(Guest post by Robert Jacobs)

Comfortable. I had settled into middle age and I was comfortable, too much so for my own good. My competitive soccer playing days – club, high school, college, adult even – had faded out of view. They’ve been reduced to a few old photos and a box full of trophies in the attic.

I wasn’t necessarily overweight. I wasjust there. Twenty plus years of teaching and coaching had taken a toll. I was used to eating on the go, usually the wrong things, and at odd times. I was also getting used to chronic lower back spasms. The occasional “workouts” were more fits and starts than actual fitness.

I’m a believer that things happen for a reason, and my road to The Studio and Extreme Iron certainly followed that script. A hit-and-run rush hour accident rendered my 50-year-old body dented. My regular doctor referred me to a chiropractor (Trace Alexander). I’d never experienced chiropractic treatment and was more than a little hesitant. With a few cracking sounds I had some relief. The weeks that followed included a lot of cracking and a lot of physical therapy. While things were slowly healing, my impatience led me to ask Trace about massage therapy. He referred me to Devon, with his “she’s amazing” endorsement. My first appointment was my first impression of The Studio. It didn’t have the feel of the very commercial fitness mills.

Near the end of my treatments with Trace, he said, “If you want to get stronger, ask Mark if he’ll train you.” I did, not really knowing what to expect. Mark evaluated me and let me know I had “structural issues”. I felt like I was in an episode of The Six Million Dollar Man – “We can rebuild him. We have the technology.”

I labored through my first block of sessions sometimes convinced I couldn’t do it and always convinced that Mark thought I was going to quit. There was a lot of soreness from muscles that had gone dormant, some I wasn’t sure I had when I arrived. Then Mark asked if I wanted to do another block. Apparently I had survived.

I began to realize what the “extreme” meant. At 50 I was learning the difference between “working-out” and “training”.

I kept thinking, I wish I had done this when I was younger. The opportunities were there – some weights at home, health club memberships, weight room in college. But I didn’t know what I was doing, and more importantly, why. I’ve always been one of those G/T types that needed to know why. And because I’d gotten “comfortable”, it probably wasn’t something I would do on my own.

Until now, I didn’t realize how it all connected – what to eat, when to eat, the lifting, the cardio, the yoga, the core, the carbs, the protein, the metabolism, muscle memory, muscle confusion, sleep, the hydration. Now I get it. That doesn’t mean that I do everything right all the time. But, I do a lot more than when I was “comfortable”.

And while we’re on the subject, another thought about hydration. I had gotten comfortable drinking 2-3 Diet Cokes a day. When I started training, I quickly phased that out. I haven’t had one in nearly three years (34 months). Instead I’ve been reconditioned to drink water – a ridiculous amount of water. I don’t always drink as much I as need to. It’s not exactly an easy trick to pull off if you’re a teacher!

This “training” thing does come with a cost, beyond the obvious time and financial commitment. I’ve spent a small fortune on rebuilding my wardrobe over the past couple of years (down two sizes in most things). I have a stack of jeans in my closet – ones I don’t wear anymore, 33s, 32s, 31s. I’ve been wearing 30s for a while now. That hadn’t happened since college.

It may be the reactions that keep me going. My teaching colleagues noticed, especially when they saw me at the end of the summer a couple of years ago. My friends noticed. Family members I only see once a year definitely noticed. Other Studio clients noticed. And, at this point in my career, it’s really an ego boost when my students notice. I see Studio athletes in my classes or in the hallway. Word travels fast that I “train” where they train. They’ve even warned some of their friends not to mess with me.

I was talking with one of the football coaches in the teacher workroom recently. I mentioned that I had worked-out the night before. He said that’s something he needed to do. He’s a little “heavy”. When I told him I didn’t feel 53, the look on his face made it all worthwhile. He told me he would have guessed I was in my early 40s (he’s six years younger than me).

It’s been nearly three years and I’m still at it. It’s not always fun, and some days I hate it. My body has been pushed beyond what I thought was its limit. There’s always a new limit. This “putting in the work” is hard, sometimes really hard. It’s been uncomfortable and exhausting. On a few occasions, I thought I was going to pass out.

But afterwards, when I look in the mirror or see the way others look at me, the soreness is a small price. It has never been about how much I can bench or squat. Most of the time I don’t even know what weight I’m working with. It was always about being and feeling and looking better.

I saw a photo of myself from ten years ago. Disturbing. Now, I don’t look or feel my age. And, I haven’t had a lower back spasm in two and a half years.

These last three years have been a lifestyle change. It’s been the realization that the other twenty-three hours in the day are just as important as the one hour of mental and physical battle. If you’re comfortable, you’re really not accomplishing anything.

Fifties and fit. The journey continues…

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