Lessons From The Weight Room

I’ve been lifting weights since I was 15 years old.  Growing up as a competitive year-round swimmer, I was always told that lifting weights would hinder my performance in the water, but the first time I got a barbell in my hands, I knew something was different.  From that point on, I spent more time in the weight room than in the water and never looked back.

Lifting weights gave me a feeling of accomplishment that carried over into the rest of my day and made me feel like I could do anything.  The difference between weight lifting and other sports is the independence you gain from it. You can’t rely on your teammates to pick the weight up for you, and it is up to you whether you show up and train day in and day out.  A common phrase in strength training is “the weights never lie”. 200lbs will always be 200lbs, and you can either lift it or you can’t. At its core, lifting weights is very black and white – a refreshing concept in an industry full of fluff and fads.   

As I continued lifting in college, I was drawn toward bodybuilding.  I spent about two years immersing myself in the bodybuilding lifestyle – eating 5 meals a day, never missing a training session, and always chasing the “pump”.  I competed twice and even gained professional status in the NGA, a natural bodybuilding federation. But what my two years of bodybuilding taught me is that your body will never be a perfect Greek statuesque work of art.  Meal timing may be great when you’re trying to get #shredded but it will often get in the way of work, school, family, and friends.  Every single workout cannot and should not be the hardest thing you’ve ever put your body through – your joints will not thank you for it.  The standards of competition are completely subjective and have nothing to do with the best or hardest trained athlete, but rather who is able to diet more and has the best ‘shape’.  I didn’t come out of the sport with any regret, and I would still consider competing again in the future. But perhaps the most important lesson I took away from my time in bodybuilding is that nobody outside of the fitness world will think better or worse of you because of the amount of weight you lift, or how good your six pack looks.  When you are immersed in the environment that perpetuates the idea that your success is determined by how you look, not how you act or what type of person you are, it’s easy to blur the lines between what is important and what is not.

As I settled down from competition, I started studying strength training to figure out why my knees and back hurt every time I squatted, and how to deadlift properly without injuring myself.  What I found was the knowledge to fix these issues for both myself and my clients. Strength training allowed me to get stronger every week without running my body down, train 3-4 times a week, have more freedom in my diet, and have a life outside of the gym.  The result was a bigger, stronger physique, and a tremendously better quality of life outside of the gym.

As my lifting career has continued and I’ve transitioned to helping others learn to lift and increase their quality of life through building strength.  I have learned what the weight room means for many other people. For most, getting stronger builds confidence walking down the street. It is the insurance policy preventing you from getting injured when you pick up a heavy box off the ground.  It means more time playing with the grand kids. It means less stressful doctors visits. And it means a longer, more enjoyable life. These are the goals I can stand behind. It makes a bigger bicep seem arbitrary in comparison, and gives a much greater purpose as to why you are in the gym.