How Safe is the Sport of Fitness?

The bodybuilding world is mourning the loss of two bodybuilders who both passed away last week.

The deaths of both Dallas McCarver and Rich Piana are the latest deaths or life altering incidents in a long line of incidents involving bodybuilders in recent years, which begs the question – how “healthy” is the sport of bodybuilding? or even the sport of fitness in general. Clearly, if reports that McCarvers death were caused by him choking on his food are accurate it’s an unfortunate tragedy that is not related to the sport at all, but it does bring up memories of those we have lost over the past couple of years. I’m not going to get into the safety or risks of steroids in the sport, that debate has been beaten to death with a club several hundred times and personally I’m not sure myself what to make of it. I’m talking about the need for perfection, the chase for the biggest, leanest and best physique possible.

Beneath that fake tan and well sculpted muscles lurks potentially dangerous behaviour that many fitness competitors and bodybuilders put themselves through in preparation for their contest. severely restrictive diets, bulimia, breakdowns, insomnia, starvation and over training are just some of the things a lot of people endure during contest preparation. Doesn’t that just sound perfectly healthy?

What’s troubling is we’re seeing more and more people taking the stage who probably should take a step back and rethink that decision. Women with low self-esteem, body dysmorphia and eating disorders who see competing as a way to getting some sort of external validation of their bodies. Not realizing how vulnerable you are standing half naked on a stage while a group of people judge you on your physique, posing and overall presentation.

To make matters worse more and more people are putting their trust into unqualified trainers or “coaches” if you will, who only see a giant ego boost and dollar signs as they sign up another client for competition. Often giving cookie cutter training programs, calorie restrictive diets without realizing the damage they could be doing to someone, or maybe they do realize it and just don’t care. Just because someone has competed in a few shows and maybe even won a few of them, that does not make them a qualified coach. If you don’t already know, you’d be very surprised to learn just how easy it is to become a certified personal trainer, which,  by the way,  a certification is not mandatory in Canada.

If you’re planning on hitting the stage for your first time or your 20th show, take a good hard, honest look at yourself and decide whether you can or should do this and if you can handle it. Then, use that same objectivity when seeking out a coach. Your coach should be honest with you, stick to his or her expertise of training and leave the implementation of well planned diets to the nutritionists.

Keep in mind I’m not talking about trainers helping the average person get into shape and live a healthy and active lifestyle, rather I’m cautioning you about trainers who are going to help you take your body and your mind to the absolute limits to compete. More importantly a trainer who understands they are doing just that. It may cost you a bit more to hire an experienced and highly qualified trainer and nutritionist – but it’s well worth it! Your health will thank you.

 

 

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