PUBLISER’S LETTER

Inspiration

John Balik

Inspiration can come from anywhere and last just an instant or be a renewable resource that you call upon again and again. The renewable kind usually grows in importance and power the more you use it. It has intrinsic substance and depth—a beacon that guides you when the decisions become difficult, when black and white become shades of gray.
My father was a renewable source of inspiration for me and for many others around him.  His inspiration was not of the ra-ra pep talk variety, although he could do that too. He simply lived his life with unshakable character. I don’t think I ever heard him use the word character in that way, but he surely embodied it. He walked the walk long before it became a euphemism for doing what you say you’re going to do. He was as tough as the nails he used in his long career as a carpenter (65 years as a union member), and he was as demanding of himself as he was of his children and the people who worked for him. He never asked you to do something he couldn’t, wouldn’t or didn’t do.  
My parents had a lifelong love affair. They were married 64 years. Dad’s focus was always on us—he never wavered in his devotion to family and a job well done.  He took great pride in his physical endurance and strength and raced bicycles into his early 80s. His pride was always the pride of performance, never the boastful kind.  
His love was not showy but rather manifested itself in an understanding of a simple truth: family above all else.  At my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary celebration his speech consisted of one line: “I always tried to do the best for my family and friends.” Is there a more powerful credo?
My father only went as far as junior high before he entered carpentry school, but his life was based on bedrock truths that are easy to lose sight of and even harder to live by. He passed away on September 7, 2005, just shy of his 88th birthday. If the memorable line from “Gladiator”—“What we do echoes in eternity”— holds true, and I believe that it does, he has no problems.
My sense of his lifelong inspiration has actually been amplified by his passing. As my son Justin said, “We were fortunate to have him for such a long time as both a grandfather and father.”
Good-bye, Dad.
 


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From Sex to Survival

John Balik








From Sex to Survival

What gets you into the gym? What makes you want the pain? Is it an emotional need? Is it the muscle that attracts the opposite sex or the confidence the muscle helps to create? The truth is that the reason is different for different people, and it changes at different times in their lives.

In a very real sense sex is survival. From puberty forward the need to procreate is undeniable, but as we pass through those very good years, survival of the species evolves into personal survival. That’s also the way the bodybuilding lifestyle evolves. Ask a young man why he trains, and being more attractive to the opposite sex is usually among his top three reasons. Being attractive to the opposite sex is always important, but priorities change. All of a sudden “functional strength” becomes a part of your vocabulary.

Unintended Consequences

John Balik

Unintended
Consequences

Usually, the phrase “unintended consequences” has a negative spin, and in bodybuilding it’s no different. Bodybuilding has taken on an undeserved negative spin because of drugs and the consequences of taking them. Bodybuilding, as an activity, sport and passion, is pure; it’s what we do with it that makes the spin positive or negative.

Majestic Muscle

John Balik

Majestic Muscle

The sight of muscle in motion is fascinating to me—a source of awe and emotional pleasure. Aesthetically, the human body has been an inspiration and a medium of expression from the beginnings of art itself. One of the benefits of bodybuilding—and sports in general—is a heightened awareness of just how wondrous the human body is. In bodybuilding the beauty is expressed statically, like sculpture, and you have time to appreciate the symmetry, shape and development. Bodybuilding in its purest sense is both sport—the workout—and art, the display. At a bodybuilding event the artistic display is slow enough for the spectator to appreciate the nuance of development, but in other sports it’s lost in the speed of the action.

Why Do You Work Out?

John Balik

Why Do You
Work Out?

The answer to that question depends on your goals, which in turn are very age-dependent. Nobody who starts working out as a teenager does so for the longevity and psychological benefits, but if it becomes a lifelong pursuit, you’ll end up appreciating them.

My son, Justin, is at the teenage level, and I’ve been at it for 50 years. Working out with him reminds me of why I started—to get bigger, first and foremost, with getting stronger a close second. Not only that, but I wanted to get bigger and stronger quickly. Now, of course, I’m looking for different results. In addition to the pleasure of working out with my son, the psychological boost I get from the workout is far more important to me than the physical. Bigger and stronger are in my vocabulary, but in lowercase letters, whereas in Justin’s they’re bold and uppercase.

Dealing With Reality

John Balik

Dealing With Reality

This morning I had a long conversation with a friend of mine about the perception of reality and how it relates to accomplishment. Your perception is strongly influenced by how you feel about your ability to make changes in your life. If you feel helpless, you won’t be able to see the possibility of change.