Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Your Ideal Body, or “I don’t want to get too big”.

Lately, I’ve been talking about my own journey in bodybuilding with others. Not by my own will, as I don’t really talk in detail about the physical transformation I’ve gone through in the last years. It’s not something I ever bring up by myself.

Mainly, this happens more than before because there was a huge change in my life a few months ago. I won’t go into details because who the hell cares, but let’s just say that whoever is writing my life decided I had grown too comfortable this season and decided to Shayamalan my shit. In the fallout of the big twist, I was left with a deep necessity to meet new people and rekindle old friendships I might have neglected. It’s extremely difficult for me, especially now that I’m older, but it’s something that I’ve had to do and have done pretty well.

Nowadays, when I meet new people, the first thing they see is a big hairy guy, and “what did you do to get big?” is a question that asks itself. Not because I’m so striking and monstrous, but because it’s an obvious ice-breaker in social situations. Now, like I said, I’ve also been busy trying to renew friendships with people who hadn’t seen me in years, when I was 100+ lbs smaller, inches shorter, and didn’t have a hair on my face (then, the question generally is “What the fuck happened to you?”, to which I like replying “A big wolf bit me”).

This leads to me having the same conversation and Q&A every time I find myself in a social event. I don’t mind of course; talking about bodybuilding to me is as fun as talking about movies, videogames or shooting the shit of any kind—I enjoy it. The only thing that bothers me is that these conversations seem scripted, so at one point it gets boring. I always get the same questions and I always give the same answers like a disgraced politician doing damage control.

Generally these conversations take place with people who aren’t as skinny as I was (because people who are as skinny as I was don’t like to openly tell a big guy “I want to get big too!”), but still either want to get more muscular or pretend to so we can keep talking without any awkward silences.

You know what’s the one constant comment?

“Help me out; I’d love bigger muscles! Just remember I don’t want to get too bulky, you know?”

It’s incredible how often people tell me this when they ask me, or anyone (it’s also a mantra in beginner bodybuilding forums), for bodybuilding advice. I would be surprised if the idea hasn't crossed your own mind as you read this blog. Hell, when I was helping my brother out when he opened his Crossfit gym, part of what I did was welcome prospective patrons and explain what were the goings-on in the Crossfit gym. Luckily for them, and my brother, “You don’t get all huge and bulky!” is an effective selling point.

The face of regret.
“Too huge” or "too bulky", in this context, implicitly refers to bodies like Phil Heath (pictured), Kai Greene, Ronnie Coleman, or any pro who has graced a FLEX cover in the last thirty years. This, as opposed to a lean but defined body you would find under the shirts of Mattthew McConaughey or that guy from "Drive". While I don’t share the opinion, I understand why the idea of being so muscular is unappealing to most.

Yes, there are a million misconceptions about bodybuilding, so why should I write a blog post dedicated to this one in particular?

Because a lot of people don’t want to start lifting heavy weights and begin their growth because they’re afraid they’ll get “too huge”. Now, if I take several steps back, I can more or less see why someone would ask this, but it’s still  hard for me not to find this concern extremely absurd. 

Let me explain.

All right, first off: you could purposefully cycle every anabolic steroid, HGH and testosterone shot for the next five years and you probably still won’t have that body you want to avoid. Nasser el Sonbaty didn’t reach 330 lbs accidentally; he worked extremely hard to get and maintain the body he had. Bodybuilding in that professional level is a 24/7 job that requires extreme care to exercise, diet, a lot of focus and of course the intelligent and controlled use of very specific drugs. It’s not something you acquire unless you really, really want it. And even if you really, really wanted it, it’s likely you won’t get there anyway.

Here's another way to look at it. Would you stop practising on your guitar because "I'm afraid I'll become amazing at it"? Of course not. Even if you wanted to, it's not likely you will.

So here’s what I like to ask. What exactly is the fear of people who want to avoid “getting too bulky”? That one day they’re gonna fall asleep after a huge meal and a beastly time at the gym, and then wake up the next day on a broken bed and wearing torn PJs because they accidentally hulked out of them overnight?

“Oh fiddlesticks!” they’d growl in a frightening new basso. “Now I gone done it! I got too big and ladies won’t want my bulky freak ass!”

"Cruel fate! What have I done to deserve this!"
See how absurd it is? Getting huge isn’t something that just happens suddenly or accidentally. It’s a very slow (though very rewarding) process. What does this mean? It means that your growth is going to be gradual and deliberate and you won’t gain a single pound unless you want to gain it.

Again, what does this mean? It means that you’ll always be in complete control of your body size and you’ll know exactly when you’re finally in the body you always wanted.

And the cool thing that a lot of people don’t realize is that figuring out your exact dream body is harder than you think. You never know how your perception of yourself and your wishes will change as your body does. Maybe right now you want to gain 10 pounds so you can look like an Abercrombie model, but you don’t know if in a year you realize that it’s a body like Thor’s what gets the ladies going, and you’ll now want to gain another 50 pounds. But what if during the two years it took you to gain those 50 pounds you grew attached to bodybuilding and you suddenly want to look like Lou Ferrigno.

Right now you don’t know what you do or don't want, but that’s a good thing because you’ll always be in control. And hell, if one day you realize that you no longer want to be big, you can always get smaller. It’s not a one way street. You’re not burning any bridges with every curl. Remember the “muscle turns into fat!” thing is the dumbest myth in the sport; muscle can’t turn into fat any more than gold can turn into a lemon cake.

TL;DR: The absurd fear of getting a body you don’t want right now should never deter your wish to get out of a body in which you’re already unhappy.

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