Most bodybuilders, even the more disciplined than me, will take the holidays off from their rigorous schedules and shut things down for a month or two. Just look at this years deserted Arnold Classic lineup and you can see who preferred to get fat and happy over the holidays vs. grinding it out on the step mill one more Happy Jolly Christmas. Nicole Wilkins, Adela Garcia, Dennis Wolf, Shawn Rhoden, and Evan Centopani are all bunkered down for milk and cookies and won’t be seen again until Summer time. The only guy still dieting and not doing the Arnold is Branch Warren. Rumor has it when Branch was a kid he made Santa do cardio before he was allowed to eat any cookies left by the chimney. On Christmas morning when Branch was 10, Santa brought him a new bike. Branch dismantled the bike and welded the metal parts together to create new gym equipment for his garage. There’s still a rumor that Branch made Santa do weighted dips before sitting on his lap at the mall for fear that Santa might be developing gyno. “Ho-Ho-Ho Mother Fucker”. Needless to say, Branch Warren doesn’t slack during Christmas, but guess what? Most bodybuilders do.
I’ve always tried to follow somewhat of the bodybuilder lifestyle during the holidays. I make it to the gym on my scheduled days. I still cook my chicken on the Foreman and steam my veggies. And when I’ve dipped into one too many chocolate chip cookies, guilt takes over my body and I’ll go for some extra cardio.
When I was younger I always took the time over Christmas to bulk up. I would read stories about guys putting on 30lb of muscle in the winter. They’d be bundled up in sweatshirts for several months and wouldn’t have to be self-conscious about gaining a few extra pounds of body fat because nobody would notice anyhow. Well, stupid me would follow that advice only neglecting the fact that I have been a Florida boy my entire life. We don’t wear sweatshirts unless the rare cold front rolls through, in which case it’s ‘chilly’ for about 2 days, then returns to normal highs of 65 in the winter. So here I am feeling like a water buffalo in my t-shirt and shorts thinking how great it is to be bulking during the winter when in reality I look like shit. Guess the joke was on me.
The perma-bulk days of yesteryear are now the winter days that involve cutting up. My thoughts are, what better time of year to use fat burners, when the cooler air will keep the profuse sweating at bay which inevitably comes with dieting and thermogetics. Of course, it always ends up being a half ass diet attempt due to all the sweets and treats around at Christmas. Besides, I can always make a New Year’s Resolution and start all over.
And just when I think I’ve got my Christmas survival guide all written out; bring on family traditions to stifle my well laid out plan. If I’m at my parent’s house I can’t go about my usual cooking routines and not get some sort of ridicule. Picture the traditional house of decorations, great smells from the kitchen, Christmas music playing, my Dad on his 3rd glass of ‘heart health’ Kettle One and tonic, and me screwing the whole thing up with the blender buzzing or the smell of tilapia cooking in the oven and totally messing the vibe for the rest of the family. These days I don’t even bring the protein powders and the Tupperware to Christmas trips. I’ve learned that it’s probably best to do extra cardio and eat three dozen cookies in a 48 hour period than to take the unnecessary heat. And to make matters worse I come from a fairly big family and naturally the only place left for me to sleep is on the blow up air mattress. Real nice, putting a 280lb guy on a pool floaty, so by 4am it will be deflated and I’ll have a kick ass rug burn on my right cheek when I wake up.
And training isn’t any better during Christmas. The gym is always packed with out-of-towners clogging up the free weight section of the gym. I’m forced to throw my weight around more during this time of the year, just so I can jockey for a bench. I’ll admit I am the nutcase that will still get a workout on Christmas Eve, but I won’t go so far as to get one in on Christmas – even at one of the 24 hour gyms in town it still isn’t happening. My family can’t figure out why I’d want to gut out a Jason Genova esque leg workout the afternoon before Christmas, but to me the answer is simple: post workout sugar cookies! When supplement companies figure out how to make waxy maize taste like homemade cookies then I might let the nice gentleman at GNC try to shake me down for $40 again.
And don’t get me started on a Christmas shopping rant. What a cluster fuck nightmare that is. It sucks for the normal guy much less the bodybuilder. Here I am trying to live this healthy existence and all I can smell when I get inside the mall is the scent of fresh Auntie Anne’s soft pretzels. I’ve got to dig deep into my will power not to indulge in its vast deliciousness. And who can blame me? The mall is filled with thousands of obese women that give me anxiety with every hateful stare as they seductively ridicule my physique. But after all, I am a bodybuilder and any chance to hold heavy shopping bags and walk next to reflective glass windows as I casually stare are my chiseled physique is a win in my book.
Somehow, someway another Christmas will soon pass us by. We will have all gained some extra weight we’ll need to drop, have spent some quality time with our families, and hopefully not neglected our ritualistic bodybuilding lifestyles too much that we all know and love. Young guys will have probably asked for Gasp t-shirts, new jugs of Isolyze, and the latest LP from Rob Bailey entitled, “Towel Heads, Frontline, Kickin’ Ass, Battle Tested” from Santa. And the older vets of the iron game are probably just happy to have made it out alive for another year; I know I am!
Merry Christmas to all my friends, family, readers, and Rx-ers around the world I hope your holiday season is a bright as mine!
Follow me this holiday season on Twitter, @MattMeinrod