I do get asked a variety of different health, fitness and training questions almost every week. How can I get faster, what should I do to jump higher, what is the best exercise to (fill in the blank)? One of the most common questions I have been asked by my middle and high school athletes is, “So what made you decide to become a trainer?”
I take this question seriously because I still like to believe in the innocence of youth, that they are in the formidable years where they are looking for roll models while they ponder what they want to be when they grow up. Maybe I am giving myself too much credit, however I do get asked that question often so I will answer it here in this article.
The Early Years
As you readers may know, I have a great drive towards participating in as many sports as I could. All day every day I just played and played. I could even remember my mom telling me to get into the house to stop playing and get my summer reading done. Of all the sports I played, soccer was my favorite, and as I got older my passion for the game grew.
In my years leading up to high school I remember practicing and playing about five days a week. We didn’t have all of the specialty club teams like there is now so most of us played AYSO and then winter club soccer. Our training consisted of practicing 3-4 times a week and playing one match on the weekend or going to a two-day tournament. I was in great shape and had plenty of soccer skills training but that was the extent of my training (more on that later).
I went to my dream high school, Junipero Serra, known for being the home of some great athletes including: Lynn Swann, Greg Jefferies, Barry Bonds and Tom Brady. I made the soccer team my freshman year and continued through my sophomore year. I was having a blast making new friends and competing against some of the best high school soccer teams around.
The summer before my junior year my club team went to Germany to participate in a summer soccer tour. My second week on tour, in my third match, I got kicked in my leg and felt the most excruciating pain I have ever felt in my life. My knee was injured and my summer play overseas was done.
I remember getting it checked out at a German hospital, something I hope none of you have to go through, and they ruled out that nothing was broken so I just had to get the swelling down and then I could start playing again. Little did I know I had a much bigger problem on my hands.
I slapped on a knee sleeve for support and started training again; some days were better than others but I could tell my knee was not like before. I tried to play my junior year and my knee was giving out on me every time I cut laterally. It turns out my problem was not the knee joint but the ligaments of the knee; an MRI revealed an ACL tear. At the time I had no idea what it was but I was told it would require surgery and I would miss the season.
Rehabilitation and Education
I had the surgery and began my physical therapy program and it was then that my interest was peaked in the intricate workings of the human body. I had a great physical therapist and I learned a lot about the rehabilitation protocol for the knee. I gained such insight that I decided to pursue a degree in physical therapy starting first with kinesiology at the University of San Francisco.
While obtaining my undergraduate degree in kinesiology, I had to get to school early to find all day parking so I hit the gym at 6am. It is then I began to learn about weight training. I never really lifted weights in an organized manner before, though I wish I did while I was playing soccer. I felt the proper strength training program I developed not only made me stronger but more balanced.
Upon graduating I got a job for a year at a local physical therapy clinic where I worked closely with physical therapists helping patients with their rehabilitation modalities, strengthening programs. Also, because of my weight training program knowledge I was asked to write post PT programs for the patients so they could increase and maintain their strength after their therapy sessions were finished.
My education in both kinesiology and my personal learning for strength and conditioning led me to achieve my goal into getting into a physical therapy graduate degree program. My first year of physical therapy school was eye opening in more ways than one. The academic classes were intense and highly educational and I gained much more knowledge in anatomy and physiology but I began to realize that I enjoyed the strength and conditioning aspect of physical health rather than the rehabilitation component.
First Personal Training Job
I left PT school after a year and headed home to finish my graduate degree in Kinesiology all the while I was racking up more personal training knowledge and certifications. I started a job at a local commercial gym and began to hone my training skills during the day while going to school in the evening. As I began to gain experience in personal training I also began to learn more about specialized forms of training. I gravitated towards types of training used to enhance athletic performance. I saw the need to meet the physical and performance demands that athletes have to play at a high level while minimizing their risk of injury. An injury cut my high school career short and hurt my chances of playing in college, however if I could help other athletes achieve their goal of playing high school, college and beyond that would make me feel better.
The Sports Performance Era
Along with working in the commercial gym, I started training a few athletes in my apartment garage and when I got big enough, I studied up on basic business skills and decided to go for broke and open up my own small commercial space: Rise Above Performance Training which is where I am to this date.
You will hear people in your life say to find a job that you love to do so you will be happy while doing it and I could not agree more. Most days are great and there are plenty of challenges but at the end of each day I truly feel that I am contributing a small piece of the puzzle towards helping people achieve their goals and dreams whether it be in life, sports or simply to answer their curiosity.