Parenting and bodybuilding – do they mix?
Yesterday my wife and I drove down to New York City with our daughter Marisa to move her into her college dorm, where theoretically she will spend the next four years studying Interior Design. The day and night before that, we’d hosted a going-away party for her at our house.
It was both a happy and a sad occasion. On one hand, we’re very excited that our little girl is growing up and expanding her horizons. All of us who have gone to college recall what an exciting and novel experience it was: new places, new faces, etc. It’s like a whole new world opens up to you, especially if you live on campus. It was also sad, because our little girl is no longer here at home with us. And as any parent knows, that’s a bit scary too. We are so used to tracking our kids’ every movement and knowing where they are at all times and with who, and now they are off on their own, unsupervised and responsible for where they go, who they go with, how late they stay out, etc. But we have to be confident that we’ve done as good a job as we could raising them to be responsible, so that we can trust they will make the right decisions. Of course they won’t always. I think back to my first year of college, across the country in Santa Barbara, CA. Did I do some stupid things? You bet I did! The fact that I got straight A’s was more due to my photographic memory and writing skills than being a diligent student. Not to say that all I did was party, because I generally reserved that for the weekends.
Anyway, on the roughly four-hour drive back to Boston, I had a lot of time to ponder this whole parenting thing. Many of you reading this are parents, and many of you are not. Of those of you who are not parents, some of you will be eventually either by choice or circumstance, and some of you will never have children – again either intentionally or unintentionally.
I work in an industry of professional and amateur athletes in bodybuilding, fitness, Figure, Bikini, and Physique. For the purposes of our discussion, I’m just going to lump them all into the category of ‘bodybuilding.’ Bodybuilding is just about the most selfish sport there is, mainly because it’s the most demanding in terms of what you do 24/7.
To be the best bodybuilder you can possibly be, your priories must be your own training, eating, and rest. At first that doesn’t sound so involved to the outside observer, so let me be a bit more clear.
Your training includes your weight training workouts and your cardio sessions. Not only can they not be missed, but you must put out your best effort. Your meals and your rest are intimately connected to this. If you have missed meals or eaten things you shouldn’t have, and if you haven’t slept enough, either will have a negative impact on the workout. The meals need to the right foods at the right intervals before the workout to provide ample fuel to train your hardest, and your meals afterward also need to be optimal so you can recover and grow – otherwise the workout was a waste of time and effort. Did I mention that since you have to eat clean, those meals, often six every day, all need to be cooked too?
The same goes for your rest. You need to be rested to have the energy to train hard, and you must get adequate rest to recover and grow from the workout.
The thing is, when you’re a parent, a good parent I mean, your needs can’t come first. The needs of your children – their health and welfare – must take priority. Obviously, children are most helpless and need the most attention and care as infants when they can’t even do things like eat, bathe, or get dressed by themselves. Then there are diapers to be constantly changed! Things get easier in one sense as they get a little older, but then you have new responsibilities: taking them to school and picking them up, shuttling them around to doctors, dentists, friends’ houses, sports practices and games, music or martial arts lessons and classes, etc. You can’t just up and go anywhere without them, say to a contest or a far-off gym; without first figuring out who will be able to watch your kid or kids and get them to all the places they need to be. Childless people often have no concept that the ability to just up and go somewhere, as long as you don’t have to work, is foreign to parents. We don’t go anywhere, ever, without first thinking, “what about the kids?”
Do I ever envy that freedom? Sure I do! For a minute. I wouldn’t trade places though. I love my kids to death and can’t even fathom what my life would be like without them in it.
So, can you be a bodybuilder with kids? Of course you can. Plenty of people who compete are parents. But they have the additional challenge of arranging all those workouts and meals around the schedules of their kids, and dealing with unexpected things like illness, troubles at school, issues staying in their own bed and crawling into yours, and so on. That’s why I give a lot of credit to all the parents out there who still manage to look great. I know many times it’s the mom who does the most for the kids while the dad has more leeway to do ‘his thing’ as a bodybuilder. And some moms have their mom, or their husband or boyfriend helping out a lot so she can have the time to train and eat.
So to all the single parents out there, mostly moms I know but there are also some dads doing it solo, I take my hat off to you. You are living proof that there are no excuses, and anyone can look amazing if they want it badly enough and are willing to be creative in managing their time.
To all of you who are childless and bodybuilding, I’m sure you too have your struggles in life to deal with. But only the other parents out there know what I mean when I say that with kids in the equation, it’s a whole other world – as many of you will discover yourself eventually!