Hi everybody! It’s great to chat with you again this month. Man, a lot has happened since we last spoke. We held the Arnold Sports Festival for the first time since the pandemic began, I have continued preparing for my new series, reading the scripts and training every day, I gave a speech to share my thoughts on Ukraine, and I got together with some old friends.
"I just can't"
I want to start with something I see a lot on social media these days, in case any of you fall into this category. I see people saying, “How can we talk about anything else with what’s happening in Ukraine?” Or, “How can I be expected to get anything done when people are dying in a pandemic and being bombed in Ukraine, and even worse, there are atrocities and war crimes committed by the Russians?” Or at the most basic level, I see people say, “I just can’t today.”
I totally understand how you can get overwhelmed. The past few years have felt like every so often, someone picks up a history book and turns to a page and makes us relive something we’d only read about in school. There is so much going on in the world, whether it’s war or pandemic or injustice or rising prices or anything else, that it can feel like we are being crushed under all of these worries. And they aren’t minor worries - some of these things are once-in-a-generation stress.
So if it all feels like too much to you, I don’t want you to beat yourself up. What I would like you to do, though, is change your “I just can’t” to “I can.”
In moments like this, everything can seem so small. Going to lunch with an old friend, or meeting up with fellow athletes to train, or doing anything that makes you happy can feel out of place.
But I want to remind you that those small moments are what have gotten people through historic stress since the beginning of time. Don’t feel guilty enjoying yourself with your family because a war is happening. Don’t be shy about the things that make you smile because we are living through a pandemic.
When the problems of the world seem huge, embrace the small things. That’s what being a human is all about. We adapt and we overcome and we find ways to live even when there are disasters and tragedies because we know it’s our job to live.
I tell this story all the time, but when I got to the United States in 1968, we were in the middle of one of those historic, crushing times. The Vietnam War. The Civil Rights Movement. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy were both assassinated that year. The Manson family. The Zodiac Killer. Riots at the Democratic National Convention.
For the first year after I moved here, it seemed like everything was happening at once.
But do you know what my clearest memories of that time are? It’s bodybuilders showing up at my new, tiny, barren apartment to bring me plates, silverware, a small black and white TV, a transistor radio, pillowcases, bedsheets, and furniture because they knew I had nothing but my gym bag. It’s being invited to their families’ homes for holiday meals. It’s spending a weekend sleeping on the grass in a park with friends in the Haight-Ashbury District of San Francisco. When I do remember the big evening news of that time, my memories are about my friend Artie translating the speeches and headlines for me and helping me learn English.
While all of those crazy things were happening in the big world, I was seeing non-stop kindness in my own little world. My whole life, people have called me the ultimate optimist. When you realize that I moved here in the middle of an unjust war, in a year when two of our most hopeful leaders were murdered, and people were filling the streets to protest the war and racial injustice, it might not make much sense to you that I continued to be such an optimist.
It’s because I kept living my life, because there was not much I could do about what was wrong with the world in 1968. And by living my life, I saw that people were overwhelmingly good. Yes, there are assholes everywhere, but think about how many people were kind to me when I was bumbling around, saying the wrong thing (like when an owner of a deli came to my table and said, “How’s the food?” and I said, “Can I have some more of your garbage?” At first, he got offended and said, “What did you call my food?” until my friend Artie explained, I loved his “cabbage” and wanted some more.) and getting by because people wanted to help out of the goodness of their heart.
If I had looked at all of the problems in the world and said, “I just can’t”, I would have missed out on those interactions and experiences that made me such a positive guy.
So I want to start out this month by reminding you to give yourself permission to not take all the worries of the world on your shoulders. You don’t have to give up the good parts of being a human because something that you can’t control is happening.
You can live your life, and it’s OK to feel joy when you see a friend, it’s OK to laugh at jokes, it’s OK to watch an old movie that you’ve always loved.
The small things in your life don’t stop when big things are happening in the world. They become more important. This month, when it feels like things are a little much or you just can’t do it anymore, step away from the news and the screens and go out into the world. I promise you that if you walk for an hour, someone or something will make you smile, and you’ll remember that you can.
Arnold Classic Highlights
I have to say, speaking of getting out in the world, it was fantastic to see the athletes and the fans at the Arnold Sports Festival again. After two years of the pandemic, we were finally able to bring it back with 18,000 athletes from all over the world, including from Ukraine and Russia, competing in 60 sports and watched by thousands of fans. It was wonderful seeing crowds rooting for their favorite athletes after all this time and it was a fantastic celebration of muscle and strength and sport. It was my 46th year of hosting international competitions in Columbus, Ohio, and our 34th Arnold Classic. Congratulations to all of our winners and thank you to all the fans for being there to cheer them on. I can’t wait for next year.
I wanted to give a special shout out to our winners from the weekend.
Men’s Open: Brandon Curry (Instagram: brandon__curry)
Classic Physique: Terrence Ruffin (Instagram: ruff_diesel)
Men’s Physique: Erin Banks (Instagram: e_bankssss)
Wellness: Isabelle Nunes (Instagram: isapereiranunes)
Bikini: Lauralie Chapados (Instagram: lauraliechap)
Fitness: Ariel Khadr (Instagram: itsarielkhadr)
Figure: Cydney Gillon (Instagram: vytamin_c)
Pro Strongman: Martins Licis (Instagram: martinslicis)
Brandon Curry (Credit: Will Wittmann)
Terrence Ruffin (Credit: Will WIttmann)
Erin Banks (Credit: Will Wittmann)
Isabelle Nunes (Credit: Will Wittmann)
Lauralie Chapados (Credit: Will Wittmann)
Ariel Khadr (Credit: Will Wittmann)
Cydney Gillon (Credit: Will Wittmann)
And thank you so much to our top sponsors: Reign, Rogue, SBD, and Celsius, because we couldn’t put on the show without your support. Thank you to Brian Powers and our whole Arnold Sports team for working 24 hours a day to make everything perfect from the lighting to the stages to the athlete meals. Thank you to the doctors and nurses and first responders who kept everyone safe. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
As we got ready for the weekend, I asked reddit what we could do to make the festival better. I was actually surprised that 90% of the comments were about how the livestream looked fantastic and the stage was perfect for showcasing the athletes, so I got to send them on to my team to congratulate them on doing a good job.
But a few of the comments were not so positive. And they were about me. See, the past two years, I have done live commentary on the livestream. The fans seem to love it, and I enjoy doing it. But a few of them said, “Arnold, don’t be so hard on the bodybuilders’ calves or stomachs,” or, “Don’t be so negative,” or, “don’t talk over the posing routine.”
I actually love hearing criticism, because that’s how we improve. I told one of the redditors this story, and I thought it might be a good lesson for all of you.
When I went to train with my hero, Reg Park, he pulled out a tape measure and measured my calves and my biceps. He said, “Arnold, your calves are 19 inches and your biceps are 21 inches. You might win Mr. Universe like this, but you’ll never go all the way. You need to build up your calves. Every step you take is a 250 pound calf raise. So to grow, you are going to have to go as heavy as possible, and you’re going to need to do 10-15 sets every single day.”
It rattled my cage so much because I was young and at first I thought, “I’m a Mr. Universe, why is he giving me a beating?” But I put aside my pride and I listened to him. I trained the hell out of my calves. I was loading the calf raise machine up to 700 pounds, doing 15 sets every day. I was hitting them with donkey raises with half the bodybuilders in the gym on my back. I left no stone unturned. I was relentless. I trained like Reg Park told me to, and the results were exactly what he said they would be: My calves were 21 inches and because of that, my body was much more symmetrical. Naturally, I thanked Reg for his advice. Even though it was painful to hear at first, it made me better, and I learned to turn off my ego and be grateful for criticism.
After every competition, I went to the judges and asked them to point out my flaws. Even when I won. I never wanted to hear about my strengths. I wanted to hear everything they thought was wrong so that I could continue to improve. I needed to hear my weak spots.
Bodybuilders (hell, everyone) love to focus on their strong points, when we grow the most by doing the opposite. So when I criticize stomachs or calves, I’m hoping to be what Reg Park was for me. Honest criticism is how I grew.
That’s helped me throughout my life. So when you hear constructive criticism - and I do not mean internet trolls - and your face gets hot, remember I was in the same position. And learning how to turn down the heat and listen has never hurt me.
By the way, I heard that this year I did a better job of staying positive and not talking over the routines. I’m really happy about that, and I know next year I’ll be even better, because if I learned one thing from bodybuilding, it’s that each of us is a work in progress.
Now let’s talk about some of my favorite moments from this weekend!
Inspiring a Rockstar!
Speaking of the bodybuilding show, did you guys see Dee Snider perform to open the show? The energy was through the roof. Everyone was on their feet, and singing along to “We’re Not Gonna Take It.” He and his band joining us was really fantastic and the crowd loved him. I found out recently that I inspired him with my Education of a Bodybuilder book, and that it drove him to write his most famous album “Stay Hungry” which sold over 9 million copies. He gave me a framed vinyl that he signed, and I am going to put it up in my gym so it can inspire me. Dee is a really great guy, and it was such a pleasure talking to him backstage.
Some of my Heroes!
This year’s World’s Strongest Firefighter competition was held right in the main hall in Columbus, Ohio where we held the Arnold Strongman Classic, and those guys inspired the whole crowd. We started this contest a few years ago to celebrate the strength and determination of our firefighters. I’ve seen over and over since I was Governor how strong, how brave, and how inspirational these men and women are. The first two years were held on the Santa Monica Pier right next to the original Muscle Beach, and this year was the first time we brought it to Columbus! The audience was going wild for these guys, screaming and watching every lift, we had a packed house, but most importantly, the firefighters had an amazing weekend. Meeting them was inspiring. One of the guys came to me and said, “This is the highlight of my career” and that is exactly why we do this. If anyone has earned a moment in the spotlight, it is these guys. So often, they save people or put out fires without anyone seeing it. It was wonderful to give them a crowd of 5,000 people to show them how much they’re loved. We had guys from all over the world come to Columbus to compete, and we even had a guy who had to do a full shift on the ambulance right after the competition! What a monster! I want to give a special shoutout to our winner Daniel Camacho from Phoenix Fire Department in Arizona. He was such a champion, and I can’t wait to see what he brings next year. Check out this article in Muscle and Fitness about the competition, and some great photos below.
I even got to meet Stipe Miocic! One of my favorite heavyweight UFC champions. He just became a full-time firefighter in Cleveland and came to pump up our firefighter competitors before their big show. He is such a great guy, and his first ever grappling competition was years ago at the Arnold Classic! I love hearing these stories of athletes who started their march to the top of their sport at our event, and I hope Stipe will be back in the octagon soon.
And of course, I always have to share a little bit of the ridiculous side of the Arnold Sports Festival, so check out this shot from one of my favorite new sports, Medieval Fighting.
Most of you are quite aware of what is going on in Ukraine right now. I made this video for the Russian people, because I have a long relationship with Russia. There is a good chance you saw it. If you didn’t, please share it to help the truth get out.
Here is a link to share on Telegram, in case YouTube doesn’t work in your country.
By the way, they tried their best to censor my video in Russia, but I don’t want to censor them, so here is how they talked about me on Russian state television.
“The Face of American Imperialism” is a new one for me! Anyway, obviously they were huge fans, but I’m willing to share their comments. Let’s see if they share mine without editing it!
Give Something Back
Earlier, I talked about not giving up the best parts of being human when things we can’t control are happening. Social media has done a lot of good in showing people around the world that there is a community for them, and in giving platforms for people who didn’t have them before. But it has also done a lot of bad. Everyone having a platform does not mean that everyone has to have an opinion on everything. Everyone being part of the global community does not mean that if anybody in the world is suffering through tragedy, everybody in the world has to be depressed.
When there are moments where we can have an impact, be useful, like my dad always said. Even the tiniest impact can help you feel less helpless. I felt I could have the biggest impact possible by trying to reach my Russian fanbase with the truth about this war. You might have the most impact by donating to a great cause to help refugees or by preparing care packages for a refugee family.
Here are some links to donate to Ukraine:
Or you might have the most impact by doing your best to keep your own family and friends from losing their composure. Do what you can so that you can keep moving forward without being overwhelmed.
And I’ll share more about this next month, but no matter where you live, if you have the ability to start transitioning to cleaner sources of energy, it helps break our dependence on countries that certainly aren’t our best friends. The sun has never started a war with us, and the wind doesn’t tell us we have to pay for it with rubles. I don’t want to give you too much to do, but if you’ve been thinking about installing solar or getting an electric car for a while, this is your moment to make a statement.
While I was at the Arnold Classic, one of our Pro Strongmen athletes, Oleksii Novikov, announced he would be going back to Ukraine after the competition to defend his home country. He won second place, but because he was going to use the money to buy body armor and supplies for Ukrainian soldiers, I tripled his prize money so that he could spend the same as if he had won first place, because his selflessness truly inspired me.. Check out the video here. And our first place winner, Martins Licis, donated $10,000 of his own purse to help his friend Oleksii. What an absolute jewel. That’s what I call community. These guys all compete against each other, but they also work together, they help each other, and they’re friends. All of us could learn from them. It reminds me of our old days in Gold’s Gym.
This month's community hero is Chef Jose Andres. Jose founded World Central Kitchen in 2010. and has not slowed down since. In his own words, "It all began in 2010 after a huge earthquake devastated Haiti. Cooking alongside displaced Haitians in a camp, I found myself getting schooled in how to cook black beans the way they wanted: mashed and sieved into a creamy sauce. You see, food relief is not just a meal that keeps hunger away. It’s a plate of hope. It tells you in your darkest hour that someone, somewhere, cares about you. This is the real meaning of comfort food. It’s why we make the effort to cook in a crisis." I am so proud of the work Jose does all over the world, and I really encourage all of you to check out his organization. Here is a photo of Jose working his magic, and below is a photo of me taking over his kitchen when I visited the Camp Fire in 2018. The Camp Fire was a devastating wildfire in California that almost wiped out the entire town of Paradise.
Shifting gears now, look at this video of my dog Cherry growling and fighting with my new dog Schnitzel! Cherry gets jealous when Schnitzel gets all the attention!
I love Lucy!
Now I want to talk a little bit about my life before I was famous. To many of you, my success might look inevitable, almost overnight. But when you really look back, it was a longer road than you think.
This just came up on reddit, and it’s an amazing memory. It’s a scene from a special called “Happy Anniversary and Goodbye” with Lucille Ball, co-starring the Academy Award winner Art Carney, from 1974, my first big role. Check out the scene here or watch below!
Lucy called me at the gym after she saw me on the Merv Griffin show, at that time one of the most popular talk shows, and asked me to be part of her special because she thought I was funny. You have to understand what a huge opportunity this was. She was the queen of TV. But she could not have been sweeter to me, despite a few problems with my English.
First, when I came in to audition, they said I should “read the script” and I just read it aloud like I was in class. All of the producers immediately put their heads in their hands, realizing this was a disaster, but Lucy said, “Arnold, just tell me the story, your name is Rico and you used to be a truck driver from Italy and now you’re a masseur!” So I did it, and Lucy said, “Wasn’t that great, guys? He’s hired!”
We rehearsed for a whole week, and she kept telling me, “Arnold, you need to project more because this is going to be a live show.” I was always worried about looking like an idiot so I didn’t ask anyone what “live” meant (there is a lesson here). Then on the day we were filming, the green light turned on and I walked into the door and all of the sudden there was a huge ovation and people were screaming. So this is what “live” meant. I was frozen, a deer in headlights, and Lucy saved me again by jumping in with a line to get me going.
Lucy couldn’t have been more of a jewel. She gave me advice on Hollywood and continued to check in on me as my career grew.
This was really my screen debut because the company that made Hercules in New York went bankrupt and wasn’t able to release the film, and it reminds me, and all of you, that success is never an overnight thing. This was 10 years before Terminator came out! This was 8 years before Conan!
When I really look back, I can see how going on the Merv Griffin show to promote bodybuilding built up to this show, and then this show built up to bigger things like Stay Hungry… and eventually all of that work built up to the blockbusters. This is why I’m always telling all of you to spend more time celebrating the small wins. You are ALWAYS building up to something.
I hope you get now why I don’t like when someone calls me a self-made man. Think about all the help Lucy gave me. She didn’t have to build me up. She chose to build me up. As soon as I screwed up the reading, she could have said, “Arnold, it was a fun idea but it won’t work out, good luck with your bodybuilding!” But she wanted to help me. And as tough as she was in business, which you know if you have seen "Being the Ricardos", for ten years, I got a note every time a new movie came out about how proud she was of me.
And I can never thank her, or all of the others who have supported me throughout my life, enough. They helped make me who I am today.
Also while you are here, if you’re interested, you can check out these newsletters from my other projects:
We’ve been raising a fortune for After School All Stars through our Omaze raffle. The contest is almost over! If you enter, everything goes toward a good cause and you have the chance of winning a beautiful house in Tahoe or 3 million dollars!
Here are a few of my favorites from last month:
Pump of the month: Donkey Raise. Time to work those calves!
Song of the month: Vicente Fernández - Un Millon De Primaveras. I love mariachi music and it has always reminded me of music you hear in Austria and Bavaria with the same instruments and joy, so I have to have a mariachi band at all of my parties!
Movie/TV Show of the month: Ozark
Book of the month: Our Own Worst Enemy: The Assault from within on Modern Democracy by Tom Nichols
Archive shot of the month:
Let’s get into some of your questions:
When you do bench press your thumb isn't wrapped around the bar, when I looked it up people said you shouldn't train like this in fear of the bar falling on your chest. What was your reason for doing it this way, did it help you lift more or allow the pecs to contract more? Did you ever have the bar fall on you?
That’s called the suicide grip. I could give you a whole page of reasons why I did it, but this newsletter is all about being honest. The reality is, there was no reason, and I mainly did it on the incline bench just because it felt good. But it is called the suicide grip for a reason. Only do this if you have a spotter with you, and make sure you have a real spotter, not someone looking at their Instagram while you unrack the weight.
People love to make up the reasons for things in fitness. They tell big stories. Don’t worry about all of that. Do what feels good and keeps you training.
Hi Arnold - can you please share some of your 'go-to' Plant-Based repeat meals? I am having difficulty sticking to the diet.
Every night I eat a cucumber salad with pumpkin seed oil and a vegetable soup. Pumpkin seed oil is a huge deal in Styria, the state in Austria where I was born. And it is delicious.
And after my workouts, I have a protein shake with my Ladder plant protein, berries or a banana (whatever is in the refrigerator that is getting old), water, and a little cherry juice. And every so often I throw in a shot of tequila or schnapps.
How do you deal with stress?
I focus on one thing at a time. For instance, while I am writing this newsletter, my friends showed up to start reading my TV scripts and go on a bike ride. I told them to please go in the other room and play chess. I don’t want to be thinking about going to the gym on our bikes or rehearsing my scripts. I am thinking about my newsletter right now, and that’s it and that’s all. Then I will go on a bike ride to the gym and I won’t think about all of you. Then I will rehearse, and I won’t think about the gym. Don’t try to solve every problem at once. Split things up into what you can conquer, and then move into the next thing.