What Exercise Has Meant to Me
I truly believe that every human being has defining moments in their lives that change the way they grow, act, and feel about the world. If it possible that a single choice can change your life forever? Yes it is, I had an experience like that when I was 15 years old.
My birthday of November 26 was a bit of a surprise to my parents, considering I was expected in February. Due to complications I was born 3 months premature and clocking in at around 2 Ibs. I’m not sure how long I spend in an incubator, but I was so small that the only beanie they could find to fit my head came from my sister's doll. When my family eventually got to take me home I was hooked up to heart monitor at all times for about the first year.
Because of these early moments I never really had or developed any athletic prowess as a kid. I was always the uncoordinated, skinny kid who was picked last during PE. I remember during races I would get winded and cramp up only after a few moments and felt like a loser every time I came in last. I couldn't even run a lap or do a single pull up. It really had a negative effect on my self confidence.
Fast forward to age 15, my mother had just passed away and I just moved to a new city. In my younger years I had always been a bit socially awkward, but at least I had a good group of close friends and felt a kinship with most of my classmates. In this new city I felt alone and very much like an outsider trying to wiggle his way into any social group or clique that would have me. It didn’t take long for football team to notice my nervous mannerisms and begin to hound me at every opportune time. I was teased, bullied, mocked, laughed at, became the butt of every cruel joke, and sank further into my already developed depression and became even less confidence. I felt very alone and powerless to do anything to better my situation.
Then one day while getting some lunch at the supermarket I came across the magazine section and something grabbed my attention. It was a fitness magazine showing the Body for Life Challenge showing featured pictures of people who had made amazing transformations to their bodies. Here was a skinny kid who now looks like a pro athlete. Another picture had a 65 year old granddad has lost over 30 Ibs of fat and changed his life. I was hypnotized by what these people had managed to do with their bodies and the improvement it had on their lives.
While I was reading the article the football team just happened to be passing by. One of the guys noticed me looking at a bodybuilding magazine, chuckled and yelled out “faggot!” before walking away. It was at that point that something clicked inside of me, something I hadn't felt in a while. For the longest time the only constant emotions I had were fear, anxiety, sadness, and self pity. Now there was anger and desire.
What right did these people have to torment me? What makes them think they knew anything about me or could judge me? I had had enough of it. I was determined then and there to never again feel weak, to let others trample all over me, or to allow myself to wallow in self hatred! I bought that magazine, opened it to page 1, and started to learn about exercise and bodybuilding.
My goal was simple at first: Since bullies only pick on those smaller and weaker then themselves, I would get bigger and stronger then all of them. I had a very humble beginning, I could only bench press about 95 Ibs for a few reps but I also had a burning desire to work till I changed my body. I kept lifting weights, 1 hour a day, 5 days a week.
My strength levels increased very quickly, I was up to benching 135 Ibs in a few weeks and added more then 100 Ibs on the leg press. My shallow chest was getting bigger, my narrow shoulders got broader, and my puny arms actually had some mass on them. People started to treat me different as well; I was no longer was the butt of every joke, and the jocks started to keep their mouths shut. During that summer break I was a man obsessed, I trained twice a day six days a week going to failure on every set. Every time I wanted to quite I thought back on all the wrongs people had done to me and knew that if I just got a little bit stronger I could put an end to it.
When I came back to school no one recognized me. I had gone from being the 150 Ibs out of shape, skinny kid to a strong and muscular 180 Ibs. People stopped picking on me after that and I felt great. I was confident in myself for the first time and anytime I felt blue I knew a few sets or a good run would help clear it up.
Most importantly I had learned that if I didn't like something about myself, I had the power to change it as long as I worked hard, smart, and consistently. I realized that you can always better your situation and that self improvement begins with a desire to change and the will to achieve your goal.
Exercise has given me an insight into what is possible with the right mindset and that your potential is determined by what you choose to do today and tomorrow, rather than your past failures. I hope you remember that you're the only one who can decide how you live your life and no matter what is stacked against you, you always have a choice on how you live.
I leave you with a question to ponder "Am I living the life you want to live?"
All the best to you, train hard, train smart
Jonathan Siegel - CPT