As a natural bodybuilder it takes commitment, structure, hard work, consistency, poise and a lot of patience to build a great physique. These basic fundamentals have been proven time and time again. I know that sounds so basic or maybe cliché, but for many of us the fundamentals aren’t easy to comprehend or master, especially in our early years. Not to say all younger bodybuilders struggle with this, but many do indeed struggle. I know I did and it took a few good years to get myself on the right path. What might be equally or even more problematic, are the insecurities we inevitably face. Insecurities that often are a direct result from not having the basics down. Insecurities can be developed because of a lack of knowledge, lack of experience, over eagerness, unrealistic expectations or a lack of patience. These issues not only can steer you down the wrong path, but can also be a thief of enjoyment. I’ve had my fair share of insecurities and now as a coach for the past seven years, I see this all the time with younger bodybuilders (but no one is totally exempt, in some instances I see it with older ones too, including myself). Insecure bodybuilders question their approach and decisions, look for magic bullets, second guess their rate of progress, or get so tied up in their emotions they can’t see the bigger picture. Like I mentioned, I’m not a stranger to insecurity and over the years I’ve had my fair share of moments where I have struggled. I want to share a few of my experiences for those of you who may be struggling to let you know you are not alone and to potentially help you look for the bigger picture.
During my 2011 contest prep I had a day where I fell off the wagon hard. I found my way into a binge where I ate 33 rice cakes in a row. Yes you read that right, 33 rice cakes and all of them were Caramel! But, it wasn’t only rice cakes. By the end of the gluttony it was close to 5,000 calories (well over my 2,000 calorie target). Of course there were physical repercussions. I looked like a hot bloated mess as my cuts evaporated overnight. But, I was more scarred emotionally. To put it simply I felt guilty. It was terrible, I was hard on myself and I wanted to do whatever it took to fix it. That meant doubling up my cardio and lowering my macros over the next few days to make up for it. This was not the most ideal way to handle the situation because I was risking the start of a vicious cycle. Now in hindsight, what I should have done was to simply jump back on the same protocols and keep pressing forward. Or I could have increased my food (from where it was prior to the binge) and reduced my cardio just to keep my head out of water until I was more stable physically and emotionally. But, when I was caught in the moment and experiencing massive guilt, I just wasn’t capable of seeing the bigger picture.
In July of 2013, I tore my right calf on my second set of standing calf raises. At that time, it was the worst training experience I’d had in the 28 years I’d been at the gym. My ego and insecurity got the better of me that day. I started off that workout with squats and they just weren’t feeling right. The loads I should have been able to do felt far too heavy and I wasn’t capable of doing them. I lowered the loads, but still I wasn’t feeling my normal self. Unfortunately, despite feeling this way my fear of not progressing lead the way. I pressed on with leg curls and then eventually during calf raises my body just had enough. My calf gave way and the best way I can describe the feeling is that it was as if someone cut through my calf with a pair of scissors. It took me eleven weeks to heal and another 3-4 months after that to get back to full speed. All could have been prevented if I had listened to my instincts rather than my insecurity. I should have simply walked out of the gym during my squats, rested up and tried again the next day. I would have potentially performed a lot better (racked up more volume), but more importantly I wouldn’t have suffered the injury. My insecurity of losing one day’s worth of progress actually cost me months of progress. Actually, I’m thankful the injury occurred during something like calf raises, or it could have cost me my career.
Now, let me take you to my most recent unpleasant experience where again, insecurity temporarily got the better of me. The past couple of months (mid-January to mid-March) I’ve been following a few natural bodybuilders on Instagram and these guys have been putting in some solid work. From fluff to shreds these guys are getting it done and I found myself analyzing what they were doing. Not necessarily a bad thing at all, as that’s one way I can potentially become better. However, due to my lack of progress at that time (I’m currently prepping) my confidence was low and I was starting to question my methods as an athlete and as a coach. I was asking myself “are their methods better than mine?” “Should I be doing something different?” Now these aren’t bad questions to ask from a place of thoughtful analysis. But, I was asking based off of emotion alone. Insecurity pushed me away from what I knew traditionally worked well for me (’14 I attained my best ever physique and won a pro show) and I incorporated some of the methods these gentlemen were using. Long story short, it backfired. Progress came to halt, I become more frustrated and I lost valuable time. Again, it’s not a bad idea to try new methods (I actually encourage that to potentially better oneself), but my reasoning for the change was way off-base. Changes based on emotions rarely take the bigger picture into consideration. I had a plate full of life stressors at the time and I was working through injuries, I felt like I had a monkey on my back. Once I took a step back, I realized my protocols weren’t the issue, but rather the environment in which I was trying to execute them. I reinstated my methods and focused on getting my life back in harmony and my injuries healed. Unsurprisingly, my progress has been steadily flowing since. I guess the moral of this story is that the grass is not always greener on the other side.
Insecurities are definitely a part of the game and I don’t think we can truly eliminate them altogether. But, we can surely improve the way in which we react to them. Even for me at this stage of my career it’s an ongoing process but, as I’ve gained more and more experience it’s gotten a lot better. About a year ago I made a video on the 3DMJ YouTube channel where I discussed training insecurities and the philosophy I’ve personally used to help ease them. This is a philosophy I’ve prescribed to not only myself, but to my athletes as well as countless others through social media. That philosophy is to view your physique as a savings account (physique account) and striving to make small, but consistent deposits. Every single workout, set and rep, regardless if they are exceptional, good, average or even mediocre are all deposits into your physique account where they have the potential to earn interest. This philosophy has changed the game for me and others when it comes to confidence, reducing anxiety, preventing insecurity and most importantly, helps to prevent rash decision making from stealing your progress or your enjoyment.
My hope is that by sharing my experience and perspective it helps you to find a little more peace and enjoyment along your journey.