Things I Wish I Knew About Bodybuilding and Competing But No One Told Me

Working at Powerhouse Gym New Haven
The other day I was thinking about the things I've gone through and the many lessons I've learned along the way while in the industry.
I followed my deep thinking with a FB post, of course. I said I'd be writing this blog and the amount of responses was quite unexpected. Is there something about the industry that no one has dared to write about that perhaps needed to be addressed?
I am going to say right off the bat that this is not going to be a bashing piece. If you have ever read any of my blogs or articles I remain as neutral as possible while stating how I feel. I do not go and attack people or organizations. I do, however, point out behaviors and things I've observed over time as well as share my experiences. If something I write applies to you then fine. If not, great. Some of the things I write, even the negative ones, have applied to me and my own behaviors. It's important that I own my wrongs because they have taught me many lessons on what behaviors to not try and repeat.
Why am I writing this? Well, there are many things I wish I had been told before and while I was preparing for a show, and, before I got in the industry. These are things not many people share because it could put the industry in a negative light. I am writing this because I do love bodybuilding, and I am passionate about the industry, however, it's the behaviors we engage in that makes the sport appear a certain way. I will share the things I wish I knew...for those who are planning on diving head first into the bodybuilding industry or plan to compete. Take what you read with a grain of salt. I am no expert, but I do know a thing or two.
The challenge is to take what you read, even if it sounds negative, learn from it and turn it into something great and positive.
Here goes my list:
1. The bodybuilding industry is a selfish sport/hobby. Never in my life have I seen so much selfishness and attention to oneself other than bodybuilding. It seems that the lines between "I'm taking care of myself and my body" and "it's all about me" either blend or become very blurry. The key here is balance. Don't let the sport become who and what you are! Don't let it define every minute of your life to the point you cannot think of anything or anyone else other than YOU. This is particularly difficult for those who enter this journey after overcoming some kind of traumatic experience where the need to strengthen your emotional, mental and even physical self by working out seems a necessity. Again...this is great, but so many let this get out of hand! Don't!
2. Bodybuilding will have you spending money on things you typically wouldn't. Supplements and food is the very least of your concerns once you are in it deep. Competitors have the typical anticipated competition expenses but then, somewhere along the way, people begin scrambling trying to find means to get things that could promise a better placing. Breast augmentation, lip injections, botox, gynecomastia, suits, hair extensions, and the list goes on and on. etc. We are often told we need to "up our game", and, we do what we need to do to make it happen. Be careful...and be mindful of this, especially if you have a family to care for!
3. It will compromise your friendships and social life. I remember in 2005 I was very committed not to the lifestyle, but to winning a show. I isolated myself from friends, and even family members. My life had no time or room to even conceive the thought of jeopardizing one of my meals so I never went out. I missed social events that were relevant to my work and career as a graduate student. I look back and realize that I given bodybuilding such a high priority in my life that I lost about 4-5 years of good networking with colleagues toward developing my career and education. It was not a wise move. We all know that unless you are in the top 5 in the world of bodybuilding, there isn't really much money in it. There is a learning curve with this. True friends will never try to jeopardize your goals to get in shape and get on that stage, but at the same time, you as a true friend should be able to find a way to maintain your friendships. This is when being creative when going out or meeting friends is important. Learning what to order from restaurant menus, carrying your meals with you, avoiding alcohol, etc. become part of the game. I highly encourage you to never avoid potential networking and social interactions with friends outside of bodybuilding! It's a very small industry in relation to  the "real world" and once you are "done" competing and in bodybuilding, you will eventually have to step out of that bubble into society. No?
5. It can ruin your marriage/relationship. Not many will admit to this. If you have been married or have had a relationship in or outside of bodybuilding, chances are, it has suffered. I can write an entire blog about this particular subject and I will at some point. The industry is overly sexual with people who feel great about their bodies. Put them all in one room and things are bound to happen. Sometimes it can works if your partner is in the same industry as you, but most of the time, if your partner is not on the same page, it can turn ugly. My only piece of advice is...remain honest, truthful and communicate with your partner. I learned the hard way that old saying know...the one about the grass being greener on the other side.
Working for Flex Magazine during Arnold weekend
Photo by Ron  Avidan for
6. People will talk about you. It doesn't matter if you mean well. It doesn't matter if you are a good person, a hard working man or woman, or if you are actually horrible at what you do. The industry is small and it's like living in a secluded town. You will feel like you are back in high school. You have to develop a tough shell and learn to shake off the rumors, bashing and potential bad mouthing. This is why having a balanced life helps. When you have a life outside of bodybuilding, things that go on in it won't affect you much.
7. It's harder for women to succeed. Even if they are skilled. I have seen only a handful of women become very successful in the bodybuilding industry outside of competing. Shannon Dey is one woman I admire. She has an exceptional business-savvy mentality and her words and empire have proven to both be very powerful. Sandy, you know, the NPC judge we have all heard on the mic at most national shows asking us to do quarter turns is another lady who, I've come to admire from afar (since I still haven't personally met her). Then there is Pam Betz whom I shared a cab with on my way to my hotel this past Arnold weekend...tough lady when you don't know her, but such as a sweetheart when you get a chance to get closer and speak to her. They act tough because it's harder for women to get the respect we deserve. It doesn't matter if we have 3-4 college degrees, a good job, are skilled in one area or another, or if you are intelligent enough to hold a conversation with the boys. It's a man's sport/arena and from being in it myself sometimes I feel like I'm in the Women's Rights movement era trying to get "something"  or simply be heard.  I have no advice here. Silence seems to be the golden rule however, if you are tactical you can use your skills to maneuver this tough industry.
8. Unrealistic goals to young girls. This one key point was actually shared by a friend who reminded me of all the promises that are made to, not only young girls, but women all across who don't know much about the industry. Do your research and clear as to why you are getting into it. Define your goals and what you want out of it. Find out how many women in the industry have been successful outside of bodybuilding. What have they done? What are they doing now?

That's what I have for now. I do have to say that there are many great and positive things I have gained from being involved in the industry. It's given me great physical strength and the ability to be disciplined and focused. I actually function even better when I am in competition mode because I have to become very structured. But I had to learn. Learning is what it's all about.
Hope you enjoyed reading this and please leave a comment if you have anything you would add to this! xoxo


  1. Number 6 applies to everything, people will always be people. they will always have something to say

  2. It sounds like you weren't ready to compete perhaps? I mean, maybe physically but not mentally. Bodybuilding is very much mental as it is a physical sport. You have to accept that most girls don't even place in bikini, and you have to be ready and learn how to balance friends/family and being in social situations. Discipline is key! and loving your body no matter what, your fitness journey is your own and not anyone else's. I hope that if you compete again, you have a more positive and healther outlook on it. Who cares if people talk, all that matters is you've accomplished what you've set out to do.. That's way more than what others have done. Be proud!