In 10 years of bodybuilding, I've gone through drastic changes. I started as an unhealthy, skinny kid and transformed myself into a hardcore fitness nut. Going from one extreme to the other was a wild ride, and not one that I'd ever recommend.
However, all those years in the trenches taught me valuable lessons. Although I could write a book about the nutrition tips, training ideas, and supplement plans I learned along the way, I think it would be more beneficial to share the three lessons that have been the most meaningful and transformative.
Lesson 1: Fitness Doesn't Have to Be All or Nothing
When I first began bodybuilding, I was determined to do things perfectly. I measured every gram, monitored every macro and micronutrient, and thoroughly planned and documented every detail of every workout. I thought the only way to succeed was with an all-or-nothing approach. So I went all in.
While I definitely saw results, I realized living so extremely was overkill for what my goals were. I wanted to live healthy, build muscle, and increase my athleticism. I wasn't competing. I wasn't making fitness my profession. Sure, I had reduced my body fat, made significant muscle gains, and become more athletic, but it came at a huge physical and mental cost.
Lesson 2: Know The Cost
At the outset of my quest to get jacked, I didn't know how to match my fitness goal with my lifestyle. I wanted to put on muscle and improve my athletic performance, but I didn't know how to do it without going all out. My lifestyle was unintentionally detracting from other important aspects of my life. Regardless of what the gurus said, it wasn't optimal for me. I knew I had to rethink my approach. I needed to find better balance.
How much you put into bodybuilding should be directly related to what you want to get out of it. If you want to be a professional fitness model or a competitor, your life is going to be drastically different. Knowing the cost will help you set a realistic goal and help you grasp what trade-offs you will need to make in order to achieve your goals.
Think about which parts of your life you're willing and able to change, and which one's you're not. Adjust your expectations so your success in fitness doesn't have to take over your life. Instead, find consistent behaviors that will help you achieve a lifestyle that works for you.
Lesson 3: Health and Happiness Matter Most
Today, I allow myself flexibility. If I miss a workout or eat a treat, I don't beat myself up over it. I now look at the bigger picture. I remind myself that this is a long-term commitment. A few missed workouts or deviations from a nutrition program will not be catastrophic in the grand scheme of things! In fact, you might find that by allowing yourself to color outside the lines a little bit, you're better able you to reach your goals. It most certainly helped me!
When I gave myself a little freedom, I immediately felt less stressed, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that my athleticism and body didn't suffer. Most importantly, I was much happier.
Success with a slightly lenient approach is actually more common than you might think; many top-level competitors don't stay shredded year-round. Don't believe that you have to construct perfect meals and follow a workout program to the letter every day of your life. Be consistent with a lifestyle you can sustain, and results will come.
Giving 110 percent all the time and never taking breaks can lead to mental fatigue, injury, and a bummer attitude. If you're feeling down about your fitness, take a look at your current training and nutrition program. Ask yourself if you're happy. Ask yourself if you feel healthy. If the answer is no, you need to make some changes.
After 10 years, I've learned that health and happiness aren't just the keys to success; they are my success. I'll carry that knowledge with me forever.