The perception that surrounds bodybuilders and fitness models alike is that all their strength comes from the outside; with the chiseled arms, bulky quads and taut abs. In reality, to participate in any type of fitness competition, it takes a lot more strength than just how much you can squat or press.
Any man or women who lives the life of a bodybuilder or fitness model will tell you that the mental challenge is just as hard.
Daniela Chacon, a junior mechanical engineering major, albeit still relatively new to a life of non-stop exercising and strict dieting, knows the commitment it takes to live and compete as a bodybuilder.
“I didn’t realize how mentally challenging bodybuilding was going to be,” Chacon said in an email interview. “After three days it really began to sink in. It is definitely one of the most mentally challenging things I have done in my life. Once you become extremely focused, you kind of become a hermit.”
Friends, family and, most importantly, food all become distant memories in the midst of training.
“I never went out to eat with friends,” Chacon said. “Also, you realize how much of your social life revolves around food. All I had time for was work, studying and working out. All the excess time was used for meal prepping and rest.”
Chacon said, once becoming immersed by lifestyle, obsession may turn into addiction. For Chacon, appearance was the sole purpose as to why she still competes. Once a typical slightly out of shape college student who saw college life catch up to her, she felt the need to take accountability through the use of bodybuilding.
“My sophomore year in college, the ‘freshman 15’ finally caught up to me,” Chacon said “I had never looked like that in my life, and one day I just decided to go balls out and sign up for a bodybuilding show, where I would be able to keep myself accountable in able to get back into shape.”
Less than a year removed from her first competition in the NPC Sun City Regional in El Paso, Chacon is not slowing down anytime soon. Chacon is looking to compete in two competitions within the next three months, specifically eyeing the Europa Classic in Dallas on May 17.
Although adapting to a life that revolves around self-discipline might be hard for a newcomer, even the initiated feel the stresses and temptations of living a life around creating the perfect body.
“There are days where you love what you are doing, but there are days where you want a cheeseburger and to skip your work out,” said Kimberly Rayner in an email interview.
Rayner, the co-owner of Peak Fitness, which is located on the Westside of El Paso, knows that experience in fitness is more or less irrelevant. The cyclical process of dieting and exercising is hard for everyone.
More than six years in as a personal trainer, Rayner has done it all. She was an All-City volleyball player for El Paso High, has competed in marathons, triathlons and bikini bodybuilding competitions, all the while doing some fitness modeling on the side.
They might be years apart in practice, but their experiences are virtually the same. Chacon and Rayner echoed the same struggles of being a bodybuilder such as eating out, the dangers of sugar, the toll it takes mentally, and the hardest obstacle to overcome, which is the diet.
“I had such a hard time having to eat six meals a day and at certain times,” Rayner said. “My moods at that time were terrible. I missed sugar and salt. You have to stay mentally strong or else you will fall apart.”
Looking good and being fit comes with a price. How strong the competitor is mentally has a lot to do with how great they can be.
“Competing is hard and it takes a toll on you mentally,” Rayner said. “My advice for anyone thinking about doing a competition is make sure that you are confident with yourself so when you start prep you have a positive approach and you are mentally prepared.”
Javier Cortez may be reached at [email protected]