My fitness journey began after I got stabbed in the knee. I remember it like it was yesterday.
It was a beautiful Thursday—June 23, 2011, to be specific—in Vail, Colorado.
If you’ve never been to Vail in the summertime, imagine being engulfed by beautiful mountains covered in pine trees, little-to-no clouds in the sky, and fairly consistent 75ish-degree weather.
Kind of like South Park without Cartman.
I was sitting in the car listening to “Good Life” by One Republic while my mom was outside waiting for me.
I’m actually listening to it right now, in hopes to bring myself back to that moment.
After waiting in the car for about fifteen minutes, reality set in—this wasn’t a bad dream and I’d have to build up the courage to get out of the car.
Sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s backtrack just a bit—it’s the first week of June 2011.
I was at a basketball camp with my high school. It was mainly for the JV and Varsity players to get some reps in, but it was also sort of like a pre-tryout for incoming freshman.
I was an incoming freshman, so this was my chance to make the coaches notice me.
The second day into camp, my knee would swell up to the size of a grapefruit.
I’m ultra competitive—to the point where I’ve passed out on a treadmill in competition—so I decided to wear long shorts and try to play through the excruciating pain.
I was playing on one leg, so as you can probably guess, I got crossed up on the first possession, resulting in a nice taste of hardwood.
After I went down, I got brought off the court by some of the trainers at the camp.
They did some basic screening and said I probably tore my meniscus, but I should see a specialist to make sure.
Thanks to my amazing parents, I was privileged enough to receive the care of one of the top professional sports surgeons in the country.
When you walk in the building there are endless hallways of signed jerseys from happy former-patients in their respective sport.
In the long and short of it, I needed surgery.
So yeah, I didn’t exactly get stabbed in the knee, per se, but the surgeon did use a knife.
So if you think about it, I kinda-sorta got stabbed, basically. Right?
Going into the surgery I was told it was a torn meniscus and I’d be all healed up in 4-6 weeks and should return for the second half of my freshman football season.
I came out of surgery singing Sweet Caroline and professing my love for Selena Gomez.
There were two problems when I woke up.
The first problem being Selena wasn’t there to hear my sweet serenade. My nurse told me it would have stolen her away from Justin Bieber in a heartbeat.
The second problem was my beautiful tribute to Neil Diamond was followed by agonizing pain to the point where my nurse had to put me back down for a while.
Upon waking up for the second time, I didn’t have too much physical pain.
But what I lacked in physical pain was made up for with emotional pain when my surgeon told me I’d never play football again.
He followed up by informing me I actually had torn cartilage and my rehab process would take 6-8 months—not 4-6 weeks.
I had just turned fifteen, and if you would’ve asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would’ve told you I wanted to Quarterback the Chicago Bears.
So yeah. Life, as I knew it, was over.
For the first few months after my surgery, I wallowed in a McDonald’s ball pit of self-pity.
For those of you who are visual learners, this is the McDonald’s ball pit of self-pity.
But before I could get too deep in the pit, my dad grabbed me by the shoulders and told me something I never thought I’d hear…
Just kidding, that would make this story way more interesting though.
He told me I was getting chubby and needed to start weight-training if I wanted to get cleared before baseball season started.
I was pissed, how could he say that?
But if my dad wasn’t willing to hurt my feelings, I would’ve never grown into the man I am today.
I didn’t know it then, but I needed some tough love.
Hearing my dad say that also taught me two things: if someone says something that bothers us, there’s probably some truth to it. And we need to be willing to hurt the feelings of the people we love because sometimes it’s in their best interest.
I knew I was eating like Kobayashi, and for the first time in my life, I wasn’t very active.
I was getting a little chubby.
About a week after our talk—the middle of August—I decided I was going to make a change.
If I wanted to play any sports at a high level, I needed to start training.
I didn’t tell anyone, but I brought my gym bag to school the next couple of weeks to work out after school on the days I didn’t have physical therapy.
I couldn’t build up the courage to walk in the weight room.
When it came to working out I had no clue what I should be doing and I didn’t want the football players to judge me.
Looking back, it’s funny because they didn’t know what they were doing either—they just did what the coaches told them.
Back to the story.
So, too afraid to go to the gym, I did what anyone would do.
I didn’t go. Instead, I sat in the library and played Doodle Jump on my phone until my mom came and picked me up.
My dad knew I wasn’t doing anything so he told me he was going to get me up in the morning to go to the gym with him.
“Yeah, that sounds awesome!” – Me before knowing how shitty it is to wake up at 4:30 in the morning.
In all seriousness, I am forever indebted to my dad for those 5 AM workouts.
Those mornings with my dad taught me all the necessary lessons to living a meaningful and fulfilling life:
1. Anything worth doing is worth overdoing.
2. Action always beats anxiety.
3. Doing the little things consistently is better than doing big things inconsistently.
4. Do first, then learn.
5. Failure, if done right, will lead you to success. My dad has always said, “Fail better and you’ll fail your way to the top.”
6. Accomplishments don’t mean anything if you don’t have anyone to share them with.
All these lessons are amazing—each one could be individual posts in themselves—but the most important thing I gained from those morning workouts was a best friend.
Those mornings were the foundation of a rock-solid relationship.
Thanks to my dad, I was able to work with some extremely knowledgeable trainers when I was in high school who helped mold me into the coach I am today.
I went on to play basketball for three years in high school, baseball all four years, and even got to play football my senior year.
I played junior college baseball for two years and decided to go all-in on helping people change their lives through fitness.
Throughout my life, I’ve come to understand that this isn’t about fitness. This isn’t about accomplishing goals.
It’s about who you become in the process.