There’s evidence boys as young as ten are getting addicted to steroids. Visit any gym, and check out the armies of young men thrashing around on the free weights. When did this manic pursuit of buffness become normal?
In biology lessons they used to tell us your muscles are like your bones’ best mate, the wingmen who help get your skeleton off its arse and moving around. As I recall, bigger muscles definitely don’t mean better movement. They don’t mean better health. They don’t necessarily even mean greater strength. And until recently, bigger muscles weren’t really a sign of status or attractiveness either – being called a ‘muscle man’ and compared to Geoff Capes was a classic 80s playground insult.
That’s changed. Guys are feeling less certain of their status. And the media are feeding us an increasingly rich diet of male body beautifuls to aspire to. Whatever the plural of ‘Adonis’ is, that’s what pokes out at you from the ‘male interest’ section of the news stand these days. Even Tony Blair’s midriff became a water cooler topic, with man-boobs becoming the latest male body feature to be ashamed of. Even having a country to run is no excuse for a poor physique apparently! No, the PM should be seeking to replicate 50 Cent’s walnut-cracker thighs and preposterous pectorals like the rest of us.
Are we that unsure about our role as men that we need a ripped, beefcake physique to intimidate the world into thinking we’re valuable, we’re a success? Why can’t we just laugh in the face of muscle mania. Are the Chippendales cool? Do all women lust after them? If they did, I’m pretty sure those guys wouldn’t be on stage at the Bingo Hall in Blackpool year in year out.
Muscle supplements can also be dangerous, to your physical and psychological health. I’m no expert, but if you want proof of the damage steroids do, watch a re-run of Ben Johnson’s sprint victory at the 1988 Olympics – he may have won, but those raging, bloodshot eyes weren’t the result of hayfever or a bad night’s sleep you know.
Time in the gym meanwhile, is obviously good for you. But the Popeye post-spinach look is more likely to suggest you’ve got nothing better to do than pump iron 24/7. Which may well be true, but why make it easier for people to guess?