Hobby or Lifestyle?

Hobby or Lifestyle?

Oct 6, 2013

Hobby or Lifestyle?

By: Ryan Carrillo
IPF Jr World Bench Press Champion


Many staunch defenders of strength sports and the recent subculture phenomenon that includes Strongman, Powerlifting, Bodybuilding, and yes even our nemesis CrossFit, all lay claim to ‘the lifestyle’. This allegory for dedication, perseverance through adversity, and commitment to excellence is something I whole-heartedly believe in. It is something I think differentiates strength sports from anything else like it on earth. This implied lifestyle includes a variation of extremes including strict dieting, insane sleep patterns and hours of training, as well as social limitations and leisure time control. This lifestyle is characteristic of one without balance, we as humans only have a fixed amount of time to distribute within our lives, and how we decide to distribute that time amongst the necessities dictates the life we live. Achieving happiness (utility) in life is a core value in the major philosophical thinkers of human history like Aristotle, Immanuel Kant, and Epicurus. I speak not of the extremes of each philosopher, like the hedonistic theory of Epicurus, rather I use them as evidence of the importance of happiness in our human lives and the numerous ways to achieve it. The lifestyle necessary in strength athletics and the route some take to achieve their ends in my opinion are a harsh contrast to the achievement of happiness. The lack of balance in life caused by the undertaking of this ideal leads to a paradoxical struggle by the individual, the means do not justify the ends, and the ends are not as sweet as first thought. The differentiation between lifestyle and hobby are vital to utility in one’s life. The realization that achieving a worthwhile life (which I believe is one of happiness, altruism, and balance) means a paradigm shift in one’s thought is a harsh, but important, reality for us strength athletes.

The facts are obvious. No one save for the top bodybuilders like Phil Heath and Jay Cutler and top CrossFitters like Rich Froning make a living off of their sport. Powerlifting and strongman have guys who market themselves well and make negligible income, a far cry from the quarter million dollars handed to 3 time Mr. Olympia Phil Heath in late September. We can all theorize why bodybuilding is so much more profitable than its fellow niche sports but that is not what this is about. The lifestyle these bodybuilders lead is one of the ends justifying the means. The arduous hours of training, the ridiculous supplementation cycles and the food intake requirements as well as limitation of social interactions like parties, bar hopping, birthdays, and family engagements are the means by which they achieve their ends; the big contest paycheck. Winning this paycheck allows them to live a life of fulfillment, thus justifying the extreme means by which they take to achieve this. If we, as powerlifters were to undertake this same extreme way of life, yes our totals would rise and yes we would win more contests, but our goals are beyond winning a show and beyond getting a higher total. They include the necessities of life as well. Having a roof over your head, whether it is paying rent or a mortgage, is something we all have to do. Affording food to fuel us and money for leisure time, insurance, healthcare, gas and so on are all necessities of life. Each of these requirements is not fulfilled by powerlifting, or strongman, or CrossFit, or bodybuilding unless you are among the few top athletes around.


The lifestyles led by these elite few are a pipe dream for us, yet still people pursue it even though their way of life suffers because of it. Missing birthdays, failing tests in school, missing payments on your obligations all because you had to work out, or prep meals is asinine and absurd. This way of thinking does not lead to happiness, you can argue that participating in these sports is a means by which to achieve utility, but this only accounts for a small fraction of the requirements for true happiness and thus a meaningful life. It’s time to realize that this is a hobby, for some individuals they will never realize the implications of their extreme choices and lack of balance, but most are not too far gone to change. I will use Dave Tate as an example here.  In his book Under the Bar, Dave tells us of his old ways that included missing family events, time with friends, and life events because he ‘had a squat day’ or because he was concerned with his total. Dave goes on to realize the error of his ways and out lines his theory of ‘Blast and Dust’, a way that allowed him to live a happier and healthier life while still pursuing a passion. The eradication of full commitment is not what I am talking about. I am arguing for finding balance in life. The only way to achieve this is to have the humility to realize the reality around you and that this will likely not put food on your table, or a roof over your head.

Finding balance is necessary for happiness. Being off to the right or left extremes only skews perception and leads us astray. This is a struggle I understand, something I am very passionate about may suffer, but at what cost? My total is a quantitative value tied to my success in Powerlifting, and the higher it goes, the more likely I am to win bigger contests and achieve my ends; winning. But the moment this impedes on my ability to maximize utility in my life it is no longer a means of happiness, but a source of disdain. Finding harmony in our lives is the ultimate and most direct way of achieving happiness. Balancing our time out on the scales of life ensures that one thing does not let the other suffer and vice versa. Controlling our time we dedicate to our sport will lead to a happier and more fulfilling life. We cannot BLAST in everything we do, this leads to the negative connotations I mention above, we also cannot DUST in everything we do, and this will allow things suffer and take away rather than give.


I know the primary argument against my theory is “You are not committed enough”. This could not be father from the truth, committing to ‘The lifestyle’ is the easy way out. It allows you to shrug off important events in life, the justification for which is ‘I have leg day, I can’t’. Commitment here is not questioned, and the cavalier nature of this reaction characterizes the extremes I am talking about, but can someone who instead says ‘Yes I will come, though I have leg day tomorrow’ still achieve the same ends that the ‘lifestyle’ addict believes they are headed towards? The answer is yes, the maturity of the individual is what predicates the outcome of this situation, the latter being the more mature and I would argue, happier individual. It is important to understand what commitment is here in this anecdotal situation; the ability to observe potential consequences, form a decision based on available options, and implement a plan that allows the ends to still be achieved through adversity, in this case, an event of some sort requiring time to be committed. Moving your time around is NOT the end all be all, it means adjustment is required for balance to be maintained, i.e., having to pack food and bring a jug of water with you in order to have a successful leg day, rather than dodging the event because of a lack of maturity and lack of future sight.

The lifestyle you live should be one that allows for maximization of utility, moral goodness, and balance. Your lifestyle should not be decided by the cumulative assumptions of a subculture with an identity crisis, rather it should be one that you control from top to bottom. Differentiation between hobby and lifestyle in strength sports is the key for all of us. Realizing that our hobby is not the lifestyle, but rather the hobby is a cog in the machine of the lifestyle will allow us all to live more fulfilling and better lives.

“Do something that allows you to live the life you want, don’t do something because it makes you happy.” -Josh Hunt


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One comment

  1. Bravo, Ryan. Very concise explanation of a complex concept.

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