Why Did You Start Lifting Weights?
I’m going to share with you a story today about why I first started lifting weights. I’m going to let you into my heart, mind, and soul and what my real driving force was when I was younger. I don’t know how long this post will be, but I don’t care, because it’s worth taking the time to read.
I first started getting interested in fitness in year five of primary school when I was 9 years old. At this time I was very, very serious about my football and I treated it as if it was life or death. Whenever I wasn’t playing football and training for the weekend game I was out running around the block whilst my Mum cycled next to me. I was too young to go out on my own plus Mum could do some cardio at the same time. But it wasn’t just getting fitter for football that motivated me. It was the fact that I thought that I was fat when I really, really wasn’t. As a young kid, I was very sensitive and this is still something I’m very aware of today (I try to make people laugh because it eases tension and builds rapport; I’m not the type of person who likes the former so I focus on improving the latter) and one time I was at football training on a hot summers day and it was the kind of training session where several teams were playing together so that we had enough numbers to play a proper 7 a-side football match. It was the summer holidays, after all, not all the kids from my team were available.
And I can remember this very vividly as I’m typing this. I can remember running off the pitch and one of my friends shouting, “Run fat boy!” whilst I ran to get the ball in my yellow and blue Brazil kit and this stuck with me for a long time. I internalized that stuff. And it drove my behavior for a long time afterward. I started dieting not having a clue what I was doing and throwing sandwiches in the bin at school during the lunch break. Some days I would skip all meals until dinner time so I only had one meal and bearing in mind I was playing football and tennis on six days out of seven, this was very stupid of me. This led to a lot of arguments with my Mum and a lot of crap that should never have happened in the first place. I wasn’t even fat! I was just a sensitive soul who looked bloated from eating too much fiber and eating half an hour before running around the football pitch or tennis courts after school. Yeah, like most sporty families, we had busy evening schedules during childhood.
I can remember now whilst typing this the mornings where I would go into the bathroom and flex my stomach really hard, breathing in to try and make my stomach look smaller. Doing this stayed with me for a long time even when I was pretty jacked in my late teens during the summer holidays in Crete. Even to this day, I catch myself doing it sometimes. It’s crazy how your subconscious works sometimes.
So my friend shouting this was the driving force for a couple of years. I went out running on dark cold winter nights whilst listening to Cheryl Cole and Alexandra Burke with my Sony Ericsson walkman headphones, wishing the “belly fat” would burn off. It actually got to a point where my parents would hide the backdoor key so I couldn’t go for a run, but being the idiot I was, I would find the key and sneak out on a freezing Monday night in November only to be shouted at when I got home. I became very skinny. Much skinnier than I already was. I was starting to look emaciated and I felt weak both on and off the football pitch. I had always been a very physical player who would get stuck into every tackle and throw every shoulder barge you could imagine against players I didn’t like. This soon became an issue when I had my eating problem and I was no longer the player I was, which you can imagine is like the end of the world for an eleven-year-old competitive kid who wants to win all the time.
There is definitely a picture of me whilst I’m getting my haircut in the kitchen with my physique at the time, but I can’t find it anywhere. I wish I had it so you could have some real context for how I looked and felt at the time. To put it into words, I was depressed and anxious. As a kid and the fact that it was 2009 when mental health awareness wasn’t a thing, your ability to put your feelings into words is very poor. It took a few months for this whole body dysmorphia stuff to go away and I can’t quite remember how it did. I think I just realized what a load of rubbish it was and the potentially serious damage it could do as a teenager who hasn’t finished growing and developing yet with puberty who needs the right food and nutrition for that to happen properly.
Fast forward a few months after summer 2008 and I was now entering high school. The big, scary place where I relied on my brother for some street cred and backup. You know, because I was a sensitive soul. And that sensitive soul quickly got identified when some lanky dude in year 11 (15-16 years old for the Americans reading) said I had a melon head. Yeah, I have a huge head and I laugh about it now, but that wasn’t the case in year 7. Ohhh no it really wasn’t. I got all upset and started crying to my Mum when I got home and I was just being one massive pussy making a mountain out of a molehill.
Being called ‘a melon head’ (lol, this is hilarious to be fair) throughout high school was my second biggest motivator for getting into fitness and when I was becoming more aware of my body generally in year nine upwards (14 years old), I got a membership at Daves Gym in Northwich. I was old enough at this point to start resistance training and getting stronger in my teens. I genuinely wanted to lift weights so that my body was in better proportion to my head. No joke. I wanted to get broad shoulders, bigger arms, a bigger chest and bigger traps (in particular) so that my body looked in proportion to the size of my head. This is a slightly healthier driving force than the first one mentioned above, but it still wasn’t good. I was very anxious as a kid about how big my head was and this led to me walking with my head down and shoulders drooped; the very definition of a lack of confidence and self-esteem.
I know this is slightly off-topic, but this is the reason why I grew my hair longer in my teens. I have a big forehead and I hated it so much that I decided to grow my hair so my forehead would appear smaller…
Then one day in the future I realized the importance of having my head and shoulders back for health reasons. I realized the importance long term of having good posture so I can avoid back injuries and I learned from guys like Tony Robbins the importance of having good posture for improving the body’s biochemistry putting you in a better state of mind every day. Once I felt the benefits and realized that people respected me and wanted to be around me more when I seemed more confident, that was the real game-changer for me. My anxiety about having a big head and worrying what people thought never bothered me ever again, even when people say anything now. It doesn’t phase me one bit.
So there you have it. The two reasons why I first got started with fitness: I thought I was fat when I really wasn’t and I thought I had a big head that meant my body was way out of proportion to my body. If I can achieve the body I have now then you can too despite these limiting beliefs that may still be influencing your behavior from childhood. Anyway, I turned out an absolute unit so life is good!