The year was 1979. It was August. I remember because school was close to starting, and my mom was going to take me shopping for my "school clothes" after we went to a place called the gym.
We walked in. Basketballs bouncing in one room. Racquetballs screeching off the floor in another. People were running on a small track. I could smell the chlorine from the pool. Then there was the room with the weights clanging and grunts emitting. My mom was there to work on something called "deadlifts" with a guy named Rocky whose muscles looked like they had muscles.
Love at first sight. I was home. In the 35 years since, I've rarely left home.
Every year about this time I think about the past years and get reflective about some aspect of my fitness life. This year, I've thought a lot about the things I wish I'd learned or started doing a lot sooner.
Some of these might resonate with you. If they do, don't be crazy and wait like I did.
I wish I had:
- Learned to get my information from reputable sources. I thought that because Rocky was a big guy, he knew what he was talking about. My mom has knee and back issues now, and I wonder how much of that is because of the inane instruction Rocky provided. Folks are in gyms throughout the world getting information that is going to hurt them either now or in 20 years.
- Understood that you could not outwork, outtrain, outrun, outlift, out-anything bad nutrition. I like to believe I'm pretty good at helping folks get the results they want. But no matter how good of a program I prescribe - and it could be the perfect one for you - it's not going to be worth anything if you're constantly washing down Big Macs and Twinkies with XXL Cokes.
- Learned that we get stronger when we rest, not when we work out. That doesn't mean we take off for two months of "rest" between workouts. But, we have to give our body a chance to recover.
- Ridden my bike more often. From a cardiovascular standpoint, I can do anything I want, as long as I want, as long as cycling is a part of the exercise program.
- Gotten a better understanding of how the body moves. If you can't bend over and touch your toes without bending the knees, why are you trying to deadlift? If you have limited internal rotation in your left hip and limited mobility in the thoracic spine, you're going to compensate with other muscles to do almost any left-turning rotary movement. Compensation goes a long way toward injury. But we're athletes, all of us, and athletes love to compensate. That's why we constantly have pulls, strains and other pains. The fun I have playing is directly proportional to the way my body moves.
- Paid more attention to the effect food had on my body. This is different than simply eating well. By this point, I was eating well more than 95 percent of the time. But some food made me feel bloated and lethargic while others made me feel like Superman. Figuring how foods I ate affected me made life much easier.
- Learned to mix grunt training and play a lot better. By grunt training, I mean picking up heavy stuff and putting it down. By play I mean running, jumping, kicking, dancing, hitting, climbing, you know - most of the stuff you see on "American Ninja Warrior." That's playing!
- Known that you are allowed to smile and laugh during a workout. I still tend to get a bit intense when it comes to working out, but I've realized the more I smile, or the more fun I have during the workout, the better the workout.
- Listened when I was told, "More is not always better."
Bryant is an author and lecturer who holds several national training certifications. Email him at