Growing up I was a pretty normal sized kid, always on the slimmer side but normal.
I was moderately athletic, though I didn’t end up sticking with any of the sports I tried. I never really thought twice about my appearance.
That was until the summer after grade 7. This already slim kid grew 10 inches that summer and went into grade 8 standing 6’ tall and looking like a newborn giraffe. Even still I wasn’t very self-conscious, but that didn’t last for long. At that time grade 8 meant the first year of middle school and as we all know, teenagers can be jerks.
Now, I was never really bullied, but I’m a sensitive type and small comments over time really did a number on me. Three other things made it worse. The first is that at the time, at least to my knowledge, there was no such thing as slim fit or tall clothing. You had small, medium, large and extra-large. The dilemma of the tall super skinny kid is that if you buy a small or medium shirt, it may fit your width decently but will barely go down to the top of your pants. And if you buy a large the length is usually okay but you end up looking like a child wearing his dad’s clothes. Either way, you end up looking ridiculous and even skinnier than you actually are.
The second thing was that growing up as a boy in the 80s and 90s you idolize the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Jean-Claude Van Damme and all the monsters in what was then the WWF. Not to mention all of the toys and cartoons portraying these hulking, strong, hero characters. Let alone all of the perhaps outdated thinking of a man having to be strong, muscular, aggressive, never cry, work hard labor, and play manly sports. What was a gangly, sensitive kid to do?
So in grade 9, I joined a weight training class in school. A full semester of weight training, 5 days a week. You’d think I would have gained a fair bit of muscle in that time but alas, there were no muscles to be found. To be honest, I don’t think I was lifting more weight than when I had started, and not for lack of trying! That would also be the start of countless attempts to get stronger and put on muscle that would ultimately end with me getting sick, extremely tired, and unbelievably frustrated. And that is the third thing, feeling like there was something inherently wrong with me when my friends could do the same stuff but actually get stronger and more muscular.
It wasn’t until my mid-20s after countless hours of reading and experimenting that I found something that worked for me. I even ended up putting on 20lbs in 6 months and felt amazing! That was until I hurt my back a couple of times(both of which were totally avoidable) and put training on hold for a while as I was in a dance career and my livelihood was on the line. Eventually, the dance career came to an end but my passion and hunger for exercise and training knowledge hadn’t stopped. In fact, throughout my entire dance life, I obsessively studied strength training theory as if I had always known I would end up becoming a trainer. It wasn’t long after that I enrolled in a program and finally became a personal trainer.
Exercise has given me a lot of lessons and benefits that I have enjoyed over the years and I will conclude this piece with two benefits that took me by surprise.
The first is open-mindedness.
Early on, I would blindly follow programs and not listen to the signs my body was giving me to rest more, slow down, etc. and I would end up running myself into the ground. I also went through periods where I thought you didn’t need a gym, calisthenics were superior to weights and vice versa, and that kettlebells were the be all end all of fitness. Now I see that some tools work better for certain jobs and that each tool has its purpose. I also know that everybody is different and that it’s a matter of finding what works best for each individual. That puzzle is one of my favorite parts of being a trainer.
The second is that change is possible.
Many of my early experiences in fitness and life lead me to believe that you either have it or you don’t, talented or untalented, good genes or bad, smart or stupid. There was no changing any of it. But after having seen and felt the change and growth in my own body and others repeatedly over time, that belief is a thing of the past. It is the small, measurable changes over a length of time that will make a believer out of anyone and my hope is that once people experience these changes in the gym, the effect and belief will ripple into other areas of their lives and change their whole life for the better.
It is my absolute joy and honor to guide people through their fitness journey, and maybe one day I can help you through yours too!