It's a weird sensation when you first realise that your hobby of going to the gym a couple of times a week has turned into a full-on pump addiction. The signs were there: you cook industrial amounts of chicken, rice and broccoli every Sunday evening; plan your workouts months in advance; actually look forward to entering the gym so that you can curse lifters under your breath for hogging the squat rack for too long.
It's too late; you're already a gym rat. Your transformation is complete. You are one of the chosen ones, a person whose life will revolve around the gym from now on. Your snack will be protein powder mixed with weight gainers, washed down with a protein bar. You'll be curling dumbbells before breakfast, pressing barbells for lunch and doing push-ups for dinner.
Not sure if you're a gym rat just yet? Look out for the below tell-tale signs before it's too late!
1. You check your physique in any reflective surface
You did your research and know how crucial the muscle-mind connection is, so you make sure to stare at the mirror continuously while in the gym. Even the slightest movement of your arm is etched into your nervous system; you can see your biceps growing as you curl that E-Z bar.
But it doesn't stop there. You are now a gym rat, and your reflection is your best friend, so you're looking at it on every reflective surface: a polished cabinet door, a car's glossy paint, water in a brook. You stopped caring about whether people find you weird for flexing in front of turned-off Macbooks in the Genius Bar; all that matters is that you can see your veins poppin' in the dark grey box of the display.
Whatever it takes to get your fix!
2. Refuse to have a meal that contains less than 20 grams of protein
People use messaging apps on their smartphones the most, but not you. The first app you open after you wake up is MyFitnessPal to check what your first meal of the day is and what time you are supposed to have it. Counting macros is your second nature, and you can't imagine having a meal that doesn't contain at least 20-25 grams of protein.
Ordinary people might have lunch whenever, but you'll have it precisely three hours after you had your mid-morning meal of rice, chicken, and broccoli, even if you're on the move or in a middle of a meeting. Nothing matters but supplying your muscles with the right macronutrients at the right time to maximise muscle-building potential. =
3. No hair is allowed on your body
Hair is the ultimate evil. It started with shaving your hair, then moved on to removing any hair from the legs and chest, too. Lately, you have started shaving your body from top to bottom; it might take longer to get ready in the morning, but it's the least you can do to emphasise those muscles as much as possible.
You also started visiting tanning saloons because, without the hair, your body started to look a bit too... pale. You know tan beds are terrible for the skin, but so is looking like a bright-white glow stick in an underground cave. And just like a hairless body, the tan helps you display those guns and pecs more efficiently. Perfection.
4. 'I'll do leg day next week'
Leg days are the worst. People won't ever notice your legs, and DOMS is just terrible to experience on a weekly basis – hence why you decided to do leg day next week. Strangely, you made the same decision last week and the week before. As a matter of fact, you can't remember the last time you had a full-on leg session; it could have been last month or a year ago, for all you know.
Nevermind! You're sure you'll get around to working on those toothpicks eventually. You must get a couple more pecs and arm sessions out of the way first. And once you get to a point where your upper body is big enough, you'll focus on the legs. Soon. Maybe next year. Or the year after.
5. Your last rest day was 6 months ago
Rest days are necessary – or so do people say who don't want to grow muscle. You, a pro, know very well that you can train pull muscles one day and push muscles the other day, giving each group at least 24 hours of rest before you hit them hard again. Rest days are for losers and people with no discipline. You're different from them. You're better than them.
It doesn't matter that even pro athletes sometimes have off-season; you know your body and your limits and are happy to hover around the thin line that separates hard work from getting injured. Sure, sometimes you overwork yourself and tear a muscle or two, but it's just the name of the game. Injuries are temporary. Gains are forever.