If there were a couple of words to describe a young Arnold Schwarzenegger, they would be focus and discipline.
In his autobiographical “Arnold: The Education of a Bodybuilder,” Schwarzenegger (with Douglas Kent Hall) gives an account of his early life in sports, including his first exposure to weight training and body building at the age of fourteen. By the time he was fifteen, he admits he was “addicted” to weight training, and was in the gym working harder and lifting more weights than anyone else his age.
Schwarzenegger’s work in the gym, even at a young age, was inspirational. He quickly attracted the attention of older mentors, including a doctor who helped refine his understanding of muscle development. When he was told by some as a teenager that he should only train three days a week, he pushed it to six. When he was told that he’d harm his health by working out too much, he decided to do it anyway and prove them wrong. When he was told by many that he should use his athleticism in more traditional and popular sports (body building wasn’t a popular sport in Austria at the time), he didn’t listen. Schwarzenegger followed his instinct, and the instant love he had for the sport, and decided to pursue his passion for body building.
In the “Education of a Body Builder,” Schwarzenegger reports that his father, the local chief of police, encouraged sports. He was an athletic person himself, and was particularly accomplished in curling. He got Arnold and his brother into all sorts of sports as kids, notably soccer, and encouraged physical training, activity, and good eating in the household.
One revealing anecdote came in an interview with Adam Bornstein, where Schwarzenegger said that his father would wake him and his brother up very early in the morning, and that they had to “earn” their breakfast by doing pushups, and other exercises designed by his father. This happened even at the tender age of four and five. However, Schwarzenegger credits this sort of practice from his parents as giving him a very strong sense of discipline, which he says has stayed with him and helped him stay very fit throughout his life (as well as helping his other successes).
Discipline was a staple in the Schwarzenegger household. He says his father was like a “general,” always checking in on his studies and making sure he was eating correctly.
Schwarzenegger was grateful to have parents who were always present, and it’s something he wants to offer to a lot more children. In an interview on “The Tim Ferriss Show,” Schwarzenegger talks about how important it was to have parents (and other adults such as teachers and coaches) who were present “24 hours a day.” It’s part of what drives his passion and support for after school programs. Schwarzenegger said “…I felt that when I grew up, even though we were very poor, I had someone there 24 hours a day for me to improve, to learn, to do sports, and to get attention and to get the love and to get the discipline. It was a tough upbringing, but it was a combination of great discipline and also love.”