For years, I’ve analysed, witnessed and appreciated, as a fan, the key sacrifices professional men and women make in the sport of bodybuilding.
What I understood and still appreciate today is that any form of bodybuilding, whether it’s the average gym goer to the professional can gain great physical and mental health. Mentally. it’s self-discipline we inject into our training & nutrition – the same self-discipline we can pass onto other areas of our lives. Having a great looking physique we’re proud of makes us gain huge amounts of confidence which in turn reflects in other things we do – whether it’s at work or on a night out with a hot date.
However, the key sacrifices made, can be a detriment to the bodybuilder as well – making an impact on their lives which many people do not understand. These can be broken into five key areas: Food, Money, Time, Exhaustion and of course Relationships.
The most difficult aspect for anyone who bodybuilds or anybody who aspires to a healthy, fitter lifestyle is their nutrition. Gone is the comfort foods of what we class as “junk” and it’s in with the high protein, low carbs, fat and sugar (depending on your goals and aspirations). The most difficult and awkward part is without doubt when we are amongst our partners, family and friends – in a restaurant, at a party. We get stared at by people for not piling our plate with unnecessary fats and unhealthy foods while they enjoy their food. They think we are “freaks” – yes I have been called this a few times before. Even when we go on a night out to say a late club – we’re drinking water or a diet coke with ice – while others are going for the shorts, bottles of wine and the beers on tap!
Money links to the second area:- food. Simply because of the expense – especially as we need to eat clean, healthy and lots of it each day! Many people do not realise the sacrifice bodybuilders make financially, when preparing for a show. Compared to most sports, bodybuilding generally is badly paid – there’s only a few that make it big – but how many of us realistically can become an Arnie, a Dorian Yates, Ronnie Coleman or a Jay Cutler? MOst national competitions are very low in prize money because headline sponsors tend to be supplement brands – not major electronics, banking / finance or lifestyle brands. I’ve even heard stories where bodybuilders have lost money competing – supplement, travelling, accommodation at the show (normally over two to three days) plus the entry costs. I’ve seen my friends partners and family complain as to why they dedicate hours each day for a living that does not pay a great deal and puts pressure on many things like mortgages and other debts and expenses. Gym memberships, gym clothing – it all adds up – unfortnately young, aspiring bodybuilders do not see any of this or can appreciate the sacrifices until they experience it for themselves.
I’ve mentioned “time” already. But aspiring towards our goals, in terms of the physique we want, takes time and dedication throughout the whole week. Successful athletes demonstrate consistency, dedication and continuous effort to better themselves. Outside of the gym, we need our sleep and we also need to prepare our meals. When you add it all up, it’s a lot of hours. It can also cause conflict with your partner, which is where we come across the area of relationships. As I touched upon in my last article on bodybuilding relationships, as a married couple, it can get unsustainable – I mean does an athlete try to balance it out between the gym and home life or does the athlete pick one above the other as a priority. When discussing this specific point on our Facebook page a few months ago, the general feedback was that relationships between two sports professionals or even one who’s a professional and the other is an enthusiast, becomes a great balance. It helps enormously that as a professional, you can share similar interests, while likewise they appreciate the dedication, effort you put into your work. Even to such a point that it can prove to be inspirational to your partner and maybe kick start their road to fitness.
Finally, let’s not discount the state of a bodybuilders mind if they are seriously exhausted or worse still on the sidelines with an injury. It’s not a great feeling when you realise and have to accept that your goals are put on hold for a while or even permanantly, if your doctor or physio urges you to quit the profession, for the sake of your own long term good health and safety.
So in conclusion, I’ve outlined what I see as the main sacrifices in the sport of bodybuilding. There is an immense effort, dedication each athlete puts into his or her training and nutrition in order to be the best. I’ve been extremely fortunate to meet many inspirational characters and personalities in the sport – especially via our PumpingFit Facebook page. I see each one of them as champions, because as the above demonstrates the sacrifices can and in many cases have affected personal lives.
What I have seen with my own eyes is that those criticising the muscle and fitness enthusiast is somebody jealous of their results -mainly because they themselves have tried and failed in the gym or are just simply lazy – quite content to sit in their comfort zone of junk food and alcohol, while having no ambitions in life.
These same critics don’t realise that us professionals and enthusiasts can still get away with eating “cheat” meals like an Indian, Chinese or desert as long as it’s done with discipline and within the correct periods – especially in the “off- season.” You see, if we add additional calories from an extra few glasses of wine on a Saturday night, we will have the discipline and consistency to head straight to the gym to work off the excess – can someone who drinks alcohol, get drunk then eat a takeway afterwards seriously be expected to have the same discipline??
And what about relationships? My article on “Bodybuilding Relationships” posted on Facebook got over 100 hits and over 70 comments – which show’s it’s still a topic that intrigues and interests many people. Yes, in an ideal world, being married or being in a relationship with a partner who shares similar interests and values is the solution, but that really is narrowing down your prospects as single person. There has to be give and take and a relationship.
Now remember at the beginning of this article, I discussed how having a fit physique gives you confidence – that’s one huge key to a successful relationship – the consistency to look after your body which in turn makes you feel confident, sexy and attractive to the opposite sex. When we are in a bar our natural instinct is staring at a well kept, attractive person. I’ve never said to my wingman at the bar, “Wow, she look gorgeous, what a great personality.” Let’s get real here – my line would always be, “Wow, she looks stunning – beautiful smile and an amazing body!”
So to all those detractors who criticise their partners from being a gym or bodybuilding freak – TAKE NOTE! Do you also ever consider that there may be a reason why your partner spends a lot of time in the gym and not enough time at home? There’s nothing motivating them enough back at the mansion!
To all you bodybuilders and muscle and fitness enthusiasts – the sacrifices you all make are huge – continue to be an inspiration to those of us who appreciate it – never let the detractors knock you down or de-motivate you to achieve your goals and aspirations. It’s not personal but mainly down to jealousy and not understanding the art and science of the sport we love so much!