Healthy and Fit?
– A guest article by Mary Lee (Maddog) Keith
What is your perception of healthy and fit?
Well did I ever learn a lot about those words from competitive bodybuilding. I dabbled in the sport, or as some would say the art, for a brief time in the year 2000.
I met a former bodybuilder at the local gym where I worked out who expressed an interest in training me for competition. The training was intense; six days a week for two hours per day and consisted of heavy lifting with some cardio thrown in. The diet was primarily comprised of protein and extremely restrictive.
But I thrived and proceeded to build a bodybuilder’s body that I always believed was healthy and fit.
Two months out from the contest I came down with a vicious flu that stole four pounds from my already small frame. I never did recover that weight.
As the contest drew closer, I proceeded to cut weight and lean out. Regrettably there was not much science employed to accomplish this and because of my genetics, I dropped too much weight, too fast and too early.
A couple of days before the contest the final preparation began. First, all fluids were withdrawn which resulted in extreme dehydration in order to accentuate vascularity and define the muscles (I remember that my kidneys ached) followed by the white rice carb load to puff the muscles up.
As I stood before the mirror finalizing the body painting and sobbing because I was positive that my hard earned muscle had all but disappeared (it didn’t), I heard that little voice in the back of my head ask “are you sure this is what healthy and fit looks like?”. My perception of how I looked was so skewed.
I weighed in at a mere 95.5 pounds, the lightest of the whole group. I felt so exhausted yet so exhilarated. I was ripped and ready to go but I felt that I was living on adrenaline. Believe it or not, the contest was almost anticlimactic and went off without a hitch.
I recently looked up the definitions of healthy and fit. The dictionary describes these words basically as having full strength and vigor as well as freedom from disease and in good health.
After the contest these words definitely did not describe me. I was extremely lean and did not gain back much weight for close to a year. My immune system crashed and, to my shock, routine test results came back abnormal. I was deeply fatigued.
Looking back I am grateful for the experience, however, my view of what it means to be healthy and fit has been forever changed. I recognize that there have been advancements in the science, nutrition and coaching in the sport of bodybuilding but if I could do it again, I don’t know that I would.
I am still the dedicated athlete I was but these days I incorporate into my training a balance of strength work, skill work and aerobic/anaerobic work, good nutrition, plenty of rest and most importantly a great coach. I now know what it means to be healthy and fit but I still periodically revisit my perception of what that means.