I never miss an interview (or today, a podcast) with a classic bodybuilder. I’m certainly well past the arbitrary 10,000 hour benchmark (which is kind of depressing when I think about it but I’ll spare you the self-loathing).

When I was young I was drawn to the differences in their approaches. Frank Zane dieted on low carbs, Franco Columbu didn’t. Dorian Yates trained with very high intensity, Arnold with very high volume (though not as high as what’s been reported, and certainly not all year).

As I got older I learned to focus on their similarities. The best were all extremely focused in the gym, cared as much about the quality of their food as the quantity of it, and left no stone unturned in their process. (Stress management, sleep optimization, active recovery — all did it, often without even knowing).

Today I’m drawn to more introspective subjects.

Why did some of the most genetically gifted never quite “put it all together?”

Why were some able to read the tea leaves and retire yet still keep bodybuilding a part of their lives, while others slowly fizzled into mediocrity or suffered spectacular flameouts and quit training altogether?

And most interesting: who was able to maintain a “growth mindset” when their actual bodybuilding days were well behind them?

Arnold was able to keep growing, and while you might question his politics just stop and think: the guy was a very good bodybuilder. Now he’s taking on gerrymandering. That’s growth.

Dorian Yates’s life since retiring is also noteworthy. Ayahuasca trips and conspiracy theories may not be your bag, but he clearly hasn’t let retiring from competition stop him from growing intellectually into the man he wants to be.

I’m not sure my point is. Maybe that bodybuilding (i.e. lifting weights and watching what you eat to improve your body) is SO MUCH MORE than just, well, improving your body.

I guess some figure out that the real “building” happens on the inside and as such never stop growing — even after their physique days are long behind them.

And a few go on to do things that make their bodybuilding accomplishments seem like a mere footnote.

Even as just a recreational lifter, I find inspiration in that.

Never stop building. Never stop growing.