Stay away from the pasta…I mean, “Do as the Romans do”. Yes, I know. It is an old, cheesy, worn out cliché. You have probably heard it said a gazillion times in your life, right? Even still, I am going to appeal to the slightly less than cheesy lobe of your brain with just these same words of wisdom.
Let’s start by interpreting the meaning of these ancient words. My interpretation (and trust me, my interpretations can be, let’s say, “Creative”?) incorporates words like: adapt, overcome, persevere, adjust, fit, alter, change, modify, vary, etc, etc. To be a successful Roman you need to speak, act, eat, sleep and think like a Roman.
“So what does that have to do with bodybuilding?” you ask. Well, just about everything. You could attempt the tried and true method of learning how to become a successful bodybuilder through trial and error. More than likely this will create more confusion and frustration than actual progress. Or you could follow the advice offered by the reigning, un-tested (wink-wink, nudge-nudge) bodybuilding champ whose blood chemistry looks nothing like yours. Or you could follow your gym buddy. You know, the guy who could compete if he wanted to (of course, he just doesn’t want to).
Unfortunately, this is where most of us started (yours truly included). We are foolish enough to believe that we just need to work harder. My friends, bodybuilding is usually not a place where you have to worry about that. Ninety percent of all the people I have met in the gym (bodybuilder or not) work plenty hard. The problem is that they aren’t usually working very smart. Two hour marathon workouts, candy bars and sugar disguised as supplements, poor nutrition, skipping meals, lack of sleep and numerous other transgressions are stunting the progress of millions. So what do you do?
Success, like everything else in the world, has a recipe. The right ingredients need to be mixed together in the right amounts at the right time. The formula needs to be followed meticulously to achieve the desired results. You can’t put the ingredients for an apple pie into the oven and expect it come out peach cobbler. Most of us are living like this.
You need the recipe, but where do you find it? I’m going to hit you with another cliché. “Choose your mentors wisely”. No truer words could be spoken. The idea here is to find the successful people (the people that are doing the things that you want to do and living the life that you want to lead) and copy what they do. I know, you’re thinking about that bodybuilding champ I mentioned earlier, right? You need to think about what he is doing first. Remember, I said you must follow the recipe exactly. You cannot leave out ingredients or steps.
You are better off finding a mentor who has helped numerous other people reach their goals as opposed to one who has only reached his own. You cannot argue with a proven track record. Just because someone is a bodybuilding champ doesn’t necessarily qualify him to be a good mentor (although it doesn’t negate it either). There are plenty of WNBF pros who are successful in both areas. A mentor does not have to be a ten time world champion to be a great teacher or guru. Your job is to make sure that you have the right guy.
Most of the top WNBF pros have sought help along the way. My career was dead in the water until I swallowed my pride and hired WNBF pro and nutrition guru Dr. Joe Klemczewski to handle my nutrition. I’ll try not to bore you with a “personal experience” story, but bear with me just the same.
I was all geared up to compete in the INBF Hercules in June of 2003. I felt confident that I would win my pro card at this super pro qualifier. Why wouldn’t I feel confident? I had won the bantamweight class at the INBF New England Championships and placed well in every contest I had entered up to that point. I had a growing, successful personal training business and had put numerous clients on stage. I felt that I was coming into my own and was making a mark in the industry.
I had about a dozen loyal followers make the trip to New York City to watch me in my glory. I wanted all of my family and friends to see me during my moment in the sun.
Bring on the rain clouds! My moment in the sun turned out to be an embarrassment. I got my butt handed to me. I think I came in 12 out of 13 (something like that). As I’m sure you can understand that was a horrible feeling. But, without that shot of humility, I may never have realized that I needed help. I may never have made the best phone call of my life to Dr. Joe.
During the four hour trip home to Boston I did a lot of soul searching. I took my ego out of the equation and, for the first time, analyzed my weaknesses. Upon arriving home I started my research immediately. I had been introduced to Dr. Joe in New York and had heard amazing stories. After further investigation (boy, the cop in me is really starting to show), I found that Dr. Joe had a track record a mile long of clients of his that had earned their pro cards. That was it for me. I made that fateful phone call the day after returning from New York.
What’s the moral of the story? Four months later I won my pro card on the same stage. I also beat four competitors that had destroyed me in June. And, now you get to read my articles in Natural Bodybuilding and Fitness (lucky you ☺).
You need to find the experts in their respective areas. If nutrition is your vice, seek out the top nutrition guy (you know my thoughts on that one). If posing is a problem, find the best, most prolific posing teachers. The same goes for training, mental toughness, finances, careers, parenting, school, anything.
One of the reasons that this subject is on my mind is that we are in preparation for Nancy Andrews’ Pro Series Weekend Seminar. I have been fortunate enough to be involved for the last 3 years. I cannot believe what an amazing opportunity this is. A lot of the top pros along with various experts will be there all at the same time. You can cram a lifetime of knowledge into two days. These are the types of events that you want to take advantage of. Attend seminars and posing classes. Read books and articles from the proven experts. And, ask the pros who their mentors are.
I was having a discussion with Dr. Joe while we were pumping up backstage at the recent WNBF Pro World Championships. Luis Santiago approached us and introduced himself. He proceeded to thank Dr. Joe for an article that he wrote about contest preparation and water manipulation that had been helpful to him. He then walked out on stage and captured the lightweight World Championship title. I would offer that his quest for knowledge is one of the main reasons he is so successful.
By utilizing someone else’s knowledge you will dramatically reduce the time that it takes to reach the top. Be vigilant in acquiring more knowledge and, by the way, pass the fettuccini alfredo!
Bill Murphy is a WNBF pro, certified personal trainer, motivational speaker and president of High & Tight Fitness Systems. He can be contacted for consultations or speaking engagements at firstname.lastname@example.org