They say that the goals you have are about the journey more than the destination. I don’t know who “they” are, but I disagree. I believe it is about both. I believe that ultimately your destination will just be another step in the journey. I’m reflecting on this thinking of how exactly I came to be a trainer or coach or meathead or whatever other names some might call me, for better or worse. Not until you step back and analyze the various pieces of where you came from to where you are now, or strictly where you were versus are now can you truly appreciate all the triumphs and failures. All the while looking ahead to see where you have ended up and where you still long to be. Hence, you never truly reach your destination, only stop at an observation deck to survey the landscape, look behind at what you got through, and forge ahead to where new things
My path to becoming a coach didn’t start with being the best. It started out with being the worst. Growing up I was never athletically inclined. I hated running (still do, more on why running is stupid later), which in turn made me look at sports and say: “I think I’ll pass.” I preferred reading, video games, and foods that rhymed with Oreos, Coke, and diabetes. I was pretty proud of my accomplishments for the most part, I developed that nice pale skin vampire kids long for from playing video games, a nice round midsection complete with stretch marks and a jiggle only truly appreciated if you got to see me brush my teeth. I played sports, because people said I should, and as time went on I actually enjoyed my new Lacrosse habit. By no means was I awesome, not like I am now at least.
Playing Lacrosse throughout high school I was never top of my team. I remained as unhealthy as possible, put forth as little effort as possible, and endured the general bullying and mockery that can only come from contemptuous teammates who didn’t want you there. It was not until the end of my junior year in high school that someone helped changed my life. After spending another year on junior varsity and not starting, my coach pulled me aside at the end of the season for a fateful conversation I will never forget. “Brian, I’m moving up to varsity next year. And with that in mind, just because you’ll be a senior does not mean you will make the team. You can no longer stay on JV, and I am telling you now. If you do not come out and utterly floor me next year with your performance. I won’t even bench you. You will not make the team.”
I told him I would make the team. He told me he hoped so. Something changed in me, I spoke to others on the team and the general response was that I should quit. I’ll never be able to do it, save space on the team for those who deserve it. From then on I felt like Rocky training to fight Ivan Drago. Running. Running EVERY DAY. Pushups, sit- ups, pull-ups, something changed. I had literally been told I COULD NOT do something. I wasn’t good enough. Flash forward eight months to tryouts. Showing up I hit the ground running, literally. Beating people out, it was a new game for me and I had never felt so alive.
I played on varsity that season. My life had changed and I was a brand new person. Even my aspirations in life had been altered. My goal of law school had changed, I wanted to train. I wanted to give others what I had given myself. Change.
I went through phases. I continued my rigorous hours in the gym and miles on the road. I stripped my body fat down lower than it had ever been. I moved on to the typical bodybuilding style workouts, training to be as big as possible. Not long after I found a new passion: CROSSFIT. Like a psychotic girlfriend Crossfit stole my life. Intense workouts, unbelievable soreness, pain, and triumph. Yet like a psychotic girl, she betrayed me. After a year and a half I was left with tendonitis in BOTH elbows, multiple low back strains, bulging disk, and I was done. It was here I made the acquaintance of Max Shank and Mike Baltren of Ambition Athletics.
I was desperate. I was finally a “trainer”, but I wasn’t training anyone. I didn’t know how. My workouts were floundering, my body still hurt, and I was in a rut. After some prodding I was brought into Ambition Athletics by Max. He taught me to swing, how to squat properly, and how to do Turkish getups. My life changed, again. I was interning at a local gym, but I wasn’t learning anything. At least about training I wasn’t. Every trainer had a different idea of what fitness truly was and how to achieve it. Meanwhile every other trainer was wrong, they didn’t know what they were doing. I was stunned. There was no faith, no unity. Re-enter Ambition Athletics.
It became a sanctuary. Once or twice a week little workouts turned to days spent there, reading, watching, and learning. No one talked down on others, only asked questions and reasoned out the correct answers. At the time I was going through one of the most difficult periods of my life. All the while the AA became more and more of a home away from home, as well as a stark contrast to the gym that had already given me so much that I was also interning at.
Eventually I left the first gym. With no job, no money, and only my ideas and willpower, Max reached out. He offered me a job. He took a risk and deliberately created hours for me to work at his own expense. Still I struggled. Many a client came through and by my feeble hands learned simple exercises. But there was progress– in my clients at the gym, and my own athleticism. I felt better. My pain was always less and less. I made strides in strength, mobility, and knowledge. I moved better, ran faster, a felt stronger than ever. At Ambition we like to say “Better everyday”, and I’ll be damned if I haven’t made this my personal credo each day.
Earlier I disputed that the goal is just as important as the journey because it is just another part of the expedition. A marker. Nobody hits that goal and says, “Well I’m glad I finally accomplished THAT”, and proceeds to blow their brains out because now they’re “done” with what they set out to do. You continue on. You make new goals. You change your own life. Because I think back constantly and think of every person who said I couldn’t, told me I should just try something else or give up, who pushed me and gave me no way out, and I thank them. My saviors are the doubters, and the people I hope to save are the doubted. My journey as a coach has only begun and I have a few more goals to make and break before I’m through.