Bodybuilding Stage versus Fitness Podium
Written by: Crystal Flores
Thursday: Long Cardio Day
Saturday: Long Cardio Day
Eat every 2-3 hours, 100-300 calorie meals, pre-cooked, measured, reheated, cold, out of ziplock bags. By any means necessary, don't miss a meal or you will be brain dead until the next meal.
That was a summary of my life in 6-month increments. Outside of show prep, my training remained the same, but my diet was unmeasured. I needed to build more muscle for the next show prep cut.
In 2013, I witnessed my first powerlifting meet. Powerlifting, the Deadlift-Bench-Squat trio - I was impressed! The amount of weight moved by these competitors was mind blowing. Later that weekend, I tried my first 135lb deadlift. I did not fully extend hips and I hurt my back. Needless to say, I wasn't exactly strong even though I looked it.
This was the moment I realized that all that time I’ve spent in the gym, all the miles I’ve ran, floors I’ve climbed, dumbbells I’ve curled, did not have any functional purpose except the fact that I LOOKED STRONG! In reality, I was hungry, hurting, and exhausted all the time.
In 2013, I competed in my last Bikini competition and with the advice of my trainer, we came to the conclusion that I needed to step away from competition in fitness shows. Instead, maybe find something that measured performance rather than looks. For me, this was the best decision we could've made. You see, genetics play some role in the programs and diets bodybuilders follow. A lot has to be manipulated to create that perfect stage-ready physique. Genetically, my body was meant to excel in a different direction and I spent a very long time dissecting every exercise choice I made to sculpt this ideal of what I thought I should look like. I don't regret walking away from the competition stage at all. Had I stayed, I never would've found this new potential of strength.
I turned my back on the scale, on mirrors, and bodyweight leg days consisting of hill sprints and lunges. Instead, I picked up a barbell and slowly starting building the strength I had neglected for so long.
Do I still train 5 days a week? Yes I do. Do I still count macros? Not quite, but I'm still very aware of how I fuel my body. When I'm working out, people aren't concerned if my stomach is in or out, instead they are cheering me on as I hit and achieve a new squat PR. Did I mention I wasn't allowed to squat for 4 years? A lot has changed in my workout journal. Some days I run 10 miles (crazy right?), some days I power-clean 30 reps as fast as possible, and some days I deadlift 135lbs 20 times without blinking. My program consists of constantly varied, functional movements usually performed at high intensities. Sound familiar?
The most important part is that I'm happy. I frequently celebrate success. If it's not my own, then the success of the people working out next to me. At the end of the day, if you've found something that you can look forward to, (and for some, that may in fact be a 5-day bodybuilding split!) pursue it, love it, and do it with passion. I can't say I'll ever return to a bodybuilding stage. I like the thought of a podium a little more!