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Why I Started Training Athletes

I wanted to share how I came to start training athletes and opening a gym. It's been a unique odyssey, as I was anything but the stereotypical meathead that gets into training. As a high school freshman I weighed 102lbs, and graduated high school at an anemic 140lbs (6'2"). I was extremely skinny and weak, and the weight room was a place that was intimidating to me. While I played multiple sports at a young age, baseball was always my favorite, likely due to it being the sport I had the most success at. Much like today, there is a boatload of training misinformation about the sport, and I bought wholeheartedly into the pitching guru's of the day that said that pitchers "shouldn't get too big" and that lifting would impair performance. Not surprisingly my wafer thin 140lb body didn't generate much velocity, or distribute any stress off my arm when I threw, and I took my 78-80 mph fastball and constant sharp arm pain off to an NAIA school, still dreaming that I'd somehow magically metamorphasize into an MLB pitcher. 

Though I was still hesitant about lifting weights, my 18 year old self had taken notice that girls seemed to like guys with some muscle, certainly more than my scrawny self held. I also found motivation in discovering that my new older college teammates were very big, very intimidating, and regularly enjoyed teasing me about how small I was. So when the team trainers introduced some workouts, I threw aside my fears and misgivings and began lifting. And while I was absurdly weak (we regularly have 8th graders that even in their first month at the gym---that's all built around simply learning the movements---easily handle more weight than I did that entire first year), I found I very much enjoyed lifting. I liked the sense of accomplishment it gave me, and my confidence greatly increased. While I had no clue what I was doing, and my preexisting arm pain from high school only continued, I managed to gain 10 pounds in that first year, and felt like a new person. That summer I returned home, and a high school friend who was intent on trying out for D1 football insisted we start training together. His gym choice for us was a tiny, low ceiling, chalked, intimidating loud dungeon of a gym where I felt extremely out of place. I came to love it though, as I learned the mentality of what it meant to train, and how beneficial a serious training environment can be. I also began to read and research nutrition, and began to adjust my eating appropriately to fit my cross country runner genetics. It worked, and I hit 200lbs the following summer. Shocked at my transformation, teammates now begged me for advice, and several asked me to train them. It became my first foray into training athletes. For me personally though, while my size and strength increases had added hair to my fastball, it was too little too late. I also knew little about how to manage arm health, or what exercises were and weren't appropriate for overhead throwers, and only setting the ball down for long periods (remove the stimulus that pushes the arm to pain threshold) allowed me to throw without aggravation. 

Out of the sport at 22, I joined the USMC. USMC infantry gave me a strong sense of pride and accomplishment, but after concluding my tour, I often reflected on my shortcomings as an athlete. I couldn't help but hold regret that if I'd started training earlier, and knew better how to train as a thrower, I could've been much more in the sport that I loved so much as a kid. I also regretted simply not starting lifting earlier, for the positive effects it had on my overall daily mood and confidence. 

Two things then happened: first, the gym I was going to started harassing members about using chalk, dropping bars, etc, and so I installed a home gym in my garage. And second, I was weekly dealing with a steady stream of kids at the school I was teaching at expressing frustration that they weren't getting any results in their "PE weights" class, and asking for help. Many of these kids were just like me at their age: skinny, weak, ignored in their weights class while the coaches hovered over the bigger, talented kids. One kid was so persistent asking for help that I finally agreed he could come lift in the garage with our Sunday training group of adult lifters. I figured it'd be a one time experience of showing him first hand a few things, but with his persistence it gradually turned into him training with us each day. He started getting strong, and several of his teammates (coincidentally baseball) began asking if they could come as well. I began training them after school, packed in the garage in little groups of 3-4. While I always enjoyed teaching, I was having way more fun working with the after school groups. The knowledge that I had accrued over years of struggle and error on myself, and endless reading, was transformational for them. They saw great results, and within months, the Garage was outgrown, I quit my teaching job, and started training athletes full time at our original location. 

I of course still love training myself. There's few things I enjoy more than challenging myself during a top set. However, my greatest joy now comes from helping kids on their athletic journey. I tell kids all the time, you don't want to be me: don't squander your time and have to live life with regret. Use the brief window you've been given in life to pursue your athletic goals. Don't waste that time. Because of my personal athletic failings, it's hard for me to see kids sell themselves short or put half hearted effort into their sport. I tell every athlete when they start, "I will push you and keep you accountable. If that's hard for you, I'm not the trainer for you." I want to give them the tools I didn't have at their age, and give them a real chance at not just athletic success, but earning the confidence and happiness that I experienced transforming myself from weak to strong. 

Semper Fi

AF


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