When you think about weightlifting you think about a certain Austrian bodybuilder whose name ends with an "-er," and no I'm not talking about Roland Kickinger, even though he's positively jacked himself.
What really paved the way for his success, especially in America, was his domination of the bodybuilding world and commitment to exercise. The seven-time Mr. Olympia winner's legacy still inspires people today, which is probably what prompted this reddit user's question to the former governor of California in a recent AskReddit thread.
Ali, who was suffering from depression and in a funk, asked the movie star how he could go about motivating himself to finally get up, go to the gym and make a better change in his life. But what makes Arnold's response so perfect is that he considered how Ali asked the question, and that's what really hit me hard.
For some reason, I get into these defeatist, "Man I suck and I'm so bad at everything" whenever I hit a wall or something becomes challenging. It's a form of being hard on yourself that isn't healthy, because you're not trying to do anything to get better per se, but it becomes an addictive form of self-flagellation, or emotional masochism, if you will. But those feelings aren't healthy, ultimately. Here's the question Ali asked:
In an interview with the BBC, Ali talks about the moment he decided to send the message, even though he wasn't sure whether Arnold would see it or not.
"I was just lying in bed and feeling down, when I decided to send the message. I had been feeling bad for about three months."
One might expect a super Muscle Man like Arnold to tell him to just "suck it up" or "snap out of it," but as it turns out, his response was extremely supportive, with practical, actionable advice to boot: Take it one step at a time and to make sure, at all costs, to do something, anything at all.
The kind and extremely "doable" advice immediately had an impact on Ali, who says that right after reading it, he got out of bed and went straight to the gym.
"I jumped out of bed and thought, 'What's the quickest way to the gym?' I used that motivation and went straight there. It was crazy."
But the story doesn't end there. You see, the great (and sometimes awful) thing about public forums like reddit on the internet is that almost anyone can see what you wrote. Ali's exchange with the Terminator ended up getting tons of upvotes and views. It also started a thread of other people chiming in with their own struggles with depression.
After being inspired to get to the gym while simultaneously slapping his depression in the face, Ali began giving out advice, just like Arnold gave to him, to others who struggled with the same issues.
Reddit users are constantly reaching out for advice in hopes of receiving the same "boost" that Ali received when he interacted with Mr. Conan the Barbarian himself.
Like this new mother who was unhappy with her pregnancy weight gain and wasn't feeling herself at all. Due to the high-risk nature of her pregnancy, she was too depressed and scared to even walk outside, even though her baby was entirely happy and healthy. She then resolved to finally take her kid out for a walk in a stroller, committed to doing something just to get out of her own head.
Obviously, treating depression isn't the same for every individual and it's a complex issue that's not going to be simply solved by just going to the gym. I'm sure there are tons of gym rats in incredible shape who still suffer from depression. Heck, The Rock is a massively successful man who also has massive muscles — but he's dealt with depression as well.
There were some reddit users who said that Arnold's advice and Ali's response reeked of "well, that was easy" and that it was an extremely reductive approach to a nuanced issue. User Ambivertigo linked to a popular subreddit that mocks the sometimes cringe-worthy simplistic, faux-deep advice that's shared on the internet.
To which Ali replied that yes, the actor's reply definitely was cynical — but the advice really struck a chord with him and helped get him out of his depression in that moment.
To Ali's credit, he explained that his depression wasn't "cured" and that he understands it's not something that's so easily addressed or fixed, but going to the gym ultimately boosted his spirits and helped him out. So why knock it down if it worked for him?
Word eventually got out of Ali's response to Arnold's advice, and that it started a whirlwind of people helping other people online. And word spread so much, it actually got back to Arnold himself.
So he decided to send Ali a little message on reddit, letting him know that he was proud of him for fighting his depression that day, and every day afterward. That's right — Ali, a huge Arnold Schwarzenegger fan, got a personalized video reply from his longtime hero.
Appropriately, it was filmed in a gym during one of the 71-year-old's workouts. It's inspiring and awesome to see someone at his age assiduously maintain and care for his health. Even more awesome is that he signed off with one of his trademark lines.
As happy as I am for Ali, I'm also super jealous.