Ask any competitive, high-ranking, high-level, or just plain old successful athlete, businessperson, or celebrity about how they got to where they are, and they’ll probably tell you something about how their work is 24/7/365. They’ll tell you about how they live, breathe, sleep, and eat what they do. It’s all-consuming and all-encompassing. And that’s the key to success.
So too in bodybuilding—especially competitive bodybuilding—you have to go all-in. Because what you look like and how you perform is radically affected by all the minute details, such as what you eat, how frequently you eat, how long you sleep, how good that sleep is, your stress level, etc. Even the tiniest change in momentum can throw off 16 weeks of contest prep and hard work. What separates these ultra-successful moguls from a lot of others, though, is their time frame; sure, they have deadlines they have to meet, and micro/macro cycles in which their training takes place, but there’s no light switch that goes on and off when it’s time to grind.
Their switch is permanently ON.
When people set their new year’s resolutions, or when they commit to their diets the day a contest prep begins, they’re thinking short term. The late, great, famous fitness model Greg Plitt once said, “You are what you do repeatedly every day. If excellence is something you’re striving for, then it’s not an accident. It’s a habit.” Doing something for 16 weeks for a show, or getting lean in January (after gaining 15 pounds over the course of the previous year) doesn’t show a habit; it shows short-term dedication to a goal. That’s good, but it’s like a one night stand—“Wham, bam, thank you ma’am.” It’s not suitable or reasonable to be on a low-calorie diet or six-day-a-week cardio regimen all the time. With that said, if you think about it, that short-term dedication can be transcribed and applied to other areas of your life.
If I may pull an example from my own personal experience: Judge me all you want, but I do CrossFit. I know what you’re about to say, but please, hear me out. Don’t turn the page yet. As you might know, CrossFit is a combination of Olympic lifting, powerlifting, gymnastics, cardio, metabolic conditioning, and sadism. Sometimes the workouts take 3 or 4 minutes. Other times, they can be upwards of 40. But at 6:30 a.m., before you start your workday, you’re giving those 4 (or 40) minutes your undivided attention and a balls-to-the-wall effort. No slacking. No texting or chatting with the trainer next to you. It’s just you and the equipment for as long as it takes to get through the WOD.
The sense of accomplishment once you’re done is unlike anything else. I’m telling you, once you’ve done “Murph” (one-mile run, 300 squats, 200 push-ups, 100 pull-ups, one-mile run), you’ll know there’s nothing you can’t tackle in your day/week/month. That’s where the lifestyle part comes in. When you’ve made the decision to eat clean year round, to eat for performance rather than aesthetics, to train in order to be a functional athlete rather than just a symmetrical one, then your entire perspective (on life and sport) changes. You’re allowed to have more fun with your training. More flexibility with your diet (and social life). And you end up being able to maintain it more long term because it’s—say it with me—a lifestyle. You also end up enjoying the process more because it’s not as miserable for that short period of time.
I remember talking with Samir Bannout, aka the Lion of Lebanon, aka 1983 Mr. Olympia, this past September. He said to me, “There’s a fine line between obsessed and passionate. Between obsession and passion. You have to choose the right one for you.” At MUSCLE INSIDER, we encourage you to combine the two; be obsessed with your passion. If you are in love with training, then you can’t just work hard six months of the year and take it easy the other six months. Every day is another opportunity to grow, mentally and physically. Grab your passion, and run with it!
Hopefully by now, you’ve gotten the message: Bodybuilding is more than just a season or even a sport. It’s a lifestyle.