Things I Wish I Knew About Bodybuilding and Competing But No One Told Me
The other day I was thinking about the things I’ve gone through and the many lessons I’ve learned along the way while in the industry.
I followed my deep thoughts with a FB post noting that I’d be writing a blog about this topic and the responses were quite unexpected and overwhelming. Is there something about the industry no one has dared write about that maybe…just maybe, needs to be addressed?
I am going to say right off the bat that this is not going to be a bashing fest. If you have ever read any of my blogs or articles I remain as neutral as possible while stating how I feel. I do not go and attack people or organizations. I do, however, point out behaviors and things I’ve observed over time as well as share my personal experiences. If something I write applies to you then fine. If not, great. Some of the things I write, even the negative ones, have applied to me and my own behaviors as well. It’s important that I own these behaviors because they have taught me many lessons in life, specifically what to avoid and the types of people to keep distance from.
Why am I writing this? Well, there are just so many things I wish I had been told before and I decided to compete and, before I got swallowed by the industry. The problem is not many people bring these issues to the forefront in fear it will put the industry in a negative light or, that will be singled out, outcasted, or “blackballed”. I will share the things I wish I knew…for those of you who plan on diving head first into the bodybuilding industry or plan to compete. Take what you read with a grain of salt. I am no expert, but I do know a thing or two.
I will have a challenge for you at the end so read on.
Here goes my list:
1. The bodybuilding industry is a selfish sport/hobby. If anyone tells you otherwise or tries to justify it, they are lying to you and to themselves. Never in my life have I seen so much selfishness and attention to oneself other than bodybuilding. It seems that the lines between “I’m taking care of myself and my body” and “it’s all about me” either blend or become very blurred. The key here is balance. Don’t let the sport become who and what you are! Don’t let it define every minute of your life to the point you cannot think of anything or anyone else other than YOU. This is particularly difficult for those who enter this journey after overcoming some kind of traumatic experience where the need to strengthen your emotional, mental and even physical self by working out seems a necessity. Again…this is great, but so many let this get out of hand! Don’t!
2. Bodybuilding will have you spending money on things you typically wouldn’t. Supplements and food is the very least of your concerns. Once you are in it deep and competing, your list of expenses will rise through the roof! What I have seen people create an additional expense they were not ready for. They find themselves scrambling for money, trying to find means to get things that could promise a better placing — anything from breast augmentation surgery, lip injections, botox, gynecomastia, suits, hair extensions, and the list goes on and on. etc. We are often told we need to “up our game”, and, we do what we need to do to make it happen. Be careful…and be mindful of this, especially if you have a family to care for!
3. It will compromise your friendships and social life. I remember in 2005 I was very committed not to the lifestyle, but to winning a show. I isolated myself from friends, and even family members. My life had no time or room to even conceive the thought of jeopardizing one of my meals. I never went out. I missed social events that were relevant to my work and career as a graduate student. I look back and realize that I had given bodybuilding and competing such a high priority in my life that I lost about 4-5 years of good networking with colleagues toward developing my career and education. It was not a wise move. We all know that unless you are in the top 5 in the world of bodybuilding, there isn’t really much money in it. There is a learning curve with this. True friends will never try to jeopardize your goals to get in shape and get on that stage, but at the same time, you as a friend should be able to find a way to maintain your friendships. My suggestion is be creative. Learn what to order from restaurant menus, take your meals with you, do what you can without jeopardizing both your competition and your friendships. I also highly encourage you to never, ever decline potential networking opportunities with friends outside of bodybuilding for the sake of a contest. It’s a very small industry in relation to the “real world” and once you are “done” competing and in bodybuilding, you will eventually have to step out of that competition bubble and into society. Those friends, those networking opportunities you avoided could have surely come in handy, no?
4. It can ruin your marriage/relationship. Not many will admit to this. If you have been married or have had a relationship in or outside of bodybuilding, chances are, it has suffered. I can write an entire blog about this particular subject and I will at some point. The industry is overly sexual with people who feel great about their bodies. Put them all in one room and things are bound to happen. Sometimes it can work if your partner is in the same industry as you, but most of the time, if your partner is not on the same page, it can turn ugly. My only piece of advice is…remain honest, truthful and communicate with your partner. I learned the hard way that old saying …you know…the one about the grass being greener on the other side
5. People will talk about you and because it’s a small industry, if one person doesn’t like you, very likely others won’t for no apparent reason. It doesn’t matter if you mean well. It doesn’t matter if you are a good person, a hard working man or woman, or if you are actually horrible at what you do. The industry is small and it’s like living in a secluded town. You will feel like you are back in high school. You have to develop a tough shell and learn to shake off the rumors, bashing and potential bad mouthing. This is why having a balanced life helps. When you have a life outside of bodybuilding, things that go on in it won’t affect you much.
6. It’s harder for women to succeed, even if educated and skilled. I have seen only a handful of women become very successful in the bodybuilding industry outside of competing. The women who hold a little power act tough, and they have their reasons. The amount of difficulties we face as women in society is magnified 100 times in an industry where manhood and being “hard” and “tough” is at the forefront of the existence. Macho, old school mentality that women have their place elsewhere other than running things or making decisions are the norm from what I have seen and experienced. It is just simply harder for women to get the respect we deserve. It doesn’t matter if we have 3-4 college degrees, a good job, are skilled in one area or another, or if you are intelligent enough to hold a conversation with the boys. It’s a man’s sport/arena and from being in it myself sometimes I feel like I’m in the Women’s Rights movement era trying to get “something” or simply be heard. I have no advice here and I personally struggled with this for years…until I stopped giving a fuck.
7. Unrealistic goals for women, particularly young girls. This one key point was actually shared by a friend who reminded me of all the promises that are made to, not only young girls, but women all across who don’t know much about the industry. Do your research and also…be clear as to why you are getting into it. Define your goals and what you want out of it. Find out how many women in the industry have been successful outside of bodybuilding. What have they done? What are they doing now? Often times “coaches” or teams string girls along for the wrong reasons. Use someone who has knowledge about the industry, nutrition, and who has a good track record.
That’s what I have for now. I do have to say that there are many great and positive things I have gained from being involved in the industry, especially the ability to connect with other women. I’m physically and mentally stronger, disciplined and focused. I even function better when I am in competition mode because my life becomes a bit more structured. But I had to learn several lessons while involved in the industry, some of which were not the greatest to experience.
Hope you enjoyed reading this and please leave a comment if you have anything you would add to this!
And the challenge: Speak up and call out those behaviors or become a good, positive role model and mentor to someone else.
Much love! xoxo