Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Straddling Two Realities

When we're kids, we don't seem to have a very difficult time making friends. Most of us are in constant contact with other children our age at daycare and school. We get to be friends with the children of our parents' friends, our neighbors, and the other kids at the park. We don't give much thought to similarities or differences at that point; it's just fun to play with someone else, especially if they have the same interests.

As we get older, we tend to gravitate into cliques in school. Social groups start to form based on sports, clubs, and classes. We start spending time with people who have some similar interests and abilities, and start to lose touch with former friends as we grow and change.

As adults, our friendships formulate in the office and in any other activities we're involved in. Most of the time, the activities and interests don't dictate a drastic lifestyle or diet, so people from different backgrounds have no issues spending time together over a glass of wine, or a backyard barbeque. At this point, our friendships are varied - we may still have friends from childhood, high school, college, former workpaces, and other geographical locations. I call this the "Normal Life."

And then there's the "Competitor's Life."

While physique competitors may have some Normal friendships, most also have a large number of Competitor friends. What's the difference? Normal friendships are based on the things I mentioned earlier - childhood, stages in life, workplace, hobbies. Competitor friendships are based on a shared interest in a Competitive Physique lifestyle. Which can be very different than a Normal lifestyle.

One of my biggest struggles is straddling these two lives. I've been a Competitor for 4 years. For 3-6 months out of the year, I dieted and trained for a show. I lived and breathed the Figure, Fitness, and Bodybuilding world. Most of my thoughts revolved around the show, my training, and my diet. I was focused, dedicated, and consumed by my preparation to compete. I stuck to a very strict diet, I put myself through rigorous training, and lived either at work or at the gym. I limited my social activities, mostly because I didn't feel well a lot of the time or because I needed to train. I narrowed my sphere of influence and contact.

The remainder of the year, I lived a Normal life. I gained 20 lbs, I ate whatever and whenever I wanted, I went out with friends, I went to Happy Hour, and I trained sporadically. I talked about things other than competing and diet, and didn't worry about trying to fit my next meal in around a trip to the mall.

Where's the balance between these two worlds? I see two extremes, each having their own purpose. I remember being so upset last year that I couldn't just be "Normal." If I ate pasta, my body retained a lot of water the next day and my feet swelled. If I didn't go to the gym, I got antsy and impatient. If I ate a couple cookies, I immediately felt sluggish. While doing all of the things I couldn't do during contest prep was fun, most of the things just made me feel gross, bloated, and fat. I was so frustrated that I couldn't live a Normal life and eat whatever I wanted without gaining weight.

I've since changed my life drastically. I met the love of my life (who also happens to be a competitor bodybuilder and my trainer), I moved across the country, and I'm now preparing for my highest profile competition yet. I can talk contest prep, diet, nutrition, and training all I want without getting eye rolls and blank stares. People understand what I mean when I say I feel "flat and watery." I don't have to rush home from the gym to spend time with my boy, because he's already at the gym. With me!

Yet, from time to time, I still struggle with a Normal life. I work in an office, and several mornings a week, while I'm heating up my turkey and broccoli, the lady next to me is toasting and buttering cinnamon raisin bread. And the guy across from me is taking his leftover pizza out of the fridge. When I say I'm kind of a gym rat, the girl across the table says, "Oh I am too! I love to do cardio!" And when I'm at the mall shopping, I get frustrated that I need to stop shopping to run out to the car to eat cold chicken.

I've made the commitment this year to live the life of a Competitor year round. This doesn't mean I won't indulge once in awhile, or I'll be so strict with my training that I'll miss out on experiences. It just means that I'm constantly reminding myself that I made this decision. I WANT to be leaner all year round. I WANT to keep my metabolism up. I WANT to remain in control of my body.

I won't cut off friendships with others who aren't in the Competitor world. Just because they don't chose this type of lifestyle doesn't mean I can't interact with them. I most likely won't have as much interaction, though, because my lifestyle is so different. My type of fun does not include alcohol, Happy Hour, or going out every weekend. I find myself gravitating toward others who are more fitness-oriented, and I'll most likely spend more time with them. It doesn't mean I don't cherish all of my friends for what they bring to my life. It means I'm straddling two realities and am working on balancing the two so I live a richer, fuller life.

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