Many people are introduced to weightlifting and working out by participating in sports. Those people have a coach to help them learn what exercises to do in the weight room, along with how and when to do them. They have a team of like-minded individuals to support them—or at least give them company during their workouts. They’re given a positive environment with a supportive group of people, usually from a young age.
That wasn’t me. When other kids my age were involved in sports, I was busy getting suspended from school for fist fights. I tried sports but didn’t like them. I didn’t like being told what to do; I struggled with authority. Sports made me feel limited because I couldn’t express myself the way I wanted to.
When I started getting into fitness, I found that a lot of the people I met in the gym had played sports since they were kids. That makes sense—we follow our interests when we choose our careers, right? Almost every personal trainer I know was involved in sports in high school and went on to play in college. Their love for fitness was a byproduct of their activities in sports and how to improve upon them.
All that is great—but what about the rest of us? The rest of us who weren’t athletic or played sports? The rest of us who didn’t feel comfortable in a weight room? The rest of us who weren’t cool enough to or could afford to play sports? For the rest of us, we weren’t given an opportunity to learn these things because it wasn’t available to us in a format that met us where we were at.
Restored Strength is a gym for the rest of us. The rest of us who spent their school years
- having dodge balls thrown at their faces
- skipping class to smoke pot or read books
- doing musicals & playing in band
- getting tattoos instead of letterman jackets
- working jobs instead of playing sports on weekends
- painting pictures or drawing comics
- getting picked last in gym class
After my first year of college, I realized that almost everything in exercise science is based on the experience of athletes and often fails to take everyone else’s experience and needs into account. Once I understood this, I would spend the rest of my studies figuring out ways to make sports science applicable to everyday life for the rest of us.
My main goal as a fitness professional is to make health & wellness accessible. In college I didn’t care much about learning how to make athletes better at their sports because those just weren’t my people. I cared about how I could make an impact on those who were like me—for those who, for whatever reason, didn’t grow up with access to fitness resources.
This is what really separates our gym and our workouts from other fitness facilities. Our gym and workouts were created for people who have felt like fitness wasn’t available to them, like they weren’t even fit enough to do a fitness class, like they didn’t fit in when they stepped into their local health club.
I continue to spend my time learning and researching, finding exercises and programming workouts that improve the quality of your life. Here are a few ways that I’ve taken athlete-specific education and made it accessible for the rest of us.
Injury & risk management
Everyone deals with current and past injuries; it could be from sports or just a simple slip-and-fall accident. Recovering from an injury sucks. It takes time, but with the right exercises, you can recover quicker and reduce the risk of re-injuring yourself.
Whether you’re shoveling snow or playing volleyball, your body will be exposed to injury. As a coach, it’s my job to prescribe proper exercises for the workouts we do to strengthen people’s muscles, stabilize their joints, and increase their mobility—all of which help reduce the risk of injury.
Progressive overload refers to making exercises more challenging to keep making progress as you get stronger. There are over a dozen ways to do this: you can add more weight, reps, time, etc. No matter how you do it, you need to increase your challenge you slightly more throughout your workouts to avoid plateauing.
We can apply this inversely too: Let’s say you’re new to working out. Instead of jumping right into a kettlebell goblet squat, you can start with learning how to squat with a plate. This allows you time to succeed at squat technique before you add a bigger challenge. You’re learning to work out in a manageable, progressive manner.
Athletes aren’t special. The way they need to work out is no different from the way an IT professional needs to work out. Everyone benefits from knowing how to squat, how to deadlift, how to push and pull heavy things, increase their mobility, and develop a strong core. The difference between athletes and non-athletes is the intensity and specific exercises applied. I wouldn’t have my mom working at the same intensity as a high school hockey athlete, of course, but they will do similar exercises—the exact same movements in different ways.
When I was in college, I was taught that we don’t just train exercises; we train human movement patterns. Human movement patterns are things we do every day like:
- going to the bathroom (squatting)
- picking things up off the ground (deadlifts)
- moving shit out of the way (pulling)
- opening doors (pushing)
- walking (locomotion)
- using stairs (lunging).
Anatomy & physiology
No matter who we are—athletes, non-athletes, fitness enthusiasts, dedicated couch potatoes—we all use the same laws of science when we are manipulating our bodies. The way your body specifically adapts to the stress that’s being placed on it might be different from everyone else, but the way adapts isn’t.
If you want to get stronger, you need to lift heavier weights. If you want to decrease body fat, you need to use lighter weights. If you want to build muscle, you need to use moderately heavy weight. This is physiology: using exercise science principles to change the body and what you can do with it.
Our bodies all need to move. They all move in different ways, but we still use bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and nerves to create these movements. An athlete is no different than my grandmother—they both use the same human movement patterns to live their lives. Their goals are different, so the implements or intensity that they’ll use to achieve those goals will be different; but the broad strokes are the same.
The freedom of movement, strength, and grace of fitness isn’t just for athletes anymore. It’s for the rest of us too.