It’s not often that the word “flexibility” finds its way into a conversation about preparing for a bodybuilding or physique show. Most competitive fitness athletes follow rigid training and dieting programs in the weeks and months leading up to a show in order to be primed to step on stage.
But for Mike Hildebrandt, being flexible is actually what allows him to do what he loves to do.
Mike is a husband, a fit dad as a father of four, a fitness director at Axiom Fitness in the Boise, Idaho, area, a sponsored athlete with Dymatize supplements and a BodyBuilding.com athlete. And he’s currently prepping for his 29th fitness show just a couple months after his fourth child was born.
His schedule is packed and there are days where he doesn’t have a whole lot of control over what happens. And he’s OK with that.
“I think it’s important to understand that things aren’t always going to go perfect,” Mike says. “Yes, your workout is going to get cut short. Yes, there’s going to be days when your kid is sick and you can’t take them to the gym. But you have to do something. When you commit to just doing something every day, it’s the consistency over time that equals results.”
Mike’s commitment and consistency to his health and fitness is not so much about sticking to a strict schedule as it is making an effort to do something each day to improve his health and fitness. It’s a philosophy he adopted in his youth as he worked to overcome some mental hurdles in his way.
You see, Mike struggled as a young man with obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety, and a dissatisfaction about the way his body looked that affected his social interactions. A self-described “scrawny kid” who “grew way too tall way too fast,” it wasn’t until college when he joined a gym and attended a bodybuilding competition with a friend that Mike realized the potential positive effects a life dedicated to health and fitness held for him. (Mike’s story was recently the featured on the BodyBuilding.com website.)
“I kind of fell in love with realizing that I was in control of the way that I looked, that I had control over that,” Mike says. “There are so many things in life that you don’t have control over.”
Over the last decade, Mike has controlled what he could and not only transformed his body, but out of that confidence came his marriage, his family, the opportunities with Dymatize and BodyBuilding.com, and yes, plenty of competitions. He competes in an average of three shows per year, and now, with a newborn child, he’s prepping for another one.
Some days and weeks are easier to keep on a schedule. Other times, he says, it’s a bit of a challenge to find time to workout. But he’s always been of the mindset that some work is better than no work, and that consistency over the long haul is more important than quick, flashy results.
“I have my schedule for the week, and maybe my schedule says that on Wednesday, I don’t do cardio. But if I come up to Wednesday and it just so happens that my wife’s at home and all the stars align, I’m going to do cardio. I’m going to take it,” he says. “I’m going to take it when I can get it because inevitably, there’s going to be some point during the week where I’m going to plan on doing something and I’m not going to be able to.
“Sometimes, people think ‘if it throws my plan off at all, well forget it, I’m just not going to do anything. I just would encourage anybody to commit to doing something, knowing that it’s not going to be perfect all the time, but knowing that over time, that consistency is going to pay off and it’s going to yield some serious results.”
And Mike’s advice to other busy dads who are just looking to get started and/or stick with a health and fitness program: incorporate your kids.
He gives the examples of using his “squirmy” 5-year-old as resistance during situps for an ab workout. Or putting his 2-year-old in a backpack and going for a hike for that extra 30 pounds on his back. Or playing soccer in the backyard with his older kids.
The key is to just get moving because, as Mike says, “No kid likes to sit around.”
“Kids want to play,” he says. “It may not be your formal cardio on a stair climber machine, but if you get out and go play frisbee with the kids and race them around the park, you’re going to burn some calories, there’s no doubt about it.”
As any father knows, your kids will always find ways to test your flexibility, sometimes both physically and mentally. Better to use it to your advantage than use it as an excuse.