The chance to step onto the ice at the ACC or Montreal’s Bell Centre is a dream come true for some hockey fans.


NFL fans might say the same about throwing a few passes at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis., while for their CFL counterparts, it could be taking catches at Calgary’s McMahon or Hamilton’s Ivor Wynne Stadiums.


Baseball fans probably dream about taking batting practice at Yankee Stadium.


But for bodybuilding enthusiasts and gym rats, there is another place of sporting worship.


It’s called Gold’s Gym in Venice, Calif. It’s the place where Schwarzenegger built his peaking biceps, where the 1977 documentary Pumping Iron was shot and where those with visions of building bulging back muscles and shredded abdominals dream of one day training.

I first read about Gold’s, like so many other North American men, in the pages of magazines like Flex and Muscle and Fitness when I was a teenager.

I wanted the pumped pecs and diamond-shaped delts, but knew better than to believe that any of the magazine monsters did it without help from their doctor and a few syringes.

Still, I dreamed of one day making the pilgrimage to Gold’s for a chance to test my mettle alongside some of bodybuilding’s legends and new stars, as well as celebrities and pro athletes who all make this gym their home away from home.

Two weeks ago I got my chance when, on unrelated business, I made the trip to L.A. and had just enough time to get in a workout.

I knew I was in no shape to compare quads with the pros, but I wasn’t out to compete, just finally indulge my inner Arnold.

I donned my gym gear and left my hotel en route to the place they call the “Mecca Of Bodybuilding.”

As I got closer I began seeing tanned, ripped bodies and a series of supplement shops.

Could the Mecca be far,

I wondered?

That was until I saw a building in the distance with a banner that read: Gold’s Gym — The Mecca Of Bodybuilding.

Subtlety escapes the gym-going set, it seems.

Heart pumping as if I’d already spent an hour on a treadmill, I made my way into the building, past the mass monsters and up to the change room to finish suiting up for the experience of a lifetime.

Not surprisingly, given the extreme amounts of protein and heavy doses of supplements that many of these members ingest —enough to kill a farm animal, in some cases —?it smelled like a combination of sweat and raw sewage.

Down on the gym floor it was hard not to be motivated by the photos of past Mr. and Ms. Olympias hanging on the walls, the dozens of movie posters signed by stars who all trained for their films at Gold’s, not to mention the clientele, most of whom look competition ready.

Then there’s the music — a combination of hard rock, ’80s hair metal and pop — yeah, it seems juice monkeys love their Hilary Duff.

But it was here that I came to some hard conclusions about my own training regimen.

First, it became clear that I need to workout harder and on a more consistent basis.

Second, it’s important that I never get so obsessed with my workouts that I begin emulating the rag-wearing regulars at Gold’s.

Third — and perhaps most important — I will never be BIG, so those deluded teenage dreams of hugeness would have to die on Gold’s rubberized floors.

As the lucky fantasy campers who take B.P. at Fenway Park or shoot non-game day hoops at Madison Square Garden would know, the line between the pros, the devotees and the dreamers quickly becomes clear on these hallowed, and in this case overly-pumped, grounds.

Although my biceps may not have bulged quite like those other guys, nor did I see crazy striations creeping across my triceps, for a couple of hours at Gold’s Gym I too felt huge.

On the way out the door I noticed a road sign on the corner with a tongue-in-cheek picture of a muscle head and the word ‘crossing’ below.

I flexed my chest, smiled, and strolled into the cool California even­ing.