While working as a personal trainer in 2016, I had many clients with notable stories and goals. However, out of anyone I’ve met and trained in the gym, Jack Lovell not only has stuck out above the crowd but has also been one of the greatest influences on my passion for training, and I’m honored to continue training and mentoring him after more than a year.
When I met Jack, he was no different than most 15-year-olds in the gym: training as well as he knew how, based on articles he found online to “build muscle” and “get big quick.” Between clients, I had some free time to meet and talk with Jack about his goals and his purpose in the gym. I mentioned my pro card in Natural Bodybuilding, and his eyes lit up. I felt pride in the moment he asked what it would take to train with me — I could tell how much he wanted it. After talking to his mom, I found she was not as enthusiastic about starting him on a program. Like many parents, she was worried her young teenage son wouldn’t have the responsibility and discipline to follow a strict nutritional and training program. His poor performance in school and defiance at home didn’t do much for his case, either. I decided not to press the subject with her but continued to talk to Jack regularly in the gym.
I saw a lot of my teenage self in Jack. After getting to know him on a deeper level, I could relate with his feelings of resentment toward authority, his lack of care for what seemed like meaningless academics, and being unable to express himself properly in any outlet. He felt stuck, unable to progress, and with that stagnant feeling, he became depressed and anxiety ridden. Every day seemed more hopeless than the last, and although life was going on around him, he didn’t feel like he was really living.
The loss of his dad affected him severely and left him without a male role model to help guide him in perhaps the most difficult period of his life. To alleviate his pain, Jack turned to drugs and friends in similar slumps for comfort — choices leading down a very dark road. The only positive influence he kept in his life was his cousin, Chris, who was a strong anchor for Jack when he was feeling lost. I knew that working out had become my most positive outlet in finding myself as a teenager, and it helped to build the discipline, character and maturity that has made me the man I am today. I thought perhaps training could do the same for Jack. Talking to his mom once again, I assured her this would not just change Jack’s body; it would give him an outlet to grow and mature as a young man.
Thus, his training begun. I did not train Jack only in bodybuilding and nutrition. I offered him life coaching to help him progress in school and at home and to cope with his depression and anxiety. I made his training a priority, knowing his potential was infinitely greater than what he was currently experiencing, and extreme pressure is the only way to bring about significant change in anyone or anything. I refused to train him if his grades were falling, his nutrition plan was not 100 percent or his mom reported conflict at home. He lost his negative influences, and his mom made sure he stayed clean from drugs.
While at first he had nothing to do in his free time without his old friends, Jack took to reading and gaining knowledge in areas he found interesting. In just a few short weeks, he caught up in school, bringing his subpar GPA to above a 3.0. His relationship with his mom improved greatly as he built trust and proper communication with her. With every pain barrier he overcame in the gym, Jack’s mental fortitude strengthened along with his body. Three nights each week, Jack came in to endure a grueling workout in which I pushed him to break barriers, overcome obstacles and become mentally hardened.
Jack learned the Champion Mindset: defining what it meant to become a man and living through it; developing a set of core values to improve on each day; and finally becoming mentally, spiritually and physically tough — knowing nothing I put in front of him would break him unless he let it but also that every workout would challenge his willpower and his grit, just as life does every day.
Now a year later, Jack continues to train in the same gym in which I met him, but he is not at all the same person. One would probably confuse the now 16-year-old for a college grad, especially after talking to him. His passion for training has expanded to learning yoga, meditation and stretching. He reads deeper subjects than anyone his age I’ve met, citing Nietzsche and other philosophers while passionately talking about the world around him — a world he was oblivious to just a year ago. While his transformation was gradual, the confident, passion-driven young man I train now barely resembles the dark eyed, hopeless boy I met a year ago, and he gained about 20 pounds of muscle in that time as well. Nothing could make a trainer prouder, and I look forward to witnessing Jack’s bright future.
Article author Richard Saad can be reached at email@example.com.