Almost exactly a year ago I decided to change sports from powerlifting over to bodybuilding. This decision was primarily influenced by a crappy year of powerlifting competition and a slew of injuries. In March, one of my vertebrae moved while squatting 825 for my second attempt at a competition. This caused my back muscles to spasm and they were aggravated even worse when I tried 850 for my third attempt. I had to pull out of the competition and recover. Again in August I was preparing for another competition and was having shoulder pain when it gave out and I dropped 550 on my chest. I got an MRI on the shoulder and the doctor said I had a torn posterior labrum and a high grade rotator cuff tear that was hanging on by a couple threads. Two competitions and two injuries down and I was through with feeling hurt all the time. I decided to take some time off and “train for fun”. I gave it a day and decided training without purpose sucked and took a month off completely and focused on work and getting ready for my wedding. Over that month I realized the only thing I hated more than training without purpose was not training and getting fat and out of shape.
I hired Shelby Starnes with the original goal of leaning out and getting my nutrition back on track. I like Shelby because he is very good at what he does and he is very honest and blunt. He doesn’t hold your hand or feed you any bullshit. He also takes a long term approach to bodybuilding that puts health as a higher priority, all of which I agree with. My work load dramatically increased over the year and having someone else handle the “thinking” part of the plan made it so I could focus on the “doing” part of the plan. I started in October around 235 and looked pretty crappy. By February we were down to 218.5 and a much better body fat level. I also put on some decent muscle during that period, was in much better shape, and my shoulder felt very close to being back to 100%. I was having fun and enjoying the process so I decided to keep going and commit to doing a show later in October. From that point we started putting on more muscle and got all the way back up to 246. I was doing zero cardio, calories were a bit over 5000, and the macros were around 465/70/600 (protein/fat/carbs) on training days. At 16 weeks out we started preparing for the show and the last week prior to carbing up I was up to 2 hours of cardio a day, 5 training sessions a week lasting between 1.5-2.5 hours, and nutrition was around 1800 calories with macros being 300/65/0
I have really enjoyed the last year and will continue with this sport for at least the next year. I will compete in powerlifting again at some point but for now I’m having fun. One of the reasons that I like bodybuilding so much is it is all encompassing. It tickles my desire for the extreme. It’s a total challenge. It tests you mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, financially, and socially. It requires a lot of time, commitment, patience, and effort. I like this because you can’t half ass it, you have to be all in or all out. It’s the “anti” American version of fitness. No quick fixes, no half hearted attempts, no bullshit. I don’t know why but I seem to always decide to do bodybuilding when I have a ton of other stuff going on. Last time I decided to compete in bodybuilding I was busy working full time, going to school full time, and trying to date a new girlfriend at the time. This time was even more crazy working 60+ hours a week of work from running a business, managing employees, training interns, handling a heavy client load, getting everything ready to move the business, and trying to develop a quality relationship with my wife our first year of marriage. I have always liked being challenged and growing from the process and the last year has helped me grow and taught me a lot. Below I will list some of the things I learned or goals I had throughout the process and just give a bit of a reflection on the process.
One of the reasons I really enjoy bodybuilding is because it forces you to manage your time properly. It forces you to get organized and eliminate wasted time and energy. Lack of time is one of the most common reason for not exercising. I’m fascinated with the concept of “lack of time” because everyone has the same amount of time every day. It is not something that is distributed in higher quantities to a certain group of people. Usually “lack of time” really means poor time management.There are 168 hours in a week. If you work 60 hours (which few people do) and you sleep 8 hours every night (which few people do), you still have 52 hours throughout the rest of the week to get things done. More often than not, people struggle to manage their time wisely and organize it. Things like taking 3 hours to prep food on Sunday eliminates the need to spend time every day cooking. By giving more time one day a week, you gain time the rest of the week. Time is also a reflection of priorities. The issue is that because time is a fixed entity, like the volume of a cup, in order to fit more things in, you must take some things out. In doing so, you must sacrifice certain things in order to fit in the new things. Eliminating wasted time, taking out the things that don’t really matter, helps bring higher purpose to your life. Instead of devoting a little bit of time to a lot of things, you devote a lot of time to a few things that matter most to you. The amount of time it takes to prepare for a bodybuilding competition is excessive, but a few weeks of it is doable. For the average person just trying to add healthy habits and make some positive lifestyle changes, you have plenty of time available.
Training is hard and it hurts, physically and mentally. Following a nutrition plan is hard too. You have to put in the time and effort to focus on your nutrition and not eat things that aren’t on the plan. But they’re not THAT hard. Middle class white people complaining about exercise or dieting is some straight up first world problem bullshit. Things that are worth doing are usually hard to do. Having a negative mindset towards it just makes the process harder. Complaining gets you nowhere. It may be the single most useless thing on the planet behind male nipples. When you complain, all you do is reinforce to yourself the difficulty of the situation and how unenjoyable it is and it is just annoying to the people around you. Reality is that you’re not going to do stuff you hate for very long, you can only swim up stream for so long before you give up. Having a positive attitude towards situations that are challenging will get you through easier and make you better in the end. Complaining just increases the likelihood that you’ll give up and quit. Enjoy the process, come out victorious, and use that victory to fuel your ability to succeed in the future.
Bodybuilding is pretty stupid. You spend all this time killing yourself in the gym, doing cardio, following a diet, practicing your posing, just to get spray tanned, stand on stage half naked, and have your body judged against other half naked people in hopes of getting a trophy that costs a tenth of the price you paid to enter the contest. In that sense, if you compete for the sake of placement, you will sadly be let down time and time again. There is only one winner in each class and only one overall winner. Only one person comes away happy. In that same vein, you have to be okay with yourself. You have to accept your body for what it is and what it can do. That doesn’t mean sit around eating twinkies and just being happy for “who you are”. You should always be striving to improve. Who you are today sucks compared to who you could be tomorrow. But you also have to learn to accept a handful of things. You have to accept that changing yourself takes time and a lot of hard work. Therefore, you better have a good work ethic and the patience to go with it. You have to accept that there are certain things you can’t change. You can’t change your bone structure, you can’t undo the past, you can’t change certain parts of your DNA. Focus on the things you can change and put your effort into them. You have to accept that you can’t change other people. There is no defense in bodybuilding, who shows up is not something you can control. Focus on improving yourself and don’t worry about what others are doing. The pleasure of bodybuilding doesn’t come from competing against other people, it comes from competing against yourself. When the strong you beats the weak you, that’s what makes it fun.
Bodybuilding is a terribly selfish sport, just ask the spouse of anyone who does it. You have limited time and energy and that in which you do have is usually spent doing things for your own pursuits. How you spend your time, who you hang out with, who you train with, who you talk to, where you eat, what you eat; all of this is done based off of what is best for you. But like I stated above, there really isn’t any joy to be had in your own accomplishments. Even if you do win the show, you still look in the mirror and think of all the millions of things you need to improve to be better next year. The one thing Mr. Olympia and a middle aged soccer mom have in common is that they both wake up every morning and look in the mirror and wish there were things about their body they could improve. So, even though you will have to be selfish, you don’t have to be self focused. Your world does not have to revolve around you. One of the common pitfalls many physique athletes fall into is constant self absorption. Take one look at their social media profiles and you’ll see what I mean. While it did wear my ass out, prepping 5 other people for this show and seeing the joy on their faces when they got their trophies was much better than when they handed me mine. I know my legacy will not be what I did on stage or what I do on a platform. But I do have the opportunity to positively effect a lot of people through my business. One of the coolest parts of this contest was seeing everyone get excited about meeting Dexter Jackson, one of the greatest bodybuilders ever. Without NBS, that would never have happened. So, while you may find yourself having to make some selfish decisions from time to time in your fitness journey, make sure you keep an outward focus. You never know who you will impact next.
One year down and hopefully many more to go. The competition was a nice icing on the cake but the real substance this year has come from the personal development of learning to handle lots of responsibilities and learning to enjoy the difficult work required to do them well. I feel a million times better now that I’m not eating the crap I ate while powerlifting and my lifting has shown it. I can trainer harder and recover better than I could before and it feels really good to not be injured. Hopefully these insights will inform and encourage someone else. And thank goodness I don’t have to shave my butt anymore.