I started training when I was very young.  In the 8th grade, a coach gave me a body weight circuit and I fell in love.  In high school, my buddy’s father showed me some basic weight lifting then my father built a small gym in our shed in the back yard.  It was basic; it had a rack for pull-ups, bench press, squats and a heavy bag.  I lifted every day and started to build a great foundation for strength.  I was very active playing sports, football, baseball, basketball and track.  Constantly sprinting and building endurance through sport, mixed with the lifting began to build horse power, and the lean muscular look with definition that most people are after.    

I hit 21 years old and joined the police service at about 170lbs.   Over the next several years, the sports slowed down.  I was playing beer league baseball, and recreational football.  I continued to lift, and lift heavy, adding muscle.   I followed the typical splits; chest, back/biceps, legs, shoulders and triceps, and static cardio.

As I approached 30, I started to notice my back was always sore, and I was losing my definition.  In the biannual swat test, we would be tested in the 1.5 mile run.  I had been able to do the run in less than 9 minutes without training, and was slowly dropping down closer to 10 minutes.  Bottom line, I was slowing down.  How could this be?  I worked out every day and I ate well.  

Some self reflection had to take place.  

Find the problem

I am 5’9.  In the picture on the left, I was 32 and somewhere between 205-215lbs.  I was strong; I could bench 225# 20 times and I had a big squat, but I couldn’t tie my shoes without back pain.  I had all but lost the abs that had always been my trademark and a 2k row might have killed me.  From a nutrition standpoint I was eating well but drinking heavily, adding copious amounts of useless calories to my daily routine.  One of the biggest problems was stress; I was working relentlessly, under pressure in high risk situations where everyone’s safety was my responsibility, and had seen things that could never be (and will never be) unseen.  This all prevented me from sleeping.  

Fix the problem

I sought out the help, a trainer.   I followed a program written for me by my friend Bobby Maximus.  I lifted less often but with more focus, the program also introduced me to interval weight training and circuits.  There were many dark days, pushing myself out of my comfort zones and elevating my heart rate to levels I had not trained at since I was a teen.  After some time I learned to deal with it, and relished it.   At work I learned to regulate my stress, I delegated tasks.   I stopped watching TV and movies that seemed to trigger bad memories of the gruesome sights I had witnessed.  I stopped drinking because I needed it, and saved it for occasions where I was enjoying life rather than hating everything.  The focused training helped relieve the stress.  The stressful workouts taught me how to recognize it and deal with it when it arrived.  I was losing weight and sleeping through the night.  This made me happy, the old me, the guy with abs and a smile was coming back.  

Most men who are facing similar circumstances think that cardiovascular efforts will reduce their strength.  This is true in some cases, like a strongman or competitive power lifter.  For someone going after general fitness and lean muscle like myself, it does not.  It actually helped me to improve my strength.  My strength numbers are the highest they have ever been.  In the photo on the right, I am 38 years old, 185#.  Let’s face it, It’s not all about performance, most people including myself also train because they want to look good.  Mixing endurance, power endurance and strength sheds fat and gets the metabolism running high, which gets me the lean appearance and power to weight ratio that I’m after.  This did not happen with supplements or a fad diet, it is dedication, discipline and hard work.   


If you are doing the same thing at the same pace, over and over, time will catch up to you.   Self-assess.  Seek knowledge and someone to lead you in the right direction.  Be prepared to give everything.  To improve you must sacrifice.  

author: Tony Smith


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