I’ve always considered myself artistic and have found outlets in drawing, painting and photography. However, the most surprising artistic endeavor has been competitive bodybuilding. I didn’t realize it when I started, but reshaping my body with exercise, and ultimately competing, was my way of displaying my body creatively and I always believed that it would change my life in many ways. Originally, I was drawn to the rebelliousness of bodybuilding, the mystery that surrounded it enticed me more than anything. What has kept me coming back for more is the discipline that it offers and the empowering rewards that it delivers to all aspects of my life.
Some people have asked me why I compete, and the first thing that always comes to mind when answering them is that I love the discipline. I love seeing how far I can take my mind and body. I approach my training and diet as psychological tests each day.
There truly is a “high” that you get when you go without things that bring instant gratification, but that you don’t really need anyway. Life becomes simplified and priorities are dwindled to pure necessities. There is an element of control that you possess during contest preparation and it is a powerful feeling. Life must be organized and every detail accounted for on a daily, if not hourly basis. Your body must be sacredly guarded from injury and illness, or you face setbacks in training and competition.
- You are seeking approval by putting yourself in a vulnerable position and asking for judgement of a very intimate piece of yourself. Who in their right mind would willingly put themselves in this situation?
There is much that the average person does not understand about physique competitions and often the athletes are wrongly viewed as narcissistic. Getting onstage to show off what you’ve built takes a very special person no matter what placing you receive. Opening the fragile ego up to criticism takes courage. How much weight you lift in the gym doesn’t matter at all when you are on that stage. The only thing that counts is what you look like and how you present yourself.
Spectators may assume that a competitor is simply “into themselves” and to a degree this is true. Physique preparation for anyone is a very self- involved period of time because the competitor has only themselves to rely on, there are no members of a team to blame for missed workouts or a poor diet. On a stage, you are very much alone with only the trust in your preparation to carry you through.
- To be a successful physique competitor you must find a way to blend humility with extreme confidence without coming off as arrogant.
I’ve heard athletes describe physique competition as an extension of their soul. Their bodies are their temples, and how well developed they are represents what they feel and who they are on the inside. This is similar to how the ancient Greeks felt when training for the Olympics and other competitions. They built muscular, physically appealing bodies to please the gods and intimidate their opponents. Their reasoning was that a beautiful body represented a beautiful soul and that is what they believed the gods desired of them.
The human body is an amazing machine that should be honored. Too often people destroy their bodies with inactivity, drug use, alcohol abuse and overeating. Competition has taught me to respect my body, indefinitely. I have felt pain, gone to bed hungry and given up my social life. I have been taken to my knees and forced to look into the mirror and truly see myself. Self-doubt has been forever erased and a clearer path has been discovered. The lessons I’ve learned and the discipline I’ve acquired have spilled over and positively affected all other aspects of my life.
There is something far more compelling than vanity that drives an athlete to compete and at its root lies pure love and respect for the body. This is not selfish, but selfless. Onstage, a competitor generously displays their sacrifices, sharing the rawest part of themselves with the audience in hopes that their creation will inspire others to achieve their own higher level of greatness.