Most bodybuilders acknowledge that their sport is a “fringe sport” fraught with misunderstanding and misperception, so it is probably not unexpected that some parents might be less than enthusiastic when their children initially express an interest in competing in physique contests. Indeed, sometimes parents are supportive about our choice to compete, and sometimes they are not.
Parents have tremendous influence over us and the decisions we make, yet we don’t always accept their opinions or judgments because it’s all part of growing up and making our own decisions. It doesn’t mean we don’t love and respect our parents. It just means we have to choose our own direction in life. Still, because they are our parents, we often quietly yearn for their approval even when it is not always forthcoming. And, it can be painful when – sometimes – it never comes.
In this series of profiles we will explore how parents influenced the participation of many bodybuilders and figure competitors in their sport.
Jessica LaRue, OCB figure competitor, Albuquerque, NM
Jessica’s parents were both physically active when she was growing up – her father trained in bodybuilding and powerlifting, and her mother played softball – but they divorced when she was a youngster, and her father probably had the greatest influence on her own competitive career.
“My dad was a great man. I really looked up to him and loved to work out with him. He would often take me to the gym with him when I was little,and I would watch him as I sat on the bench press,” recalls Jessica “He would take me to competitions all the time too, and I met Bill Pearl and Dave Draper when I was around 4 and 5.”
Sadly, Leroy Lucero passed away 3 years before Jessica was able to compete, but she dedicated her first show to him. What does she think his reaction might have been to seeing her on stage? “I wish I knew – *tears* – but his friends all say that he would have bought the show out and invited all his friends to see,” she giggles with pride.“He was so proud that I was lifting.”
Her father also had a strong influence on Jessica’s choice to compete only in drug-free competition. Steroids? “My dad thought it was the stupidest thing in the world. Back in the old days he thought the bodybuilders looked great, but later he felt they had gone too far.”
Jessica is a personal trainer and trains at Defined Fitness in Albuquerque.
Susan Johnson, IFPA, NGA, ABFF bodybuilder, Meridian, ID
Susan has never received any encouragement from her parents about her bodybuilding aspirations. “My parents were divorced by the time I started bodybuilding, and I didn’t talk to my father a whole lot,” says Susan. “He hunted, which required a lot of endurance to climb mountains. He was also a general contractor who often worked by himself building houses, so he was very active in his work and very strong. He always made it clear that if you had to work out in a gym you were not working hard enough in real life.”
“My mother tried Jazzercise once,” laughs Susan, “but she was horrified about the thought of bodybuilding. Still, it took me almost 20 years to get up enough nerve to finally go into bodybuilding in spite of my mother’s opinion.”
“Even now, my mother keeps asking me when I am going to stop this silly game, and my father still doesn’t say anything. My stepdad is my only support. He tells me, if I really want to do it – go for it – but even he thinks I’m crazy for wanting to body build. Their overall impression is that it’s not very ladylike,” she chuckles.
“My father has never seen me on stage and doesn’t comment on the pictures I show him. My step dad was the first to see me on stage. At first he was very apprehensive, but as soon as he saw me on stage, he was so proud. My mother doesn’t say a lot, but does go to the local show because she feels she has to.”
One thing her parents DO agree on: performance enhancing drugs are “incredibly stupid.” Susan’s thoughts? “It is important to me to be healthy and strong naturally, and I want to relay that message to as many people as possible.”
Susan was originally inspired to become a bodybuilder when she was in high school and saw a magazine article featuring Gladys Portugues. “I thought she was incredible,” remembers Susan.
Certified in Women’s Exercise Training & Wellness Certification, Susan trains at both Planet Fitness and Peak Performance in Boise.
Justin Gardner, OCB bodybuilder, Hampton, VA
The first thing Justin Garner’s mother asked when she learned he was interested in competing in bodybuilding was if he was going to use anabolic steroids because she was adamantly opposed to it. Once she realized that he had chosen the drug-free route, she was fully supportive.
“My mom was there for my first show, and she tried to change her own eating habits to get back into shape as well. She helped me to prep some of my meals throughout the day,” says Justin. “Now she’s very proud of my accomplishments.”
His own thoughts about performance enhancing drugs? “I just thought natural bodybuilidng was a more even playing field, and I feel like on any given day I can do well without resorting to drugs.”
An Air Force brat, Justin lived in several places growing up before his family settled in Virginia. Both of his parents were very active,“just trying to keep up with me and my brother!” he laughs. His father passed away just after his senior year in high school in 2004, so he did not have the opportunity to see Justin on stage, but he would have been proud.
Justin trains at OneLife Fitness in Virginia. His longtime girlfriend, Amber Deihl, is his biggest supporter and hopes to compete, herself, in the near future.
Next: Part Two to be continued