Support. In the arena of competitive bodybuilding, support is often overlooked or ignored. Bodybuilding is not considered to be a team sport. Much of what has to be done must be done by you and you alone. But after all the cardio is finished, workouts completed, meals eaten, and placings decided, none of us is able to really make the claim, "it was all me." We must acknowledge those around us who offer their support when things get heavy.
Support plays an even greater role when dealing with injury. Injury can be a humbling experience. To go from squatting 5 plates for reps to being unable to walk can be an unpleasant reminder of your vulnerability. Fortunately, when I needed help cooking my food, getting dressed, taking a shower, or completing the seemingly trivial but almost never-ending list of tasks that become huge challenges when you're physically compromised, I had help-and lots of it.
My wife has had the patience of a saint. While I did all I could to stifle any complaints I had regarding pain, discomfort or frustration, any way you slice it, it's a pain in the ass to have to care for a grown man as if he were a child. It killed me to have to ask for so much help, but I'm eternally grateful for her patience and willingness to help me. I'm sure she stifled some complaints of her own. My daughter, who is only 5 years old, has asked me "How do you feel today, daddy?" every single day since my injury. How can I NOT feel good surrounded by a family like that?
Thinking back to the moment the injury occurred, I immediately thought of my ANIMAL family once I got up off the ground and realized exactly what had happened. I felt tremendous guilt when I realized that I would not be able to appear at the industry events which were not only important to me but to ANIMAL. You see, I'm incredibly fortunate in my partnership with ANIMAL. I'm given respect and the complete freedom to decide how to handle my competitive career. ANIMAL has never told me how often to compete, what shows to enter, how to diet, what coach to use, or any of the personal matters upon which many companies often impose their will.
Further, I'm not weighed down with frivolous appearances or tasks. When I'm asked to do something, it's because ANIMAL believes it's truly important and meaningful--like writing articles or appearing in videos to help educate lifters everywhere. The respect that I'm given makes me take my responsibilities with the utmost seriousness. I was literally heartbroken to have to tell the guys at headquarters that I would be unable to attend the planned expos with them and that I would not be able to resume my preparation to compete in the New York Pro as I had planned. Their words to me? "Just focus on getting better. Don't worry about a thing." What can I say? Thank you isn't enough. And to all my fellow ANIMAL athletes, your concern and well wishes mean more than you know.
Over the years, I've been extremely fortunate to train at a gym where the owners and the members have been behind me. The Montanari Brothers and members at Powerhouse New Haven have been and continue to be a massive part of my support system. "Call us if you need a ride." "The place isn't the same without you." "You need help putting the plates on or taking them off?" "Anything you need, just let us know." Granted, this place isn't your average gym and I'm lucky to have it as my home away from home. This kind of overwhelming support sure makes me feel like a "somebody" and I want to live up to it. The term family is often overused, but not here.
While I've always been careful not to live or die by the sentiments of strangers on social media, I will go on record and say that I have the greatest fans ever. Whether I'm up or down, I've been fortunate to have the support of thousands of fans who have gone out of their way to offer encouragement. It matters. It means a great deal to me not because it strokes my ego, but because I believe it's sincere. I acknowledge and appreciate anyone who takes time out of their day to offer encouragement in one form or another.
These past few weeks have been a good time to reflect. I realize that I've been extremely fortunate to receive the support of so many people on so many different fronts. While you expect support from those close to you like your immediate family, you'd still be crazy to take it for granted when you get it. Then, when there are people who don't have to go out of their way for you or be so understanding of your situation who also support you, you realize that bodybuilding is anything but a one-man endeavor. As inadequate as it may be, let me simply say to everyone, "Thank you."