My fitness “journey” – as people like to refer to it – is unlike that of most other trainers and professionals I’ve come across. Most of those people were athletic growing up, played collegiate sports and, once their athletic career was over, made the natural progression to a career in fitness. Others may have been the undersized, proverbial 98 pound weakling and found the gym in an effort to gain confidence and personal safety.
I loved sports as a kid. But childhood asthma and severe allergies that sent me to the doctor for shots on a regular basis really limited what I was able to do. Sure, we played whiffle ball in the street or basketball in the backyard but organized sports were seen as a bit too risky for a kid like me.
Luckily by the time I became a teenager I was able to overcome some of these limitations and was a wildly passionate yet completely mediocre high school basketball player. And while I did get some minor interest from some college teams I decided to go to Syracuse University – where I was not nearly good enough to play – and pursue a degree in communication.
My post-college days were completely typical of a guy in his twenties living in the big city. I had a corporate job that required plenty of late nights and crappy food. Going out drinking was my recreational activity. And that feeling of athleticism and teamwork that was so important to me as a teenager all but faded away.
Somehow I was lucky enough to convince a beautiful woman – my wife of 17 years now – to marry me and as we were in the process of planning our wedding I came to realize that I didn’t want to walk down the aisle looking the way that I did. I was 28 years old but I looked more like I was 48. I was 50 pounds overweight.
For a young man, I seemed pretty sick.
Following no professional advice, I joined a gym, spent my evenings on a treadmill and reduced the number of chicken parmigiana heroes I would eat in a week. Amazingly, this worked. I lost 50 pounds in about 4 months. My tailor was so pissed every time I’d go in for alternation on my wedding tuxedo.
While it felt great to accomplish that feat, I still didn’t feel or look how I envisioned myself. I wanted to be strong. I wanted to be lean. I wanted muscle. I wanted to look athletic. And it was at that moment, well after I lost all that fat, that I would say my fitness journey actually began.
I read everything I could get my hands on. I went to different classes. Spoke to different trainers. The treadmill no longer dominated my training plan. I was lifting weights. I was boxing. I joined something called “Fight Club” which was run by a former Marine (I lasted one session). To say I became obsessed with experimenting and finding the perfect formula to get the body I wanted would be an understatement.
And people began to notice. Guys in the office were asking me what I was doing. Co-workers were asking me to check out their food logs. While everyone else was on a coffee break, I was filling my shaker cup with a mid-morning protein shake.
And once it became clear that I was more fired up about helping people achieve their goals rather than selling them things they don’t need (I worked as a writer in an ad agency) I realized it was time to move on. So I did one of the craziest, ballsiest, “I don’t recommend this”, things I’ve ever done in my life.
At 34 years old, I turned my back on my career in advertising to be an unpaid intern at the most prestigious gym in New York City.
It was there that I got to shadow the best trainers, get guidance on which certifications and continuing education opportunities I should pursue and overall learn how to be a great trainer and coach. I will spare you the step by step details but I did not stay an unpaid intern for very long. I worked my way up to being the busiest trainer in the facility and was asked to join the management team as Director of Training Operations where I was put in charge of nearly 50 staff and independent trainers. The gamble paid off.
I do want to take one step back here and touch more upon the certifications and continuing education. I believe that continual learning from other specialists and professionals in the field is the key to sharpening your skills and progressing the ability to coach. I have my main certification from the NSCA as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) which is universally considered the premier certification in the industry.
I’ve also done hundreds, possibly thousands, of hours of continuing education courses on programming, nutrition, specific implements like medicine balls, kettlebells, sandbags, breathing techniques, stretching, mobility, Olympic Weightlifting, accu-pressure and a whole host of other topics.
In an industry where people become personal trainers simply as a way to make a little extra money while they pursue their “real passion”, getting better as a coach has always been a huge priority to me. And I know of no better way of doing this than actually coaching people myself and learning from the best.
I’ve also managed to use the skills I picked up in my former career and have had the opportunity to write for many well-known fitness publications and blogs. I’ve sat on the Advisory Board of Men’s Fitness Magazine, appeared in the pages of Muscle and Fitness, Shape, T-Nation, and the Huffington Post.
I am also the author of two books. One called “High Intensity 300” which is a year-long, performance based training program for Human Kinetics and the other is “Awesome Arms” soon to be release by Rodale (publishers of Men’s Health Magazine).
Nearly two years ago I opened my own facility called Fortitude Strength Club that offers semi-private (up to 4 people) training here in New York City. I’ve been able to combine all the skills I’ve learned from the training floor, my writing, my own experiences and my education into one giant lab experiment which, at it’s core, represents the exact values of why I went down this fitness path in the first place. To help people most efficiently and effectively reach their goals.
I’d like to share with you some of the important lessons that took me years of studying, experimenting and learning from the best in the business to figure out. Click the image below to download a free copy of “The Muscle Manifesto,” which is a brief overview of what makes my perspective on training somewhat unique and highlights one of the biggest mistakes most people make when taking on a training program.
You’ll also be automatically enrolled in my 5 day email course where I’ll discuss critical concepts that are the key to getting stronger, leaner and give you some very specific direction to follow the next time you walk into the gym.