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In Magazine Editorials, Governor Touts the Joys of Bodybuilding

Times Staff Writer

“Don’t Be a Slave to Bodybuilding -- Enjoy It” counsels Arnold Schwarzenegger in a headline above his editorial in the current issue of Muscle & Fitness magazine.

Next to a page advertising a grape-flavored protein drink, the governor takes on the role of executive editor, lamenting that some bodybuilders “with somber expressions” have turned the sport into drudgery.

“They carry gallon-size plastic jugs of water, as if their bodies will need that amount during the next few minutes. They have to eat nothing but chicken and rice, even though the next contest is months away. Does any of that seem joyful? Not to me.”

Schwarzenegger may have taken a leave of absence from movie acting to be governor, but he’s still preaching the workout gospel as executive editor of Muscle & Fitness and Flex magazines, the bodybuilding buffs’ bibles put out by American Media, which employs him for at least $1 million a year.

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Each month the magazines feature an editorial by Schwarzenegger -- although, as Vincent Scalisi, editor in chief of Muscle & Fitness, has told the Los Angeles Times, Schwarzenegger doesn’t write them. He sort of dictates them: The governor chats by phone with editors who take notes, write drafts, and then send them off for him to approve, according to Scalisi.

The editorial that appears in Muscle & Fitness one month is almost identical to the editorial in the issue of Flex dated one month earlier.

The governor’s most controversial editorial was his impassioned defense of dietary supplements -- ads for which carpet Muscle & Fitness.

“All too often, dietary supplements have been lumped into the same category as harmful anabolic steroids,” writes Schwarzenegger in his June editorial in Muscle & Fitness (and the May 2005 Flex). He adds that he supports bans on steroids but makes it clear that “to ban dietary supplements such as protein powders, multivitamins, glutamine, etc., is misguided and wrong,” and points out that he vetoed a recent state bill restricting performance-enhancing dietary supplements. “To show true concern, why don’t we pass a law that takes junk food out of schools?” he writes.

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Schwarzenegger also said the magazines that employ him should show people the difference between dietary supplements and illegal steroids “and ultimately protect the kind of right America’s forefathers wrote into our Constitution: the freedom of choice.”

In a June 2004 column for Muscle & Fitness, he wrote about seeing his first copy of Muscle Builder/Power -- the precursor to Muscle & Fitness -- in an Austrian gym when he was 15 years old. The magazine inspired him not just to become a bodybuilder but to learn English as well, he wrote.

“The magazine created the foundation of the person I am, and it is a debt that I will never be able to repay,” Schwarzenegger wrote. And of its then-publisher, who invited Schwarzenegger to come to California, he says: “Joe Weider, who had offered me an endorsement contract soon after I arrived in America, was the father figure, and I was the magazine’s No. 1 son.”

His columns frequently lavish praise on the magazine and its owners. They reciprocate: An “exclusive interview” with the governor in the August issue of Muscle & Fitness gushes: “Arnold Schwarzenegger is the most famous person in the world.”

Over the last year, his columns have dispensed straightforward, common-sense approaches to weight training, anecdotes about his early bodybuilding career and critiques of current trends in the sport he almost single-handedly popularized.

Once possessed of fabled physical proportions, Schwarzenegger rues the bodybuilders’ fixation with muscle mass over proportion. “Now we see guys in the pro ranks who are huge with distended stomachs and no abdominal control,” he says in his June column in Flex. He scoffs at their poses -- “More often than not, competitors substitute gyrating and stomping around the stage for actual posing.”

In his editorials, he exalts both the physical and mental benefits of physical training. “When I was campaigning ... my advisors often tried to tell me that I couldn’t possibly fulfill all the obligations I had set for myself,” he writes in the March 2005 Muscle & Fitness. “I immediately countered, ‘You think this is tough? You should try my chest-back superset workout.’ ”

He also shares amusing moments from his past. In an October 2004 Flex column memorializing the legendary gym owner Joe Gold, he says Gold called him “balloon belly,” a reminder that the fledgling bodybuilder needed to work on his abs.

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“When Joe insulted you, it was a sign that he liked you,” Schwarzenegger wrote.


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