If you've read any of my previous blog posts, you know that I base my blog posts off of scientific research to support my conclusions. However, today's post is going to be a little bit different: Today I'm going to give you an in-depth look into why I do what I do. I'll preface this by saying that the idea of writing this post came to me the other day, while at lunch with my father.
We were talking about how business was going, and he said, "You know, looking back at you 10-15 years ago, nobody would have ever thought that this is what you wanted to do with your life." In retrospect, that's quite accurate. 15 years ago, I was in my tweens, and weighed in at 5'2, 165 lb, giving me a BMI of 30.2 (the maximum you should be is between 20-25). While BMI isn't always the most accurate measurement of body composition due to muscle weighing more than fat, 11-year-olds don't tend to have much muscle, and I certainly did not.
My journey into the fitness world began at my pediatrician's office during my annual physical. After weighing me on the scale, the doctor shook his head. I've never forgotten what he said to me next. These next few sentences are verbatim what came out of his mouth 15 years ago, "Peter, you really need to start exercising. You're starting to develop fatty tissue around your chest area, and pretty soon people at school are going to start thinking you have man boobs. If you don't start losing some weight soon, you're going to put yourself into dangerous territory. Aren't you tired of being fat?" Talk about some brutal honesty, MD! Being that my father was an avid martial artist growing up, he began showing me some body weight exercises (pushups, situps, etc.) from routines he used to perform while in training. Every night, I began doing burnout sets of pushups and situps, and this became a routine for the next few years.
At the time of my pediatrician's harsh but honest diagnosis, I was a nerd. I did well in school (not a bad thing), I preferred TV and videogames to sports, I ate junk 24/7 while nixing the broccoli, and the most physical activity I got was walking a mile to-and-from school every day. Sports and fitness never really interested me, and I was never pushed to pursue these activities. However, Nintendo had released MLB '99 for n64, and I began to develop an interest in baseball. Shortly after purchasing the game, I started practicing in real life, and not just through the controller. Between my nightly fitness routine and playing in Little League, I began to maintain my weight while growing into my teens. The fat gradually faded away.
Unfortunately, I was (and still am) NOT a natural athlete. College and professional baseball weren't in the cards for me starting at the age of 12, and still probably wouldn't have been even if I had started playing T-Ball back when I was four. During my teens, I learned about determination, practice and repetition, which helped me play comparably to the average player my age by my senior year of high school. At this time, I also started working with a personal trainer, and applied these principles to my workouts in the gym.
High school came and went, and I went off to Syracuse University in Central New York. I had a rocky time my freshman year adjusting to life in a new place with new people, as well as trying to balance a long-distance high school relationship while away in college. While I did adjust to life away from home, the relationship ended the summer going into my sophomore year, and I began letting myself go again. By sophomore year's end, I stood at 6'0 tall and weighed in at 275 lb; The picture attached to this blog post shows me then (early 2008) and now. I was eating large quantities of garbage, and drinking way too much booze. It wasn't until midway through my junior year that I got inspired again. Yet again, it was a harsh wake-up call.
I had taken a semester off from school, and was visiting my then-girlfriend for a weekend. My phone rang early in the morning, and it was my father. He was away with my mother and youngest brother visiting my aunt in Arizona, so I was surprised to hear from him so early. For just the third time in my life, I heard him crying. He told me that my Cousin David had died. David was only in his mid-thirties at the time, and was very close to my immediate family. He was kind of like an older brother to me; he came to the house pretty often growing up, and we'd talk sports, life, etc. I later found out that cause of death was due to a heart attack, which is tragic given that he was so young. Over the next few days prior to the funeral, I began thinking about how this could have happened; after all, it's not common for people in that age group to die of a heart attack.
During this time, I learned that heart disease ran in my family; not just on my father's side, but on my mother's, as well. This all made me look in the mirror and realize that I was not being healthy, and was thus leaving myself susceptible to activating the genes associated with heart disease. At the time, I ate junk during almost every meal, drank tons of soda and alcohol and was even closer to being obese than I was when I was 11, clocking in at a BMI of 37.3. I may very well have been clinically obese had I not exercised the amount that I did. Nevertheless, I began doing my research, eating healthier and began dropping the weight.
When I returned to school, I decided to make some extra cash as a personal trainer. My grand aspiration at this time was to be the next Ari Gold, super-agent, and had no intention of holding a position in the fitness industry. After getting certified, I began working for Syracuse University Rec Services as a trainer, and had a couple of dozen clients over my senior year at SU. Seeing some of them completely transform actually made going to work a privilege, and left me with a sense of accomplishment. However, upon graduation, I decided to pursue my dream at the time, and left personal training behind.
Fast-forward to a few years ago, and I was very disgruntled with how life was. I'd been through three different sales & marketing jobs in three very different industries, and hated that I was being typecast as a 'salesperson.' Realizing this isn't what I wanted to do for the next 40-50 years, I did a lot of soul-searching, and realized that the only time I felt fulfillment and satisfaction out of a job was when I was training people back at school. I decided to advance beyond my basic training certification, and began exploring different avenues of training and performance enhancement.
During that time, my goal was to naturally (and without Photoshop) look like the models on the covers of magazines like Men's Health and Muscle & Fitness. This had me trying all the different fad diets, exercise routines and rest cycles. Eventually, I found the right diet (which I've discussed ad nauseum in earlier posts), the right types of workouts (constantly varied functional movements executed at high intesntiy) and rest cycles (aiming for 6-8 hours of sleep per night, working hard 3 days on with 1 day off) that have gotten me closer to that personal goal than ever before. While it's safe to say I'm not quite there yet, one of my clients recently compared the way I look to that of an action hero, which is pretty cool.
Today I can proudly say that I made the right choice. Fitness is a must in my life, and I try to eat and live as healthy as possible. The same holds true for my clients: my goal is to lead them along a path to a more active, healthy and sustainable lifestyle; this way when the pounds come off, they stay off. Today, I weigh in at 6'0 and 205 lb with a BMI of 27.8 and body fat percentage of under 15%, and I keep getting better every day. It is a privilege that I get to do what I do, and I hope that when my career is over, I have helped make the lives of my clients and followers significantly happier and healthier.
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- Peter Weintraub | The Weight Loss Professor at Fitness Retriever | email@example.com