I was a professional strongman. I’ve made much more money talking about and teaching strongman than I ever did competing. A friend of mine is a professional half marathon runner. She has made more money selling running shoes than she has from winning races. The same can be said from other professional athletes that I have trained who compete professionally in small sports, they all have careers outside the sport to pay the bills. There is always some talk about dissatisfied athletes talking about lack of opportunity and pay for athletes in our sport and I am here to say; be thankful for that.
Life is better for you than it is for Shaw, Thor, or Hall
What!? “These guys get paid to to train and don’t have to go to work in the morning.” you may say. But that is just it, training for them is now work. No options for a day of un-programmed rest. They travel to exotic places but aren’t there on vacation, they are there to perform, so walking around taking in the sights takes a backseat to resting in the hotel room. This world travel is also hard on big bodies not to mention getting in your food, adjusting to jet lag, and sleeping in odd places all the time. I know for me that when I travel to cover events or speak somewhere, I am very much looking forward to sleeping in my own bed. Often times these athletes head to another event.
Besides the rough life on the road, you must also consider what it takes to be the very best, while always being watched, compared to others, and having your mistakes highlighted by jerks like me. It can be very frustrating and that stress adds up. You know how when you go to the Arnold you can walk around and do what you like and enjoy dinner in any restaurant you want? Say goodbye to all of that. There isn’t a minute in public (at these types of events) where someone isn’t coming up to them and asking for something, be it a picture, autograph, or asking questions.
Don’t get used to the paycheck
Last year was a big year for Thor because he won every big money contest. Usually second place pays about half of what the winner gets and it’s a straight shot downhill from there. You need to consider that since you can’t work a regular job, losing by a point isn’t just upsetting, it’s a serious pay cut. His bank account depends on how he does this season; even if he makes much more income acting, who doesn’t enjoy $250k in prize money (that is taxed at close to 50% for the Europeans).
But sponsorship money?!
These three are currently the only people in the sport that I am aware of that make serious money off sponsors. It also goes away the minute people lose interest in them as an athlete. While Eddie has done a fairly decent job of keeping his name prominent, it will only last a while longer, as who really cares about what you did yesterday? As a side, I had a sponsor. It was a large, local ice cream manufacturer. I got all the free ice cream I could eat and they gave me travel and hotel money. It was great and I am still thankful for that, but it didn’t pay my bills, my coaching did.
Their goals are not “their” goals
Let’s say you want to get your log press up a bit right now so you get to focus on that. You pick contests that will also help you with this goal. Being a week out from the 2019 Arnold, all of the competitors had to get strong for those events but in addition they must all chase Eddie Hall’s deadlift record because of the money involved ($50,000). This record is an insane test of muscle, tendon, ligament, vertebrae, and mental strength. Most likely, someone is going to get hurt. This meet is asking everyone (who gives it a go) to pull 100 more pounds than they were capable of last year.
I am actually surprised that just the training for the deadlift hasn’t caused someone to pull out already. You get to choose what event you want to injure yourself on. Smart competitors will only chase these records when they are already close.
All of this doesn’t mean you can’t be great
Do your best every day you train and compete. Dial in your recovery and nutrition. Enjoy your group training sessions on Saturday. Enjoy your family, privacy and health. Pick a rewarding job that makes you money without putting your spinal health at total risk. Obsession can drive greatness but it is also the catalyst for disaster.
Editor’s note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein and in the video are the author’s and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.