by Matt Weik
I’m sure we all have a story to tell about how bodybuilding changed some aspect of our lives. You can even look at some of the IFBB pro bodybuilders and listen to their stories about how bodybuilding saved them. As you sit back and listen to all of the noise going on in our industry, it makes you wonder if anyone thought about, even if just for a second, how much good bodybuilding has done for people. For many, it’s given them an outlet to let out their frustrations. Some it has helped them get off of the streets and out of the gang life. And there are even quite a few who admit it helped them beat their drug or alcohol addiction. I’m going to give you a little bit of my personal story, and in return, I’d love to hear yours.
Where it all started
I was an athlete all my life, yet, didn’t seem to spend a whole heck of a lot of time in the gym. I guess you could say I was naturally talented and gifted in the athletic department? At any rate, it wasn’t until my freshman year of college that I truly got bit by the bodybuilding bug.
For me, bodybuilding wasn’t about competition. Well, let me rephrase that – it was a competition against myself, rather than a competition of standing up on stage in my underwear next to a bunch of dudes. As some of you may know who have been following me, tennis was the one sport I devoted myself to in high school (where I did extremely well) and it’s ultimately what I played in college as well. I knew I wanted to play tennis at a competitive level and see where it would take me. Unfortunately, yet fortunately, injuries got me into the gym to strengthen my nagging and ailing body parts my freshman year of college.
Now, mind you, being a competitive tennis player, I wasn’t walking on the court looking like Arnold. In fact, my freshman year of college I weighed no more than 130 pounds (and I’m 5’8”). This suited me just fine as a tennis player, but when I started realizing the ATP Tour wasn’t exactly on my radar as a career choice, things started to go in a different direction.
Crushed dreams to crushed PRs
With the dream of being a professional athlete thrown out the window, many would have walked away from fitness and would have simply threw their hands up in the air. However, my time in the gym strengthening my body for tennis soon became a love for the gym. It was only natural that after my playing days were over, that my time in the gym would increase – and it did.
I saw dramatic changes in my body fairly quickly, which kept my motivation levels through the roof. I’d find myself spending all of my free time in the gym. You could say I turned into a gym rat. Even with my small build, I found I was unusually strong – much stronger in fact than most of the guys in the gym. It didn’t turn me into an ego-maniac, but rather it drove my motivation to keep pushing harder and harder each workout to break my personal bests.
Now let’s not paint a picture of me as the white version of Ronnie Coleman – I’m nowhere close. However, over the years I have taken my scrawny-ass 130-pound frame and built it into a 200-pound not-so-frail looking dude. I still wouldn’t consider myself big by any stretch of the imagination, yet, being in this industry for so long, I’ve been comparing myself to the behemoths that resemble a He-Man structure. So, I guess I should take the compliments I’m given by those outside of our industry when they say I look big and muscular.
Putting on 70 pounds has been somewhat of a confidence booster. My time spent in the gym these days has changed slightly from back then when I started. You could say I was the normal gym rat who wanted to look good for the ladies, and while I still want to look good, my motivation and desire for the gym has changed.
I’ve built my own gym in my house – that’s how much I love working out. In fact, it takes up damn near my entire basement (1,500 sq. ft.) which I think my wife wants to club me in the head over. I have a free weight area, an area for machines, an ab area, and a section just for cardio. My home gym is made up of dumbbells up to 110, a power rack, smith machine, cable crossover, lat pulldown machine, squat machine, leg press, leg extension, leg curl, preacher bench, calf machine, seated calf machine, row machine, several benches, a treadmill, elliptical, upright bike, recumbent bike, and many different abdominal and lower back machines. You could say my home gym is pretty extensive (it sure beats Planet Fitness). I have a big television in the cardio section to take my mind off how boring cardio can be. I even have my old school XBOX connected for when I’m on the recumbent bike just pedaling away.
These days, I exercise to stay in shape, look good, improve my health and longevity, reduce stress, and be able to keep up with my son as he becomes more active. You could say I got into “bodybuilding” as a lifestyle choice. And while that hasn’t changed, more reasons for my continuance builds. To this day I still look forward to my workouts and I’ve been at it for over 15 years (which depending on your age might not be that long). I enjoy my time in the gym today as much as I did when I first started. To me, it’s fun and enjoyable. I guess you could say there’s pleasure in pain. Yet, I couldn’t see myself doing anything else with my free time.
I’d love to hear your story if you’re willing to share it. Please feel free to comment on this article or on social media and let all of us know how bodybuilding has changed and/or shaped your life. Stay strong my friends!