Optimum Nutrition athlete Michael Roberts finds peace and purpose in the gym.
Every athlete has their own personal reasons for doing what they do. For some, it’s glory that they seek. For others it’s the thrill of competition. For Michael Roberts, Team ON athlete and fitness model, it’s the challenge of continual growth and development.
“For me, life is about the challenge, in and out of the gym,” he says. “Challenging yourself is where you grow; it’s what keeps life interesting.
“That’s why I compete – the challenge of bringing something better than I did previously, trying to outdo myself each and every time, each and every session. It’s me versus me, and I think that’s something that a lot of people get wrong about this sport and industry. Although it’s called ‘competing’, I don’t see it as competing with others on stage but rather competing with myself. In such a subjective sport, you’ll never be able to please everyone and you’re setting yourself up for failure if that’s your purpose. All you can do is make sure you brought your all to the stage, and that’s what it’s all about for me.”
Roberts’ story is a similar one to many who have chosen this path. Never the biggest guy in school, he competed in cross country running and BMX, before too many injuries took their toll and he had to give the sports away. Then he started training at the local gym.
“It was nothing too serious at first,” he says, “ but what started as a once or twice a week hobby quickly began to take over a lot of my time, from researching training, spending time in the gym and watching all the YouTube videos I could of my idols like Steve Cook and the late Greg Plitt.”
Making a difference
A love of working out in the gym led Roberts to pursue a career in occupational therapy. But during his degree, he found a calling even closer to his heart.
“I’ve known for a long time that I wanted to help people, that I could never see myself behind a desk doing paperwork,” he says. “I needed the face to face; I needed to know what I was doing was making a difference.
“ Occupational therapy just didn’t click the way I thought it should; I didn’t have the feeling I thought I would. But then, while doing clinical work for my degree, I undertook my qualifications to become a personal trainer and started working in a small studio. I quickly realised that the feeling was there – that this is what I should be doing. It was hard to walk away from my degree after four and a half years study, but I knew what I wanted and I have never looked back. This is what I love.”
Roberts is now head coach at Result Based Training in Melbourne. It’s a gym that focuses heavily on changing people’s lives for the better, and Roberts loves the community feel and the opportunity to provide his clients with new perspectives on training.
“It’s a very unique style of gym,” he says. “We focus on getting people to their goals. Honestly, how could someone not love being in that environment? There’s nothing more motivating than getting someone to a place they never thought possible – lifting heavier weights than they ever could, being happier and more confident about their bodies than they could ever remember being. It’s what makes the early starts and late finishes easy.”
Of course, it wasn’t long before the study bug bit again. Roberts is now back at university studying nutrition.
“Over my years of training, I have come to learn the importance of nutrition on the body with regards to performance, health and body composition,” he says. “Nutrition is a very touchy topic within the fitness industry. I feel so many people fail to comprehend the full extent to which it affects us, and this is why I want to further my knowledge.”
As well as studying, at the time of writing Roberts was also in preparation for the Olympia Expo in Las Vegas, where he will be on the booth for Optimum Nutrition.
“Currently, I’m in a cutting phase,” he says. “And in seven weeks I’ll be off to the Olympia. Training-wise, my cutting phases and bulking phases don’t change dramatically. I’m lucky because my metabolism is fast, so I can get away with just changing my nutrition rather than adding in extra cardio to create a caloric deficit.”
Each week Roberts reviews his body composition with his coach, along with other factors such as energy, sleep and stress levels.
“I truly believe weights training shouldn’t change much between the different phases,” he says. “Apart from the fact strength might decline the more time I spend in a caloric deficit, the program design stays relatively similar.”
The best you can be
After the Olympia, Roberts is aiming towards competing in the IFBB Nationals in October 2018.
“For me the goal is always the same,” he says. “Bring the best I can, get up on stage knowing I couldn’t have done more. After that, if I win? Awesome. If I don’t? I’m still a winner in my own eyes.”
The thrill of rubbing shoulders with the sport’s great names only adds to the joy of competition for this positive and driven athlete.
“That is the crazy part for me,” he says. “I spent years watching the likes of Steve Cook, Shaun Stafford and Nick Cheadle. Now to call them my teammates with Optimum Nutrition – it still leaves me fan-girling. I still feel like I did back when I first started lifting weights, so it’s all surreal for me. I just consider myself one lucky individual that Optimum Nutrition has given me the chances they have, because at the end of the day, I am just a regular guy who loves to lift some heavy weights.”
It seems everything has fallen into place for Roberts. Not only does he love competing (and lifting heavy weights), he also loves his job – something not many of us are lucky enough to be able to say.
“Love is the reason,” he says. “The feeling you get when someone tells you that you have affected their life in a positive way – it is unmatched.
“The fitness industry allows me to do that, both through my work training people and through helping people who reach out through social media. Being able to help someone; it is what keeps me doing what I do.”
The key to Roberts’ success is setting attainable goals and working towards them. And having clear deadlines for these goals makes it easier to do the hard work required.
“I can’t change the date of the comp, so it gives me a tangible date to reach,” he says. “If you don’t have a date to your goal, it can seem endless and that’s when discipline is hard.
“It sounds clichéd, but you need to set SMART goals. Be specific with them so you know exactly what you’re working towards. Make them measurable so you can actually see how you’re progressing towards them. Make them achievable and realistic. And set a time. Give your goals a timeline – that way each day holds importance, each day is your chance to get closer to your goal.”
Whether your aim is to compete as a bodybuilder, to help others or simply to improve your physique, the most important thing is to truly love what you do. If you don’t enjoy your current training regime, find a new one that you can really dig your teeth into and find joy in.
“It’s therapy for me,” Roberts says of his training. “This world is full of stressors, it’s full of bad things happening to us all, but in the gym, it’s my release.
“Often we get fed up in life with work or relationships where we give our all but get nothing back. Training is one of the few things in life where if you give your all, the results will come – you have complete control over it all!”