My journey into fitness started at the beginning of 2012.
I had gained a significant amount of weight during a post-bachelor’s program in preparation for becoming a middle school teacher. When I did start teaching, bad habits continued: eating fast-food on the go, eating while grading papers, spending free time designing curriculum, minimal sleeping, no time for exercise, relaxing in the form of long bouts of sleeping or tv-marthoning, etc. After a year of giving everything I had/was to these children, I realized that I was exhausted, unhealthy (5’1 at 160lbs and a size 14 pant size), and needed the summer to heal from my first year of teaching. I also realized that I had become sick of how I felt, of what I saw, of my inability to be active without feeling miserable.
The worst realization: I didn’t know what to do about my health. I knew better than to follow the advice of my innocently ignorant friends and family: just run on the treadmill and eat salad (which is also a huge cultural misconception we believe as Americans, but that’s a whole separate discussion). At this point in my life, I had on a few cycles followed those rules with minimal success because it wasn’t sustainable or in anyway the best form of exercise. I decided to go a different direction by utilizing professionals and hiring a personal trainer to coach me on how to maximize fitness nutrition designed just for me.
Luckily, I found a really bad gym with bad trainers. I say “luckily” because I learned fast and first what a bad gyms looks like, functions like, what not to buy into, what to avoid, how to listen to my body, what a bad trainer is like, how to be intuitive about exercises that do/don’t benefit me, and the value of research-based coaching. I learned all this in 3 months, then transferred to a fantastic gym in another part of Denver, Colorado.
At the new gym, Bodies by Perseverance (http://www.mybbp.com/), I had a custom-designed “meal plan” with stages made and macroed-out (although I didn’t know about all that yet) according to my body’s data. I was able to have my personal training sessions twice a week, take unlimited classes (like body sculpting with barbells, kickboxing, boxing, yoga, etc.) and was able to socialize with others like me, and build a community. And I did. Within a few weeks I had lost a significant amount of weight, was moving through several phases of my nutritional plan to see what my body responded well to, and kept making progress while having fun and building really strong and supportive relationships with fitness-friends.
I stayed at Bodies by Perseverance for about a year and a half, and saw an amazing transformation. I had dropped about 30lbs, pant sizes from 14 to 4, built an incredible amount of endurance, stamina, and strength from the training sessions and cardio classes. I owe everything to that gym for its guidance and positive community, because I know it helped fuel my motivation to persevere and continue making “gains” and progress. I even became inspired to work toward figure competition from working closely with other competitors and pushing to maximize progress to be the best I could be. This was an important shift in my fitness journey, the movement from just “losing weight” to “I want my body to be the best it can be“.
Then I got into graduate school at ASU, and I had to move. I can’t and won’t describe the devastating anxiety I suffered in worrying about my progress (and whether or not it was maintainable) and leaving my fitness community, but “devastating” is definitely the best word to use. I began doing ridiculous amounts of research on local gyms, trainers, and iconic individuals who help prep competitors. It was through the owner and Master Trainer of Bodies by Perseverance that I learned about Tyler Mayer’s Nutritional Training (http://www.teamtnt.info/) here in Phoenix, Arizona, which specialized in nutritional training for weight loss and for competition (ding!) I was also following Bret Contreras’ blog (aka “the glute guy” http://bretcontreras.com/), which had featured Revolution Training Systems gym (http://revolutiontrainingsystem.com/) right after its opening with Bret saying it was one of the best gyms he’d found in the area (ding, ding!) And as fate would have it, Tyler of TNT also trained at RTS (ding, ding ding!)…hook, line, and sinker. I had found my new gym.
What I didn’t really know at the time, was the RTS is a powerlifting gym. I thought I could just ignore that and utilize the cardio/weight lifting classes like at my old gym (stick to what you know, that always works, right?)
Yeah, not so much.
When I reflect on my transition to AZ, I realize I came into this new gym as more of a cardio-bunny: hungry always for a high-intensity workout, high heart rates, and burning lots of calories…and that’s also not totally sustainable, as I found out from Tyler who has been helping me rebuild my metabolism from low-carb + extreme cardio dieting. Under the direction of Tyler, I was told to “chill-out on the cardio” so my metabolism could heal and do the work…which left heavy lifting. Once I started to do that I gained recognition for my strength and received encouragement not just from the owners, Matt and Mike Peltz, but also from other gym-goers, to continue to push harder when weight-lifting and consider powerlifting. It’s been through my own research and experience, research provided by Mike and Matt, Bret Contreras, and Tyler Mayer that I realize the benefits. I’ve only been lifting this heavy for a month, but I’ve already seen physique progress I wasn’t seeing when maxing-out on cardio. I’ve got the sneaking suspicion that there’s something to this lifting-heavy-makes-sexy-bodies philosophy. Which leads me to today…embarking on a powerlifting journey because I figure, why not? If I’ve got the potential, I should push for some level of greatness, because that would be awesome. I have a community of friends and professionals who believe in my ability, so I should go for it, right? And truthfully, the most important part: I’m having a blast doing something new, pushing for great goals, and seeing progress in the direction I want.