FOR THOSE outside of the fitness spectrum, the gym-orientated lifestyle can often be seen as an absurd way to lead your life – eating such a structured set of foods and putting your body through endless anguish and pain, while depriving yourself of treats we innately enjoy, such as chocolate and crisps.
For Shaun Gray, however, continuing such a disciplined and rigid regime is all part of the process – and one which he thrives upon.
Gray, 21, an avid attendee of his local gym in Bury, believes this lifestyle has served to not only enhance his physical appearance, but also his confidence and self-esteem.
“My concentration and self-discipline has improved tenfold. I used to be a chronic procrastinator, but since starting the gym; I’ve become a lot more self-aware of productivity,” he says.
“I recall starting at around 16 – at which point I was pretty timid. I found it difficult talking to new people; but since then, confidence-wise, I have blossomed.”
Because he had spent much of his childhood overweight, Shaun wanted to improve his health and appearance. This is how his early interest in body-building came about.
Like many beginners, he was inspired by Arnold Schwarzenegger – the man who renowned the bodybuilding craft – but today, Shaun, who prides himself on being natural, and not using anabolic aid, recommends beginners to look toward Alberto Nunez and Eric Helms as those to emulate.
“I started attending a pay as you go gym, using their cardio equipment to trim the weight, then naturally that progressed to wanting to build muscle.” He said.
“Schwarzenegger and Zyzz fuelled my motivation to put on muscle, but it was their charisma that appealed to me most.”
One of the problems that fitness enthusiasts encounter most is disruption to their diet – a significantly important factor in obtaining the results that reflect their gruelling sessions in the gym.
Shaun, who “does not believe in cheat meals,” cites consistency as a way around those disruptions, and, despite admitting to being extremely strict on himself, accepts an occasional outlet “won’t destroy years of consistency.”
“I used to be quite strict on myself and not allow much fluctuation; however, this was during periods of lower calorie intake.
“I didn’t feel I could justify an overflow of calorie allowance, particularly from alcohol, as my diet the following day would be at a nutritional deficit and I wanted it to fit my caloric intake.”
Gray, who now uses popular app My Fitness Pal to help control his diet, says his lifestyle has compromised plans with friends and family before – an illustration of the commitment and demands the gym entails.
“I have missed out on many social opportunities because of my lifestyle in the past; I never liked the idea of setting myself back.” He said. “When I had a taste for something that I’d restricted myself on, I’d go well overboard [if I ate it]. [Breaking my diet] can be quite destructive.
“Nowadays, I feel I’m at peace with myself and I don’t have those feelings of anxiety when social scenarios crop up – I’ll just embrace it and account for it later on if needs be.”
Shaun, who buys most of his own food, eats a variation of three large meals, or five smaller meals a day, and tries to hit caloric and macronutrient goals on a daily basis.
His meals consist of foods such as tuna, chicken, eggs, protein powder, porridge, rice, and bananas; when bulking, he can consume as many as 4,000 calories per day.
Gray told us that sometimes looking your best doesn’t always mean feeling your best, and, whilst he points out that goes hand-in-hand with the lifestyle, he labels it a deterrent to him ever competing in a bodybuilding competition.
“If you’ve ever got to single digit levels of body fat, you feel probably the worst you’ve ever felt whilst simultaneously looking the most aesthetic you’ve ever been.” Shaun said.
“A lot of guys in drug-free competitions use performance enhancing drugs at some point prior to a drugs test – what chance does that leave for a drug-free athlete like myself?”
Despite Shaun’s reluctance to enter competition, when posed with the prospect of never being able to attend a gym again in his life; he admits to feelings of anxiety, and believes he “could not function efficiently” without it; such is the extent of its importance in his life.
“It’s been a big part of my life for years now; to just detract from a lifestyle that you’ve lived for a long time would be difficult.” he says.
“I’ve gone alcohol free for a year in the past whilst still enjoying nights out as a young lad, but I believe I’d struggle more without the gym in my life to keep me focused and disciplined.”