Q: I’ve been bodybuilding for a little more than a year now, and I’m one of the most hardcore teenagers you’ll ever meet. I read all the magazines, go to local contests and have more than 20 training and contest videos. My parents are very upset because I told them I don’t want to go to college anymore. I want to be a personal trainer so I have time to eat and train for my pro card. How can I make them understand that this is what I want to do with my life?
A: There’s one generalization we can make about teenagers through the ages: Most of them don’t have realistic long-range vision. I fully understand your passion for bodybuilding and how you’re determined to center your future around it. Although I also love the sport and to a large extent base my own life around it, I have to side with your parents.
I’m not going to tell you that a pro card is an unrealistic goal. A handful of men and women out of the many thousands who compete do achieve that honor every year. One thing you need to understand is that most bodybuilders who turn pro train anywhere from seven to 15 years before they become so-called overnight successes. You see pictures of them now with their new cars and fitness-model girlfriends. What you never see are the years they struggled, sleeping on friends’ couches and taking the bus to the gym. Not all amateur bodybuilders live in poverty, but many of those who have no college education and no skills outside of lifting weights do. Venice Beach is full of wanna-be pros struggling to get by, just as nearby Hollywood is full of would-be movie stars waiting tables and parking cars.
A better strategy would be to go to college and earn a degree. It can be in something bodybuilding-related, such as exercise science, physical therapy, chiropractic or nutrition. With an education you’ll be able to get a decent job that pays well. Bodybuilding’between gym memberships, exorbitant food and supplement expenses and, often, steroids (if a pro card is what you seek)’is a very expensive sport. It’s far less of a struggle when you have enough money to cover your expenses and have a little left over. Besides that, college will expose you to many other types of people and interests. You’ll see that there’s a whole wide world out there beyond muscles and flexing.
Of course you can still work out; it just won’t define your entire schedule. Don’t worry that you’re losing valuable time. Bodybuilding will always be there for you to pursue. It can certainly wait while you provide a better future for yourself. And who knows? Maybe someday you will make your living from the sport. If you believe in yourself and are willing to work hard and learn, nothing is impossible. IM