This article is dedicated to the silent grinders and their hustle. May their hard work and dedication always serve as a reminder that greatness is not achieved overnight, but as a result of the little things done right day in and day out.
There’s something to be said when you enter a spartan gym. I’m talking about a dungeon-like feel where the air is thick and hot. You hear the occasional grunts capped off with an audible clanking of weights. The equipment has character, with broken seams and chipped paint. The floor littered with drops of sweat leave a trail like breadcrumbs to a face that’s fierce and focused. To most, this would be obscene to see at your local gym. For some, it’s just home.
Outside Looking In
Bodybuilding plays an interesting role in our modern era. In the age of Instagram, millions connect to catch glimpses of greatness and have hopes to perpetuate their own. Followers are like currency to todays competitor, for it lends to their potential marketability in the eyes of sponsors.
It’s no wonder the global health and fitness industry generates more than 80 billion dollars annually and 28 billion in the US alone. The US supplement industry alone boasts another 37 billion to boot. Thanks to the likes of Facebook and Instagram, we can connect with these celebrities and models. We can see what they do and what they use in our attempts to emulate their physiques.
For most of us, we are merely voyeurs of the industry. We peruse zounds of images, double-tapping and commenting on the ones that form our version of ‘ideal.’ Whether it’s bikini, figure, men’s physique, or bodybuilding, we barrage ourselves with images of the sexy, strong and defined.
Bodybuilding Struggles and Realities
But what about the other side? What about those battling for relevance in an ever-expanding industry? Bodybuilding has seen so much growth in recent years, that new categories are being created to find a place for the demand. With the integration of social media, it only makes sense that the sport is growing exponentially. Now you can’t just have a great physique, but you have to have the following and social presence to match.
Assuming you have your pro card, the average IFBB pro makes less than six figures. Couple that with all the expenses: food, supplements, coaching, entrance fees, spray tan costs, travel, etc. It’s no wonder most competitors don’t quit their day job: they can’t afford to!
Aside from the financial stress, these individuals are exposing themselves in the most challenging ways. Most of us wouldn’t post a photo if we didn’t look good, but imagine standing in a room filled with strangers scrutinizing every inch of your body. That could be motivation, but I think more like traumatizing. That kind of onus could easily be mistaken for narcissism, but I believe it’s everything but.
Your mentality as a practitioner and competitor has to be one of complete and utter discipline. Dealing with things like fasted training and no carb days seem like insanity, but these are just some of the tactics used to build a phenomenal body. The time constraints of eating 5-7 times a day, prepping those meals, weighing your food, and tracking your macros daily makes quick work of the posers and wannabes. If you really want to weed out the charlatans, just suggest the idea of a ‘no alcohol’ policy.
For those seeking pro cards or working towards one, this is a 365 day season with no days off. It’s you vs. you when facing the question: “Can you bring a better package?” There is no substitute for hard work in an industry where the slackers are exposed. When you go under those lights, there is no team to hide behind. You either bring it or you lose, it’s that simple.
So when I say this sport is filled with some of the most dedicated and focused individuals, I’m barely even scratching the surface. The amount of people I’ve met who’ve seen success on the professional stage and remain grounded and real is enamoring. The amount of sacrifice required, which would leave a lesser to buckle under it’s weight, makes them bolder and humbler in their struggle.
This is not the dark sport the industry would like to paint, nor is it the perpetuation of narcissism. It’s the culmination of diligence and ability to endure the silent hustle in the shadows. A hustle that, once revealed, leaves one grateful, humbled and all of us in awe.