What does it mean to be a bodybuilder?
I find myself standing outside the entrance to my temple. Its hallowed walls tower up around me and, once again, I’m taken away by its majesty. Within the walls of this structure, for countless hours, I have spilled blood and tears until I thought I could go on no more. Entering this structure requires a sacrifice that few people are willing to give when they first enter.
They come with expectations, but their hopes turn to ash when they don’t give what is required. I learned long ago what is required and I have paid the price every day to get to where I am now. Doing the correct thing is never easy and sometimes I question my motivation to go on with the path I have chosen for myself. In the course of my life, I have usually taken the easy way out of every situation, but there’s no easy way around the path I have decided on.
To fully commit to this journey, it requires every ounce of will power I have, and strength unlike anything I can comprehend.
Like every day, I slowly reach out close my eyes and take a deep breath. I prepare myself for where I’m going to break my limits.
I get asked often, “Why don’t you drink?” “Do you want to go to McDonald’s?” or “Can’t you just eat this chocolate bar?!”
It’s not that I don’t like chocolate. Hell, I think chocolate is great… but it’s just not going to work for me. “It’s not that I don’t like going out with you,” I find myself telling friends, family, “it’s that if I do any more than what I have planned, I’ll fall by the wayside of my goals.” Some people just don’t understand the dedication this lifestyle takes. It frustrates me when people try to give me their advice when they don’t have the first clue what they’re talking about.
I take a deep breath and begin to walk forward into my hallowed sanctuary.
My favorite place in the whole world. At this time of the day, most people are still in bed. This is where most people are right now. I’ve been told I’m crazy for living how I do and what I must give up to live this way. I have a long day tomorrow, but you already know my routine.
Maybe one day I can get you to see the big picture about just what this means to me. I can still see the dew on the grass and the sun is just beginning to come up over the horizon. It’s going to be another beautiful day; I can see it in the way the clouds move through the sky.
I move slowly with purpose to the door that leads into my most holy of places. The smell of cold tile greets my nose and at once, I know I’m home, and that today is going to be another great day. I feel the euphoria of the gym wash over me as I slowly make my way inside.
I wish there was some way I could explain to you just how much this means to me and why I have to do it. I glance to my left and see the weight room: barren, like it always is first thing in the morning. This room is my inner sanctuary and the place where I can let all my problems in the world just fly away. This is just the way I like to go through my routine, because less people means I’m freer to lose myself without distractions.
I can still feel the stiffness in my muscles, but I recognize this as just another obstacle in my never-ending challenge to become the person I wish to be. I gaze at myself in the mirror and like every morning, I’m not happy with person staring back at me which is the very reason why I’m here. This is the time when I can embrace the spiritual harmony of who I am and let myself become stronger in this place than anyone around me. My body is screaming at me to get back into bed and go back to sleep, but it’s a good thing that my mind never listens to what my body needs. If it did, then I would never be able to do the routine that I live day in and day out. It takes dedication. I have learned patience, discipline, and many other qualities that have improved my life in more ways than you can even begin to imagine. But this is only the beginning of what I will accomplish. As I slowly stretch my arms over my head, I can feel the blood coursing through my veins as my muscles begin to respond to the stimulus. I feel the stiffness slowly start to leave my muscles as I prepare them for this morning’s exercise.
I am doing a modified Big Beyond Belief program. Today I’m hitting my chest, back, biceps, and calf muscles. I’ll be doing 5 sets of 15 reps for each muscle group. (This is the part where I attempt to over train.) I am mentally prepared and laugh to myself, as compared to my other days of torture, today’s workout will be like sweet choir music to my ears. Let me explain to you just what exactly it means to be a bodybuilder.
I tilt my head from side to side as I gaze down at the dumbbells in front of me with a look of unwavering determination on my face. This is going to be another contest of wills. The willpower of my arms, versus the strength of the iron dumbbell in front of me. I will emerge victorious today because I possess an inner strength that this hunk of metal knows nothing about. Choosing to live the lifestyle of a bodybuilder is about more than just going to the gym every day and lifting weights. It takes embracing a lifestyle that makes going to the gym seem like the easy part of the equation.
I grip a piece of iron in each hand and stare back at my reflection in the mirror. The person looking back at me surprises me with a glare of intensity on his face and the aura of determination radiating out from him. I find that hard to believe that that is me I am looking at in the mirror.
I can feel my blood pumping fiercely through my veins like a roller coaster shooting down the final section of the track. Closing my eyes for a second, I take another deep breath and slowly lift the metal in hands up over my head to continue the overhead press. I can feel my muscles contract and expand as they seek to renew their battle with the iron in my hand. The weight is slowly brought down to the top of my shoulders where I press up again. It takes a commitment unlike anything most normal people would ever understand and even then, even fewer would want to put themselves through it.
As I finish my 14th repetition, I can feel my muscles burning and my face is contorted in pain and rage. I still need another 1 to complete the full 15 reps. Only my hunger for excellence keeps me pushing even though it hurts beyond belief. I can feel the pain coursing through my body as my mind is turning circles in my head.
It’s trying to figure out why I would subjugate my body to such a painful exercise, when instead I could be asleep in my bed. I shut those thoughts out and I can feel a burn like that of a fire coursing through my veins. It means going that extra distance when no one thinks you can and pushing for that little more when you have nothing left to give.
My eyes slam shut and my teeth bare against each other as I raise the dumbbell up for one last repetition. I can’t believe I was able to get it up one last time and complete my 15th rep. I just did the impossible. I just beat my own personal record and set a new record to strive for the next time I come back. If only it was like this every week. Yet I think back on what I did last week and realize that every week, I end up pushing myself just a little harder than I did the week before.
I set the weights down and catch my breath. Walking over to my stop watch to time my sets I click the button. Sweat is pouring off my forehead and I felt like I saw the stars for a few seconds there. I grab the towel off the chair in front of me and wipe it across my forehead. It takes several minutes for my breathing to return to normal before and during this time I’m mentally preparing myself for the next set. You have to commit yourself entirely to the course and never give in or give up when you feel like you can’t go on. The true believers follow this journey even when everyone around is telling them they won’t be able to do it. I pick the same dumbbells up again and ready myself to go at them again for another set. My arms are still aching from the first set and my mind is trying to comprehend how I’m going to be able to put it through another set of torture. I grit my teeth and prepare my mind for the pain that is about to come and just what it will mean to my body when it’s over. With sheer determination and iron will, I begin my second set just like I did the first.
When you choose this road, it’s a lifestyle change, not just an activity you do in your free time. To my mind, bettering myself at the gym is the same as acing every test like you’re so good at. My mind is screaming at me again to take the easy road out, but I refuse to listen to its desperate call. I overcome its insistence and persevere to the end of my set and feel the pain that tells me it was one hell of a set. I can feel my heart racing in my chest and I can feel the blood roaring through my veins like a high-powered subway system. This is the very reason why I’m in here every morning spilling my sweat and tears on the floor of the weight room. I know there is no other place in the world where I can challenge myself to this level intensity and answer only to myself in terms of success. You have to understand; this is probably the one aspect that most people who assume this activity don’t understand. I go through motions for a third set and my arms feel like they are going to fall out of their sockets, but I know that today’s session is still just getting started. The road to success is long and painful and requires dedication in amounts that we don’t even know we have.
The next portion of my workout involves working my triceps, since I’ve finished all 5 sets on the shoulders and my shoulders are still consumed by a red hot pain. My body is pleading with me to give in and just quit but I won’t let this happen. I can’t let it happen: if I fail at this, it will compound everything that I’m trying to free myself from. The people who want to have real results that most people wake up every morning dreaming about need to commit themselves fully and sacrifice most conveniences around them to attain the look they so badly want. I pick up the Olympic bar off the floor and the 55lb plates. I begin to load up the bar to a good weight. It’s time for some close grip bench. I might just do 1/2 heavy sets of these before going to some tricep extensions or dips. It’s time to give my triceps a beating, just like what my shoulders suffered. Close grip bench always make the blood rush to my head when I lay down to perform it. My arms always burn with the pleasurable pain that makes lifting so damn thrilling. I push the bar up to the top of my chest and take a deep breath as I slowly begin to lower the weight down. This is the one thing you can’t bullshit your way through and still expect to succeed with minimal effort. I used to think that way when I first started, but then I learned first hand the changes that were needed. Yet this is only the beginning of the pain that I will put myself through on this day.
My mind is doing a dance of death in my head and threatening me if I don’t cease this calculated torture and let it recover. The thing that most people don’t understand about all this is that 90% of the game is mental. Conquering your mind is the key to success since your mind dictates just what your body is capable of performing. Sweat beads on my forehead and my veins strain against my skin as the blood pumps faster than a bat out of hell. I can’t remember the last time I wanted something this bad and was willing to give up everything just so I could reach where I wanted to be. It’s not about the end results, it’s about the feelings you discover along the journey and how they end up shaping your life. I go through the motion two more times and each time, I feel drained but satisfied as my mind is telling me that I can’t push any harder. Satisfying the mind is much harder than satisfying the body with success. You can’t lie to your mind but you can trick your body. I proudly stand by the fact that I walk away everyday with my mind telling me that I left every ounce of sweat and glory on the floor the gym before I head home. This is the feeling of success and determination. I hope that one day you can feel the joys that I get from this hobby Mark, and then, just maybe then you’ll understand my passion. There’s no other feeling like this in the entire world.
I go through the motions for several other exercises I have planned out for today’s routine and I have the same results for each one. This is my sign that I have conquered my mind and that it must submit my will instead of me bowing to the simple desires of my mind. Once again, I accomplished the impossible. This week was more intense than last week and if I have my way again, next week will be even more intense than my workout this week. You wanted to know why I choose to do it. Well now you know, I just hope you understand why I choose to live the way I do. No matter what I end up accomplishing, I will never reach satisfaction because that means that there is nothing left to do. I look down at my sweat soaked shirt and realize that every ounce of pain and tears was worth it when I look at myself in the mirror. One day the person I want to be looking at will be staring back at me and at that moment, every single hour I spent in the gym will come crashing together in an explosion of thunder. When that moment happens, every single drop of blood, sweat, and tears that was spilled will mean something to me. This is what it means to be a bodybuilder.