My fitness journey:
I played team sports growing up, but I relied solely on a small dose of natural athleticism. I never really practiced in any systematic way or learned to push myself past the threshold of discomfort. I was also interested in weightlifting growing up, especially when I saw some of my friends get big and muscular. But by the time I hit my mid-teens, I was too interested in “being cool” to think seriously about sports or getting in shape.
When I was 16 years old, I attended a summer camp in Maine. All campers had to choose a morning activity and an evening activity. One of the activities offered there was weightlifting. I tried it once and was hooked, doing both the morning and evening weightlifting sessions every day. Also when I was 16, I joined the Nyack Kung Fu and Tai Chi Academy and quickly got serious about martial arts.
By the time I went to college, I was pretty sure that I was in phenomenal physical condition and a certified lethal weapon. In reality, although I was in decent shape thanks to martial arts training and weightlifting, I never made too much progress in my strength and conditioning. Like so many others, my weight training consisted of a 1970’s style bodybuilding split and I went through the well-worn cycles of getting big and bulky, getting hurt, taking a break and starting back at square one. I worked on lifts that I was good at (basically curls of any variety) and generally avoided lagging body parts and lifts that I struggled with.
This cycle continued after college. Then one day, I happened to see the Crossfit Games on ESPN. This was in the early days when the competitors were using weights that were still fairly modest. I remember thinking to myself: “Hey, I can do that!” So I decided to try. I had heard about an AMRAP Crossfit gym in Chestnut Ridge that was supposed to have a good coach, but back then Ray’s place was hidden on the inside of an office park. It took me three attempts to find the box. I still remember that first workout: 315 lb deadlifts and 24 inch box jumps, 21-15-9 rep scheme. I remember my pride getting the best of me and pounding out the first 21 deadlift reps consecutively, then dying on the set of 15. And I remember being incredibly sore for the next week. This was definitely a new level of training and I loved it!
I’ve been training with Ray for the better part of a decade now and am proud to say that I am still making progress. More importantly, I wake up at 4:12 AM excited to get to the gym, to learn new skills and to push myself. That’s worth everything to me.
PS: picture is of me at 16 with my camp counselor who taught me basic weightlifting.