The (Very) Early Days
When I was a baby, my parents would refer to me as little Buddha. I did not know why they felt this way until it was explained to me later on as an adult. However, as a child, I did not pay it much mind because I was too preoccupied with playing with my eleven brothers and sisters and making sure that I would survive childhood. I had a very fearful relationship to life that, I later realized, stemmed from my relationship with my father.
My father, originally from Nigeria, was an officer in the military and between his stern nature that was honed by the military and his cultural background, he did more disciplining of his children than spending quality time, if any at all, showing us affection through love and understanding.
This played a big role in who I was to become and my character development, initially. Although I spent most of my youth in fear of my father; fear of being able to survive my childhood and fear of being accepted, I also had this deep guttural fire that said, “I am greater than this and they can’t see who I really am!” I felt that if others could really see who I was, they would be in awe of my greatness. Still, what was underneath the surface was fear, a sense of powerlessness, and a feeling of being unseen. I spent most of my days wondering if, and when, I would grow up and be able to take the helm of my ship, my destiny, my life.
Time could not have moved fast enough, but I managed. Finally, graduation came, and instead of looking back, I ran forward, ready to make my own choices. I did not know much but I knew that I would never return to allowing anyone else to be responsible for my life, including my parents.
My First Day at The Gym
In the fall of 1991, I remember walking into the gym as a college student at New Mexico State University for the first time. I was 16 years old and motivated by the pain that I felt being me. No longer was I controlled by my father refusing to sign my participation waiver in high school. No longer would I have to sneak into the gym after school and see if I could bench press my body weight.
No longer would I have to stand on the outside of a gym and look in because I was too young to be a member. No longer was I going to be bullied and intimidated by guys who were bigger and stronger than me. And most importantly, I was no longer going to allow the ladies to overlook me because I had the body of a boy.
I always knew that I was born for greatness and it was clear that I was the only one who thought that … okay maybe my parents had an idea. Nevertheless, I was on a mission and I was willing to do whatever it took to become the greatest version of myself.
I noticed the gentleman behind the table that was responsible for checking IDs, he was a fairly muscular fella but I was not intimidated by his size because I knew that after an hour or two of working out, my muscles would be relatively close to the size of his.
I went at it like I was Arnold Schwarzenegger. However, I was completely clueless about what I was doing. I watched the other guys in the gym and copied what they did. After about two hours in the gym, I left feeling pumped and triumphant. I went home to look in the mirror and gazed at my massive pecs because I knew that they had grown exponentially from my first workout. However, when I looked in the mirror I could not detect a change. I became instantly deflated as I realized that one workout was not going to get me there.
At that moment, I became slightly overwhelmed at the enormity of believing that this 5’9 148 lb 16-year-old boy could grow muscles. After all, I had been very skinny my whole life. Note: Most people do not realize that it is a lot more difficult to put on pounds of muscle than it is to lose fat. For someone to put on 20 lbs of true muscle it can take 1 to two years but someone can lose 20 lbs of fat in one to two months.
After getting over the shock of the soreness that set in two days later, I returned to the gym determined to grow into what I believed was the look of a man. During my first semester, I would invite other fellow classmates to come and join me and they would only last a few weeks and stop. Every time they stopped, it made it harder for me to show back up because I would lose motivation. After having experienced the continual lack of support from my friends, I became completely fed up with this lack of support.
I remember that day when I sat down and got real with myself. I told myself that I could not count on anyone person if I was going to make it. I then committed my whole self to make this trek by affirming that I was going to look towards the ground and keep my eye on the step in front of me without looking up until one day I could look in the mirror and see the man that I envisioned.
I can not say that I was consistent from week to week but over the course of two years I never stopped completely.
Turn The Page
It was not until the end of 1993 that I hit true momentum in my bodybuilding. After my freshman year, I had taken a co-op job with Dow Chemical thinking that this experience would be great for me on several fronts. It would give me real-life experience that would look great on my resume. I would be able to make some money to buy the things that I wanted and it would affirm that I had made a great career choice by becoming an electrical engineer.
Now, how does this tie into my momentum? I am glad you asked. Within a few weeks of being at Dow Chemical, I was so bored and uninspired that I would come home from work at 4:45 pm, eat dinner at the Patereau’s House and go to the gym for three hours to destress. I loved the Patereaus!
My plan to keep my eyes down and focused on only the next step led me to a realization while I was walking in the mall in Lake Jackson, TX. I caught a glimpse of this manly figure out of the right corner of my eye. By the time, I turned to look I realized that I caught a reflection of myself in the glass of a store. At that moment, I took a pause to take into account what I had just witnessed.
I went from 5’9 148 lbs to 6’3” weighing in at 185 lbs. At the end of my co-op with Dow Chemical I returned back to school for my next semester, it was hard for friends and acquaintances to relate to me as this little freshman boy. I had grown into the body of a young man.
During this time I began to notice that I had a gift for showing others how to workout. So, occasionally, when I was in the gym, I would help out other gym mates with their technique. Never once did I think that training was really a career or that it would end up being my career. However, one thing led to the next and I found myself living in New York in 1997 selling gym memberships at Bally Total Fitness full-time while personal training part-time and pursuing music.
Realizing the difficulty of entering the music game in New York, a friend recommended that I move to Atlanta because it was an up-and-coming music scene.
So I landed in Atlanta in 1998 and started training full time at Sportslife while working hard to create a music career for myself. I had trained for Ballys, Sportslife, Crunch and an awesome little studio in Buckhead, GA, called Foreverfit, and then I arrived at LA Fitness in December of 1999 as the Personal Training Manager of Body of Change. As a side note, the owners of Foreverfit, David and Monique Almire, were the greatest owners I had ever worked with.
Life Is Not a Straight Line
It was during my time at Foreverfit that I went through another monumental breakdown. It was a time of great internal conflict. Here I was passionate about being a popstar meanwhile I was spending most of my time training, going to self-improvement classes, and working on my intimate relationships.
Just like any other business, there are things that you like and things that tend to bother you. In the personal training world, the two major issues that constantly challenged the peace of my emotions were: the fact that my clients would not listen to the instructions I gave them to implement outside of the gym, and the fact that most people made it a habit to start and stop.
As for the first issue, not listening to the instructions, if I could get some clarity around this then I would be able to increase the results I was getting for my clients. In regards to the second issue, starting and stopping, as much as you might think that I am talking about my clients, I am really referring to my peers. Yes, trainers would start and stop all the time and it perplexed me because they did not stop training their clients, just themselves.
Now, I will be the first to say that I am included in this statistic. I remember stopping for six months in 1995 because my priorities shifted. True, I was not a trainer at the time; but, I still stopped exercising during this time.
One day I was driving down the street and I had my arm resting on the top of the door with my window down. As I pulled up to a stoplight, I looked left and noticed a puny bicep that looked nothing like the biceps that took me four years to build. Saddened and in disbelief, I started laughing because I did not know any other way of handling this shock.
I was in the gym two weeks later and have never stopped since then.
>> The story continues here.