I remember walking with a young man of about 34. I was about to do what at my old job was called a fitness coaching consultation. I began asking him questions about his goals and where he would like to go with his exercise program. He told me that he was a wrestler in high school and was in excellent shape. Unfortunately, since high school, he had gained about 40 pounds and began smoking. “I’m realistic”, he said. “I don’t expect to get back into the same kind of shape, or look like I did when I was in high school”. Without hesitation, I turned to him and said, “Why not? He stopped and looked at me with what I can only remember as being a mixture of being slightly irritated as well as perplexed all at the same time. Before he had a chance to say anything else, I continued by saying, “I never looked like this when I was in high school”. “In fact, I look much better, and can do much more than when I was in high school”. “Really”, my very skeptical fitness coaching client replied. You see, most of my clients upon meeting me for the first time believe I’ve always been in shape. They are under the misconception that I was the typical high school or college jock. Many others have been under the false pretense that I’m naturally gifted and don’t have to work hard to look the way that I do. Still, others believe I can eat whatever I want because I have good genes. Nothing could be further from the truth!
In order to make the physical transformation that I did, it required hours upon hours of hard work and sweat through strength and cardiovascular training. It has also required a close adherence to eating the proper foods to help me complete the transformation. In high school, I was anything but an athlete. High school quarterback, you ask? Hardly! In fact, it was just the opposite! I was a member of the chess team, and also participated in the chorus, and played in the marching band. The closest I got to high school athletics was warming the bench for my high school’s junior varsity baseball team. I think in the two years I attempted baseball, I got a total playing time of around 5 minutes! When I went to college things really didn’t change, although my diet went downhill considerably. I did what many college kids do and subsisted on pizza, cheese-steak sandwiches, cheeseburgers, soda, and of course beer. After I graduated from college with a degree in English literature I began pursuing another love of mine, music. I became a lead vocalist and rhythm guitar player in a rock band. Of course, playing in bars limited me most of the time to eat the same foods that I had been eating in college.
By the time I was 25 I was developing a good-sized waistline and a double chin. My posture was also poor due to weak back muscles, as well as having a guitar constantly slung around my neck. During this time I also developed a condition known as gynecomastia (man breasts) from what I’m sure was a combination of poor eating habits, a loss of muscle tissue from inactivity, and probably an imbalance of my body’s natural hormonal makeup. By the time I had reached age 28 I was also beginning to experience chronic lower back pain to boot. Over these years I attempted dieting and had some success with losing some weight with small changes to what I was eating. I also began practicing martial arts, but overall I was still carrying enough body fat to be considered overweight.
My epiphany came when I reached the age of 33. For me, 33 was an extremely traumatic year. Due to certain events in my life, I became saddled with what I can only be described as a crushing depression. Not only was I dealing with the effects of depression, but also a stalled music career, as well as working a dead-end job. I was lost. One night as I lie awake in bed trying to deal with difficult events of my life, I prayed to God a very simple and direct prayer. I asked God to guide my life, to take me in the direction that he wanted me to go in. This is a prayer that I would repeat over and over again as I struggled to find answers in my life. About two or three weeks later something happened. At the time I worked for my parents. They had owned and operated a small ceramic mold company. My job was to make the molds. Each day I would carry 50-pound bags of plaster, dump them into buckets of water, mix and then pour the plaster to make the molds. One day an idea came to me. I thought that instead of just moving these bags from point A to B, I’d use the bags to do some curls in-between, just as a way to build up my arms. I remember my first attempt at grabbing the bag at either end and curling only yielded a total of ten reps. Initially, this was fine, but after a while, I decided that I need to do something for my triceps as well. I solved this problem by doing chair dips on the chair that I would mix the plaster from. When my body weight became too easy, I began to put ceramic molds of varying weights in my lap to increase the challenge. From there, things began to slowly snowball. Deciding that I needed to do more than just arms I began to do pushups and sit-ups each night before going to bed. To supplement my cardio needs I began to practice my martial arts katas (forms) each night for about an hour. About six months later I made my first equipment purchase. 50-pound plaster bags were no longer the challenge they used to be, so I bought a curling bar and two 25 pound plates. Yet another simple beginning. Again things began to snowball.
After the curling bar, came a bench, a smith machine, and an old digging iron that I chained up in my basement so that I could do chin-ups. By this time I again wanted more, so I began to run and bike to add variety to my cardio training. Although I was training on almost a daily basis my workouts were an unstructured mix of different exercises that I threw together. I knew I needed more information, so after seeing excellent reviews on Amazon.com I purchased the book, “Bodybuilding, A Realistic Approach”, by Frank Melfa. Frank’s book was excellent, and it gave me all the information I needed at the time to structure and organize my workout routines. Frank’s book also helped me begin perhaps the most arduous task of my transformation, changing my diet. Frank was ripped! And as he had stated in his book, the only way he got that way was through a healthy clean diet. That’s the way I wanted to look and even though I had lost a considerable amount of weight due to my aforementioned depression eight months prior, I was far from the muscular definition that I desired. I also realized quite naturally that starving myself as I had done during my difficult time was unhealthy. I also knew that if I ate the way I had in my previous life all the effort I had put into my transformation would be in vain. Just as with my exercise, I didn’t turn my world upside down when it came to my diet. Yes, I still had my fair share of burgers, pizza, and soda for the time being, but I also began to eat a lot more chicken, fish, and lean beef. I also began to incorporate more green leafy vegetables in the form of salads into my meals. These foods made me feel better during and after my workouts, and again, with time the junk food that I had a love affair with for practically my entire adult life began to fall away. I just couldn’t justify the temporary pleasure I got from those foods without compromising all the hard work and results I was getting from my workouts.
Just as with exercise, I simply used my own common sense and began to make better choices. It had been about eight months since the fateful day I decided to curl a plaster bag and my hard work began to bear fruit. Friends began to notice the changes in my body. Some of them actually thought I was getting taller due to the fact that for the first time in years I was finally standing up straight. Their comments and encouragement inspired me to work even harder, and I made it a point to never miss a workout. I even remember working out one night at midnight because I had friends over for dinner and I didn’t have time to work out earlier in the evening. At this point, I began to realize I was becoming a living example and inspiration to many of the people I loved the most. As I would talk enthusiastically to them about my own fitness, I could almost see the wheels turning in their heads. I knew that most of them were thinking, “If he can do it, why can’t I!” What an incredible joy it was for me to know that I was inspiring them to do something so positive for their lives. It was right about this time that I began to think about becoming a personal trainer. My life had taken a truly amazing turn. I had firmly established excellent habits and my casual beginnings lifting plaster bags had morphed into a lifestyle. It had been like coming out of a long dark tunnel. I was lost and suddenly had a new direction. Becoming a personal trainer seemed to be an excellent way in which to help others. I was learning so much at the time, that I felt that I could use this newfound knowledge to help others get better, as well as faster results in a shorter period of time. My only problem was where do I turn to become a trainer. There were so many different certification organizations, and I was only interested in those that could really help jump-start my new career. The answer to my problem was short in coming. One day I was invited by one of my best friends, who was an endurance athlete to go running as he trained for an upcoming marathon. About two miles into our run, he said to me, “Hey, guess what I’m going to do”. As you can imagine, he was becoming a personal trainer! It seemed the gym that he belonged to had tapped an obvious talent and asked my friend to become a part of their staff. He was about to take the Certified Personal Trainer course through the Nation Strength Professionals Association based in Timonium Maryland. With a little research, I realized what an excellent organization NSPA was and I took the CPT class with my friend.
In March of 2003, I received my CPT certification and began working in the fitness industry. I went on to test for NSPA’s more advanced certification, the CCS (Certified Conditioning Specialist) later that same year and then received that certification in early 2004. I then decided to study for one of the most difficult and coveted certifications the industry had to offer, the Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist certification offered by The National Strength and Conditioning Association. The NSCA’s CSCS certification is nationally and internationally recognized as one of the most prestigious and most difficult certifications to achieve. The test for the CSCS (a rigorous four-hour exam) is considered one of the hardest, if not the hardest in all of the fitness industry. Well, after a year and a half of studying I took and passed the CSCS exam on my first attempt in April of 2005.
Later that same year I took a bet with a good friend to see which one of us could get to the lowest body fat through healthy diet and exercise techniques. We started in the new year, and after 12 weeks I achieved an all-time low body fat of 6.4%. In that time I learned more about proper nutrition and myself than I had since I started this amazing journey. During this time I also began to think more and more about starting my own personal training business. In early 2007 I opened Weaver Personal Training Services as a way to offer a more exclusive personal training experience as well as one that was more affordable.
So here I am seven years later. What an amazing journey it has been. I am now age 40 and look and feel better than I ever have in my entire life. I feel I am here because of a simple prayer that I prayed a little more than seven years ago. At that time, had you told me that this is the place that I would be now, I would have told you you were crazy. I could have never imagined lifting weights as intensely as I do now, or running a half marathon which I did for the first time in September of 2006, or being disciplined enough to give up all the poor eating choices that had been the staple of my diet for over 20 years. I feel that God has not only provided me with a new direction in my own life but in His perfect plan, which allowed me to share this passion and effect positive change in the lives of others. If you’re still reading this long-winded rambling of a formerly overweight out of shape musician then you’re well on your way to taking the first step in making a positive change in your own life. Remember, if I can do it, you can too! All you have to do is change one small simple thing at a time. Do it today! Just one small change. Fight the small battles one at a time and pretty soon the war will be won! So, are you ready to get started? I thought so. Let’s get to it!