Everyone Has One
BY Mark Twight
It appears everyone has an opinion about "300" and how the actors and stunt crew achieved the level of fitness - and consequentially, appearance - for the movie. I have read that it was all CGI, make-up, steroids, etc. However, no one has come right out and said, "those guys worked really hard and had the self-discipline to control what they put into their mouths." Which is what I suggest: have the self-discipline to control what comes out of your mouth, especially if you are ignorant about the topic being discussed.
Here are a few quotes pulled from the forum of a website, whose owner also purports to have an idea about what it took for the guys to do what they did. Not that his imagination is wrong, he just doesn't know. Plenty of other quotes may be pulled from know-it-all fitness sites but these few offer the fodder needed for the rant that follows.
"Many of you will know from your own experiences (and common sense) that 8 weeks of training will not transform you from a normal guy into the actors in 300. Nor will 2 or 3 years without roids. Sorry, but thats just the way it is."
"The actors in 300 are not normal guys, they all will have trained and juiced for years before this and have already been massively well developed."
"Note, these guys didn't get this athletically trimmed in a couple months. 6 months minimum with diet."
"Anyone who thinks that these guys went from 'normal' to what they were in the film in anything less than years is very naive, probably through no real fault of there own... Furthermore the vast majority if not all of them will have taken steroids"
"No amount of training, bodybuilding or otherwise, would allow you to develop a physique anywhere near as good as these guys without gear. Go to your local gym and see how many people come close."
Yeah, go to your local gym and see what passes for work. Even the people engaged in bodybuilding efforts or performing (and I mean "performing" in the sense of acting) short, high intensity cross-training circuits aren't doing anything meaningful. Watch how people eat while they are in the gym, rushing to swill the latest greatest 500-calorie recovery drink within a 20-minute post-training window after burning a whopping 300 calories on an elliptical machine. This will give you a clue about how they eat when no one is watching and you'll know everything you need to know about why they can't "come close" to having a memorable physique (often their stated goal).
Being more forgiving these days, I try not to criticize those who are doing their best with the limited knowledge they have, because they are trying, they are in the gym, they read what the so-called fitness intelligentsia put out, they are hopeful, and they are actually doing the work and not pretending it's anything other than what it is.
The guy who earns my scorn is the ass who tries to disguise his drooping belly with a baggy t-shirt and pushes his chest out whenever a girl walks by because he has convinced himself he's "not like the rest." He's the guy who offers free advice about training just because he's one step ahead of the poor guy who has to listen. And the most annoying pricks are the ones who say, "I've tried to get that ripped (muscular, lean, fit, fast, whatever) and I can't do it so it's impossible that anyone else can do it without chemicals." Those who aren't the real thing always find an excuse for their failings when confronted by the real thing. Or they cast the accomplishments of anyone further up the food chain as having been achieved by cheating.
Even in the small world of mountain climbing a few guys were convinced that their betters were using EPO, "because there's no way they could be that much faster than me." Ski mountaineering racing is the same. Cycling is the same; the best guy in the country goes to an international level race, finishes below the 50th percentile and before checking into his own training/diet/recovery/stress-management/genetics/etc the ego goes into self-preservation overdrive and imagines all sorts of doping practices to be responsible. This is a natural consequence of having been told from childhood, "you are a unique snowflake."
Well you're not and I'm not. If you weren't given the gift you can't get the gift so the best you can do - if your goal is important - is work as hard as you possibly can, pay attention every hour of every day and then maybe, maybe if you've done enough and been smart enough you'll emerge from the muck of mediocrity to shine a bit brighter than you shone before. Then, upon reflection you might decide your goal is a bit more important so you'll start paying attention every minute of every hour of every day. You'll find people who are better than you and you'll take an empty cup when you meet them. Their example will destroy or inspire you and if it's the latter you may stay and learn. You might imitate, doing as they do because you've already accepted that you do not know best - if you did you'd be leading the group they were trying to join. Perhaps being exposed to their superior ability will drive you to work harder than you thought possible, or necessary. Maybe you'll overcome your self-imposed (or worse, society-imposed) limitations and shine even more brightly. Wow, you're getting it: positive reinforcement for hard work and suffering. So maybe you give your goal even more significance and you begin cutting away the ideas and the expectations and the people who you believe prevent you from achieving it. Now you become a real selfish prick, and you begin paying attention every second of every minute of every hour of every day, and you sustain your awareness for weeks and months at a time. You no longer think yourself a unique snowflake, you're a steel-edged blade shaped like a snowflake and you're spinning at warp speed. You're the biggest fish in the pond. You're a badass. Now you have options.
1) If you think you haven't yet done enough, and you could do more, you might begin to understand that, the more capable you become, the higher the mountain rises ahead of you. At that moment you may recognize the existence of a legitimately serious group, ahead of you, above you, somewhere you're not. They are silent, implacable, constantly improving and evolving and because they are truly capable they are accessible to those who are genuine. Among them there's no defensiveness, no posturing or pretending, and they aren't interested in anyone else's. Selection for such a group isn't based on physical performance alone. Issues of character and commitment, and discipline and persistence balance physical talent. Because you clawed your way out of the muck, were "up all night, dedicated" and maintained interest for long enough to differentiate yourself from the short-attention-span sporting dilettantes who commonly brush up against this group they might accept you as an apprentice. If you empty your cup your chances are better. If you redouble your efforts your odds improve again.
2) If however, you think you've done enough or you decide you have "arrived" then you'll stay in the small pond and stagnate. And when the rot is complete you'll be just a little bit better than those around you - your initial example will have driven them to reach higher levels of performance - and there you'll sit, an intellectually bloated, pontificating fuck who once had the juice to work hard but having done so feels entitled to coast on past success all the way to the grave. That's when you'll start offering opinions based on the certainty of your own short-lived, amateur experience.
3) And if that limited practice has convinced you anyone better than you is so because of drugs or because they won the genetic lottery or they have better equipment, you may be right. But it's a lot more likely they are better than you precisely because of your cop-out opinion, because you are lazy, or confused about the meaning of hard work and diet control. Maybe you think self-discipline means drinking two beers instead of six. Maybe you think (OTC) supplements can end-run a bad diet and inadequate recovery. Maybe you think 3x8 of something, anything, is the apogee of training theory. Or maybe you think intelligent training means competing in the gym or on an Internet forum where people are as fit and capable and talented as they anonymously pretend to be. Maybe you read about a workout, do it, think it was easy and exclaim that anyone who found it hard is not as good as you. Well wake up, everyone is a geek to someone and maybe the "300" workout you found easy has been done with more weight, or faster, or with longer range-of-motion. Maybe that named workout doesn't matter. Maybe the person you compare yourself to doesn't share your definition of fitness, or happiness or health. Perhaps his or her objective is altogether different. Perhaps, an honest self-assessment would reveal all of your pretense and blind obedience to a particular ideal. Maybe you need self-destruction to lead to self-creation, or reinvention.
I'll agree with one of the quotes, which states that the actors in 300 are not normal guys, though I disagree with the rest of the comment. Some of them were different because they were willing to do whatever it took to achieve their objective and most of those commenting on the forums don't have a clue what the phrase means. Some of the actors (with non-speaking roles) were different because they came from a background of martial arts, from years of study, of discipline and self-discipline. They weren't necessarily well muscled and fit because of it but their dedication to martial arts taught them how to learn and how to work hard. When a new objective presented itself they instinctively understood what they had to do to reach it from their current status.
How many of you know where you want to go? And where you are now? And how to get from here to there? How many will start on the path, but fail? How many will settle for less? The answer to these questions, based on "your own experiences (and common sense)" is that very few know, and very many will settle for less.
Are you even curious?
Or do you accept the know-it-all's statement that CGI or drugs or years of effort or genetics were responsible because it lets you off the hook?
Amateur has several definitions but for the purpose of this screed I choose this, from the Merriam-Webster dictionary: "one lacking in experience and competence in an art or science"
Dilettante may be used as a synonym for Amateur. Merriam-Webster notes that dilettante "may apply to the lover of an art rather than its skilled practitioner but usually implies elegant trifling in the arts and an absence of serious commitment"
Dabbler ("suggests desultory habits of work and lack of persistence") and Tyro ("implies inexperience often combined with audacity with resulting crudeness or blundering") are also synonyms.
Rant, as a noun, is defined by Merriam-Webster as "a bombastic extravagant speech", which is right on the button
Do a web search for "The Captain", "300" and you will find links to an old video of Vincent Regan at work: