DLB - Life After Competition
DLB: Life After Competition
The surprisingly smooth transition from competitor to Jill-of-all-trades
“It’s better to burn out than it is to rust.” A fair and apt quote for so many fitness industry personalities who’ve had their 15 minutes of fame, only to come crashing down when the discerning eye of the consumer gets disenchanted. Or disillusioned. Or just plain bored. Supplement companies trade athletes like baseball cards, and some IFBB pros drop off the face of the earth after competing for a year (or not at all). But if you’ve been involved in the industry in any capacity between 2012 and today, then you’d know there’s one star that hasn’t just maintained her light, but rather, shone even brighter, and that’s Dana Linn Bailey. From placing dead last in figure, to starting a clothing company with her husband, to winning the inaugural Women’s Physique Olympia, to starting a supplement line and opening a gym, this woman has demonstrated that competing was never her be-all-and-end-all goal. It was just another facet of her life.
But in this competitive, dog-eat-dog, saturated fitness field, what do you do with yourself once you’ve already hit the pinnacle of your competitive career? Where do you go emotionally, physically, and professionally? What’s next for the former Ms. Olympia? I caught up with Dana at one of her Warhouse Gym camps to ask her just that: “Do you still lift, bro?”
(With special commentary by Rob Bailey)
JF: In 2016, Run Everything Labs worked on some pretty big deals involving international distribution. Did you ever think that your goals for last year would be more business oriented versus competition?
DLB: I’ve never even thought of it that way, actually. I never thought of that. Right now, our goals are just to make everything as great as possible with the businesses. With our last few releases in Flag Nor Fail, everything coordinated together and we’re customizing so much now. All our gear is customized, whereas before we’d use something generic. And in terms of Run Everything Labs, we’re already talking about “version 2” of everything. It’s all about making it the biggest and best possible. We opened up the gym in early 2016, and we’re already talking about franchising it to make it the biggest and the best.
To me, the business just makes more sense.
Rob: I think it’s weird that the Arnold isn’t our focus. Goals are weird. We set crazy goals for ourselves, and we reached them all. I think a lot of them were unrealistic, like, “Hey, we want to own our own gym and our own clothing line. And have a supplement line that’s distributed all over the world. And she wants to win an Olympia!”
DLB: Actually, my goal wasn’t even to win it. I just wanted to be onstage. I just wanted to be competing with the best. So when I won it the first year, I was like, “Well, now what?”
Rob: So it’s weird that we reached all of our obnoxiously big goals, but I think that’s what people don’t understand with her and us: Once you reach your goal, do you just keep doing it over and over? Does she keep competing and doing the same thing? Where do we go from here? So now we need even bigger goals! That’s what we’re still trying to figure out, and why we’re going as hard as we can in every direction.
DLB: We’ve already hit the fitness industry and we’re at the top of our game there. So we want to be at the top of the game in a different industry now, too. In life, just be out there in the general public and be big.
Rob: I remember last year, people started the “Save Rob Bailey” tagline, which was calling me out for slowly killing myself with everything—not sleeping, not training, smoking, not eating. Little things like that helped pull me out, but also with Dana, she got lost in her head with the mentality of, “I’m not shredded all the time anymore—how do I deal with it?” So something else we’ve been working on with being the best at everything is trying to fix ourselves too. We weren’t broken, but there were elements of both of us that were just completely f—ed. She had to realize that she didn’t need to be that “next-level” shredded all the time, and it was time for me to start eating and training properly.
JF: In terms of life after competition, is it going how you thought it would?
DLB: There is still that urge for me to get onstage again. We made the decision in June that I wouldn’t compete in the 2015 Olympia, and at that point, I didn’t know what to do with myself for two or three months; I would cry; I thought it was going to be really weird that I was going to the Olympia and not competing. Up until we actually got there, I didn’t think anyone would care about me if I wasn’t onstage. But really, nothing changed. Not a damn thing. There was still this massive line waiting for me. Nobody cared that I wasn’t onstage! They were probably happier because it meant that I could be at the booth talking to them. We also did more traveling, which was a bonus. We have the ability to give back more to the people who follow us. We can meet more people now! Even now though, I still go up and down because sometimes I feel like I lose my purpose if I’m not getting ready for anything. Rob and I have been brought up on struggle, so prepping was part of that. People followed us because they saw the struggle of prep, and saw us as real people. But right now, neither of us have this crazy struggle. So I’m struggling with not struggling.
I realized I don’t need to struggle to be an inspiration to people.
JF: In June  when I was at the WHG camp, I caught you saying, “I was nervous that I wouldn’t be relevant if I didn’t compete.” I guess you’ve found that wasn’t the case…?
DLB: I did, yes [laughs]. Rob was certain that wouldn’t happen. He knew. I was the one who thought I would slowly fade away like so many other fitness personalities.
Rob: She thought that’s all she was. I tried my best to talk her out of believing that.
DLB: If it was up to me, I would still be competing. The decision was mostly him. I try to trust everything he says. I knew he wouldn’t steer me in the wrong direction. I was the one having a meltdown, but he was self-assured. It’s not about competition anymore; that’s not why people like us. We had a following before I had my pro card, like when I was getting dead last in national figure competition. It’s not about the competition at all.
JF: In terms of training, how does your motivation ebb and flow when you don’t have a show in mind? Do you have more or less days where you don’t feel like training?
DLB: It does sometimes get hard because I don’t have anything to train for, so I can make excuses not to. But on the reverse side, it makes training a lot more fun. When I’m training for a show, I’m fifty-fifty in terms of hating training because it’s a job. But now that I don’t have anything to train for, it’s a little harder. Generally, I like to train more now and enjoy it more.
JF: You mentioned in other videos how you were incorporating some bodybuilding, powerlifting, and CrossFit. How do you balance all the different disciplines?
DLB: When we launched the REL trainer, you could see that we bench twice a week, squat two to three times a week, and then deadlift once a week. Then I’ll throw in a standing shoulder press. But always start out with a big strength movement, whereas bodybuilders start out with an isolation movement to pre fatigue or whatever. I preached about it, and it’s a smarter way of training, so I’m not knocking it. But that’s not how I train anymore. I’ll start with the compound movement, then go to the accessory stuff, then end with something more athletic.
JF: In mid-2015, your strength numbers were 235 for bench, 315 for squat, and 315 for deadlift. What are you at now?
DLB: I’ve surpassed all of those. But with bench, I realize the 235 wasn’t “legal.” It was poor form, didn’t quite touch my chest, you know? So now I’ve been focusing on doing it more with powerlifting form, so that when I post a video for bench or squat, you can’t criticize my form. Squat I’m at about 335, deadlift at 355, and I haven’t one-rep-max benched in a while.
JF: In terms of diet, you were both doing intermittent fasting for a while, right?
Rob: Fasting is something I started. She hesitated a little because 10 years of bodybuilding taught her that it wasn’t okay. My thought was that I wanted to eat less food; I just didn’t want my body to have to process so much. On this plan, I found that I could be productive all morning and wouldn’t stray from my diet as much. There’s no option to eat after 8 p.m., and I wouldn’t even think about eating until 1 or 2 p.m.
Oddly enough, I’m exactly where I want to be aesthetically. It’s weird because I never thought I could get there. I’m about 265–270 pounds; I wouldn’t say I have abs, but I’m something close to almost saying I have almost abs. I’m strong. It doesn’t take much maintenance. I don’t look like a bodybuilder, but I feel like I look like an athlete.
DLB: Breakfast is the first thing I think of when I wake up, because that’s what you’re used to as a bodybuilder. So getting out of that mindset was a big transition. But this is super-convenient once you get into it. I am just not hungry in the mornings anymore. If I could get just one percent leaner, then I’d be happy. Whenever I come back from a trip, sometimes I’m a little over where I want to be. But I don’t desire to look like I could step on the Olympia or Arnold stage tomorrow. I want functional, athletic, nice, round muscles.
JF: So many years after hitting it big, how do social media trolls affect you now?
Rob: The Internet is just a tool. We’re at a level where there are just so many eyes on us. I know in my head that what we do is right, that we don’t really need reassurance or confirmation about it. There’s just so much negativity out there that I just don’t read it anymore. I’m still passionate and protective over her, so I try to stay away from most of it.
DLB: I see little things here and there, but I don’t really pay attention. People will always have an opinion about my body. Even though I haven’t competed recently, my viewership is still going up. And with more numbers in general comes more people that don’t quite understand a female with muscle. I get it just as much just being the same size but softer. You have to just be prepared for the negativity, but I stopped caring about that three or four years ago. Sometimes he still gets heated when people come at me.
Rob: She was kind of at the front of a revolution for women, and I think the revolution is growing. I don’t see as many negative comments, and I think one of the reasons they’re going away is because the average person now knows a relative or friend who’s into fitness. So these people who have never seen a girl who looks like Dana might know someone who’s into lifting weights. I think the world, led by her, is actually catching up a little bit. If you wait a few more years, then these people won’t be as ignorant to females with muscle anymore.
JF: Between March/April of 2014 and 2015, you’ve actually doubled most of your social media statistics; Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook have all risen astronomically. And yet, you haven’t competed in over a year. Why do you think so many people are still following you so, and you have even more new followers?
Rob: I think that the market is really saturated now. The new divisions are bringing more attention and bodies into the seats to be a part of this great fitness world, but at the same point in time, it’s oversaturating the market. Ten years ago, the only way people knew you were a pro was if a magazine told you. Now there are just a ton of pros and they post a lot more. Pros are just more easily accessible in general.
DLB: There are so many pros now, and we have a billion pro qualifiers. I agree that the market is saturated for sure. I think a lot of the reason people like us is because we put ourselves out there. We’re so available to people. We make ourselves available. We’re not here to take everyone’s money; we just want to show that we care.
Rob: I don’t think it’s just that. I think we’re evolving nicely. I think that a lot of times people are used to train wrecks, or that when people gain fame, it goes poorly. We’re staying grounded, keeping people current with our lives, and people see themselves in us. It’s easy to share a message of “Enjoy life,” and people want to see that message. It’s not strictly bodybuilding because there’s a lot more dynamic to our lives.
JF: What’s it like to own a gym? How has it affected or changed your lives?
DLB: Honestly, if we want to get rowdy and have fun, we go to our gym. We’re not bar people. At 10 o’clock, there’s a crazy group of people lifting, and they’re just a blast. But that’s where we have the most fun. It’s cool because we go to the diner or go out to eat, but everyone knows us as the owners of “The Warhouse Gym,” even if they don’t know us as part of the fitness industry.
Rob: It’s almost like a nightclub or bar. It’s a really fun atmosphere. It’s amazing for us. A lot of the original issues occurred because there was no manual for it; we didn’t know what we were doing, so everything was new. It directly put us in touch with our fan base, but also people who were just looking for a gym, and didn’t care who we were.