I’d like to say I learned early on that the road to the stage was more often than not, a lonely one, but that would be a huge lie. Truth be told, it wasn’t until I began the climb to my status as an IFBB professional when I discovered just how much of “One Player” game competitive bodybuilding could be. And the saddest, most screwed up part about it… (are you ready for this?) it’s 100%, utterly and completely, undeniably BY CHOICE. A really, really, REALLY twisted and masochistic CHOICE.
To those of you who are competitors, like me, professional or no, let’s face it… WE ARE NOT RIGHT… in the head I mean. You know it! I know it! EVERYBODY knows it! There is nothing “sane” about what we put our bodies and more importantly, our minds, through on the daily. We are the like the 2% of the lifting population… it takes a special type of individual to, without a second (or maybe third) thought, crawl underneath 5x their bodyweight with nothing but two blown knees to get you back up. It is far from “normal” to eat the same, monotonous diet for weeks or even months on end. I mean… have you had ice cream? Pizza?? CHOCOLATE??? That’s true sacrifice, my friend!
Taste buds aren’t the only sacrifice you’ll make to the “Iron Gods.” If you planned on being a social butterfly through it all, well… all I can say is I hope your cocoon is comfortable. It’s hard to strut your sexy with cardio hair and a loaded down 6-Pac lunch box. And good luck getting that sixth meal of fish and asparagus down while your “Staying Alive” on the dancefloor doing the Cupid Shuffle.
For me, it didn’t happen right away. It took a few weeks of calling it “quits” early or skipping out on going out at all… but sure as a champagne hangover, it became more and more clear that friends I had, were not as interested in spending time with me outside of the bar/club lifestyle. If I couldn’t drink with them, stay out late partying with them, binge on 3 a.m. Cafe Brazil with them (great coffee by the way) and then share in their two day hangover recovery, then there was no need to invite me. At least that’s how it seemed, and truth be told, no matter how much I had prepared myself, that was a part of contest prep I hadn’t thought about. And it wasn’t just “party” crowd. I watched my circle shrink from all angles, but when it’s different strokes for different folks, you might not always paddle in the same direction.
I know this can sound harsh, and kind of scary, but trust me when I say that the best part of letting go is finding more! Not just finding… Becoming More! Surrounding yourself with those who share in a deeper investment and understanding of your goals and who can respect your decisions regarding those goals can be very refreshing and it VITAL for success in any facet of life. These individuals are rare. These individuals are also in the 2%.
Whether it’s putting in a late night leg session with you, sending a 5 a.m. fasted cardio accountability text, putting up with apocalyptic mood swings and spontaneous emotional vomit or even something as simple as avoiding eating anything resembling a carb in your presence, it takes just as special a person to accept what comes with the competitive bodybuilding lifestyle as it takes to actually choose it. IT IS NOT FOR EVERYONE!
Remember, you may not have always been a health junkie. Perhaps fitness and bodybuilding is a new additive to your life. Try to find balance between the commonalities you share with those in your circle. If what you had in common isn’t copasetic with your current goals, accept that people change and carry on! I’ve always said, “If they can make it through prep with you, they’re probably hard to get rid of… and they’re probably in it for good!” (again… volcanic mood swings… emotional vomit…)
It is important to understand that this lifestyle, whether you’re currently preparing for a show or just doing some due diligence into what it might take, is not widely accepted as the “norm.” It can be difficult for friends and family to relate or even try to understand WHY you CHOOSE to “eat that,” or “don’t eat that,” or get up two hours earlier every morning for fasted cardio and go to bed an hour later for post-workout cardio. It’s just not their bag, baby! It doesn’t mean they don’t care, they just don’t understand our brand of crazy.
Best advice I can give, remember that this is YOUR road to travel and nobody signed up to go along for the ride.