This is SOLO Fitness: Pride, Productiveness, and a Good Pump

Craig Ceely's picture
Submitted by Craig Ceely on Sun, 2006-08-20 05:54

Summer time is here, in the Northern Hemisphere, though almost gone, and the warmer weather means that for many, outdoor recreation has been on the calendar. Another baseball season is here. Wherever you look, people were throwing Frisbees, climbing rocks, and riding bicycles. Americans everywhere were wearing lighter, more revealing clothes, and spending time on beaches and lakefronts. This is good stuff.

We could, as a special tribute, remember bodybuilding great Steve Reeves, who died on May 1, 2000. Or SOLO Passion could just designate May (or any of the summer months), for example, as Muscles Month.

Think about it: sports are popular because we enjoy the physical skills on display, the unusual excellence in action, the overcoming of obstacles. Sports are a means not only of enjoyment, but of inspiration. And every sport requires some sort of muscle use.

But you can enjoy that same excellence in your own body.

Ayn Rand was emphatic with regard to the importance of the mind in human life: mind, not muscle, moves the world, and even in the caves it was probably always so. A poetic example is given in Atlas Shrugged, when Henry Rearden and Dagny Taggart are driving through Wisconsin. They witness the degradation of muscle that occurs with the removal of mind:

"In a distant field, beyond the town, they saw the figure of a man moving slowly, contorted by the ugliness of a physical effort beyond the proper use of a human body: he was pushing a plow by hand."

Indeed, the crucial importance of mind is the primary theme of Atlas Shrugged.

But that book is a hymn to life on this earth and to the proper pleasures to be derived from it. This description, for example, is of John Galt, in his first explicit appearance in the novel:

"It seemed to her for a moment that she was in the presence of a being who was pure consciousness--yet she had never been so aware of a man’s body. The light cloth of his shirt seemed to stress, rather than hide, the structure of his figure, his skin was suntanned, his body had the hardness, the gaunt, tensile strength, the clean precision of a foundry casting, he looked as if he were poured out of metal, but some dimmed, soft-lustered metal, like an aluminum-copper alloy...."

Elsewhere in the book the reader is told of Francisco d’Anconia’s flat stomach and of the “gaunt strength” of Rearden’s arms. Dagny Taggart herself is described as having “showgirl legs.”

Your muscles are your own mind, your own pride and self-esteem, on display.

One might ask, what good is human muscle today? It is no longer needed for pushing or pulling most of the tools of industrial processes — and, as in the plow example cited above, it is inappropriate for modern agricultural tasks as well. What we call the Agricultural Revolution occurred ten thousand years ago, right? And there's been an Industrial Revolution since then. What are muscles needed for anymore?

My answer: Muscles provide pleasure. It feels good to move one’s own muscles, and the sight of finely-honed muscle brings pleasure to the viewer.

But, pleasurable though it may be, well-defined muscle comes only from work. I'm speaking of more than just serious athletes here, too. Singer Tina Turner is well-known for her shapely, strikingly beautiful legs, which she attributes to years of dancing onstage. That’s muscle.

Muscles represent strength; a well-muscled physique speaks of pride. Anyone can be born genetically predisposed to being big and beefy, but it takes thought and effort to create a sculpted physique. Such thought and effort brings satisfying gains, is worthy of admiration -- and is fun.

We needn’t care about contest competition or about professional bodybuilders. We needn’t take anabolic steroids or human growth hormone concoctions or concern ourselves with looking like Dorian Yates or Tom Platz. I don’t do any of that: I don’t follow professional bodybuilding at all, and I have never used human growth hormone or taken insulin or a diuretic for training or esthetic effect. I have used many supplements, two which were later declared to be steroids by the FDA, but that's it (and they're not necessary for our purposes here at Solo Fitness).

But — why not simply be the very best, physically and esthetically, that we can be? Is that not motivation enough? Isn’t it rational to want to feel better and look better?

I say it is.

Building an excellent physique is an expression of productiveness: it involves translating an idea into a realization. It requires thought and — obviously — effort, physical effort. As a musclebuilder (Dave Draper's term) myself, I know that I must plan my workouts, recovery periods, and diet in order to achieve the results I want. I must then have the discipline to put in the hard work. Every bodybuilder, amateur or professional, knows this — knows that muscle depends on the mind. Every other serious athlete knows it, too.

Your muscles depend on your mind. Rather, the appearance of your muscles depends on your mind. They are your mind on display.

So the corrupt contractor Ben Nealy is horribly wrong when he tells Dagny Taggart that “all it takes to build anything in this world” is muscles. Building anything — including muscle — takes mind, and its proper application to the task.

Of course, the results are worth it: I am proud of my muscles.

I planned them. I built them. They’re mine.

I have good separation and vascularity, and I'm naturally pretty lean. I have good proportions and symmetry. To a great extent, that's all a result of genetics, so I can't take credit for all of it. But I like the sweep and flare of my thighs, my lats, my biceps, and for that, I do take the credit, because I did it, I created that sweep and flare. What I do not yet have, although I’m deliberately growing and gaining weight, is substantial size. But I’ll get there, because I know what I’m doing.

And I am getting there: most of my dress shirts, for example, will need to be replaced before Christmas. My suit jackets are an inadequately, though gratifyingly, tight fit across the shoulders and chest. Actually, they probably no longer fit at all. And I've related, here, how I inadvertently destroyed what was, at the time, my favorite pair of jeans:

"On Monday of this week, on my very last day working with some of my fine military clients at the 4th Infantry Division at Fort Hood, Texas, I decided that I needed to exit a Black Hawk helicopter. So I did.

"Normally, I just hop out. Most of us do. Or I take a very low step -- the Black Hawk deck is not particularly low to the ground, but not particularly high, either.

"But for some reason I stepped out backwards. Don't know why. I also don't know why I kept my left foot well inside the cab, and flat on the deck of the cab, as I extended my right leg back onto the runway.

"All was well as the ball of my foot touched the tarmac...but when I found myself with left foot flat on the deck of the Black Hawk cab at the same time my right heel touched that Fort Hood blacktop...I lost my favorite pair of jeans.

"That's right, my black Levi's 501s gave way, suddenly and violently, and not in the ass, either, but in the thigh bicep area. Quite frustrating to lose them, but also gratifying in a way...

"I do believe I'll continue heavy squats and deadlifts.

And so I shall. Now, in that blog piece, I wrote that I'd probably begin wearing looser-fitting jeans...but the hell with that, I still wear the nice, tighter 501s. Why? Well, for the same reason I'm doing squats and deadlifts in the first place: I want to look good and I want that muscular development to be seen. So my thigh development makes it more of an effort to get into those jeans, whereas with my formerly skinny legs it was no effort at all. I know which situation I prefer.

Did I mention fun? I enjoy the triumph of completing a set of squats in good form and, as the Olympic weightlifters say, "ass to the grass," all the way down and all the way back up. Or of learning the Olympic lifts themselves, as I've recently done with the clean and jerk, "the king of lifts." Quite motivating -- and another reason so many of those shirts need to be replaced.

And nothing compares to deadlifting a new personal best, whether it's a greater number of repetitions at a heavy weight, or increasing the lifted weight itself. Nothing.

Trainers, powerlifters, and bodybuilders occasionally speak of the "knock-off" effect of those two exercises, the squat and the deadlift. I can attest to it myself: I do no direct work on my neck (and with my neck, trust me, I'll never want to), and for a long time no direct work for my shoulders, or biceps, yet I've seen gratifyingly regular increases in all three areas. Squats and deadlifts are taxing, which is why many lifters don't like them -- or don't even do them. But they produce results and I'm sticking with them. The old-time strongmen were known for tearing phone books; I want to do that, too, but meanwhile...well, I've torn denim. Smiling

I feel satisfaction when, after I’ve lifted, my arms are so pumped, so swollen with blood, that I cannot bend my arms back to wipe the sweat from my own face. Those arms are on their way to getting bigger.

In Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand wrote: “Pride is the recognition of the fact that you are your own highest value and, like all of man’s values, it has to be earned….that as man is a being of self-made wealth, so he is a being of self-made soul….”

I would add: we are also beings of self-made physique.

Building an excellent physique is a great source of pride: I did this, it’s mine, and it’s good. It is also an expression of pride: I’m worth it.

And you are.

So it’s summer again. Consider that it is good and appropriate that we like to look at good bodies, that it is good and appropriate that we are drawn to strength and health and vitality. Consider, then, that it’s only good, only appropriate, that we create something worthy of a look.

Looking is pleasurable, and being looked at is pleasurable. We all enjoy seeing muscles move, whether we're sports fans or not.

Remember Tina Turner’s legs (or Dagny Taggart’s). Give thought to Jennifer Lopez’s most celebrated feature, and bear in mind that it is a muscle, the gluteus maximus, which is directly amenable to work. And how many women, over the past forty years or more, have found Sean Connery sexually attractive? He, too, was a competitive bodybuilder (in the Steve Reeves, pre-steroids era) before finding success as an actor.

SOLO Fitness will be about pride, productiveness, and a good pump...and about strength, health, and vitality, and how to go about getting good exercise and choosing good food..and it is damn sure going to be about looking at girls in short skirts.

Plodding along a treadmill is not an expression of the "the total passion for the total height." Diet fads and fasts don't cut it, either. Doing your best to be your best, is. Check out the information (and the links), try what's discussed here, see how it all works for you. I look forward to your responses.

Warm-weather fashions in America (and elsewhere, with the exception of Saudi Arabia) include golf shirts on men and short skirts on women. Why not take advantage of this? Why not look good in whatever you’re wearing?

And by all means take pride in it, too: after all, you will have created it.

(The original version of this piece, edited by Andrew Schwartz, appeared at The Atlasphere on April 26, 2004. I made some changes and posted the result at The Anger of Compassion on June 5, 2005. This version has been re-edited, updated, and customized for SOLO Passion.)

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Do not forget it is great for your health as well

Phil's picture

An awesome post. I would also add the proverb from the ancient Romans 'mens sana in corpore sano,' meaning 'a healthy mind in a healthy body'. Exercise achieves both synergistically.

There is not an organ system in your body that is not enhanced by physical exercise. It is common knowledge that excise benefits the cardiovascular pulmonary and musculoskeletal systems, but perhaps less well known it also helps the brain and endocrine systems ( e.g. pancreatic control of blood sugar).

I just learnt at my last conference even the eyes can benefit! (Studies indicate that glaucoma patients, who exercise regularly, at least three times a week, can reduce their intraocular pressure by an average of 20%).

Arnold Schwarzenegger: The greatest feeling you can get in a gym, or the most satisfying feeling you can get in the gym is... The Pump.

Flirting at the gym

Martin's picture

I'm like Jennifer - At the gym, I'm focused on getting in and getting the workout done. It's nice to have eye candy at the gym but I'm not there to flirt.

I think I'll have some questions on flirting in general, and chatting up strangers, but I need to think about what I want to ask and whether to put it in a new thread.

I'm in a unique position

Landon Erp's picture

I've been in a relationship for about six years now and the only time in my life I've belonged to a gym was one we joined together. Flirting is not just A non-factor it is THE non-factor.

As to the Hamster wheel thing. I do dig lifting but you simply can't read while doing it and I have this thing that if one part of me is understimulated I have to pre-occupy other parts. Usually this means reading or listening to music while preforming another task (Eating, writing/drawing, etc).

It might just be a personal quirk but it's a very pronounced one.


Inking is sexy.


Prima Donna's picture

I figured that was more along the lines of what you meant. I don't think that it's a matter of being more social or not, it's really just a personal preference thing. Some people (myself included) prefer to zone out completely at the gym: Headphones on, focus, get in and get out. I was more sociable there when I was younger, so perhaps it's just cuz I'm an old lady now. Smiling


-- Food Philosophy. Sensuality. Sass.


User hidden's picture

If he was genuinely trying to be kind and helpful and trying to hit on me at once (the usual), I'd smile and flirt and then do exactly as I please. Maybe I might even get into a playful argument about how I know best and he should take lessions from me and soon he's be benching 65 pounds 10 times. Smiling But no, I wouldn't pretend I was wrong or countenance ass holes. Maybe it's another North/South difference, but I've never encountered that kind at the gym. They are usually very nice, would never comment on their own bodies (how metrosexual!), and often have good pointers about form or other exercises I could do. As I've gotten fitter, they often say, "I've been seeing you here for months, and you are looking great!" and then want to help me. I love that! As for focus, I am less driven than you all the time, so maybe that is part of it too. Since I am more breezy and chill (and social?), I really enjoy knowing people at the gym, and I consider their interruptions kind of fun, as long as they are considerate and don't want to talk for too long or during sets.


Young man, you need to

Prima Donna's picture

Young man, you need to broaden your social activities. Smiling


-- Food Philosophy. Sensuality. Sass.

When I'm at the gym, I'm

Boaz the Boor's picture

When I'm at the gym, I'm there to focus and work out, so flirting is an interference. Anywhere else, it is welcomed.

Well, ok, but one has to maximize one's opportunities. A moratorium on gym flirtation would only leave supermarkets and cafes as practical venues. The "spongeworthy" among us have long since abandoned bars and clubs.

A man does not win my heart by preaching to me about his big biceps or waxing poetic on the glory of his quads. Been there, done that -- boring.

I wasn't aware that guys actually do that. I mean, those parts are already exposed, so I really don't see the point.

Pas moi.

Prima Donna's picture

When I'm at the gym, I'm there to focus and work out, so flirting is an interference. Anywhere else, it is welcomed. Eye

A man does not win my heart by preaching to me about his big biceps or waxing poetic on the glory of his quads. Been there, done that -- boring.


P.S. Kelly, would you do so even if you knew what you were doing?

-- Food Philosophy. Sensuality. Sass.

I love "help" at the gym

User hidden's picture

When some hot, muscley guy gives me advice at the gym, I smile very sweetly, make my accent even stronger (if that is possible), and ask for even more advice. Maybe I might even need a spot! Smiling


Boo hoo

Boaz the Boor's picture

There's nothing wrong with flirting at the gym. You should be more understanding, Jennifer, of the biological factors involved. A man's adrenaline levels and sperm count increase during a good workout, so there's not really much we can do. It's the cowards who won't hit on the babes at the gym, opting instead in favor of dubious rationalizations like "manners," "taste," "respect for others," etc. etc. ad nauseum.

Answering all your questions, solving all your problems...

Craig Ceely's picture

Jennifer, some things in life are simple.

1) Your combination idea is a good one, as is planning out your regimen. Points for that.

2) No argument on the hamster wheel position.

3) My dear, this is not puzzling at all. Why are all these guys telling you how to lift weights? Because you are a g-i-r-l. They're not nosy: they're horny. They think they are playing what's known as "indirect game." In reality, they don't have the stones to come right out and admit to a sexual interest. Feel free to shun all such feeble excuses for "men."

Hey, you had to hear it from someone.

(Anyone care to guess what my title is paraphrasing?)


Prima Donna's picture

OK Ceely, I'm sitting here planning out my regimen, so six months hence I will challenge you to a thumb-wrestling match.

I've really lost my taste for the gym, as (1) I prefer to use a combination of weight training and other methods (i.e. Pilates); (2) I will never again run on a hamster wheel; and (3) I'm tired of the know-it-all beefcakes telling me how I should be lifting weights when I know damn well how to do it. (Why are people so nosy?) Thus I plan to do most of this at home and outdoors, but my greatest challenge is to develop a program that doesn't bore me after a short period of time. I rather welcome the challenge.

Start working that thumb, tough guy.


-- Food Philosophy. Sensuality. Sass.


jtgagnon's picture

I love cycling. I used to ride often when I lived in Michigan. Every year I'd ride in the Dalmac race, from Lansing up to the Mackinaw Bridge. But, sadly, those days are long behind me. Getting back into it would cost far too much money at the moment...not to mention, cycling in New Orleans would probably be a death-wish - we have potholes here the size of moon craters.

10 year-old biking style rules!

Ross Elliot's picture

10 year-old biking style rules!

Screw 'em! Ride it down the sidewalk. Down the middle of the road. On the grass. Over sleeping people! A bike is the poor man's Hummer. Pedal that thang!

If you hate routine -

Martin's picture

(I'm new to SOLO, my first attempt at this disappeared somewhere.)

If you hate routine or find it boring, you might like Crossfit. I discovered their site a couple of weeks ago. I've been trying their workout of the day, and generally it kicks my ass even if I reduce the weight, reps, and time. One of their principles is "Routine is the enemy."

And take a look at some of the demonstration videos there. The girls in those videos show my ideal of sexy - strong, fit, and still feminine, not bulked-up and grotesque like bodybuilders.

Ross, Hey man you stole my

Marnee's picture


Hey man you stole my brain. I love cycling too. Actually its more like I really like ridding my bike around town like a 10 year old. Anyway, I loathe the gym yet I make myself go by ridding my bike there and back along the river park. That makes it all worth it!

Do you like to cycle, John?

Ross Elliot's picture

Do you like to cycle, John? I'm not a fan of running due to the impact, but cycling is good for the heart and it's a load of fun. I can be in the country in 10 minutes, go down trails, nearly kill myself, etc. I'm sure boredom is what keeps many people away from repetitive exercise regimes. I *loathe* gyms. Besides, it's easier to meet girls at the library Cool


jtgagnon's picture

Oh yes, I did go for that run (with a cigar determinedly jutting out of my mouth). To be honest though, I need some good advice about working out (other than running...that's all I ever do).

Fantastic, Craig!

Lindsay Perigo's picture

This is a quintessentially KASS SOLO article. I love it! You should have seen my leg presses at the gym today after reading it!

I don't agree re Mentzer, though. He was definitely on steroids, which means he was dishonest, which means he was not really an Objectivist. And that HIT method is crap. You need to blast the hell out of each body part with multiple sets, light to heavy, on a split routine basis. That's my considered, geriatric opinion.


Thanks, everyone

Craig Ceely's picture

Landon: Yes, definitely, keep looking.

John: You did go for that run, right?

Jennifer: Yes, dear, motivation is what we aim to do.

Duncan: That's it, brother. "Planning" is the right word.

Bill: Glad you found something that works for you and has produced gains. I'm no admirer of super slow methods, and I have some problems with Mentzer's reasoning at times, but he was no doubt a great bodybuilder. He took some unfair hits, too: his death at a young age (49, I believe) was not due to his training methods, nor to his steroid use, but to conditions he inherited, sadly enough. Anyway, a loss.

All: some of our future discussions will include tools you'll need and tools you'll want, some terms we'll adopt here, how to get started, and, of course, "The Look." Stay tuned!

Bill,I just took the time to


I just took the time to look at the wikipedia article on Mike Mentzer. There was an awesome interview link as well. I'll have to think about buying his book for my sister who does some personal training on the side.

HIT training

Bill Sipes's picture

It may come as a surprise to some that one of body building's most successful and inspiring competitors, Mike Mentzer, was an Objectivist. He has passed away but during his life he wrote extensively about high intensity training and Objectivism was a big part of his books.
His methods are probably the reason I haven't balloned to over 300lbs and despite my lack of discipline, my training has given me great results. In an eight week period of time, I put an inch on my chest, 1 1/2 inches on each thigh and took 4 inches off of my waist. At that time I was carrying 198lbs of lean mass. Too bad I wasn't enough of an Objectivist at that time to enjoy the shape I was in.
Next year I plan to direct and shoot an action film and it seem logical to me that slimming down and beefing up will help greatly when facing long shooting days and it can't hurt my image when promoting the film.
So, it's back to the gym for Billy. I'll let you all in on my progress.
I recommend to anyone interested in a rational approach to muscle building to read anything by Mike Mentzer, Arthur Jones, or anyone involve in high intensity, super slow or static contraction training. It has definately worked for me.



Duncan Bayne's picture

This is a great post Craig, & timely too - for I have returned from a two-week road trip to discover I've gained around 3kg, little of which is muscle (although some is; the high ropes course & much walking has left me feeling spritely despite the incredible quanities of rich food I've ingested).

Time to dust off the weights, sit down & start planning ... Smiling


Prima Donna's picture

Craig, this is just what I needed to see this morning. I've been terribly lax in my workouts lately for numerous reasons, and am gearing up my mind to re-engage, so this was a great motivator. I'm looking forward to seeing this section progress!


-- Food Philosophy. Sensuality. Sass.


jtgagnon's picture

Craig, this is very KASS. I finshed reading it and wanted to go for a run.

You wrote: "SOLO Fitness will be about pride, productiveness, and a good pump...and about strength, health, and vitality, and how to go about getting good exercise and choosing good food..and it is damn sure going to be about looking at girls in short skirts."

I'm very much looking forward to your future installments. Rock on!

An excellent piece

Landon Erp's picture

I might actually find myself following SOLO fittness for the first time.


Inking is sexy.

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