In your twenties, you felt good. You were active, fit and lean. In your thirties, you had less time. Maybe not as fit as before, but hey, you will get back in shape later, no big deal. Not as lean as before, but hey, you like good food. Then in you forties, your body does not react like before. But hey, this is life, you are not twenty anymore! You cannot perform as well when getting older…
Does this sound familiar?
You would like to change. You read on the internet of these people who are better in their forties than they were in their twenties. Is it really possible?
Going to the gym can be intimidating, especially if you do not know what to do. And all these runners and bodybuilders… You do not belong there…
Personal trainers are even more intimidating. They usually are strong and fit. They seem to always have had a perfectly healthy life. They know where you are, but can they understand it? Their look, their performance, their history…
They can listen to your story. They will know what you went through. But can they feel it?
The fact is that coaches also have their stories. They may understand you more than you think.
I do not know your story. Here is mine.
When I was a teenager, I hated sports. Why sweat when you can just read a book or play cards with your friends? I had done some judo, but it never really clicked. Despite that, I was still in relatively good shape: when I was a kid, spending most of our time walking, being outside and playing was the norm.
As a young adult, I started karate. The influence of Bruce Lee’s movies… This type of fighting appealed to me more than judo. I was fortunate enough to have a good first teacher. Karate made me like physical activity and enjoy the pain. I went through my twenties being in good shape. I was relatively flexible: I was not very far from the front split. I thought I was strong because of the sets of 20 push-ups we were routinely doing.
I went to the army. I would regularly run around the base once or twice (10 to 20 km), and “train” with some commando NCO. These guys were real bad-asses, though very humble. They taught me a lot about real fighting vs competition, and also that the tougher guys do not play tough guys! Of course, I was still pretty much in shape at this time.
I started to work and still was very active. I even ran a marathon (3h34, not bad for a first time). All this time, even as a light weight (68 kg), I was eating a lot. Healthy, but a lot. This is how it happened…
I had become fat and unfit. I was still eating like an active guy. The problem is that I was not active anymore. It did not happen at once, but bit by bit. I did not even realize until my early thirties.
At one point, I was close to 80kg, and this gain was not lean body mass!
Like in the movie Matrix, my inner perception of myself was my younger lighter fitter me. The reality was an over-weighted out of shape me.
I remember vividly that once, at Christmas time, I decided to react. I was going to start some push-ups.
After all, I used to routinely perform sets of 20!
I placed myself on the floor, got into a plank position. So far, so good. Steel feeling it.
I went down.
I went up.
A lot harder than I expected.
I was struggling. Let’s start the second rep.
A bit more.
I hurt my back…
Yep. I hurt my back doing my SECOND PUSH-UP. This is how weak I had become. I had become a weak over-weighted guy in my early thirties. Nightmare.
I could have resigned and accepted the fact that I did not have time to train, that it was just a normal evolution of life. I did not. In a matter of a few months, I lost the fat. I also educated myself. I read a lot of books and looked at a lot of videos. I realized that I had to become stronger, and that the rest would follow. It was the beginning of a new journey into strength.
A few years later, I feel stronger than I have ever been. I like to put heavy stuff over my head, lift a big barbell from the floor, snatch a kettlebell, or do a split on the floor. It would be easy to just forget the start of the journey.
When we meet, remember that I failed my second pushup, and that the guy on the picture on the right
is was me… and the guy on the picture on the left, it is me too. Now.
You may think that coaches do not understand. How can they understand what it means to feel weak, overweight, unfit, completely out of shape? They are so strong! They cannot even feel it!
But indeed, yes, they often can. Not all coaches started as athletes and continued this way until retirement. There are a few of us who actually happened to be completely out of shape and not only know, but also understand, what it takes to get back in shape!
There are those like me, who used to be in relatively good shape, just to get fat and unfit when life happened. More work, less physical activities, more money to enjoy good restaurants. It is extremely frustrating and demoralizing to fail a push-up when you remembered what you used to be able to do.
There are those who have been injured. Broken back for instance. Very athletic and suddenly unable to even walk properly.
There are those who never were in shape until they decided they needed to. Maybe just to be able to catch up with their kids…
Everybody has a story. This story is unique.
It may be easier or tougher than other stories. It is the past. A good coach will not judge by what you have been, or even by what you are. He will look at the future and help you become what you want to be.
When do we start?