Why I Quit Bodybuilding For A Healthy Lifestyle
'I Quit Bodybuilding And Now I'm Stronger Than Ever Before'
When I was 23, I decided to get serious about fitness. My goal: to look good naked. And I knew I needed more than just the elliptical for that.
I hadn’t done much lifting outside of some and I had no idea how to build a program for myself. I didn’t want to risk getting injured, so I hired a trainer. I loved the look of bikini competitors, so he started training me like one.
When I was working with him, I followed everything he said—even when it came to nutrition. I ate plain chicken, rice, and veggies all the time, because that’s what he told me to eat. I wouldn’t season anything or even switch up the protein unless he approved of it. I never competed in actual competitions, but I liked the challenge of the lifestyle.
For three years, I happily endured his hardcore training, but in 2019, I found myself bored of the “one muscle group a day” routine. I wanted a challenge, so I decided I would try a new sport or training approach every month. There was a lot of fuss around CrossFit at the time—it seemed like such a cult. So naturally, I was intrigued. That February, I decided to give it a try.
At first, I was a little worried about losing all my gains from bodybuilding. There was so much cardio/conditioning in CrossFit. But I figured I’d stick with it for a month like I’d planned, and it wouldn’t be too hard to earn back those gains if it happened.
The conditioning was so freaking hard. I wanted a challenge, and I definitely found it. After a few weeks, though, I was finishing the WODs (that's CrossFit lingo for "workout of the day") slightly less out of breath, and all the mobility work was helping me feel less stiff. Almost immediately, my plan to try a different workout every month went out the window. I was hooked on CrossFit.
I started learning that my body was capable of doing so much more than just looking good. Since I wasn't staring at a mirror during Crossfit, like I did during bodybuilding, I was suddenly less distracted. I stopped worrying about what I looked like while I was lifting, and started focusing more on how I was feeling, how I was breathing, and how my form felt when my muscles were engaged.
My mobility increased tremendously within six months—during my bodybuilding phase, I never stretched, just contracted my muscles, and I’d walk around stiff as a board. In CrossFit, they make you use bands and PVC pipes to open your joints before every workout. Suddenly I could do so much more; I had never felt stronger.
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When I was bodybuilding, I used free weights and machines at the gym, and I aways did steady cardio after my workout sessions. But CrossFit is different. CrossFit boxes (that's what they call their gyms) don't have machines, so you learn how to use your body to get faster, stronger, and more agile.
My training schedule looks like this: Sunday through Friday, I do Olympic lifts, gymnastics, and high-intensity workouts. On Fridays and Sundays, I focus specifically on conditioning.
Saturdays are my rest day, but recovery is definitely one of my biggest struggles. I enjoy working out, so in the beginning, I often overdid it. Now, I schedule in rest days and get a sports massage or take ice baths frequently.
Learn how to fix your form in common strength moves:
Diet has always been the biggest challenge for me. Four months into CrossFit, I realized I had no idea how to eat to fuel this new program. I started working with a nutrition coach who taught me to track macros, and it helped with my energy and my recovery. Her plan was pretty loose, though, and when I realized I needed something a little more strict, I switched over to Renaissance Periodization (RP), which is what I still use now.
RP includes a variety of eating plans, depending on your goals. So if you have a tough afternoon workout for example, your plan would have you eat more carbs before and after you exercise. And on rest days, you'll eat a bit less, since your body doesn't need as much fuel.
The plans are pretty intense, but, no matter what, I never, ever pass up my Friday coconut cream donut from Doughnut Plant!
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Finding CrossFit changed everything. I never thought I would care more about how I felt than how I looked. Don’t get me wrong—I loved bodybuilding when I was doing it. But swapping the mirror for the timer helped me get stronger, physically and mentally. People would always say, “Your body is going to slow down when you hit 30.” I hit the marker last year, and now that statement just makes me laugh—my body has never felt better.
I think the biggest byproduct is my endurance. In June 2019, after I had been doing CrossFit for four months, I did a Spartan race with a few friends. We had done another race a couple months before and I was struggling through most of it, but this time, I sped through it. My friends were struggling to keep up. When we got to the end, one turned to me and said, “Whatever you’re doing, it’s working!” That was definitely the little ego boost I needed to confirm I was on the right path.
Related: 'I Tried Jumping Rope Every Day For 2 Weeks—Here's What Happened'
LULU’S NUMBER ONE TIP
Start today. Everyone’s journey is different, but just because it takes you longer to achieve a goal than someone else doesn't mean you're any better or worse than the person next to you. Putting something off because you "can't do it" will not make that skill any better. Learn to #embracethesuck and crush your goals.
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