Athletes

Here I am sitting at my desk with my arm in a sling, working on several article ideas and I am struggling to figure out which article I want to share the most. I really want to talk about coaches and how valuable they are on our journey to the stage. As I am writing about coaches I began to think about the “instant expert phenomena” that happens right after someone does his or her first bodybuilding show. Then there is that topic of attitude. I have been seeing a lot of miserable bodybuilders on social media lately, talking about “sacrifice” and “struggle”. I just feel like the “struggle mindset” is not the mindset to have when you are dedicating yourself to something that promotes a healthy lifestyle. Plus we are bodybuilding because we choose to be! Bodybuilding is something that should be enjoyed not dreaded. Finally, after many arguments with myself, I decided to put all three ideas into a single article, a three headed monster. Here you have it!

COACHES

Let us first talk about coaches.  A coach can look at a situation from the outside and make decisions based on what they see while athletes can struggle to do so on their own. Ever wake up, look in the mirror and notice every perfect detail on your body then the next day notice some not so appealing details that seem to take up all of your focus? Like when you have a zit on your face and that zit is all you see when you look in the mirror.. This is where a good coach comes in. Coaches will see your body how it is and not how your self-conscious mind perceives it that particular day. Generally a coach will make safe and wise decisions to benefit an athlete over the long run. While an athlete may be having an “off” day, look in the mirror, feel like they are behind schedule then immediately decide to cut more calories out of their diet, a coach could step in and advise otherwise. A good coach will advise an athlete to take the day off and rest when it is apparent that the athlete has been pushing the limits. A good coach will also advise an athlete to take in a few extra calories when the athlete looks exceptionally drawn and flat. Every athlete should have a coach of some sort. A coach does not have to be a contest prep coach or a personal trainer. A coach could be a knowledgeable training partner or friend who has the athlete’s best interest in mind. A coach can simply be someone to protect the athlete from themselves when intensity starts to build or just someone to offer support when energy gets low. Everyone needs a coach even the best bodybuilders second guess themselves sometimes.

FIELD EXPERT

I am starting to believe that all it takes to become an expert in the fitness industry is participating in one bodybuilding competition or be a member of a bodybuilding forum for a few weeks. I have witnessed people work with a coach or more experienced athlete through their first contest prep then as they begin their second prep they decide that they probably could have handled the first prep on their own too, matter of fact, they could probably teach their previous coach/mentor a thing or two. These are generally the folks who end up writing a blog or have a social media page dedicated to their fitness journey with a bio that has no mention of the people who saved them from getting embarrassed on stage during their first go around. If you follow the link in their profile, you can buy online training and contest prep from them. I am not saying that everyone with a blog and social media page follow this path but  this is generally the path that the instant experts tend to prefer. However, we can’t really fault someone for being passionate about something like bodybuilding. People fall in love with the sport and want to get others involved as well. We were all newbies at one point and I am sure we all threw around some sort of ill training advice too. As beginners we tend to think that we know more than we actually do. A little bit of knowledge or experience comes our way and next thing you know, we are on our way to becoming an expert. I guess what I am trying to say is, don’t be “a know it all” until you actually know it all. Chances are you will never know it all because you will find out that the more you know, the less you know. Nothing in the game of bodybuilding is more valuable than experience. Your first show will teach you a lot, especially if you observe and listen to others. I am not saying to pick up every goofy ritual that you see back stage but look for the things that make sense. Set your ego aside and learn.

ATTITUDE

Finally, let’s talk about attitude.  Attitude is not everything but it will carry you a very long way. Attitude will get you out of bed in the morning and into the gym. An athlete with the right attitude will make it through an entire contest prep with a smile on his or her face. How you perceive something determines how it will affect you. A 6 month contest prep full of “sacrifice” due to calorie counting, training, loss of social life, and hunger will make you and everyone around you miserable for half of a year. People use the term sacrifice to describe what they give up for their training and contest prep. Competing in bodybuilding is something that you are doing with your free time and you are paying money to do it. You should be enjoying it! It makes no sense to spend tons of time, effort and money on an activity that is making you miserable! I know that we are a sick group of individuals but that is pretty twisted. We are all bodybuilding for a reason. Your reason for competing should be enough to give you the right attitude towards contest prep. Enjoy the process and appreciate the results at the end! Bodybuilding promotes a healthy lifestyle and it should be making you feel good.

Injuries

As many of you know by now, I took a four year hiatus from bodybuilding competition to pursue strongman. Even though strength and conditioning are my main goal, symmetry and muscular development are always a focus in my training because I am not done bodybuilding just yet! I actually planned on making my return to the stage this September until I tore my right bicep off the bone while warming up to compete in my first strongman competition of the season. The first thing that I thought of, after I realized that my arm was effed, was the fact that I just drove 4hr, and blew an entire weekend to sit at a strongman competition with ice on my arm. As I sat watching my friends lifting and carrying heavy stuff, I also realized that I just blew the whole season of competing along with my return to the bodybuilding stage. All the extra training that I had put in over the winter just became a huge waste of time, in my head. I was getting more bummed by the minute. 

What did I do next? Probably one of the most irresponsible things ever. I tried to jump back in the competition. The next event was deadlift and I am undisputed in the deadlift so I had to keep my record. I found out when my turn was and jumped in. I pulled 495 for 17 reps in 60 seconds, winning the event. The next event was static farmers hold for time with 275lb per hand. I thought “why not” and jumped in again. I won that event too. At this point, my forearm and hand are swollen and burning so I decided to quit while I was ahead. Was jumping back in a bad idea? Yes but deep inside, I felt like I had to go out swinging. 

Competing is a big part of my life just like it is for all of you. Training for a season of competitions just to become grounded as soon as it gets started, is pretty tough to swallow. Days after the injury, I went through all sorts of emotions including a lot of self pity. I started to feel bad for myself like someone made me a victim when in reality, sometimes things just happen. I replayed that morning over and over, trying to figure out what I could have done differently. Hell, I still re-live that morning, trying to figure out what went wrong. The reality of the matter is that I tore it warming up. I actually got injured while trying to prevent injury. I had to just face the fact and come up with a plan for recovery and future training.

After I got home, I called and made an appointment to see a surgeon and got right back to training. After a brief and rushed appointment, the surgeon said that it “wasn’t torn enough to fix” and to “do physical therapy to strengthen what muscles that are unaffected” because he believed that it was only a partial rupture as opposed to a full tear. This is not what I wanted to hear but I tried it anyway.  I played with all of my lifts, figuring out what I can and cannot do. I could still do almost everything but my right arm is now incredibly weak, which is to be expected now that it is short one muscle. I was able to modify how I did most things and didn’t miss a beat. After 12 weeks of training and attempting to strengthen a partially ruptured bicep, with zero success, I called another surgeon. After a long visit and an MRI, my new surgeon told me that my tear was complete and I will never regain strength or function without surgery. Needless to say, surgery got scheduled. 

As of writing this, I have not yet had my arm repaired and I am still training around the injury. In many cases, an injury is not enough to ground you completely even though many people are willing to let that happen. Injuries and setbacks are very difficult to deal with but you must be able to carry on. An injury can give you an opportunity to fix a weakness. I plan on using my post-surgery recovery as a chance to make my squat stronger and will also go back to using more machines to focus on individual muscle groups. This total change in training will be an opportunity to take a break from the movements that I am constantly doing and give me a chance to strengthen movements that I have not done in a while. I plan on returning to the stage next summer but I must first go back and win that strongman competition that grounded me.