Arnold Schwarzenegger: 15-year-old wonder of discipline

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. Just one year later, at the time he was fifteen, Schwarzenegger admits he was “addicted” to weight training. He recounts how he was in the gym working harder and lifting more weights than anyone else his age.

Outworking all Peers

Schwarzenegger’s hard work in the gym, even at a young age, was inspirational to others. He quickly attracted the attention of older and more experienced mentors, including a doctor who helped refine Schwarzenegger’s understanding of body building and muscle development.

Even then, Schwarzenegger was no stranger to pushing past barriers. When he was told by some friends as a teenager that he should only train three days a week, he pushed it to six days. 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 instincts and the love he had for the sport of body building, and decided to pursue his passion for body building through extreme dedication and hard work.

Schwarzenegger’s Background

In the “Education of a Body Builder,” Schwarzenegger reports that his father, the local chief of police, encouraged sports. His father was an athletic person himself, and was particularly accomplished in the sport of 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 started when the boys were as young as just four.

While this may seem extreme and unusual, Schwarzenegger credits this sort of practice from his parents as giving him a very strong sense of discipline. Its this dedication to hard work and discipline which he says has stayed with him and helped him stay very fit throughout his life (as well as helping with all of 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.”

Further Reading

For more about how dedication and daily discipline, starting even at young ages can add up to big results, please check out our article on Stephen King.


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