From time to time I’ll think back to when I first started training. Pretty much my entire youth, especially when I hit puberty and grew in height far faster than I did in width, people would make comments about how skinny I was. Like many teenagers awkwardly moving throughout their pubescence, I was trying to find my identity and didn’t really like being called “skinny”. Especially not when the people I looked up to (sports start and action heroes) were far from skinny. I began my fitness journey around 14 years old doing push ups, pullups, situps, and throwing around some 5 and 10 lb dumbbells my dad had in our play room. Eventually this led to my parents purchasing a weight bench with several attachments that I proceeded to break and finally a secondary weight bench that I proceeded to outgrow when I began high school and could train in their weight room. When I could finally drive my parents agreed to get me a gym membership and I split time between that gym and my high school weight room.
When I first started training, I would do exercises out of a book my dad gave me from his youth (aka the 1960s) but I eventually graduated to coming up or copying routines from Flex magazine (not much better). I did all kinds of silly nutritional tricks that I thought would pack on the muscle and melt away the fat. Not too long ago I used to say “I wish I knew then what I know now” and “If I had only been following intelligent training and nutrition from day one, where would I be now?” but now I don’t think that way. I am actually very thankful for time period from about 14-22 where I did primarily dumb “meathead” things. Here are what I am most thankful for:
1. Not having easy access to the internet and not having Facebook
Back in the day, I trained by myself for myself. I didn’t have a giant social network that I needed to keep updated or try to gain attention from. There wasn’t a plethora of information for me to try to sift through and a million different training programs and ideas. This kept me focused on what was important: training hard and being consistent. Now a days so many people fail to gain traction in the training (and results) because they are continuously bouncing from one training method and program to another. They are bombarded by thousands of fitness “stars” showing them hundreds of different ways to exercise. One month they want to powerlift, then they want to olympic lift, then they want to bodybuild, then they want to be functional but they never spend enough time in any one method to see the results they keep chasing after. Along with that, the focus of living the lifestyle becomes portraying to your social media following that you’re living the lifestyle. It’s become more about posting videos, selfies, and the most ridiculous motivational fitness memes. Don’t get me wrong, I like the social support and the easily accessible information that comes with all this but is it really necessary to post a pic of everything you eat? Do you need the warm embrace of your Facebook friends every time you crave carbs? Do you need to post every PR when you’ve only been lifting for a year and every single lift is a PR? Maybe this is just me having a “get off my lawn moment” but I really am thankful that when I started, the focus was more about what you actually did that what you posted.
2. Lifting on crappy equipment
You won’t appreciate good equipment until you’ve spent plenty of time lifting on crappy equipment. I started off using cement filled weights, graduated to standard size metal weights (the really small bars that had screw on collars), then finally graduated to rusted olympic bars and dumbbells that were donated to my high school. I can honestly say that every step of the way I was super excited about the next piece of equipment. When you’re used to not having any equipment, a set of cement filled plates or standard size plates is the greatest thing ever. I vividly remember both times we put together the new weight sets at my house. When you’re used to training in a small room with limited equipment, getting an entire weight room of rusted old barbells is the greatest thing ever. When you’re used to rusted bent bars, shiny new things are the bee knees. When you’re used to shiny new things made for commercial gyms and general pop, the highest quality strength equipment on the planet from EliteFTS is heaven. From 14-22 I lifted on equipment that was not so great and it wasn’t till I was 26 and opened NBS that I got to experience the worlds best equipment. One of the reasons I purchase the absolute best equipment is because I know what it’s like to lift on stuff that sucks. Spending years lifting on crappy $100 bars will make you truly appreciate the $800 squat bar.
3. Doing dumb things and still getting results
While I am very much aware that I could have gotten way better results had I done things the right way during my youth, doing dumb things and still getting results has helped me gain a perspective that many aren’t fortunate to have. One thing I learned is that if you train hard, eat right, do it consistently, and don’t have hormonal problems, you can get amazing results without the most ideal program. People are quick to jump ship or talk negatively about a certain training style but more than likely, it’s probably not the training method and probably the person utilizing the method. Likewise, just because you’re getting results, doesn’t mean your program is good. Anything gets results on a beginner so don’t think you’re the god of programming because you helped a beginner go from 135 to 225 on deadlift. Also, when you do enough dumb things that don’t work or get you hurt you start to learn pretty quickly what to do from what you now know what not do. If you’ve never experienced the repercussions of doing dumb things, how can you appreciate or even trust the wise advice from someone who has. Learning things the hard way seems to be a little bit more likely to stick.
How about you? Any things from when you first started that you look back and laugh about or appreciate? Leave a comment below.