When I began my life long journey of fitness, some would say, I was very shortsighted. I read only bodybuilding magazines, I wanted to have big arms, big pecs, hard abs and didn’t care about anything else. My heart, lungs and vascular system were no more than an afterthought and cardio was something to get me “lean for the beach” and not something to positively effect my health. I would bench press heavy, I would arm curl heavy. I would would do everything heavy all the time. I would use every machine the gym had to torture my body into muscle building submission. I’d be sure to train one body part once a week and punish that body part until it was rendered useless and non functional for the that day and the two or three of the following days. This plan worked great for 5 years. I do not even want to get started on my diet. Macdonalds 2 times a day, very little fruits and vegetables. Lots of protuen shakes. I got big. 17.5 inch arms. I could bench three plates on both sides of the bar. I couldn’t do a pushup for sh*t. Couldn’t squat for a decent weight, but could rep out the entire stack on a leg extension machine. I had a serious set of Abs for all my holidays but suffered from a sore back. I couldn’t deadlift that much either. Oh how attitudes a change…
What follows it a short story of what changed my skewed vision of fitness. It may be a bit too long for one blog so I may split it into two or three.
I was around 21 years of age at the time and was visiting with my Osteopath. I had been seeing her for about 3 months on a regular basis because of some “nagging” injuries and on this day she had a concerned look on her face. I asked her what was wrong and she cringed, half smiled and said:
Andrew, why do you lift so heavy? Its really taking its toll on your joints and ligaments. What are your trying to prove? I don’t know what it is you are doing but if you continue, you will not be able to walk properly by the time you are 25. Whatever it is you are currently doing, you should stop. I know that this is your life and career but what good is it if you cant walk properly?
Lots of questions and I had lots of answers. But none of the answers made sense. If I tell you I was almost on the verge of tears I would be lying. I welled up and tears were shed. Its true! All this time I thought I was building the body of a super athlete and I wasn’t. I was destroying the tool that allowed me the physical freedoms that i had at the time. I was abusing the genetics gifted to me by my parents. The abuse(thats what i call it) my body was put through caused the following conditions. Permanent damage to the shoulder joint:Rotator cuff damage, Ligament Damage and reduced range of motion. Rotated Vertebra in the lumbar spine: Through overuse of belt and incorrect lifting technique couple with muscular imbalance. Patella Femoral Syndrome: Over use and over loading the quads on a regualr basis. The list went on but most of the other issues were muscular in nature and would be easy to fix over time. What a stick I was in. I was going to have to completely re-think everything I had been doing for the past 6 years and try to find a safer, less painful way to work out. This was a tough one. I had to give up on everything I knew about “working out”. My visions of being “big” were being flushed away quicker than a tear in a bucket of water. WHAT WAS I GOING TO DO.!??! The answer was going to come to me quicker than I realized.
Not as much as twenty seconds after leaving Emma’s office (which was located in the gym where I was the fitness manager) I walked towards the free weights area to stare at the Smith Machine, Bench Press, Leg Press. All of which that would surely miss me in my new found quest to be a “small guy”. But what I found was something different. Something that would unknowingly set me on the path that I am on today, over 10 years later.
What I saw made me look twice, three times and then stare. This person caught my attention just from the way they picked up the dumb bell with ease and purpose. The same weight I had not thought I could even use with the help of a friend! This person was dumbbell pressing 45kgs on a stability ball! 100lbs in each hand. By anyones standards that is impressive and by my standards it was Hulk like! The one thing that shocked me about this person more than anything else was his size. He was not what I considered to be a “big guy”. As a matter of fact, he looked very unassuming and at a glance “nothing special”. So being the type of person I am, I walked right up to him, extended my hand, introduced myself and asked what in the name of Zeus he was doing. For three months, every day he would arrive at the gym and he would be doing “weird” exercises that are now commonplace in my world and in a lot of people’s exercise programs. By this time I had gained a new position at another gym having not weight trained at all for those three months. I wanted to start from scratch. The drawing board. From point zero. Twelve weeks off seemed good.
During this time I began to do research into more holistic methods of training. I Completed courses on the methodologies used by various coaches, trainers, physiotherapists, sports scientists and athletic therapists who did not believe strength and performance came solely from the bench press. Until I realized how simple training should be I found out what was “odd” was actually normal. Realizing that strength and muscular growth could be improved by challenging balance, stability and coordination was the most eye opening, perspective changing thing that had happened to me since I realized there was no Santa Clause. I also came to the conclusion that it was not the weight I was using that caused my injuries but the lack of knowledge, patience and specific physical preparation that was the cause.
On my next blog i will go into detail and explain which trainers, coaches and conditioning experts led me to where I am now.