If you’re thinking about what it takes to accomplish a fitness ambition, take these into consideration:
1. Adverse Health Effects
Precision Nutrition has a graphic that sums up the “Health vs. Aesthetics” argument pretty perfectly.
If you’re living a healthy lifestyle, you’re doing most things in moderation and sticking to valuable tenets regarding exercise and activity. You’re still maintaining a valuable social life, allowing yourself to indulge in sweet things, and giving yourself reasonable limits that keep you on the productive side of things.
However, unless you’ve been gifted with Adonis-like genetics, to reach the pinnacle of leanness your new behaviors have to border on some form of disorder, be it eating, body image, or compulsive. In my bodybuilding days, I was weighing my food religiously, weighing myself twice a week, working out 5-6 days per week, and bringing food with me everywhere, like to the movies, or baseball games (have you ever had a team-mascot frown at your almonds?).
I’d reached the point of nursing a caffeine habit over 3x the recommended daily limit, my hormones were wonky, and I actually had a full-blown panic attack.
This isn’t unlike some behaviors adopted by professional athletes, Olympic level competitors, or even ultra-serious weekend-warriors. And we have to ask ourselves (in the words from The Girl Next Door), “is the juice worth the squeeze?”
Sometimes it is—you’ll receive accolade, and your friends will see you as a good conversation starter at parties. Kind of like a puppy. A lean, jacked, puppy.
Overuse injuries occur in almost every sport, and certainly in every competitive event. Now, I can’t speak for most moustache-growers, but I’m sure there’s an element of inconvenience growing whiskers too long.
I know in my baseball days, I had an elbow or shoulder injury most of the time. In my pursuit of symmetry during banana-hammock season, I gave myself an impingement. Cue powerlifting, and it’s not unreasonable for my shoulders to be the first things to go.
Luckily, I know if I took a year to focus on rehab I could probably outperform my best. But my ego won’t let me. And unless I’m getting paid to recover (lookin’ at you, Derrick Rose), I probably won’t sit out too long. And luckily for me, I’ve allowed myself to enjoy my social life again. However, many people take their competitive desires so far it impacts their social life.
3. Your Social Life
How many Olympic athletes do you think go out and party with their friends on the weekends? I’m sure there are some. But I’ll bet they’re not getting gold.
See, to be the best you’ve got to beat the best. And the person who’s not out partying, taking in wasted calories, losing sleep, having things cut into their training/focus time, is usually at the top of the pack. Many people want to be at the top of the pack, but not many will do what it takes.
Part of why we choose to undertake these monumental goals is because competition does something for us—it gives us an outlet, a place where our efforts result in successes. I know for me, getting into any competitive training cycle helped me funnel my attention to something constructive—it helped me cope with whatever it was going on in my life that was lacking in either drive, ambition, or success. And I know I’m not the only one, either.
There are prices to pay for all of our priorities. If I want to sleep more, I’m taking away from Netflix-binge time. If I want to get an extra hour in the gym, I’m taking away from making fart jokes with my wife (sorry, honey). And even if I want to prioritize cleaner eating, I’m taking away from our ice-cream time (hence, the fart jokes).
We’re all picking things that push us forward. The marathoner with the aching knees is still getting their social kicks by trail running with their friends. The powerlifter with the bum shoulder is still getting their kicks by eating burgers with friends. Hell, the bodybuilder is still enjoying their peanut-butter rice cakes with their swole buds.
At one point in my life, I needed the structure of a bodybuilding regimen. At another point in my life, I needed to lift really heavy things. At others, I need to sleep! But at each juncture, when I committed, that was the priority. And it all came with a price I was willing to pay.