rolleiflex film camera in the 50s and 60s and which you would shoot from the navel. The subjects were unaware of the camera as it was not held up at eye level. Vivian’s photos gave the subject a very grand feeling as the portrait was taken at an angle looking up at them, even if the subject themselves were not a grand figure in stature or being.

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Maier only became famous post mortem, when a lot of film was purchased at auction by John Maloof. Maloof discovered that Maier was arguably one of the most significant street photographers of the twentieth centary and made the fantastic documentary ‘Finding Vivian Maier’, as well as curating her work. Finding Maier’s undeveloped films, hundreds of them, was the photography equivalent of discovering buried treasure.

She did also take portraits where the subject was fully aware a photo was being taken, although many were very natural, unforced forced poses. Perhaps she was lightning quick and somewhat unthreatening as a woman with a camera or perhaps it was simply not the norm to be photographed like in our camera-phone, Instagram world today.

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This takes us to the second type of street portrait: the ‘aware’ subject. This is a style I quite enjoy myself. The way I go about this is to wander/wonder about the streets looking for people with interesting styles and faces. I generally go by gut feeling – instinct, I suppose – about whether I want to take a portrait of someone or not. It’s usually based on a fleeting glance. So the first challenge is to find a subject, which is not too hard to do in London. The second challenge is approaching that person and asking permission to take their portrait. It’s all to do with the approach and manner you adopt. Because I seek out slightly ‘alternative’ looking people to take portraits of, they are generally more likely to say yes as there is an element of how they look that they want to be noticed in most cases. Why have purple hair if no one sees it, right?

When I approach the person I do it calmly, with a genuine smile, and say: “Excuse me, I’m doing a personal photography project on London Style (I point to my camera around my neck) and I love your look. If you don’t mind I would love to take your portrait. I’ll give you my website and you can save the photo and use it however you want for free.” The majority of the time a subject will say yes because s/he are flattered. If someone says no, I figure out if it’s just a shy no; some people are a little embarrassed at first and I’ll say ‘Oh go on you look great’, and they will. You can just tell when someone really is not interested and in this case I don’t push it and say ‘Ok no worries, cheers.’ Remember there’s always another opportunity right up the street. I also don’t want to look at a photo with a reluctant pose as it’s a little bit negative – meaning I won’t have the portrait I desire.

I was inspired by the ‘Humans of New York’ series by Brandon Stanton. His photos feature an eclectic bunch of people, and the portraits are aimed at revealing relatable, human stories. These portraits highlight human whole, from head to toe, displaying the subject in all his/her glory and interesting fashions. These are also posed portraits, considering they are also telling their story to Stanton and have been made into a series of books.

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For me, taking portraits is a passion. Faces tell a story and the eyes really are a window to the soul. It’s exciting for me to stop strangers, take their portrait and make a friend. Art is literally walking by us everyday, the art of the human, the art of human expression. What we see in the cities of the world is really an expression of the zeitgeist – a particular mindset, politics, and art – and it will never happen again; photography can freeze the essence of present time for future generations to enjoy and say “Look what they used to wear!”

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Twitter: MorganScottUK