On the eve of the return of Terminator, Arnold Schwarzenegger is still striving to be the best version of himself. From bodybuilder to action hero, to political heavyweight, he is packing more into one lifetime than most could only manage in three.
Not content with resting on his laurels, he’s still looking for ways to level, even switching fuels from animal to plant in a quest to optimise his health and fitness.
What’s reassuring is however much this man-mountain evolves, he’ll never not be Arnie, and he’ll always be back – he exclusively reveals to RSNG his favourite exercises, his new almost-vegan diet, why politics is hard and the reason that ‘fine’ is bullshit…
RSNG You explore how it is for someone with a few years on the clock to be called on to be heroic in Terminator: Dark Fate – what do you call on instead of the speed and dumbass-confidence of youth, in that scenario?
ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, HERO ‘Very simple answer – experience. As time goes on, experience becomes as valuable as anything else. Think about how the human mind develops – from a very young age, it is the process of repetition in babies that gives them the security on which to begin to build and understanding of the world.’
‘As we progress into adulthood, it is a similar thing for us – the experience of having lived through scenarios and the confidence with which we can approach tasks knowing we have done them before, it absolutely vital. It’s like a muscle – the more you use and utilise it, the more reliable it gets.’
RSNG When you look back on your political career, what is it that you feel you achieve that has stood the test of time?
AS ‘I think mostly I gained a much broader view of the human condition and the human spirit. I saw things, experienced things, spoke to people and I hope, helped people, to a level that any movie star or musician or entertainer could never possibly imagine.’
‘I proved to myself the fact the philanthropy that comes from shows and charity events, while most respectable, isn’t actually much to do with what life is really like on the streets, or in schools, or the emergency room.’
‘I also learned a painful lesson of how politics as a whole is a very difficult and is characterised by slow process. There are so many people that you have to convince for your idea to be judged as right. In the public sector, you have to convince the legislators, the environmentalists, the business community, the federal government, the locals… there are so many different people you need to buy into your policy.’
‘I would love Trump to stop repealing the Obama commitments to the environment’
‘That is right, of course, because you are dealing with public money and tremendous scrutiny, but there is so much red tape and everything moves incredibly slowly.’
‘It sometimes makes you feel there is no point, because the resistance is so strong and the finish line is so far away… though I guess you might say that about many things in life. It doesn’t make the job any less important.’
RSNG Did that world surprise you?
AS ‘Not really – I would say I knew all of this before I went up to Sacramento; I knew that, if I was lucky, I would only be able to get 50% of the things done that I wanted to. Of course 50% isn’t bad at all, and I’m not sure I even achieved that.’
‘When I went into politics, I had a very clear vision and I wanted it to be all about rebuilding California, by building more freeways with more lanes, building more school buildings, more university buildings, more affordable housing, fixing our levies.’
‘So, I went to get Democrats and Republicans together to make a commitment and bring it to the people through an initiative process, and the people voted overwhelmingly for rebuilding California. For me, that was the great joy because that was what I wanted to do – rebuild the infrastructure.’
‘It is so important to the speed of a country, how fast we move people and goods around, which equals economic power and I got that done.’
‘However, when I went back a year later and tried to get two other things done, they didn’t get done. But the key thing is that you have a vision and you go after it and you never take no for an answer.’
‘Fine’ is bullsh*t – you don’t want to have things go fine, you want to have things go through the roof, to shoot for the stars’
RSNG What single, political thing could America do now that would transform the future for the better?
AS ‘I would love Trump to stop repealing the Obama commitments to the environment and to take responsibility for the seven million people a year who are being killed by pollution around the globe.’
‘Sure, climate change is one thing, but the pollution is something else, and at present we have an institution that just isn’t interested.’
‘I think in the next generation there will be a renewed look at environmentalism, and whoever is in charge will take a hard line towards this, because I think it will be a very good, and very strong vote winner.’
‘This is typically the cycle with politics – governments go through phases of little commitment and maximum commitment, depending on who is in charge. They always want to be different from the one before, so we just switch between being committed to a specific project and being uncommitted.’
‘In total, I think the next presidential era will see more being done – it must.’
RSNG Which training regime has given you the best results and personal satisfaction over the years?
AS ‘I think that it is less the regime, but more the fact that if you are easily satisfied, then you don’t get as motivated to be better or do better.’
‘I have done hundreds of routines and regimes and they become very similar after a while in their physicality, and I learned you can’t settle for that or assume it is ‘fine’ to keep on without changing things up – “fine” is bullshit.’
‘You don’t want to have things go fine, you want to have things go through the roof, you want to go and shoot for the stars, whether or not you actually get there.’
RSNG Have you always been like that?
AS ‘Sure, but for me in my life, I had no choice but to be driven. That’s mainly because it wasn’t like I had a safety net and if it didn’t all work out I could have done something else.’
‘I didn’t want to live in Austria, I didn‘t want to be a farmer, a plumber, a carpenter or any of the other stuff that was there. I wanted to go to America, to the land of opportunity. So, for me, it was more of a question of: “Okay, so how do I get there?”’
RSNG In hindsight what has been the biggest mistake you have made in your training?
AS ‘As I said above, too much repetition. Where exercise is concerned your body craves variety, and there have been times when I’ve not been focused enough on that.
‘It’s easy to fall into the habit of repeating what you do but that tires the mind, which then tires the body.’
‘I just couldn’t wait to go back to the gym and to lift more, because the more reps you do, the faster you lift, the quicker you become the champion, right?’
RSNG At what point were you most satisfied with your physique?
AS ‘It’s interesting, when I started bodybuilding I had a really clear vision of what I wanted to look like, and I couldn’t wait to do the next set, the next exercise and the next rep, but I never really knew what the final vision was.’
‘From the age of about 15, though, I knew that each rep I did, each set I did and each weight that I was lifting was getting me closer to turning the vision into a reality.’
‘I saw myself getting closer and closer and more muscular and with that came real discipline - I had to be focused on the next 200 reps or sit-ups, on keeping going back to the gym, on bench-presses and chin-ups and deadlifts and rowing and shoulder shrugs, and whatever it was.’
‘I was so happy to be going there though, which is why you will always see me smiling in photos, not like all of the other bodybuilders who always look grumpy or pissed off. I was smiling basically because I was having a good time in the gym and that was the absolute truth.’
‘For me, I just couldn’t wait to go back to the gym and to lift more, because the more reps you do, the faster you lift, the quicker you become the champion, right?’
RSNG And in terms of acting?
AS ‘I think when you see yourself on the big screen for the first time in a proper role, that is a feeling you cherish. Before that, for 20 years you must remember, I was used to seeing my physique, but always posed at a competition or in a magazine.’
‘When I actually saw all that being used in a movie setting, probably about the time of the Conan films, it was a real buzz.’
‘When I became an actor, the more movie roles I got and the bigger the films, then the bigger the budgets, and the better the box office results. This in turn led me to look at what it was I was developing for myself in terms of status, and obviously physique was a big part of that, but very early on in the process I had what I would call the right physique for film.’
‘There is no kickback ever from eating vegetables – I add in lentils, nuts, seeds and supplement with fruit’
RSNG What are your favourite three lifts to do at Golds Gym these days?
AS ‘People were always talking about the Arnold Press but that was just something to really bolster my shoulders. I did enjoy that one, but anything with free weights was my thing.’
‘When I was really building quickly my routine had barbell squats, chin ups, neck press, barbell squat and knee movement exercises, and that was the core for me.’
RSNG Has going vegan given you more energy, and how do you get the right balance of aminos?
AS ‘First of all, many people wondered why I went vegan, and having seen some adverts on TV which say that only real men eat meat, and that really makes me laugh. Some people fall into that trap and they don’t understand that it’s just marketing – it’s not based on reality.’
‘However, as I have said in the past and something – I am now almost totally vegan… almost. I don’t feel that I will ever be totally vegan, but I am so far removed from what I used to be.’
‘The thing I eat huge quantities of is vegetables, which I love. It is one thing that is unequivocally healthy – there is no kickback ever from eating vegetables. I add in lentils, nuts, seeds and supplement with fruit.’
‘The truth is, with age comes the reality that you need to cut down on the things that aren’t so good for you, because your body just can’t deal with the excess any longer, so reducing and stripping out meat has always been a part of that and something I always wanted to do.’
WHAT NEXT? Watch the trailer for ‘Terminator: Dark Fate’, out on 25th October.
Follow this article’s author on Instagram @The_Adventure_Fella