The first time I picked up a barbell was when I used to go to the gym with my father when I was 3 years old. He was a competitive powerlifter at the time, and I spent most of my childhood running around a gym, disturbing everyone's workouts. Sometimes by putting myself in the most inappropriate place-like underneath a barbell while someone squatted with it.
Soon we moved from my parents' home town and we settled on the opposite side of the country. One of the first things my father did, was build himself a gym in the basement, complete with squat rack, bench, and dip station made out of wood. I didn't think much of lifting weights then, and as I grew up my father had a list of training partners come and go. Sometimes these partners would have sons, and many times these sons would stare wide-eyed at my father as he bench pressed several hundred pounds for sets. I really couldn't understand what the big deal was and I tried to pull these kids away from the gym so that we could do something more "constructive" like play hide and seek, tag, or some other game that suited boys at that time. After all, lifting weights wasn't anything special, it was just something you did, like eating food at a dinner table. It was exercise, not play. Of course, many years later, my philosophy on that took a dramatic shift.
Much of my childhood I was in and out of the basement or garage depending on where my dad had situated the gym at the time. I wasn't the most motivated to workout, but deep in my psyche I was programmed with, "exercise is good." I had even conducted an experiment of my own at the age of 5 years old. I was fairly new to the neighbourhood at the time, and when you were new, there was a pecking order to assimilate into. Everyday I went to school and at recess and lunch a kid named, David Bisky, would grab onto me and throw me to the ground. I wasn't much of a wrestler, the kids where I was from just didn't interact in that way at school, so I wasn't used to the rough-housing that went on in this new place. Day after day, I'd return back to class with grass stains on my shirt and pants. One day, I decided to make a change. I know, it sounds ludicrous that I could think this way at 5 years old.
David got up from his desk, crossed the room, and gave me an expression of contrition-probably because we had just returned from lunch and one of his wrestling episodes. We were doing an art project of some sort, and he asked, "Can I borrow your crayons?"
I'll admit that I lit up a little on the inside at this prospect. Perhaps we were going to be allies now. Maybe even friends. As a new kid, this was kind of a big deal. I became a human bobble head, nodding like an idiot as I placed my crayons into his hands.
My dreams were crushed an hour later.
David crossed the room, the remnants of my crayons in his hand, his mouth pulled back in a grin that can only be described at devilish. Yes, I know, a little melodramatic, but hey, this is how it played out in a 5 year old's head.
David handed me the box of crayons. The cardboard was torn, and every crayon had been broken in half. He then winked at me. "Sorry man, I'm just too strong."
And as if that was apology enough, he turned and laughed his way back to his desk. Well...that was enough for me. I was going to show him what strong was. All of the visions of seeing my father working out to gain muscles, to become a superhero now suddenly made sense. I went into the basement that night and as my dad trained, I trained by lifting a 20 lbs bar over my head. It was not unlike the scene from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles when the rat, Splinter, practiced martial arts techniques by watching his master practice Ninjitsu.
A month later, David Bisky ate dirt.
And so my journey into weight training began.
Me at 22 years old, 6 months before my first natural bodybuilding win. NOT dieted down at this point, of course.