Ever since maybe 2000, around 13 years old, I’ve been watching what I eat and exercising regularly, to varying degrees. But it wasn’t until late 2013 that I started explicitly bodybuilding. And I love it. Here are 5 Unexpected Things I Love About Bodybuilding.
#1 It’s honest
Between 2000-2013, my focus was on performance and becoming a better athlete: faster and stronger. But damn did I want to look good too.
It’s so refreshing just to admit that now. Man, being honest feels great, particularly when you’re being honest with yourself.
As a kid, I was taught that vanity is a bad thing. That content matters more than presentation. Getting jacked isn’t an appropriate goal. Performing better and being healthy are.
Looking back, I wonder how much of my athletic drive was actually an unacknowledged desire to look good. After all, I did start something called #AllAsianBoysHaveKillerAbs.
I don’t regret anything, because while I wasn’t bodybuilding, I was taking on the challenges of other sports and adding to my life experience. However, I do wonder how much further my physique would be if I started earlier, because…
#2 It’s direct
Many (if not most) people go about their food and activities with a fuzzy goal of “eating healthy” or “getting fit.” So they’ll go about their food using diet tips that they’d heard from here and there, without any context as to where those diet tips are coming from, or who they’re meant for. Their exercise is an unstructured mash of workout videos and the latest trendy classes. And they do this all kinda hoping that maybe they’ll start to look better naked.
A competitive bodybuilder’s primary goal is to look better naked. What defines “better” is dependent on the category that they compete in (there are many), but for the most part it means less fat, more muscle. Many men and women have been involved in this sport over the last few decades. And they have come up with the most effective and often the most efficient methods to lose fat, build muscle, look good.
Once I was able to be honest about my goal of looking good, I was able to move towards it in the most direct way possible, by learning from bodybuilders.
#3 It’s artistic
There is the creative challenge of working with a finite amount of time, money, energy, and genetic capability. And there are so many different methodologies that you can read about, think about, and try out. But these are a part of every pursuit, really.
Specific to bodybuilding, Arnold Scharzenegger put it well:
“You don’t really see a muscle as a part of you, in a way. You see it as a thing. You look at it as a thing and you say well this thing has to be built a little longer, the bicep has to be longer; or the tricep has to be thicker here in the elbow area. And you look at it and it doesn’t even seem to belong to you. Like a sculpture. Then after looking at it a sculptor goes in with his thing and works a little bit, and you do maybe then some extra forced reps to get this lower part out. You form it. Just like a sculpture.”
I think of it more like gardening, where you’re not shaping so much as you are guiding organic growth =) Either way, it means you can exercise a great deal of artistic preference in bodybuilding. For example, I like to be really lean. Someone else might prefer more fat, because they like the added size, or they think too much vascularity is gross. It’s your body though! Your art! Your canvas, upon which to express yourself.
#4 It gives me a powerful sense of control
In the modern United States, it seems like if you don’t try, you’re going to get fatter. There are a number of things we could point fingers at, but let’s not go into that. Let’s just acknowledge that our society is set up in a way that will get you fatter and fatter, unless you make a conscious decision not to.
I turn 30 in August. I’ve never had this much muscle, nor this little fat. I know that my physique isn’t a function of youth. My physique is a function of knowledge, and consistent application of that knowledge. This gives me a powerful sense of control, which feels great. I also know that my physique will likely continue to improve for another few decades, because there are so many bodybuilders out there who don’t reach their peak until middle age. And finally, I like the prospect of carrying a good amount of muscle into seniority, allowing me to stay active and prevent falls.
#5 It teaches me to accept things you can’t control
After a successful cut for EDC 2015, I wasn’t able to put on much muscle, because I didn’t have much of an appetite. Suddenly, a year later, my appetite is back. I’m not doing anything differently, at least nothing that I’m aware of! During that time, I didn’t see a growth in muscle size, but I did see an increase in vascularity. Celebrate the small victories.
Sometimes I get sick, or have to travel, and can’t train. There’s no point in getting emotional about these setbacks. The best thing to do is accept it, and work around it. Maybe find something else to do, or just rest up. Then when things are back to normal, I simply ease back into my routine. No guilt, no stress.
BONUS: Bodybuilding culture is hilarious
Just to name a few… There’s all the shenanigans on Bodybuilding.com/Misc. There’s the BroScienceLife channel on YouTube. But my absolute favorite is the Book of Brodin, a collection of classical religions reinterpreted using bodybuilding puns. The Old Chestament begins with the Book of Gainesis.