Kevin contacted me this past May, before he even moved to Baltimore. We became acquainted via email and when he finally made the move to Maryland in August, he emailed me again and came in to visit the gym and learn more about our program. We started his training in September of 2015. It has been a pleasure getting to know Kevin, watching him grow and helping him build more confidence in himself and his training. Here is Kevin’s story.
I’ve always had an on-again off-again relationship with the gym. I’d go religiously for a month or two, start to see some positive changes in my body and then I’d stop, for one reason or another. Months later, discouraged at all the progress I’ve lost, I’d start all over again. Inevitably, I’d wind up quitting. Again. I never had any structure or routine. I had no clearly defined goals other than to “look good.” I’d walk into the gym and have no idea what I was supposed to do. Hell, I had no idea what half the machines were for. I’d go to the gym and putz around….a little of this, a little of that. There was no real focus or direction.
Finally, last year, I knew I wanted to get serious. A new rec center had opened up in the small town I was living in, and I saw it as a perfect opportunity to really buckle down. I did a lot of research online and came across Starting Strength and some basic 5×5 routines. I was, however, hesitant about working with free weights, especially without any sort of instruction. Free weights had always intimidated me. Bench press seemed easy enough. Just pull the bar down and push it back up. No real technique other than that, right? As for squats, I had always heard that they would destroy your knees so I didn’t even bother attempting those. And deadlifts, power cleans and overhead presses never even entered my mind.
So, to overcome this, I hired one of the rec center’s personal trainers for an hour and had him show me the ropes. After exactly one hour of instruction, I figured I knew most of what there was to know about squatting, pressing, deadlifting, etc. So, I grabbed a notebook to log my routine and got to it. And I saw some results! They came slowly, but they were there. I got into fitness like I never had before. I started logging every calorie I was consuming. I purchased new gym clothes, protein shakes, and mixers.
While getting ready to move to Baltimore from Ohio, one of the first things I did was research gyms. I posted on an online forum, looked up multiple reviews, and everything pointed in the same direction: Fivex3. I contacted Emily, the owner, and she replied with a long email detailing exactly how the program would run. Looking back at it now, it was my first indication of the individualized focus Fivex3 does so well. I wish I had some grand story about how I discovered Starting Strength but it was really just process of elimination. To be honest, I originally was hoping to find a plan that would focus more on aesthetics than strength. If I got stronger, that would just be a happy side-effect of looking good. Having been pretty scrawny all my life, I really wanted to get that “beach-body” look just to help out with my confidence. I was always the guy who tried to keep his shirt on at the beach.
I can elaborate some on why I enjoy the program so much, but, in all honesty, I would say that I really enjoy this program because it’s, well, simple. It’s simple in the regard that it’s a very focused plan. All in all, there are only 5 exercises to focus on. The exercises are complex and incredibly difficult to master, so the focus and attention to form is very important. It’s nice to have that focus while I’m a beginner. It’s nice to go to the gym and know I only have 3 things to do that day…very complex, difficult things. And it’s amazing to see and feel the improvement. It’s amazing when everything comes together and I get that perfect squat that feels great and, from the coaches’ point of view, looks great. It doesn’t happen all the time, but the longer I stick to the program, the more frequent those occurrences become.
When I started at Fivex3, I felt a little cocky and assumed I knew all of what there was to know. I foolishly thought of myself as an intermediate lifter. Obviously, this was totally inaccurate and going through the initial 10 one-on-one sessions with a Starting Strength Coach, I was pretty humbled. Proper technique was a lot more difficult than just flailing in the wind. I won’t sugarcoat it. It was difficult. It was frustrating. I felt like I didn’t know anything because, as I discovered, I really didn’t know anything! I was tempted to give up. That’s not to say anything negative about the coaches! They’ve always been nothing but encouraging and supportive. I just needed to break a lot of bad habits. Now I realize that the previous instruction I had received in Ohio was very unfocused and no plan was ever put in place. The trainer just led me around the gym, stopping at an occasional station, and saying, “I like doing this when I come to the gym,” showing me what he did, having me do it once or twice, and then moving on. I was left, more or less, on my own. He offered no real direction and, looking back with the knowledge I have now, I was left without any proper knowledge of good technique. At the time, however, I thought I knew what I was doing.
I think a good deal of strength training is mental. It’s coming to terms with the reality of your true ability, or in my case, lack of ability. It’s humbling yourself and breaking down any preconceived notions of your own ability to let the training flow. I needed this. It’s developing the mental confidence and trust in yourself and training to get under 200lbs of iron and know you’re not going to collapse, and it’s developing the trust in your coaches and peers to know that everyone has you’re back if you falter and are unable to lift the weight back up. Once I got through the initial 10 training sessions, I was hesitant to go at it alone but it’s there that the community of Fivex3 really shines. I know I’m never alone at the gym. If my form is wrong, I know someone will guide me. I know if I fall, there will always be multiple hands reaching up to lift me back up again. And those same hands will be applauding once I conquer a certain weight.
I’ve definitely become stronger over the past few months, and my confidence has improved. I enjoy planning my day around when I’ll be going to the gym. It’s nice to have that at the center of my day, and I always feel ready to take on the world after a good workout. I’m definitely more aware of how I lift heavy objects, and I feel more confident and safe doing so. After a good workout, my energy level is always very high. Just going to the gym makes me more active than I have been in the past few years. I’m a psych nurse which is less hands-on than many other nursing specialties. I used to work at a nursing home, however, which required a lot of moving people around, pushing, and pulling. I had always hear people repeat the mantra “lift with your knees and not your back.” I was never entirely sure I was doing that correctly until I started squatting. Looking back, I’m lucky I never seriously hurt myself.
While it was not what I had originally gotten into fitness for, strength has now become my primary focus. It’s like a game. Every time I go to the gym and move up in weight, I feel a great sense of accomplishment and pride. I set personal goals for myself and meeting those goals is a rush. My family has always been very health-conscious. My parents and brothers are all strong and in shape. It’s nice to go home and not feel a bit out of place around them. It’s a good bonding experience too, to go to the gym together and show my family all I’ve learned. In my everyday life, I love when people notice that I’ve gotten bigger or stronger. I like helping people out if they need something carried. Being able to carry as many grocery bags as possible at once walking from my car to my kitchen helps a lot as well. And if someone needs a pickle jar open, well, my friends and coworkers know who to call. 😉
This is the only real strength training I’ve really had before, so it’s hard for me to differentiate my experience strength training and my experience at Fivex3. That being said, I love it. And the highlight is definitely the community and individualized focus at the gym. I’ve never once felt self-conscious which is very different from any gym experience I’ve had before. I love that when I’m squatting a weight I have never squatted before, I can always ask one of my coaches to watch me. The coaching never ends. My form will never be perfect. (I think that’s safe to say about everyone.) There’s a lot to keep in mind when lifting, and it’s hard to really recall all of it when you have 200+ pounds on your back. Having a coach encouraging you in the right direction is just fantastic. I appreciate it greatly, and I know that’s why I’ve made as much progress as I have. I’m stronger than I’ve ever been. My confidence in myself is greater than it’s ever been. And I know it’s only going to get better from here.