Bodybuilding and Fitness Role Models?
Ronnie Coleman. Susie Curry. Andrula Blanchette. They were the big winners in their respective Olympias this year. Are they role models? Most definitely. I am not one who adheres to the Charles “I’m not a role model” Barkley theory of setting an example and representing your sport. When a professional athlete signs on the dotted line to play for pay, they have voluntarily thrust themselves into the public eye. With that choice comes a responsibility to your chosen sport and those who may look up to you, young or old. But here’s a big difference between bodybuilding and fitness, and any other sport. You don’t have to be a top pro with an endorsement contract to be recognizable.
Think about it. When was the last time you were out in public and said, “Hey there’s that minor league baseball player” or thought “Isn’t that the wide receiver for the 97th ranked college football team in the country”? But if Sammy Sosa or Dan Marino happened to be sitting next to you in a restaurant, that would be a different story. Now let’s take a look at bodybuilding and fitness. If you walk down the street and you’re muscularly bigger than the average or much better conditioned, guess what? You are often publicly recognized as an athlete in this sport, even if you’ve never stepped foot on a contest stage. You wear your sport every day, everywhere you go. Like it or not, your body thrusts you into the public eye, not a huge multi-million dollar contract.
Let me use myself as an example.
I’m about 5-7 and in the off-season, I go about 205, contest condition in the 180s. Yes, I’m bigger and more conditioned than the average guy, but by no means huge by bodybuilding standards. Let’s put it this way. I’ve trained next to guys like Lee Priest, Flex and Dexter Jackson. And, being very kind to myself, no one would have known I was there! I am also the type that stays covered year round until they tell my class to go backstage and get ready. Whether in the gym or at a restaurant, I don’t show a whole lot of skin.
So that brings me to the other day. I was coming out of a brokerage company –a business setting – and some guy comes up to me and comments on my being a bit larger than average and then asks me about steroids, out of the blue. I, of course, tell him that I don’t use or sell drugs, thank him for the compliment and get on with the day. As I drive off I realize that even all covered up, people take notice of anything out of ordinary. And in a society where the obesity rate has been on the rise for years, a muscular or conditioned body stands out.
Fitness role models have the power to create a positive experience.
But here’s the important part that I’d really like you to think about. As you go about your day you are probably being recognized as a representative of your sport even when you aren’t really aware of it. When people approach you and comment or ask a question, you can choose to create a positive experience or a negative experience for that person. There are already many negative stereotypes out there about people with muscles related to aggression and brainpower. So each interaction is an opportunity to create positive feelings about your sport.
When that guy approached me I had a choice to act arrogant and aggressive or polite and positive. That’s why I chose to thank him for the compliment, rather than get into some negative dialogue about steroids and stereotypes. I also told him, without any judgment or lecturing, that steroids hadn’t been necessary for me to get this way. And maybe he would find that he didn’t need them either. Who knows, maybe it sunk in, maybe not. But either way, I know one thing for certain. He could not have walked away from that brief interaction and thought anything negative about me as a person, or as an athlete.
So, the next time that someone comes up and pays you a sincere compliment about your body think about the power you have to create positive impressions, not negative ones. And, of course, as you represent your sport positively you are, probably more importantly, representing yourself in a way you can be proud of.