Special thanks to all who voiced their thoughts and feelings toward my first article. I deeply appreciated your heartfelt comments. Hopefully you found that piece a little on the “touchy, feely” side, as my intentions were to invoke a feeling of responsibility and camaraderie toward the impressionable youth entering this great sport, and for you as a participant to lead by example. This time I hope to tweak some intuitive thinking by postulating not only on results from randomized controlled trials related to anabolic steroid (AS) use and abuse, but to ignite your imagination into believing that whatever you want to be is already there within you! For those who scoff I will first refer you to a poem by Shel Silverstein on the perfect high that best epitomizes this statement. Go to http://www.banned-width.com/shel/works/high.html and read the poem and I will come back and comment on it later.
Initially I had intended to explain some of the medical implications of supraphysiologic doses of AS, those commonly used by abusers of these drugs, designed to scare you into straight thinking and right actions. The horror stories abound of liver failure and cancer; HIV and hepatitis from shared needles, stunted growth in adolescents, and female virilization. Moving specifically to you guys, the macho deflator has to be “bitch tits” and shrunken testicles. Common to all are breath to make a dragon cringe and zits approaching a moonscape. Likely to be seen by everyone else around you except yourself would be irritability in your behavior bordering on rage. Finally I would be remiss as a clinician not to mention AS drugs themselves, as well as the acne preparations used in combating this condition, specifically isotretinoin (Accutane) and tazarotene (Allergan) as Category X in pregnancy, extremely teratogenic resulting in gross deformities of the unborn child.
Although the above consequences are all proven repercussions from AS abuse, they are second hand news around any gym, or not discussed at all, the hope being they will just fade away. Unfortunately they won’t, and I encourage the interested or concerned to Google “Anabolic Steroids and adverse or detrimental effects”. The articles I found were by no means extensive or all-inclusive, but I challenge the reader to find any positive physical or psychological effects other than the obvious increase in muscle mass.
Another interesting aspect of denial common to drug abuse is when the conversation on AS use above hits the inevitable lull from self-conscious guilt or fear, it is quickly replaced by the anecdotal fabrications of exaggerated results of the pump, the rush, and what pills to pop to avoid or reduce these troublesome side affects. Cycling and stacking to prevent tolerance, diuretics for water retention, and I’ve read even tamoxifen, the breast cancer chemotherapy drug that blocks the effects of estrogen. I was amazed to learn that AS users take this to antagonize the estrogenic effects of testosterone aromatization (Kutscher, 2002), that is the conversion of testosterone to estrogen metabolites, in an effort to prevent or reduce gynecomastia and gonadal atrophy. The list goes on and bottom line, at 24 years old you’re taking more meds than your grandparents combined! Recognize the portrait? If so maybe something is wrong with this picture.
While these risks are indisputable, fear alone never stopped an addict, at least not for long. I’ve done my share of “foxhole” praying, “Lord get me out of this mess and I promise never to do this again”, yet within a week I was back to the same reprehensible, self-destructive behavior. Sound familiar? Thrill seeking is part of our culture, yet how to live perhaps a less exhilarating but so much more rewarding life might be as easy as getting “Naturally Juiced”.
Perhaps a plug for my buddy Arley, but a natural rather than artificial way to condition and train your body to harness inner resources from the remote recesses of the mind so the body will respond may all be at your fingertips. Especially when your efforts and the expense of supporting an AS habit aren’t worth the legal, financial and physical problems they cause. Ever wonder just how concerned your pusher or connection is on where he gets this product, the purity or authenticity, whether you are indeed getting what you think? If possible, send some of your “stash” anonymously to a lab for analysis, if your gonads aren’t already too shrunken, and I bet you will be amazed at the findings.
Let me back up and explain what I found in a very brief and far from exhaustive literature review. I found quite a thought-provoking article when I extrapolated the results to what I like to term “mind over muscle”, or how positive attitude enhances muscle growth. The authors, Ariel and Saville (Med. Sci. Sports, 1972) found that the belief by athletes that they were taking AS, and not the drug itself, actually improved performance and enhanced muscle gain. The power of suggestion, people! Fifteen male participants were told that some would receive AS and others would be given placebo, yet all actually received a sugar pill. The psychological effect on those that believed they were given AS caused significant strength gains. In other words the expectation of the drug to enhance size and strength was the key to growth, not the drug itself.
Now, before I get overly exuberant let me be the first to admit such a single and small study can hardly be viewed as conclusive. Such trials need to be duplicated not once but repeatedly to prove their validity and reliability. Briefly these terms refer to the extent a clinical trial proves what it has intended to prove, and that the study results can be duplicated under similar circumstances. In order to do this why not scramble randomized controlled trials as follows. If we are to compare results of past studies to a new one, let us use the same drugs and a similarly matched population. Only in this case tell the hypertensive patients given real anti-hypertensive medication they are the control group, and instruct the true placebo group that they are given real antihypertensive drugs. I think such a comparison might startle some researchers, that is if the ethical implications could ever be justified.
My prediction would be these miracle medications that have undoubtedly saved lives and prevented disability are no where near as necessary as the drug companies would have us believe, and that a simple sugar pill may be nearly as effective. I realize also this is a radical departure from the norm, and I admit total fantasy on my part till proven otherwise. But I still maintain such prospective studies merit consideration. I can just imagine the stir in GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer, Merck or Roche, to name a few, if even a shred of evidence for such a simple premise were found true.
And why or how could such an outrageous idea ever be credible? I return to the simple concept that we are what we think, and thinking is what the Good Lord gave us to be apart from the animals, and what I am trying to stimulate here. Science has only recently, and in the course of mankind the last 50-75 years is very recent, promoted the science of neurotransmitters controlling the regulation of all bodily functions. The neuro-hormonal system, intricate in its finest detail and well known for its involvement in depression, has only begun to be explored and its many secrets slowly uncovered. We know that cancer patients desperate to live somehow stimulate their immune system to attack the invader abhorrent cells and survive. On a different front, history dictates time and again those that survive the horrors of a POW camp are those who see themselves successful and happy ten years down the road, not those that think the hell of today will only be repeated tomorrow. And to put it in its most simple format, to “win one for the Gipper” has inspired teams from PeeWee football to the NFL.
I am proposing there are forces within our minds, real and natural chemicals we refer as neurotransmitters neither uncharted nor discovered which can elevate our performance to levels here-to-fore unimaginable. I truly believe we have only begun to scratch the surface of the potential of the mind in combating disease and breaking down physical barriers we thought insurmountable. This I believe is the next frontier, but I’m afraid I’m once again getting a little carried away, palms sweaty and heart thumping, and I rely on you folks to real me in, but such a concept fascinates me. I hope I’m not sounding on the Zen or karma side, for this is not my intention. But I think those that practice these disciplines are akin as far as appreciating the power of the mind we have yet to explore, and I dare say exploit. The potential, I guarantee, is boundless and I not only encourage but challenge you to explore the frontier.
To get us back to basics, and near the end of my diatribe, the Blond Bomber Draper’s August newsletter has “instinctive training” as the feature article, defined by Dave as training by intuition or gut feeling. His premise being that the path to greatest gains is guided by what we instinctively feel. Being an egotist, I saw this and thought great minds think alike. If you are as obsessive as me, maybe you do as I and write in your portfolio not only today’s workout, but also what needs to be done tomorrow. Instead, let tomorrow dictate the course; if you felt legs were due but your chest is screaming for attention, by all means blast the latter. Those transmitters are signaling the appropriate neurons to stimulate your mind into transmitting to your pecs the greatest possible growth for that day. Not only engage but explode into the workout; get mad, get even, but give it your all. Isn’t that so far above and so much more natural than popping that God-awful who knows what pill, and still feel the same pump and power, but most of all pride that this is the real you.
Let us gather now our data and results. The wild card here is the human mind, beliefs and attitudes that we are only beginning to explore, with limitless potential. I propose to you that what we think to be true will be. I think, therefore I am in a new light.
Consider if you will one guiding thought as you digest, discount or ponder the above. It is by a 19th century philosopher and sociologist, Herbert Spencer, a proponent of evolutionary theory that was vehemently contested during these times. His statement regarding such prejudicial thought has for years been persuasive in my maintaining an open mind whenever something new or extraordinary crosses my path.
“There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof
against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting
ignorance - that principle is contempt prior to investigation.”
So try it, what have you got to lose, think what you have to gain!
Remember the poem I asked you to read a while ago? I would like to return to Mr. Silverstein (and I truly hope you read the poem, or my entire message will lose meaning). How often in our lifetimes do we search for that perfect high, the perfect job, wife, family, friends and yes, physique. In so doing do we not forget God’s plan for us and forsake that with our own? Have we not taken drugs and chemicals into our body for any other reason than to improve how we feel or look, simply to satisfy our pleasure or egos? Get with it folks! The only high is indeed within you. Don’t settle for the elusive and fraudulent quest of Roy, but realize your own potential and only be satisfied when you have reached it. Always remember that the problem is not that we aim too high and fail, but that we aim too low and succeed.
Know that I wish you every success, in training and in life!