by Cade Thomas
We often hear of “Teams” in bodybuilding, which is a concept I still cannot quite grasp. I don’t quite understand why a competitive athlete in a sport where you are judged alone would want to fore go their unique identity and become a member of a “team”. Sometimes it becomes so borderline culty that it resembles a sorority full of teenage girls (some physically resemble that as well, although the men fit into this description too). First off, I see nothing wrong with embracing the relationship between you and your coach as they can be extremely valuable assets in your progress. However, I think it’s important to remember it’s YOUR physique, and you’re hiring THEM to be on your team; You are not joining a competitive team in any shape or form. They might tell you are, but when you come in 10th place YOU come in 10th place.
So let’s look at the real “team” aspect of bodybuilding and physique competition; your immediate support network and significant other. While some might argue that having two competing athletes living the same lifestyle trying to co-exist as partners is simply too difficult, I don’t think anyone can argue that your partner has to be supportive and interested in your passion to some degree if you wish to succeed both in the gym and at home.
The first glaring issue that will arise if your partner is not comfortable with you pursuing bodybuilding in any form is the most obvious one; Physical. If they don’t care about what they look like enough to put any effort into it, there is almost certainly going to be feelings of jealousy towards you when you start to change in front of them. Even if they won’t admit it, this will make them feel insecure about themselves and your building confidence will not only make them feel bad but also build feelings of worry about you leaving them or “upgrading”. It happens all the time, and it’s hard to avoid. Your partner with whom you used to spend the evenings eating junk food and being soft and flabby will most definitely have feelings of fear in how you feel about their untrained body when you chisel up and become focused on your image, even if you are fully okay with them not participating.
Then there’s the whole can of worms with the opposite sex and how your partner will fear you leavin them for someone who shares your new passion. The body is a very sensitive issue for many people on this planet and sadly it’s the ones who aren’t willing to put any work into theirs who usually get borderline offended by you trying to improve yours. No matter how sensitive you are towards their feelings and reassuring you are that nothing has changed, this is a very difficult tight rope to walk.
I will state that this is not a kiss of death for all couples, but I feel these examples prove true for the vast majority.
It is amazing how much more positive the bodybuilding lifestyle can be if your partner is supportive and encouraging. While not all of us should expect our significant other to cook and prep our meals while we hit lat spreads in the mirror, having your loved one on board with the entire journey makes it truly a “team” experience.
There are going to be times when you start to doubt yourself and there it is no number value you can put on how amazing it is to have someone who pulls you back up because they know how important this is to you. On the other hand, if they resent the lifestyle entirely they might be waiting for you to have these moments of doubt to gently push you towards quitting. Or even worse, sabotage your efforts either through passive aggressive methods or straight up in your face (diet temptations, subtle hints, etc).
One thing that is very important in bodybuilding is to keep yourself grounded and balanced to a degree where your passion is not an extreme hindrance on your relationship, if it is a relationship you truly plan on keeping. Do not be the guy who says you can’t go to the movies because you have to eat. If you know you have an obligation socially, hit the gym in the morning or on the way home from work and eat your food before you leave and have a meal ready when you get back. If you need, have an emergency shake in the car and dip out to slam it down, but don’t make a spectacle of it.
As much I believe we need to keep bodybuilding in check in balance with our relationships, I think we also need to be with someone who supports what we do for us to truly succeed.