People are often surprised to find out that I have a regular job, and that it has nothing to do with fitness or lifting. That's because even when I was young, I knew I wanted to be able to make a good living for my family, and try to be well rounded. So computers seemed like a good choice. In the 15+ years I've been doing IT work, that particular decision has never failed me.
I know of some "greats" in powerlifting, bodybuilding, etc that basically live hand to mouth now, or have to work menial jobs in order to support themselves. Mainly, because instead of seeing competing as something they did, they saw it as who they were. They became engrossed in it, and from my perspective, became lost in it.
Everyday was about meal prep, training, supplements (both legal and illegal), and isolating most of their time off from the world in order to reach their goals. I know of one chic who didn't go out to dinner one time in 9 months because she was so convinced she was going to win her big show, that she cut virtually everyone she knew out of her life, and only left the house to train.
I'm not sure what made her believe this measure of extremes needed to be taken. The judges don't ask who was the biggest recluse at fitness shows, as far as I know. But I've never donned a bikini and stood onstage to be judged either. As much as I know you guys want to see that, I don't believe it will be happening.
She took third.
She lost money on her travel expenses alone. Even more sad to me, is that she lost time she can never get back.
Focus and drive are a great thing. So is balance. I could never figure out what avoiding eating out for nine months gave her an edge in. I couldn't figure out what essentially sealing her life off from family and friends did for her. Not from a competitive standpoint.
I can't imagine the emotional fallout she had to go through afterwards. I can't imagine it because I'd never put myself in that situation for any reason. Life is far more important than any show. What's an award worth if life's trophy case is empty?
I guess the answer to that is different for everyone.
But it's not just about money, either.
I have met so many of these people, or read about the things they go through once the curtain closes, and it's always a depressing ordeal. They end up losing their entire identity in competing, and when it's over, they have no idea what to do with that energy.
Former NFL player Trevor Pryce wrote a piece a few years ago that really stuck with me. In it, he wrote....
"If you’re not prepared for it, retirement can become a form of self-imposed exile from the fulfillment and the exhilaration of knowing you did a good job."
So now that that is all gone....where does the fulfillment come from? When you never took the time to cultivate relationships or a career that can sustain you emotionally and financially afterwards?
Some people still find it, in other avenues related to the industry. Coaching, personal training, gym ownership, etc. For those that don't it reminds me of that HBO special I watched on strippers. The eldest of the strippers in the club talked of how she knew years before that she needed to get out of that line of work, but that she had wasted all of those years when she was making great money, with no thought of the fact that it was all very temporal.
Now she sat, dejected, watching the younger and far more beautiful girls take away all of her business, and could do nothing but wander on her numbered days.
Make the best of the days you have in your prime. Part of using that time wisely is making sure you're also setting yourself up for a great future. You won't be young and beautiful forever.