2018 is a unique year for me. It marks my 20th anniversary of weight lifting, and how it changed the trajectory of my life.
It all began in the summer of 1998 in Valley Center, the small Kansas town I grew up in. As an soon-to-be 7thgrader, I was looking forward to (finally) being allowed to play tackle football, so I started to hit those summer weights.
It was a 3-day-a-week program, centered around what our legendary football coach, Coach Smith, called the “power” football lifts: Bench Press, Hang Clean, and Back Squat.
So, as an ignorant, short-focused, and over-energetic 12-13 year old kid, I was “all in” for a summer of getting coached and getting strong. And that first summer was amazing. Not only did I learn all of these awesome new skills that pushed my body to another level, but I could see the progress of hard work in the gym in all the older kids. They really inspired me to come in every one of those three days, to be more like them, and to see what new feats of strength I could accomplish.
That summer routine continued over and over again into present day. Although I branched out beyond the “power” lifts I first learned all those many years ago, the same principles remain: continue coaching, groove motor patterns, and add weight to the bar.
But my reflection on all of this today is not about moving more iron or getting a new PR; I want to look a little deeper than that and explore other sides—life changing benefits—those years of rinse-and-repeat programs and processes did for me. These are the tools that 20 years in the “iron game” have provided me.
Confidence has got to be the most valuable tool for me, and probably for anyone, who has taken on the fitness journey. No matter the goal, that feeling of accomplishing something, the “bad-assery” of achieving that goal—the goal that took you months of planning, progression, and discomfort—can’t be replicated in many places.
Confidence has paid dividends over and over again, but what makes it real is the fact that it came from years of hard work. That confidence helped me become the first of my family to attend and graduate from college, to move across the country from my small Kansas town to the huge city of Chicago, to asking my amazing wife to marry me (probably the most nervous I’ve ever been), to launching my personal training business, Training by Taylor.
I’ve witness the confidence of my clients increase, helping them to get back into the dating game, to nail huge projects or interviews, or to take that next major step in their life; and it all began by setting goals and crushing them in the weight room.
Like I said before, that 3-day program back in ’98 was the beginning of something I never stopped. Since that summer, I recognized the value in consistency and haven’t looked back. It’s one of my most valued qualities, and it’s translated into other areas of my life as well. For example, financially.
Each year, my wife, Haley, and I try to take an international trip. For a small business owner, every day away from the business is money lost. Take those trips are costly in more ways than one, but it’s something that matters to me, so I consistently set aside a certain amount of money every week to this goal. That money stacks up fast, and I end up being able to pay for that trip in cash, and I didn’t even feel the pain of those small deposits over time.
Consistency is rewarding. Whether it’s saving for a trip, a business venture, a house, an engagement ring…just pick your prize and the timeline, break it into small and manageable pieces, then just do it, no matter what. Want to lose fat? Consistently make good diet choices and be consistent with your workouts. Want to get a promotion at work? Show up, be consistently good, and let others take notice. Want to be a better spouse? BE CONSISTENT and make an effort. It’s not sexy, it’s not new, but it’s also noteasy. Things that matter and are important don’t come easily. You have to work hard, and consistently for them. Do something EVERYDAY to push the needle towards getting something you want, check back after a month, at year, a decade, and see the results.
Health and fitness is a shared activity. We all need to give our bodies the motion it needs, and what better way to do it than with others, our gym family. There are endless amounts of events centered around getting active—5Ks, mountain climbing groups, powerlifting meets, obstacle races, sport clubs—and those events are opportunities to build lasting and lifelong friendships.
Some of my greatest friendships have come out of the gym. I have found mentors, business partners, collaborators, and my wife at the gym. I’ve also seen many lasting relationships be born out of the gym. It’s a powerful thing to go through together—fitness—and it’s been a very important place for me over the last 20 years.
Competition can get a bad rap, but its not about that. Competition is what drives change. It puts people on an accelerated path to push themselves to “win”, no matter the stakes. Competition can also boost confidence, and it’s what sets you apart when you nail that job promotion or nab a personal best in the gym.
DEPTH AND PRIORITY
When designing a program for a specific goal, priority must be placed on certain movements or methods. For example, lets say I’m training to build more muscle. I need to prioritize the program to maximize each set to push me towards building more muscle. Going for a 10 mile run or performing singles on the deadlift don’t help me accomplish that goal at all.
In 20 years of training, I’ve learned that the longer you train, the more focused the program has to be to progress. The system (your body) gets more and more efficient, creating a higher barrier for change; any excess efforts that “distract” from your goal can be sabotaging.
It’s much easier to go from 100lbs to 200lbs on a bench press than it is to go from 200lbs to 300lbs. The amount of technical skill, joint integrity and overall floor of base strength and power is much higher and harder to obtain that higher load. In life, especially in recent years, there are a TON of things out there to divert your focus away. Content is everywhere, and it’s both a blessing and a curse.
So, in this land of information, DEPTH is the key. You have to identify your priority and dive in as deep as you can. Put the blinders on and utilize all that is available to maximize your progress. Just like the bench pressing example, even if you have been “in it” for a while, that 200thbook or the 50thseminar might just be the wind that sets the sail off. Keep diving deeper. There is always more to learn, both physically and mentally.
BONUS: LIFETIME OF FUN
To be honest, at the end of the day, fitness has been one hell of a good thing for me. It has created a lifetime of great memories, friends, experiences and opportunities. From hiking trips to white water rafting, snorkeling to cenote jumping, obstacle course racing to bodybuilding, powerlifting, and sports; fitness has been part of my life for 20 years, and it always will be.
That never-ending pursuit of improving—in life, mind, and body—drives me each and every year. I first felt it back in 7th grade when I put my hands on that rusted-out barbell back in 7th grade; little did I know where it would lead me.