My Lifetime of lifting – Part 1

It was all Hercules’s fault….I blame him!

When I was a fifteen-year-old schoolboy, daydreaming, on my way to school.  I stepped off the bus and in the window of the sweet shop and saw Hercules.  He was right there, plastered all over the front cover of the Mr America magazine.  That day my life changed.  I met Hercules, or rather Steve Reeves.  Mr America.  Mr Universe.  Mr World.  And, to my amazed eyes, Mr Unbelievable.

I was stunned, how could that person be real?  How could he look like that?  How did he get to become a film start and play Hercules in the movies?  I just had to know and the next day, money burning a hole in my pocket, I bought the magazine.

Reading all about Steve Reeves, I learned that it was training with weights, good nutrition and a healthy outdoor lifestyle that had transformed him from a mere mortal into Hercules.  I vowed to myself that summers day in 1961, that if he could do it, then so could I.

Like most school boys, I loved sports but I could not understand why others would not put in the effort to do the training needed to excel. I loved football but began to realise that team sports were not for me.  I spent many hours by myself practising taking free kicks, or corners, trying to make the ball bend and swerve like the great players of the era Alfredo Di Sefano of Real Madrid and Ference Puskas, the Hungarian team captain.  If my school team lost a match I felt so let down that I began to realise that I was ready to try an individual sport, to win or lose by my own effort and willpower.  I wanted to stand alone and try to be the best I could be.

One blazing hot summer’s afternoon, I was alone on the football pitch practising and a thought came to me that I have held in my brain ever since.  “Somewhere in the world there is someone training harder than I am, and so I must train harder still.”  That thought has enabled me over the years to always push myself.  I never needed any other motivation.

Little did I know that the first time I laid my hands on a barbell at the age of 14, that it would 

  • Be a love affair that lasted my whole life.  
  • That I would one day work for another famous movie Hercules – Reg Park – four times Mr Universe, instructing in his gym in South Africa.  
  • Or that I would be in the same competition and over the years be judged by and train with perhaps the most famous bodybuilder ever to play Hercules in the movies, Arnold Schwarzenegger.  
  • Or most importantly of all, to enjoy decades of amazing times and laughs in so many gyms around the world and make friendships that have lasted over 50 years.  

All this plus to be healthy and feel good about yourself, is more than anyone could expect or ask from a simple barbell.  Plain honest steel and sweat can take you places you’ve never dreamed of and give you a lifetime of health and happiness.

In part 2 I tell you about my beginning

Author:  John Austin