There is a hilarious video cartoon floating around YouTube called “I Want To Be a Bodybuilder”. In the four-minute-and-twelve-second animated video, a hapless husband stands nervously in his kitchen, trying to explain to his confused wife that he is changing his lifestyle because he “wants to be a bodybuilder.”
For those of us all too familiar with the bodybuilding and fitness competition lifestyle, we may begin to question how ridiculous our chosen sport/obsession appears after watching a video in which it is explained to a “regular person.” Adding to the humor of the video is the disjointed way in which the husband and wife talk, a computer animated voice level where “bodybuilder” is pronounced “body-BUILder.”
After giving the details of the contest prep he will be following, including eating a restricted diet in which he must eat every two hours along with weight training and cardio exercise six days a week, his exasperated wife asks him, “Why?” The husband can only cross his arms and answer, “I want to be a bodybuilder.” After calling him a “dumbass,” the wife continues to ask more questions about the competition her crazy ass husband is planning to enter.
The husband describes what he must do when he enters the contest, including wearing tiny posing trunks and performing a posing routine to music. He then details the costs involved in entering a competition, including the membership fee to the organization, the contest entry fee, two pairs of posing trunks, and tanning and traveling expenses. His practical spouse asks him if he will win any money for competing and he proudly replies that he may win a cheap, plastic trophy if he places first, second or third. At this point, his wife exclaims, “Are you freaking kidding me? You are a dumb son of a bitch.” The increasingly sheepish husband can only answer with, “Yes, but I will be a body-BUILder,” which he accentuates by flexing his arms and pulling them into his chest in a spasmodic gesture that suggests a physical (or possibly mental) malfunction.
Bodybuilding has never been a practical endeavor. The act of engaging in an exercise and diet program in order to change the appearance of the physique is not an easy task. Years of dedicated effort must be religiously followed with the fanaticism of a devoted Tibetan monk in order to build the body to the standards demanded by bodybuilding judges. Jim Lorimer once remarked that if you were to ask a person to work as hard as a bodybuilder works to prepare for a competition, you would need to pay them a lot of money for all that effort and dedication.
The average person looks at those of us following a bodybuilding lifestyle and just shakes their heads. Stand-up comedians and Planet Fitness commercials have a field day making fun of bodybuilders with their extreme lifestyles including the omnipresent gallon of water and the exaggerated lat syndrome. We are seen today as we were 40 years ago – as a misunderstood and strange group of freaks.
But therein explains the attraction of bodybuilding. Bodybuilders don’t want to be “normal”. We look at the average nine-to-fiver who anxiously waits for quitting time on Friday so they can go out and drink with their friends or cheer on their favorite sports team with a sad sense of disappointment.The typical “average” person sits comfortably on the couch at night, eating their preferred late night snack and drinking their favorite alcoholic beverage. Their biggest challenge of the day is deciding which gripping drama to watch on television that night; would it be “The Housewives of Atlanta” or “The Biggest Loser”? They are content and satisfied to take the path of least resistance and remain consistently and inevitably “normal”.
When I was a kid growing up in Worth, Illinois, I had no idea that something like bodybuilding even existed. I used to anxiously read the superhero comic books and imagine what it would be like to possess massive muscles and save the world like the colorful superheroes did every month in the comic books I obsessively read. When I discovered the sport of bodybuilding, I felt like these muscular men were real life superheroes.
Being a bodybuilder allowed me the opportunity to be “different”. I would willingly get up early in the morning to workout in the back room of my parent’s house to begin the process of building my body. When I got home from school, I couldn’t wait to work out again to start the process all over. I announced to my Mom that I would no longer eat anything with sugar in it and I totally changed my diet in order to build up my muscles. I was proud to pull out my own food at family parties and holidays just to show my relatives that I was now different because I was a bodybuilder.
Even more exciting was how different my body started to look. Now, I didn’t have to look like everyone else when I walked down the street or entered a room. Being a bodybuilder allowed me to stand out from the rest of crowd. I didn’t care if people thought I was strange, at least they noticed me now. I was a bodybuilder and I was different than everyone else.
It takes a special type of person to stick to a regimented lifestyle that dictates a strict dietary intake and a disciplined workout schedule. Bodybuilders are human beings just like everyone else. Cookies and ice cream taste just as delicious to them as it does to the average couch potato. The difference is that bodybuilders can limit or eliminate these sweet-tasting foods from their daily diets in order to accomplish their goals. We are not “weird” for doing that – we are “special”.
With the addition of competitive divisions such as men’s physique, women’s physique, figure and bikini, more “average” people have decided to adopt the bodybuilding lifestyle for their own. They can now even share their unique journey on new social media outlets such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter that have invaded our lives. The “weird” bodybuilding crowd is now expanding as more “normal” people have become addicted to the challenge of changing their own bodies into something more super and different. They are embracing the pain, the discipline, the sacrifice, and the dedication it takes to be “different” because they want to step away from the boring and normal life and give it everything they have to be something more. The “average” person would never understand, but that’s fine. They aren’t supposed to.