Losing it all sometimes can be the best thing…
When people hear that you are an IFBB Pro it seems the first thing they turn to is- genetics, handouts, performance enhancers and who you may know. It seems to slip their mind that just possibly something happened in their life that would change them forever. Some movement that would have them cry out for more. To prove the naysayers wrong and finally prove to themselves that they are worth something more than the ordinary. Well four years ago was that moment, one of the most significant events in my life took place. It didn’t seem like a life changing choice to enter an arm wrestling match at the time, but it definitely was for snapping my humerus (bone between the elbow and shoulder) in four places changed everything!
I should have known something was up because the days leading up to the arm wrestling match were anything but smooth sailing. The day before the match my phone was stolen, both my business and my lifeline, gone. That same day, I lost my job. At this point you can imagine my thought process. Not only was I jobless but who do I call??? The following day I walk into the gym to blow off some steam and a huge arm wrestling competition is going on. Of course succumbing to peer pressure from everyone telling me this would be easy, I said, “What do I have to lose?” Emotionally I was a wreck but from the outside I looked ready (I had been dieting for 12 weeks at this point for a fitness pilot and thought to myself “EASY.”) I entered the match and we stalled out right from the start and just sat there. Then it happened this loud SNAP as if a tree in the forest fell down. I looked down at my arm hanging to the right like a wet noodle. Everyone was watching so I simply picked up my arms and walked to the side and sat down. I had suffered the spiral fracture to my humerus. I managed to pick myself up and get in a car to the hospital but by the time I got there the pain was overwhelming. No amount or pain killers had an effect, 1, 2, 3, 4 shots didn’t matter – I could feel the bones shifting in my arms and causing sharp pains even with the smallest breaths.
I was in the bed for 3 months, unable to do much of anything at all. When I was finally up, I needed assistance to complete even the simplest of tasks, I felt helpless. I was unhappy with everything – especially my body and myself. I remember sitting in a restaurant thinking to myself what I had done the past few years? I was stuck there not being able to think of a single thing I did aside from the gym. Neglected family, friends, my girlfriend at the time. At that very moment I swore to myself I would never do that again. Be so selfish that I push my whole life aside for the gym. I saw how fast it was taken away from me and it made me realize nothing last forever. This was the lowest point of my life but I made a decision to get through it. It was that simple, I decided to push. When people heard about my injury, some told me I could never “come back,” that things would never be the same. Since I was already feeling defeated, all the things they said stuck with me and bothered me even more. The negative people, although unknowingly, were fueling my desire to come back bigger and better. I never said a damn word! I kept it to myself knowing that this time would be different. I would come back bigger, stronger and more aesthetic BUT as a better person.
For months I threw on my hoodies went to the gym and only did lower body exercises with my broken arm strapped to my chest. No – I wasn’t cleared and yes it hurt every day, but the defeat I had felt for the last three months had to stop. Nobody was going to define me as I was positive and determined to prove everyone who had been negative, wrong. I was out to prove and make every one see that an injury or a setback wouldn’t stop me from a comeback. I was like so many – starting something and never finishing. I was aware of this about myself and for now even if the intentions were wrong, I had a driving force that could not be stopped.
Once I was able to work out my upper body again you would think I got right back into it, right? lol. Try 2.5lb weight and that was SO HARD. I was then again set to sit there with 2.5 to 5 lb weight for a few months and rebuild. The bottom three fingers in my hand where numb from nerve damage I suffered in the break but no matter. I knew slow and steady as this time was different. I slowly built up my strength and was very careful to keep things even on both arms. NEVER lifting more with my strong side.
While rehabbing myself things started to change. The stronger I was becoming, the more I wanted to challenge myself. I had always said no to competing because “I didn’t want it to consume my life.” Well that was a lie! Truth be told I was scared. I was scared to be put in a position to lose. My whole life until this point I would only do what I knew I could succeed or win at. I was not accustomed to failure and putting myself up there to be compared to hundreds seemed like the perfect storm to crush me.Well as you can imagine there it was staring me in the face. The challenge that needed to be taken against myself. No more team/teammates to share the glory or defeat. It was me putting myself out there to be critiqued and I was SO DAMN SCARED. I didn’t want to hide behind the facade that,“I didn’t want to compete. Just be in shape.” I was lying to everyone and to myself because I was scared of losing. So 18 months after the break I had now set my sights set on something else and not the redemption I seeking from others. It was stepping on stage in a physique competition and putting myself out there at the best of my ability. People say what did you have to lose… A LOT! But what I could gain from stepping out of my comfort zone was way greater.
8 months later I competed in my first NPC Men’s Physique competition the SO CAL Championships down in San Diego, CA. I walked into that auditorium “small fish big pond”. “What am I DOING HERE?” I asked myself. I stepped on stage so scared… leg shaking, lip quivering all the while trying to play it off like I know what I was doing. I put the work into the gym and posing but this was above anything I ever expected. I was fortunate to win my class and then take the overall of the show as well.DUMBFOUNDED, to say the least. Five week later was the prestigious NPC Los Angeles Championship sand I was told I had to do it! In my mind I had planned on doing one and that’s it. It was a bigger stage with national level athletes so it was once again a decision to make. Be happy because I won, or keep testing myself? I ended up competing in the LA Championships as my second show and yes still nervous out of my mind but one my class and the overall. The competition at this show was so stiff with 30 men in my class I truly didn’t think the win was possible. Then to receive the overall I sat there for a moment and thought to myself maybe this is a good time to stop doubting myself. To everyone out there I had it together but inside I was still worried about more than anyone could imagine.
I felt vindicated, I had made the comeback that I knew I was capable of and so much more. I was becoming a version of myself that I wanted for so long. In one week’s time from this show the opportunity to turn professional was on the table. I had won my last two overall shows leading into one of the biggest NPC National shows in the country. When I started this the thought of turning Pro was never in the cards. Those are people we all see and read about in the magazine and they have something else – something that I surely don’t have. And there we go again… Doubting myself and how far I can go out of FEAR of the unknown. Fear that I might have to do something that at this point I don’t understand to reach that level. So before the show was over I walked over to the promoter as he was going to host the National show the week later and told him that I wanted to compete. Registration was due the week before but because I had placed and won his show it was possible. It was official I was going to USAs in Las Vegas in attempts to win my professional status. My head is spinning still trying to figure out what going on. Because 5 weeks ago was my first show and now 6 weeks later I’m stepping on a national stage. There was no time to think of my uncertainties now.
More times than not though with quick success, usually comes defeat. I received last call out that show and it was if the floor fell right from below me. The fear of failure in front of so many just had happened. I was the new kid on the block that took the last two shows only to not even get a placing.The strangest thing happened though… I WAS OK! 🙂 These last three shows I did everything my coached asked of me (Layne Norton) I didn’t deviate one second from his plan. We had done three shows in 45 days walking away with two overall titles. I was ok, I walked out with a smile on my face to my family being overjoyed with my journey and all that I accomplished so far.
Family can be hard to convince why we do this and why you would be putting yourself through so much trouble, but not mine. My mother and father where right to ask when the next show and that I would finish what I started. I then struggled for a year on the national stage only to be beat and not understanding what I was doing wrong. The emotional roller coaster is something you cannot explain,but I had lost that fire. Why I started this was with anger and plans to prove to many wrong but that had faded so long ago. I was in search of something else, something to fuel my new journey but what?To say I didn’t contemplate quitting early that next year would be a lie. Everyone has an opinion of what you need to do and the more I tried to please the worst things got. I was in my father’s office and we said it again, “You’re going to finish what you started. I know you son and this will stay with you forever.Sure, you can stop now and you did amazing. But you know yourself Anthony and this chapter will always be left unfinished unless you finish what you started.” The man couldn’t be more right.
The following year was upon us (2013) and the thoughts of how I was going to do this again ran through my head. Something had to change – my focus and passion had to be realigned for this to work. This took me some times but I finally realized that the stage does not dictate who I am, the success I have had, or where I will be in the future did I finally start to see things more clearly. It was about life with fitness, not fitness trying to fit in life. I began to do a better job honoring family, friends and loved ones and things seemed to fall into place. Hate and anger only got me so far and through love and understanding, I was finally able to find my true self again and be the man I wanted to be. Being on that stage and having the best physique only gets you so far. When I had things in perspective I was not only up there now competing for myself but for everyone that had helped me along the way. I was up there now for them. I wanted to make them proud of who I am and the morals I have stuck to from day one.What do you know – as soon as I change my mindset, I earned my professional status in August 2013.
Looking back, I know that I am where I am and who I am because of all that happened in these last few years. I am truly grateful for every step of the journey. It’s funny because sometimes you start a journey with intentions to finish at a certain destination but along the way things change and so does your destination. Some would say that my broken arm and nerve damage I have suffered to my hand is a massive setback, I insist it was the best thing that could’ve happened to me. What I learned about myself from the experience was something I would never take back. I am grateful for where I am today and have been, but I never forget that it can get taken away in an instant. Why I do as much as I can do today is because tomorrow is never guaranteed.
Anthony J Perez IFBB Pro