Prep begins soon. The humorous writing is good for the spirit. But jokes are sparse during prep. The ice cream is nicer, and even sparser once we start.
This isn’t a fun game or a social endeavor for me. This is my holy quest—my chance to see god, or godliness perhaps. This is my church. And it’s time to go back.
For those among you who compete, we all do it for different reasons. A personal challenge for some, or proving to the world that you can accomplish a Herculean task. A display of discipline and drive, focus and commitment. For anybody who has competed successfully, these words will resonate and bring you back—to the stepper, to the food prep, to the moments of exhaustion sitting on the couch, too tired to get up, too tired to walk to bed, too tired to sleep, too tired to remember that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.
But for me, it’s more. I’ve been accused in the past of treating this as some kind of “holy quest”, when really, we’re just an oiled-up, overly-tanned muscleheads in Speedos.
But it’s not that. It’s my church. It is what I worship, what I live for, what my value system has been formed around for a large portion of my life.
Keeping full context is imperative here. When I knock off the dust and get back on stage next year, it will be the end result of almost thirteen years of dedicated training. Thirteen years of eating not by “feel”, but by function. Thirteen years of waking up sore, broken, beaten, bruised. My posing routine next year will be built on a torn biceps, as well as a shoulder surgery. It will be built on literally millions of pounds moved in an attempt to recreate myself from scratch, from the ground up—in the image of something greater, something larger, both literally and figuratively.
It will be my best attempt to inject a beauty into this world that did not previously exist. And I will share that beauty with those who choose to watch. They will not see the sleepless nights, the hunger, the pain. All they will see is the end product—the beaming smile, the proud posture, the body of a human that was not genetically intended to look this way, but said one fateful day thirteen years ago, “Fuck genetics, I want more”.
The full context will include that nothing was accomplished accidentally, but was all pieced together by design. It will include the nights I could have laid in bed with my beautiful wife, but instead read forums on how to train better, how to properly and intelligently incorporate the right supplements, how to cycle different styles of cardio to optimize fat burning. The full context will include when I could have gone to the park with my daughter, but instead, went to the gym and squatted, whether I felt like doing so that day or not.
Attending my church will be a display of all that is holy to me: drive, determination, work ethic in the face of opposition; strength, power, and occasional grace; striving, yearning, for something greater, for something bigger; refusal of accepting the average, the ordinary, the common-place; fighting for more, greedily clutching and making mine that which enhances my time on this planet; becoming, being, living in the moment while looking to the future and appreciating the past that got me here.
It will be my display of something heroic, something extra-ordinary, something not seen on everyday streets. It will be my display of effort-made-flesh, of work consolidated into cells and fibers. It will be a concrete manifestation of that which I hold closest to my heart: deciding on a path, walking that path despite all obstacles and challenges, and reaching the end of that path.
When I set foot in my church next year—on that stage—I will have overcome all obstacles and all challenges. And I will reach the end of my path. And I will share it with the world, for those who choose to see.
So one more time, let’s get ready for church.
-David A. Johnston