I am an amateur bodybuilder. I lift 4-5 times a week; I count my macronutrients religiously; I follow cutting and bulking season. So what is the difference between me and a professional bodybuilder? I will never compete in a bodybuilding competition.
To be clear, I believe that competitive bodybuilding is a very real, very respectable sport. Those who compete are, without a doubt, athletes. I look up to many professional bodybuilders, and I have the utmost respect for what they do. But I decided early into my fitness journey that despite my love and dedication for weightlifting, I never want to walk the stage in a sparkly bikini, for a few reasons.
Weightlifting is one of my favorite things in the world. When other people can’t wait to get off work to go home or head out to their favorite bar, I count down the hours until I can be in the gym. On extra-stressful days, I can hardly wait to get there. The sense of purpose and motivation I feel when I lace up my shoes and put on my headphones is indescribable. The gym is my escape from everyday pressures. One reason I have decided to never compete is that I worry it would turn fitness from an escape into another part of my life that is structured and regimented. By keeping bodybuilding as a hobby, I can experiment with my training and diet without fear. I love seeing the effects that different training techniques have on my body. I also have the freedom to build my body however I want, not how I feel it needs to be to win over the judges at my next competition (lately I’ve been completely disregarding my abdominal muscles and am doubling up on glute day-what fun!).
I have deeper reasons for not competing, as well.
Before I began weightlifting, I lacked confidence in myself. I thought I was fat (I wasn’t), and I had an obsession with losing weight. As many young girls do, I thought that eating as little as I could handle, and doing cardio every day, was the solution to my problems. Unfortunately, I only had enough self-control to eat restrictively for short periods of time, which were always followed by binge eating and hating myself for not having more control. About four years ago I came across a free beginner’s weightlifting program online, Livefit. I began this program without much hope of finishing. But, I made it. And along the way I discovered my love for lifting. I was smaller than I ever had been, and I was miraculously eating twice as much as before. Without even realizing it, my focus had shifted from being skinny to being healthy. Where before I stressed every calorie, now I was concerned about getting in extra protein and taking my vitamins.
I feel that for myself, standing onstage and allowing strangers to rate my body compared to others would counter the very thing that weightlifting has done for me, which is to teach me self-love.
So while I will continue to follow my favorite competitive bodybuilders on Instagram, ooh-ing and ahh-ing over their stage make-up, bikinis, and perfect six-packs, you’ll never find me taking that jump to standing on stage. And I am perfectly fine with that.
Are you an amateur or professional bodybuilder? What are your thoughts on this? Let me know in the comments!