What Exercise Means to Me

The Journey as a Trainer 

It has been almost 15 years since I became a trainer and coach. As I reflect back on how I became a trainer, I noticed many trends to why I decided to become a trainer. It all started with my dramatic injury during my sophomore year.

The Injury 

imageIt was 10th grade. I was the quarterback for my JV football team. We worked hard, but we were standing on a 1-7 record. That record didn’t bring me down. I brought all I could to each game. My coach, Anthony Walker, thought I was Joe Montana. I believed in him as much as he believed in me. I worked hard with what I had and made the best of it. That year was my best season ever. I threw an average of 30 times a game. I coupled over 2,500 yards of passing in 9 games and ran audibles like Tom Brady. But, my ending was bittersweet.

As I turned the corner on a boot leg play for about 15 yards at Jackson High on the turf, I was hit late and sustained a dramatic injury. I dislocated my left ankle. All I could think about was not being able to play basketball, which was my first love! My high school, Waverly, was extremely competitive in basketball. We were one of the best teams in the state, year after year, so I was worried I wouldn’t make the team. It was horrible. I cried and cried at the thought that I was done. But with my Dad’s guidance, I was far from done.

I worked out every day with a boot cast on. Shooting shot after shot and in the weight room. I was determined; there was no way this injury would hold me back from my dream. I wanted to play Varsity basketball for Waverly High School.

I busted my ass so hard that they gave me a spot on the team. I started the last 8 games of the season. I was thrilled. This was the start of my fitness journey.

My Life as a Senior  


I fell in love with the weights. I might as well start with that. While I worked out hard before, my senior year I took it to a new level. I would work out before and/or after every  practice or game during my basketball and football seasons. I was hooked. It gave me the confidence I needed to succeed. If I wasn’t the best basketball player on the team, I wanted to be the most in-shape player.

That year, we won the class A basketball state championship. It was my proudest moment, besides marrying my wife and the birth of my sons. I will hold it dear to my life forever. We eventually were inducted into the Greater Lansing Area Sports Hall of Fame in 2016.

My College Life

I missed fitness. I missed sports. I missed competing. During my first semester in college, I felt lost. I was happy to be out of the house and to feel like a grown up, but something was missing. I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do after college (or during college for that matter). Getting caught up in the party scene was pretty easy, but it got old fast.

msuAfter my first semester at Lansing Community College, I was quite discouraged. I had a poor semester and had a part-time job that was not very rewarding. So, I went on a job hunt. I was still working out at the time and loved it, so I thought why not get a job at a gym or health store. I got hired at my local GNC and really started to enjoy it.

I soon was reading everything that I could about supplements, nutrition, and my new found passion of bodybuilding! I instantly became a total meathead. I soon changed my major to Kinesiology and I started to take the required classes I needed to get into Michigan State University. I spent the whole summer of 2001 training with my brother, Tyler. He was preparing for his upcoming season to play baseball at Western Michigan and for the MLB draft. After 3 long months of hard training, I knew exactly what I wanted to do; become a personal trainer.

During the next 3 years, my education and free time was dedicated to learning as much as possible. I excelled in school like I never thought I could and I graduated with honors. Having a passion for something was the driving force for me to do well. Before this time, I never really had a drive to push hard in school. Sure, I always wanted to be a good student, but never really had the “why”. Fitness became my “why”.

Also during that time I had become a certified personal trainer. I spent the summer of 2001 studying for my exam, and soon after that, I got a job at a gym. I was only 21 years old and still in college, but I was already training people about 20-30 hours a week. I gained a ton of experience at a young age and I was glad I did. I haven’t done anything different since then (except for starting up a corporate wellness site for General Motors). Training people is what I do.

I do have to mention that I would have NEVER become a trainer, worked as hard in school and at my jobs, or become what I am today without the sport of bodybuilding. Becoming a competitive bodybuilder in 2003 did many great things for me. It kept me from partying and staying up late, I practiced what I preached, I had tremendous drive and discipline, and it pushed me to be the best at everything I did.

From 2003 to 2006 I competed in 7 shows. Here are my placings.

    • 2003 Capital City Classic  3rd place in the collegiate division
    • 2004 Novice Michigan 4th place in the Men’s Open Light-heavyweight
    • 2004 Capital City Classic 2nd place in the collegiate division and 2nd place in the imageMen’s Open Light-heavyweight
    • 2005 Motor City Bodybuilding (national qualifier) Fitness and Figure Classic 9th place in the Middleweight Division
    • 2005 Natural Northern Bodybuilding Championships 2nd place Open Middleweight
    • 2006 Flint and Mid-Michigan Natural Bodybuilding, Fitness and Figure Championships 5th place Open Men’s Middleweight
    • 2006 Mr. Michigan (national qualifier)  9th place in the Men’s Middleweight

As you can see, I have not competed in bodybuilding in a while, but I still implement many of the lessons that I learned from competing in shows today. This includes various training methods, disciplines, and nutritional strategies.

Beyond My Early Days 

Since my college and bodybuilding days, a lot has happened. I have accumulated over 30,000 hours of imagecoaching and training experience, written hundreds of published articles and blogs, ran half marathons and Urbanathlons, competed in CrossFit, got married, had two boys (not me, but my wife), and opened up an 11,000 square foot training facility and a corporate training facility. I have written a series of E-books and write for many print and online fitness and health publications. I even get to travel the country helping other fitness business owners with their business.

As you can see, exercise has been a big part of my life since I was 16 years old. I have always stayed in shape, competed in athletic events, and used exercise to help guide me through life. I coach athletes, other trainers, my intern staff, and my members every day. I could not imagine doing anything else. Having a desk job or changing careers hasn’t even crossed my mind. Did it used to? Yes, I have thought about changing careers from time to time. This personal training and gym owner gig is hard to do, however, I was made for it. It is what I know, it is what I do.

What does exercise mean to me? It means staying healthy and staying strong. Relieving stress and pushing myself to my absolute mental and physical limits. It humbles me and lets me know that there is always room to improve in life. Exercise has kept me focused on my goals and dreams. It has opened up doors to opportunities and friendships that I never thought were possible. Once a person that had no idea what they wanted to do in life, now has a passion and purpose to work hard.

imageWithout that traumatic injury when I was 16 years old, I may not have developed the discipline to work hard. Without bodybuilding and working at the health food stores, I may not have worked at the Michigan Athletic Club and met my wife. Without getting up at 4:30am to workout or study for school, I may have partied too much and never graduated. I am now a part of the Michigan State University College of Education Alumni Association, proud owner of State of Fitness, and married with two kids.

What does exercise mean to me?

Life.

JG


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