The Recreational Bodybuilder

I’m writing this article on a very personal level because I consider myself a recreational bodybuilder as I’ve never had the deep desire to compete in bodybuilding. To be honest I know that I don’t have the genetics to even get close to the Mr. Olympia stage. But that doesn’t change my love for bodybuilding and lifting weights; I feel I’m as passionate about it as most competitors.

I think that describes the majority of us gym rats around the world. Regardless of whether we compete or not we love lifting, we love taking supplements, we love seeing the changes in our body, and we love the way pushing weights makes us feel. Most of us also follow a healthy nutrition plan and know the importance of getting plenty of protein in our diet. But even as non-competitive recreational bodybuilders it can still be difficult to balance our bodybuilding lifestyle with everyday life.

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The Extreme Lifestyle of Bodybuilding

There’s nothing or no one that can dispute the fact that bodybuilding is an extreme lifestyle if you’re serious about your physique. This is especially true during those few months before a bodybuilding competition for those who compete. But even recreational bodybuilders live a lifestyle that’s far from the norm. There’s a ton of discipline and determination that goes into pushing weights, getting bigger, stronger and dropping body fat percentages.

For starters, we don’t train like normal people; we train with fierce intensity will a specific goal in mind. A lot of people can’t grasp why I wake up when it’s still dark and hit the gym at 5AM every morning. The same goes for those of you who train a night after a long, stressful day at work while everyone else goes home to vegge out in front of the TV. In today’s fast-paced society there are hundreds of excuses people make to not workout.

There’s also the aspect of nutrition and bodybuilding supplements. Now I will admit that part of being a recreational bodybuilder there’s not a huge demand to go through the extreme contest dieting that competitors go through. But that doesn’t mean we don’t go through phases of eating and training to get ripped. And the amount of protein and food in general that we have to eat in order for our muscles to grow and recover is again, far from the norm.

Most of us recreational bodybuilders also take supplements which often equates to what or electric bill is (or in some cases more than that). While everyone else is complaining about the economy we make a way to fit our protein powders, multi-vitamins, pre and post workout formulas, BCAAs, creatine, and so forth into our budget.

With all that being said it’s still a balancing act that we have to perform to be involved in our bodybuilding lifestyle while handling the everyday responsibilities and commitments of life. For competitive bodybuilders, the commitment is even greater. The truth is many recreational bodybuilders lift weights and follow the bodybuilding lifestyle with just as much intensity as those that compete; we don’t take the weights lightly (no pun intended!)

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Tips on Balancing the Bodybuilding Lifestyle and Everyday Life

Despite our passion for the weights most of us aren’t in this for the goal of alienating everyone around us that do not share the same love for bodybuilding. And we also have responsibilities such as careers, a spouse, families, friends, and perhaps other activities we enjoy. For example, I have all of those plus I’m also a musician and songwriter (mostly metal), and music is my number one passion. But I still train hard 5 to 6 days a week, take supplements and stick to a basic bodybuilding type of nutrition plan.

I’m able to handle all of my responsibilities to my job and the people around me, pursue my music, and still live the life of a recreational bodybuilder. I’d now like to share of few tips on how I do that and hopefully this will help some of you if you struggle in this area.

> Workout Times – This is a big one so I’ll spend a bit more time on it. Since I have a 9-5 office job (at least at the time writing this article), I find that training early mornings are more beneficial. I’m in the gym at 5AM and usually home a little after 6:30AM. There are days I may have to go into work earlier so I cater my workout schedule accordingly. The downfall is I have to be in bed by 9:30-10PM but I’m ok with that. There was a time many years ago where it was not feasible for me to go back home after the gym so I brought my work clothes with me each morning and got ready for work at the gym.

Some of you may work different shifts or you may not be an early morning person, which my recommendation to you is to bring your gym clothes to work and go straight to the gym after work. This eliminates that extra time it would take going home, getting ready then going to the gym (aka – more family time or time for other activities). I’ll add that one of the main reasons I chose early mornings years ago was so my family and other people in my life wouldn’t be affected by my workout schedule. Another benefit is there’s usually no huge gym crowd at 5AM.

> Gym Choices – This goes with the first tip but if possible, choose a gym that grants you 24/7 access. This simply gives you more options and flexibility so that you can always get a workout in no matter what. Maybe it’s a Saturday and you had to go in the office but you also want to have dinner with your family or friends, but the gym closes at 6PM. If you have 24/7 access this will never be an issue. 24/7 gyms are extremely popular these days and are popping up all over the place.

> Nutrition and Meal Planning – This is a tough one for many of us especially for recreational bodybuilders. Competition gives some that extra edge needed to be strict with their diet. If there’s no competition it’s sometimes easier to fall short in the area of nutrition. What I do is I have a list of foods written down (which is now in my head) that I know are good for building muscle and I somewhat plan out my meals during the week. Most people don’t plan to fail, rather they fail to plan. And if you don’t plan out some sort of nutrition guide it’s real easy to fail in this area.

Being a non competitive bodybuilder, I don’t eat strict all the time; my personal rule is stick to a semi-strict meal plan during the week and be more lenient on the weekends. This doesn’t mean I eat pizza and ice cream 6 times a day on Saturdays and Sundays. But I may dine out a few times during the weekend and yes, pizza is usually included in that at least once.

> Buying SupplementsBodybuilding supplements can add up real quick. There’s so many to choose from and new supplements are coming out all the time. Most of us have probably gone through times where we bought a truck load of supplements only to be disappointed in the results after a month or so. On the flip side I’ve gone through a time or two where I didn’t take anything; the result was my workouts weren’t as intense and my recovery wasn’t as good. That being said, I believe supplements do work if everything else is in check. My recommendation is first of all, don’t break the bank to buy a bunch of supplements. +

Secondly, stick with the basic tried and true supplements that have been proven to work. Third, find a reputable supplement company and do your own research, read reviews and such. I have a small hand full of supplement companies I stick with and my supplement plan is very basic.

I stick with a good protein powder, multi-vitamins, pre and post workout formulas (which include BCAAs, creatine, arginine, etc), and I leave myself room to always try another type of muscle building supplement. For example, right now I’m trying out Universal Nutrition’s GH Max. Before that I was trying out a natural testosterone boosting supplement (Animal Test) which I’ll probably go back to at some point.

When I find something that works I’ll either stay on it longer or cycle it off and on with something else. But I always keep the basics as I stated earlier, which are fairly inexpensive and I know they work. There’s no need to blow half your paycheck on fancy supplements.

These are just a few tips on balancing your passion as a recreational bodybuilder and everyday life. Bodybuilding can seem to consume your entire being and although it is a 24/7 lifestyle it doesn’t have to be the only thing that’s important in your life. You can still train hard, eat good, and take supplements while maintaining your other responsibilities in life as well as your relationships with the ones you love.

We all know the positive impact bodybuilding and fitness in general has on our lives and our overall well-being. But if we’re not careful it can also become an obsession that has a negative impact on us and those around us. I hope this article helps someone who may have trouble balancing life and recreational bodybuilding.

Train with Passion,

Jason Stallworth

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