4 Lessons I Learned from Bodybuilding

Bodybuilding is a niche sport.  When people are asked to visualize a bodybuilder, I can pretty much guarantee they aren’t picturing me!  Most people will think of Arnold Schwarzenegger or some other barrel chested dude amped up on steroids.  But women do this sport too, as I discovered accidently a few years ago.

There are all sorts of divisions you can enter based on age, height and your physique presence.  I decided to go for the bikini division.  Bikini = toned + sexy + feminine.

I never played sports growing up.  I was a theatre geek, had two left feet and was always chosen last in gym class.  I decided to enter the sport that required hours of heavy strength training, cardio, plus a very regimented meal plan based on food science, knowing full well I’d have to stand on stage in 5″ heels and a bikini next to other bikini-clad women to be judged on my physique.  I decided to enter this competition with no competitive sports background, at age 38 and 50 lbs. overweight.  I cannot even begin to tell you how many of my friends and family said, “Wait, what!?!” but nothing was going to stop me.

It was one of the best decisions of my life.  Here are…

4 Lessons I Learned from Bodybuilding

1. Change is possible.

Like a lot of women in their late 30’s, I had tried it all: yo-yo diets, “cleanses,” pre-packaged foods, exercise videos, running, and giving up/eating chips in defeat.  Before I did my first bodybuilding competition I told myself that the reason why I never had the body I wanted was because I was too old, my metabolism was too slow, and the strain of pregnancy had forever rendered me frumpy.

The process of training for the show destroyed all my pre-conceived (and false) notions.  At age 38, and despite two C-sections, I could lose the weight that was hanging on me; I could re-shape my entire physique in a relatively short amount of time.  (It took me five months to lose 50 lbs.)

Think of bodybuilding actors like The Rock.  Do you think he was born that way?  Of course not!  It took concerted effort to grow those guns, but that’s all it took.  And actors and bodybuilders can change their physique, so can you.

The before-during-after of my first competition


2.  Food is more important than exercise.

When people think of bodybuilders, they probably think of people lifting heavy weights.  Don’t get me wrong – exercise is very important, and while training for a show you can easily spend up to two hours a day in a gym.  But here’s the thing…what about the other 22 hours?  A good portion of that time is spent eating clean and avoiding junk food.

Food prep!

There is quite a bit of science to the bodybuilding diet, namely you eat six times per day and your meals have calculated portions of proteins, carbohydrates and healthy fats (called macronutrients).  The slightest adjustment in your macros can affect your mood and cause you to gain or lose several pounds over the course of three days.  Still not convinced that food is more important to physique than exercise?  Think of it like this:  you can have the strongest abs in the world but if there is a snuggly layer of fat around your midsection, how is anyone going to see them?  The saying is true, “abs are made in the kitchen, not the gym.”

3.  No one cares about your excuses.

This was a tough lesson to learn (I had a lot of excuses) but it is applicable to life in general.  See, people care about results not your back story.  When you walk on stage to be judged, you are an anonymous person standing next to another stranger.

Comparisons at the Arnold

No one knows (or cares) that you have four kids and therefore messed up on your diet several times to accommodate for birthday parties, or that she survived breast cancer last year and thus had to stop working her chest muscles after surgery.  The judges go down a list of criteria (arms, abs, legs, back, glutes, etc.) and compare what they see in front of them that day, in that very moment.  It’s harsh, but liberating too, because success is based upon results.

4. Go hard or go home.

Do you ever just ‘dial it in’? Like when you’re in the office and you don’t really feel like working so you cut and paste whatever you wrote for last month’s report into the current one and go back to texting on your phone? (Hypothetically, of course.)

Me giving birth to biceps
Me giving birth to biceps

When you ‘dial it in’ during show prep (by cheating on your meal plan, not lifting heavy or skipping workouts) you’re not hurting anyone but yourself.  Even at the amateur level, there is cost involved to bodybuilding.  Money spent on trainers, posing suits and entry fees are only the beginning.  It costs you time that could be spent doing something else and time is one thing that you never get back, so make your time training count.

How about you?  Have you ever thought about entering a bodybuilding competition?  Lots of them now have divisions called Transformation, where you enter to lose weight and change your lifestyle in the process.  I had one client, a mother of five (!) who recently won 2nd place in a transformation competition.

I’ve been bodybuilding for the better part of a decade now and never looked back.  I recently won an international sports model competition in Costa Rica…at age 43.  Don’t let age or motherhood hold you back.  You can do this too if you go for it.  Whether you want to step on stage to compete or just train like a bodybuilder, I hope you’ll consider giving this quirky little sport a try.  It could change your life.

Lisa 😉

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Lisa Traugott is a Mom’s Choice Award winning writer, published author, fitness blogger, wife and mom of two….and Original Cast Member of AMERICAN GRIT, starring John Cena, on FOX!

ShesLosingIt.com (c) 2012-2017 Lisa Traugott. All rights reserved. No portion of this blog, including any text, photographs, video, and artwork, may be reproduced or copied without written permission.


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