By: Danny Manslaughter
There’s a lot of hullaboo and talk about this burgeoning ‘Alternative Fitness’ phenomenon. What is it? Is Danny Manslaughter mentally unstable? OK, so I just made all of that shit up (except for the last part). There’s pretty minimal talk, and that’s ok. We are not trying to attract ‘everyone’, simply a small following of people that ‘get it’, and enjoy a new development happening in the fitness ‘industry’. Let me elaborate however, as ‘Alternative Fitness’ adheres by one granite-solid staple and that is…
WE ARE FOR THE UNDERDOG.
My grandfather was a very intelligent man, an engineer and apt mechanic who maintained a graveyard of old Nash automobiles. He was what would be termed today as a ‘radical’, I’d refer to him as a moral man. He was a chronic champion of the underdog, the underprivileged, the lower class, the marginalized. Claude would take in ‘hobos’ that worked on the railroad and needed a place to stay. They’d be offered warm meals and a place to stay in my Grandparent’s attic in Sanders, Montana. In modern day nomenclature, a hobo is a derogatory term synonymous with ‘bum’, implying laziness and a lack of work ethic. On the stark contrary, hobos were far from lazy. Hobos were hard-working Americans that traveled to wherever the work was, working strenuous hours and traveling from region to region. They developed a culture of campfire work songs, radical politics, and most living off ‘the grid’ and helped build the infrastructure of this country. At times I ponder if there is a genetic component ingrained in me to be a champion of the underdog. My Father, Brother and Mother very much are champions of the underdog as well. Of course upbringing and environment has a lot to be with how we are forged; I was blessed enough to be raised in an encouraging and open-minded family.
Yes, at Iron Affinity we are all about the underdog. I root for the guy or gal who is fighting against all odds, the cards stacked accordingly in perilous fate against the beaten down badger. You don’t back a badger into the corner, because that motherfucker is going to rip out your larynx, clawing at the unprotected throat as sanguine fluid drizzles to the sediment below. The ‘Ya Basta’ badger is what Alternative Fitness is. People say ‘bodybuilding is expensive’. Sure, it can be very expensive once hormones, peptides, supplements, organic food, etc. is added into the equation. The very real fact is that you can get into this deal with having very minimal resources. I’ve read before that Brian Buchanan’s family could only afford to eat once a week and he essentially survived off of beans and rice for years.
At our gym there is a pretty steady stream of guys from the Salvation Army who pay for a $3 a week membership. Most of these fellas are in a recovery program, trying to get their lives on track after suffering from the absolute motherfucker that is alcohol and addiction. For many of them, bodybuilding becomes a staple part of their recovery and getting well again. One underdog came into Strength and Health Gym Bakersfield about a year ago, at least that’s the first time I saw him working out. This fella, who we will call ‘Ralph’ for all practical purposes came up to me and said ‘Hey man, I want to be like you!’. He’s a black guy with full sleeve tatoos, and one of those smiles that make you just like the guy, immediately. Usually if I follow my intuition I’m not wrong and I could sense the kindness in his heart and sense the suffering and hell he had been through with a quick glimpse into his eyes.
It’s quite humorous to me Ralph would say “I Want to look like you” when looking at him he had bulging (probably 18” biceps) with prominent vascularity and at that time was already built like an offseason NPC Competitor. He shared with me his story of how he went off ‘the deep end’ and essentially lost his entire life’s savings, job and family after a rough bought with alcoholism. Ralph had a very stable and successful career working in the oil fields and is highly articulate; I could tell that he was bitten by the dog fairly hard. I can relate, as I’ve ‘been there’ and our stories are remarkably similar. I asked him ‘What are you doing now?’ concerning his exercise and diet. His response was ‘Well I’m doing 2 a days for a couple of hours a day. Some days I work arms, others legs.. Sometimes I’ll work chest in the morning and legs in the evening. I’ve been eating as much meat as I can from the canteen, trying to get that protein in.” Well, whatever he was doing was obviously working quite well and I felt kind of ridiculous to advise him to do anything different. The gym owner (Mark Pacheco) and I helped this guy with little tidbits on training and nutrition and of course he soaked it up like a sponge. When you are really willing to learn something, you soak it up like a sponge.
I hadn’t seen Ralph for about 3 months and yesterday I saw him walking by one of the other gyms in town. He saw me and immediately lit up with a smile and said ‘Dan! So good to see you man’. There are no coincidences in life and I knew that meeting up with Ralph again was no coincidence. He gave me an update on his life and he was now fully employed, sober for a year and working long hours in Long Beach but still getting his workouts in. He looked even more impressive than the last time I saw him and was leaner and about 15 pounds heavier. He said “Man, I have so many questions! Man I started buying that protein powder and creatine and I’ve been blowing up. I really want to get into bodybuilding” Can you imagine how that made me feel? Especially when going through such a dog-shit day before that; feeling like Michael Douglas in the movie ‘Falling Down’, until I have a damn rocket launcher and had reached the point of ‘no return’. I thought ‘Fuck, at least I’m doing something right.” Probably Ralph would have looked great regardless of advice Mark and I gave him as he has some pretty sick genetics working for him. The whole point however is that he built an absolutely incredible physique on minimal resources.
I’ve gone through times where the only food I could afford was mackerel and oatmeal from the 99 cent store and maybe a tub of protein powder from the Walmart Overlords, leaving me shitting diarrhea in explosive agony approximately 45 minutes after ingestion. You know what though? I still made progress. I couldn’t afford supplements and certainly not ‘gear’ but I learned all the other aspects of the game long before any of those components came into the equation. This is why it’s so important to build that foundation (before supplementation) as well. If nothing else, because you are an underdog and you are going to revert back to your foundation after all exogenous hormones have exited from the body. I’m not a financial success, I’m not an academic success, I’m not a bodybuilding success. However, how do we define success? The one thing that I know is that at least I have some knowledge to offer someone who is willing to learn this art. I really am passionate about bodybuilding, without it I’d be dead.
I can’t articulate any better than the lyrics in the Bane song ‘Ali Vs Frazier 1”. An apt title for the content featured in the lyrics ; ‘The Fight of The Century’ between Smokin’ Joe and Muhammad Ali is one of the clearest examples of two people putting their absolute heart, blood and determination on the line, sparing absolutely nothing. If you are an underdog, that’s how you have to be as you aren’t handed anything in a silver spoon. As an underdog, whatever you have you have earned, it has been with merciless toil, suffering and strength. At Iron Affinity we are for the ‘underdog’, and we are damn proud of that. But back to Bane:
“How many more days will you sit
and talk about your ambitions
all that you can be
the person you are dying to be
the place you want to get to
but always out of reach
before that fury swells inside of you
grows so big that it forever quiets you
stand up to your demons
make a run at your goliath
find the best, find the worst
waiting in both of you
it’s not the who or the what that is lasting
but how you fight
that is the fight”