On a typical sun-drenched Phoenix, Arizona morning,
IFBB Pro Bodybuilder Troy Alves
eases his silver Lincoln LS into the parking lot of Fitness One for his daily appointment with the iron. He's there to train, and when he does he's all business, but before that gets underway there are more pressing matters to tend to.
This is the stuff that Troy feels is as important to his success in bodybuilding and life as training, and he takes this time very seriously. It's the people, and today there are no shortage of them. They stop what they are doing to pay their respects to the man whose caring and kindness stand in sharp counterpoint to the stereotypes many people have about men with muscles. Tony doesn't rush them along. This is just part of his day and he gives them his complete attention, making each of them feel just as important as they make him feel.
Some people see bodybuilding and business as metaphorical shark pools with everyone straining for the top in a rabid feeding frenzy. The accepted war cry is every man for himself as helpful hands get trampled, and people are cast aside like spent cartridges on the battlefield for personal riches and glory. Caring about someone or something else is just unnecessary baggage unless the appearance of doing so ensures a bigger slice of pie. They use the sport for everything they can get out of it with little personal investment other than just being there, with no concern for others or what is left for the next generation.
Troy Alves takes a different philosophical approach to his business and the sport. Troy, like any other pro bodybuilder, still trains and diets hard in preparation for contests; but his conquest is over himself, his limitations, and the standard by which he is judged, and no one else. The people he gathers along the way become fuel, inspiration, and support and once they are at his side, his loyalty to them is as strong and steadfast as theirs is for him. Although
the nature of bodybuilding
requires that an athlete be very narrowly focused on self to be successful, Troy also sees the bigger picture and knows that without fans and supporters the sport doesn't exist and neither does his purpose for being a part of it.
This old school sense of purpose, respect, and values comes from his upbringing. He was raised by a very loving mother and a father who taught him the principles of hard work, honesty, and living honorably. It also comes from a solid family life with his wife Tara and his daughter Devine who support him every step of the way and keep him on track. When you really look at it, Troy's philosophy derives not from being soft or living with outdated principles, but from a smart business sense. People don't cheer on a bunch of posing suits, they cheer on personalities. Personalities that they enjoy, admire, and sometimes want to be like. Those same people buy tickets to contests,
, even magazines to support and in some way be a part of this athlete they admire.
If what you leave in your wake is admirable, then people say admirable things. When you are their role model, they learn from you, then pass it on, shaping the future. They even say good things to people that are not familiar with our sport, and after hearing great things, they may become interested. That's how the sport grows, and that is what Troy sees as his ultimate purpose in bodybuilding. Once athletes become visible in bodybuilding, they get noticed and the public will judge the sport by the people in it. Competing and improving to be the best he can be will always be a big part of what Troy does. After all, the higher up the mountain you are, the further your voice can carry and the more visible you become. That's why Troy trains hard to improve and place as high as he can. Sure there are financial rewards and prestige along the way, but Troy sees so much more. The more fans there are and the more people interested in the sport, the more everyone eventually benefits.
If you are lucky enough to know Troy then you know he is truly one of the nicest guys in the sport. He is also a
and after struggling to earn his pro card, he slammed into the pro ranks with a shock wave that was felt all the way to the Olympia stage in 2003 where he cracked the top ten by finishing 8th in his rookie year. Never once did he publicly or privately disrespect any of his competitors and he is the first to recognize and acknowledge those that inspired him. He bought a picture of
years ago when he first started bodybuilding, and hung it on his fridge for inspiration. He also admired
back then so it was a symbolic reward for his determination at his first IFBB professional contest, the 2003 Ironman Pro, to be called out in the first round during pre-judging and compared with both Flex Wheeler and
. He also secured a
contract, and did it all by being a great athlete, and a nice guy.
Troy believes that gossip and trash talk may be juicy entertainment but it does little to improve the image of the sport, the athletes in it, or make people on the outside compelled to take an interested look at bodybuilding,
"If all we read is negative press about bodybuilding and the usual Jerry Springer type garbage then what would compel someone to encourage their kids to be a bodybuilder?"
At a time when most of our athletes struggle in obscurity outside of the bodybuilding family, Troy's image and business philosophies seem like the wiser strategies to pursue in the long term.
Off the stage and out of the gym,
Troy is truly a very active ambassador for bodybuilding
. Although few in the sport are aware because he doesn't make it a point to tell anyone, he has been involved heavily in charities and social programs for over ten years in his home town of Phoenix. He has lived there since he was 9 years old and it's where he became successful. Now he wants to help others better themselves. Three or four times a year he attends
NFL Players Association charity
events to give away autographed pictures to kids, talk to them about what is happening in their lives, and use the time to encourage them to be the best they can be. He also frequently attends a juvenile corrections facility in the Phoenix area to spend time with the kids there and inspire them to turn their lives around. Then there are celebrity bowling events, charity speaking engagements, fund raising, gift giving and free autographs at Christmas. In fact the list of local charities he is involved with and the number of events he volunteers his time for are simply too extensive to list. Whenever he has time, charity work in his community is number one after his family and bodybuilding.
The result is that a lot of kids and adults in Phoenix are learning that there is much more to bodybuilding than just big muscles. There is character-building hard work, discipline, goal setting, and sportsmanship; and from those things come great rewards. "Many of these kids don't have a positive role model growing up," Troy say, "so I want to be that for them."
Just being himself, Troy is destroying negative stereotypes and assumptions about bodybuilders that often stand in the way of outside businesses getting involved in the sport.
His ideals may never completely catch on; but then again, they may. After all, it's smart business and there are a lot of smart and decent athletes in the sport. Regardless, Troy Alves has chosen his path and will continue to do what he feels is the right and responsible thing to do, and in doing so he is not just a great athlete, he is also a great man.
Troy loves the sport and feels a personal responsibility to ensure it is bigger and better when he leaves it, just as the great bodybuilders from the past struggled to leave a legacy for Troy's generation. He also feels that he has the ability to impact people's lives in a positive way and that, quite simply, it feels good when he does that.
Troy is an exceptional bodybuilder
and will leave an indelible footprint on the sport long before his time here is done. He will do it by working hard in the gym and being the gifted bodybuilder he is. He will also do it by giving of himself, accepting that he is a role model, and taking that opportunity to actively be a positive one. Or as the people he has met have aptly put it, by just by being a nice guy.
*Photos by flexonline.com