You may look at one of the world's top bodybuilders and think, "Man I wish I could be like them," or, "It looks like they are really living the dream." What you may not be aware of is the struggle that comes along with the journey. The sacrifices that come along with being the best, in any arena; it's not what happens in the gym that creates the best bodybuilder, but rather how they are able to cope with the everyday life struggles.
Shawn Rhoden's life may seem pretty glamorous now, but it was far from that before his competing career. It was shortly after hitting his rock bottom that he was able to turn his life around and fulfill a promise he made to his father. Below is a one on one interview we conducted with Shawn where he shared some of his past that has helped mold who he is today. He also shares some feelings about Phil Heath.
What was your life like before competing/How was it different from your life today?
"I've been competing since I was a teen. I quit bodybuilding back in 2002 when my dad was diagnosed with lung cancer. I decided to take year off while he was going through treatment. He was told that he had 3 months, but ended up making it to almost a year. After his passing, that year off became 7 years. I had become suicidal and turned into an alcoholic, with Pizza Hut and Papa Johns on speed dial. It was by far the lowest point in my life.
I got back into the sport in 2009 because I promised my dad that I would get back on stage. He was one of my biggest supporters and wanted to make him proud.
I wanted to prove to those individuals that doubted me and left me high and dry during my low years, that they were wrong about me.
Later that year in 2009 I won my show and turned pro, and this lifestyle turned into a 24/7 job."
How did you get into competing?
"I was on the swimming and soccer team in high school, so I was forced to workout to improve skills needed for each sport. Being in the gym became my second home at an early age. Once I no longer played sports, I still found myself in the gym training. It was my therapy."
Did you always have a good support system as your worked towards your dreams? Who are your biggest supporters?
"My family has always been very supportive of what I wanted to do. Even when I started taking my bodybuilding career seriously, and they didn't quite understand the lifestyle, they stuck by me and supported me 100%. My youngest brother has come to every single show, including the Olympia.
I am thankful everyday for my family. Without the love and support from my fiancée, Michelle, and 2 year old daughter, Cora, I would not be able to live out my dream as I am today."
What is your greatest accomplishment in the sport thus far?
"My greatest accomplishment is that I have achieved more than people expected me to. A lot of people didn't expect me to be a bodybuilder or to place top 3 in the Olympia. Even if I never win the Olympia, I'll be able to say that I went above and beyond what everyone expected me to be."
Describe what your Olympia prep; what have you done differently this time compared to preps in the past?
"The only thing that hasn't changed is my nutrition. I have been working with Chris Aceto for going on 5 years now, so we have my nutrition down pat. He knows exactly what my body needs at any given time.
So things that have changed:
I used to train at 1-2pm, now I train at 7am. My body just feels better training earlier and it also allows me to allocate my time to other important things in my life.
Bodybuilding is a very selfish sport if you let it be. It can consume your entire life and push those away that you love the most. I have learned to balance those things that are most important to me.
I also have the BEST company behind me, and that makes things so much easier."
Is it hard to balance prep with business, relationship, kids, etc.? How do you balance everything?
"My daughter was born in middle of my Olympia prep in 2015. At this time, I was very focused on my self and my prep. I would often lose sight of other aspects of life aside from bodybuilding, and I almost lost my family because of that. My prep for the 2017 Olympia has been the best prep of my life.
I am so thankful for ProSupps- they have given me the opportunity to be 100% focused. This has changed everything for me in a positive way. I am able to be with my family 24/7. They travel with me and I even get to train with my fiancée. Having my family more involved has made me a better person and athlete. I feel more focused and have no more burdens or stress.
So how do I balance? Having the right things in place and the right support system. It took losing my family to realize what is important in my life. And I put things into motion in order to create that balance in my life."
How does it feel to be competing against some of the biggest names in the industry, including 6x Mr. Olympia, Phil Heath?
"Phil is a prick and has trashed me on social media for a few years.
But, I am honored to compete against the best of the best. I am thankful every day to be an Olympian. Some people never even get an opportunity to compete in a pro show, much less the Olympia. I love bodybuilding and meeting great mentors such as Ronnie Coleman and Jay Cutler."
What qualities do you bring to the stage that you feel will outshine your competition?
"My beautiful smile! I'm only half joking. I don't believe that anyone will beat my aesthetics. These are the best abs to hit the stage of bodybuilding. I'll do whatever it takes to bring the best package to the stage."
What does winning Mr. Olympia 2017 mean to you?
"It means that Phil will no longer be the dream killer. And I will get the opportunity to see the look on his face when I win.
Personally, it will be one of those moments where I can look out and see my daughter in the crowd, and she can see what her dad accomplished. For all the people who have been told it couldn't be done; it will be a long awaited accomplishment.
From all the trials I've been through, alcoholism, depression, isolation from family, I can walk off the stage and say 'we out!'"
What are your plans moving forward after Olympia?
"I promised my beautiful fiancée that I will have a huge family dinner. I will be at the Arnold Classic Barcelona, then tour with the ProSupps team after Olympia during thanksgiving… the grind doesn't stop!"
What is your favorite cheat meal?
"Anything sweet, I'm a big cheesecake and brownie fan. I can put down some food!"
What other hobbies/interests you have outside of fitness/bodybuilding?
"Soccer is still one my favorite hobbies, even though I would look pretty funny running down a field now at my size. A good game of chess helps to get the mind thinking outside the box. But my favorite pastime is hanging out with my daughter. She is the funniest person I know."
What is a fun fact that not a lot people know about you?
"I can dance! And I'm actually really outgoing… just shy when the cameras come on."
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