4 Lessons I’ve Learned from 9 years of Fitness

In 2004 I was a freshman in high school and had just finished my last soccer season of my life. I started my first job at Starbucks and after a few months working, no soccer, and unlimited free frappuccinos I had gone from a skinny 130-pound soccer player to a skinny fat 145 pounds ex-athlete. Something needed to change.

In the same shopping center as my work, there was a Bally’s Total Fitness and I began working-out there after my shifts.

I had no idea how to work out so I ended up doing what many do – which is to mimic what the ‘fit’ people were doing in the weight room. Two months of this and still drinking frappuccinos, and there was practically no change in my body composition.

Frustrated with my lack of progress I made friends with one of the older guys in the weight room named Andy to help me learn the ropes.

We ended up training together for the next 3 years and he helped me go from a skinny-fat teenager to a muscular 185-pound guy. He is the one who got me started down my fitness path and I am very grateful for the time he spent training with me.

Looking for a new challenge and getting a little bored of the same routine I started Cross-Training in 2007. Cross-Training has been a catalyst for my fitness IQ. Since 2007 I’ve competed at the Cross-Training games, Cross-Training regional’s, Olympic lifting meets, marathons, 5ks, and numerous local Cross-Training competitions. On top of my own training, I’ve been lucky enough to be a full-time coach since 2009 and have helped hundreds of people work towards their own personal performance goals through group fitness instruction, personal training, and writing.

In this article, I’ll be discussing some of the overreaching principles about what I’ve learned about training over the last 9 years. I’ve started with 4 in this article but intend for this to be an ongoing series as I reflect more on the topic.

Lesson 1: Long term strength development with good body composition has the highest carryover to the good life when compared to other fitness pursuits.

Aristotle postulated that the good life (eudaimonia) is the one that is flourishing and living well or doing well. He goes on to break down the four primary tenants of a good life as pleasure, wealth, honor, and virtue. Each of these tenants on their own doesn’t mean your living the good life but rather the sum of all four working in a unison. “The happy person is one who expresses complete virtue in his activities, with an adequate supply of external goods, not just for any time but for a complete life. (Aristotle)”

It’s my contention that long-term strength development aids in one living the good life by helping to maximize pleasure. Here are just a few salient points to support that claim.

  1. The highest probability of being closer to the human aesthetic ideal archetype is found through a muscular physique built through strength training.
  2. Slowing down muscle loss with aging will decrease the likelihood that you’ll need to be dependent on others for assistance with daily tasks when you’re older. It’s one thing to live till your 92. It’s another thing to live to 92 while being able to take care of yourself independently.
  3. Research suggests resistance training will make you happier.
  4. Research also suggests resistance training will develop more brain circuitry and increase brain function.
  5. Strengthen foundational body structures such as bones, ligaments, and tendons.
  6. Strength training enhances the central nervous system which makes movement easier throughout your entire life.
  7. Improves sleep.
  8. Prevent & Manage disease.

Will being stronger in and of itself be enough to maximize your potential for the good life? Doubtful, but it goes a long way to making your day-to-day life easier and increases functional longevity.

It’s important to note that I don’t mean to say that the moments that you are actually performing the exercises are meant to be pleasurable (though some of you might derive pleasure from it) but rather I’m speaking to the benefits of long-term strength development.

Lesson 2: Learn to work within the confines of your current capacity.

On February 4th, 2008 I broke my collarbone in a snowboarding accident. July 2008 I competed in the Cross-Training Games. I was able to train through the injury and maintain a pretty high level of conditioning by taking it day-by-day and working with the confines of my ability.

We are now adult athletes/trainees and most of the time we are going to have minor injuries. That’s just part of the game. When you have injuries a valuable skill to have is the ability to refocus your training on other aspects of your fitness and by doing so you’ll increase the rate of healing as long as you don’t re-injure.

Heel cord injury and can’t run? Sub for rowing and swimming.

Bicep injury and can’t pull? Work on pressing.

Broken femur? Bench, pull-ups, and pistols with the opposite leg.

Sleep-deprived or overtrained? Meditate, sleep, relax, and read a book.

1 Week after my broken collarbone

Lesson 3: It’s a huge mistake to not think long term.

It’s easy to get caught up in superfluous fitness nonsense and direct your actions and resources towards low-value objectives. Low-value objectives would be most actions that do not prioritize improving the following biomarkers:

  1. Muscle Mass
  2. Strength
  3. Bone density
  4. Body Composition
  5. Blood lipids
  6. Hemodynamics
  7. Glucose control
  8. Aerobic capacity
  9. Gene expression
  10. Telomere Length

If you have an hour, I highly recommend checking out this video: Strength Training & The Biomarkers of Aging.

Lesson 4: Help others with their own fitness journey.

Two months ago I created a simple gymnastics template to help one of my friends develop her capacity with Cross-Training gymnastic movements like pull-ups, muscle-ups, ring dips, and handstand push-ups to get her ready for next year’s Cross-Training open and possibly NorCal regionals. Just yesterday I got a message from her showing me her first muscle-up. I don’t even remember my first muscle-up but I know I’ll remember this one for a long time!

By helping people elevate themselves not only do you have the satisfaction of watching them progress but you will have a higher likelihood of being consistent with your own training if your social circle perceives you as a health and fitness enthusiast.

Be a beacon of health and fitness and use your knowledge and fascination with it to pay it forward.