Lessons and mistakes behind 7 years of working out
At the age of 15, I stepped on the path of self-destruction.
I started to smoke, I started to drink, I was what you call him a fat skinny, it’s like when you are skinny inside but covered with fat. I was flabby and weak.
Eventually, I got tired of falling, in fact, I almost hit the bottom. I saw it, I got scared, and I thought to myself it’s either I am doing something about my life or I will die miserably.
2009, after 6 years of falling at the age of 21 I started the journey of rebuilding my body. This is my story along with what different directions will offer you. But first things first.
I think all men have similar motivation when they start. I was no different. Your motivation will evolve.
- First I wanted girls to like me.
- Then I wanted other men to fear me.
- Finally, you reach the point when you don’t need to prove anything to anyone. Exercising becomes your second nature, and you just enjoy yourself.
Same is fair for the training. Keep this in mind, please. Your motivation will take you 2 weeks in, your discipline will take you all the way up. Your workouts that you once tried to make a habit must evolve into a personal philosophy, a creed.
This is how I started. I was caring about looks and didn’t really know what I was doing. I knew nothing about what to train and how to train. I wanted to stop being fat skinny. Bench press became the exercise I was focusing a lot on, for no particular reason. Maybe I was just copying the other guys. If you are just in the beginning, please do yourself a favor — educate yourself. Now there is so much information on the variety of topics from the nutrition to the anatomy of bodybuilding.
Things that I learned from bodybuilding:
- It makes you stronger.
- It makes you mindful of what you eat.
- It makes you mindful of the work of your muscles. You start to understand how your body works.
- It makes you more disciplined.
- Too much fixation on aesthetics. When a man wants to be strong it is simply natural. When a man wants to be beautiful it’s an alert. Something is wrong with the mindset. Today’s bodybuilding contests are some perverted versions of women’s beauty contest. No offense.
- The muscles of the human body are designed to serve functional not aesthetic purposes. Isolating exercises is a ‘castration’ of a muscle.
Back in that time, I was just doing stuff, non-systematically, not regularly, and quite chaotically to be honest. I was still smoking and drinking occasionally. At that time I discovered
In Aug 2011 I quit smoking. How I did it is a whole different story. I was exercising almost every day alone, listening to the music and going to the very unclear vision of what I want my body to become.
One day a friend of mine said that he found the whole bunch of people like me who exercise on the bars and that’s they plan a gathering that weekend. We decided to go there. I showed up and my friend didn’t. When I arrived I saw a bunch of guys much younger than me exercising outside. That meeting changed my life forever. We started to meet and work out together. We became friends. We progressed. We were changing and supported each other in the way of our transformation. We became a team —
My team became my second family. I was doing what I have to do during the day thinking about how I’m going to finish my work and head to the workout field and slay it.
As days went by, I started to organize events, I spend a lot of time with my team, and unwittingly they selected me as the team leader. My team became something more than the instrument of strengthening my body. It became an instrument strengthening my leadership skills.
Things that I learned from Street Workout:
- Integrated complex and functional movements. Perfect routines for what your upper body is designed to do by nature.
- It increases your endurance.
- It increases your agility.
- It makes you more mindful of movements and kinetics of your body.
- It makes you ripped. The muscle tissue you build is not big on volume but super dense. It is extremely effective in fat burn.
- Lack of focus on legs. Many workouters do not pay enough attention to this part.
We spent many great days and hundreds of amazing workouts, but sadly I had to move on.
In Aug 2013 I departed for Korea. However, the impetus that Mixteam gained over two years helped them not only not to fall apart after my departure but to become stronger, more dedicated, more organized. 6 years later these guys are beasts now.
And so I left.
I was 25, 73 kg of weight, and I was able to do 15 muscle ups max.
At this stage, I decided that I want to become bigger and stronger. I started to eat a lot and lift heavy. The hardest part for me was squats, as my underdeveloped legs were not even used to air squats. I remember myself struggling with 60 kg squats. But I persisted. After 1,5 year I was 87 kg, squatting 125 kg, dead-lifting 200 kg, and bench-pressing 120 kg. Average numbers but it was a good progress for a skinny guy like me.
Things that I learned from Powerlifting:
- Building your body is like carving a statue out of a single rock. In that sense, powerlifting is like these first rough hits that give you the fundamental shape of the body. The combination of 3 basic exercises is all you need at the start. Monday — back, Wednesday — chest, Friday — legs. Regardless of your level, warm up with the empty bar, and do a weight progression up to one rep max. Then do regression down. You will see progress after 4 weeks.
- You learn how to visualize your rep max, and channel all of your energy to complete the movement.
- Works best for gaining mass for hard-gainers like me.
- It makes you really strong.
- Powerlifting gives an amazing effect on your body, however, it all comes at a price. You have to sacrifice your endurance and agility for strength.
- You have to sacrifice your 6-pack. When you gaining mass you need a diet with high amount of carbohydrates to give you energy for heavy lifts, you also need a caloric excess. Logically some of this excess is stored as fat. You will not look ripped for the period of mass gaining. That is why you don’t see shredded powerlifters.
- 1 reps max are dangerous. When you do them your technique is far from perfect, you can damage your back doing deadlifts, and heavy squats are bad for your knees in the long-term.
- There are not many practical applications of 1 rep max squat. On the other hand, collecting 10 tons in sum with 60 kg bar squats seems to be very practical. And that is what I discovered through my next endeavor.
After I became a part of Sparta community in June 2013, I was constantly following them with their activities. Around 2015 all this CrossFit thing became popular. Sparta community started a flash mob called Wild100. Every participant should have 100 CrossFit workouts done and post small reports about their progress on SNS.
CrossFit was another level up. I stopped lifting heavy, instead, I was lifting less but a lot and much faster. Workouts of the day (WODs) were very intensive. For example, one of them was a maximum tonnage in deadlifts using 100 kg bar in 30 minutes. I did 24 tons, 10 reps at a time. Couple days after I was walking as if I had a steel rod through my arse till the top vertebrae. CrossFit was so much fun.
I finished wild100. And then I did another one. And then one more. And then one day I did a 95kg clean squat and a bar slipped through my fingers. I got off with my wrist tendons strained and idea that it was enough CrossFit for me.
Things that I learned through CrossFit:
- It brings you to the maximum. It’s not only a workout of your body but a workout of your willpower. Every workout you have to go through the hell of a pain, which teaches you resilience.
- Cardio component is huge. Your heart is forced to work to its full capacity.
- Makes you a universal athlete. CrossFit is more of all-round development.
- Teaches you complex movements and requires certain skills.
- You sacrifice quality for quantity. The technique of many exercises suffers as you work against the clock.
- As a result of bad technique, the risk of traumatizing yourself is the highest. Proven in practice.
- If organized badly CrossFit may bring more harm than good.
The strongest con was the one that I experienced. Trauma. I never had an intention to become a competing athlete. My objective was to stay healthy, and the risk of breaking my arms in the gym doesn’t really align with my image of health.
So it was time to move on. I started my own flashmob — WildYoga.
I found a routine on the YouTube and started practicing. Yoga was seriously good and seriously hard.
This is what I learned:
- Static exercises are very good for blood circulation. When you perform an asana and hold it for 30 seconds and more blood rushes into every single capillary. This feeling alone is simply amazing.
- Your mindfulness is on a whole different level. As you perform asanas you will learn to observe your body and control the tension in it.
- Your flexibility increases.
- You will sacrifice your strength, endurance, and agility for flexibility. Your body that was used to work under higher resistance, will be readjusting to the new type of stress that is not sufficient for muscle growth. Again, it all depends on your objectives.
- If you do some asanas wrong, especially those involving spine flexibility, you risk getting a pinched nerve. The neck is the vulnerable zone.
- Your fitness type should correspond to your inner state, your mentality, and a psychotype. Naturally, my mind is very fast, and yoga is very slow. So it felt boring at times, as I was already used to something very dynamic. Yoga was not my thing.
After 6 years of different practices, I found what is working for me. My perfect recipe is:
Calisthenics, animal movements, and barefoot running.
I came back to Calisthenics aka bodyweight exercises which are perfect if you want to develop upper body and increase endurance and agility. It’s a street workout without additional weight. I train with more focus on dynamic patterns including muscle-ups, pull-ups, push-ups, dips, and jumping over the bar kind of stuff.
Animal movements aka animal locomotion is a quite old calisthenics system, that first appeared in 2007 at Tokyo Yoga Festival presented by Cameron Shayne as Budokan yoga and recently started to become popular again with influencers like Ido Portal and Vahva Fitness. The concept is mimicking the movements of animals, based on the fact that we were once quadrupeds.
Animal movements are extremely hard routines, as you teach your body to follow complex movement patterns. However, most importantly it trains your mind to solve certain kinetic puzzles, which definitely makes you think different. The feeling right after the workout is amazing, as you can feel that all muscles of your body from top to toes have worked out.
Barefoot running was another discovery for me. Our ancestors didn’t have Nike or Adidas on their feet, yet they were the best runners on the planet. Soon enough, I realized that the sneakers industry is another lie, another pile of BS.
When I started running barefoot, I was wowed. When I run barefoot I feel that the movements of my feet and legs are physiologically correct. I feel lightness and freedom. And it is really special feeling of being intact with the surface. It feels natural. Of course, you have to be careful with it. Barefoot running is perfect on the artificial grass of soccer fields, not on asphalt.
It was a long way to find a blend of exercises that are not only enjoyable but also the most natural for a human body and a perfect fit for me.
Things that I learned:
- We are the best movers on the planet. All training that doesn’t tap into the incredible potential of movements and mobility at the end of the day simply limit us.
- We are endurance animals. There is something that we do better than any animal in the world. When it comes to sweating we are second to none. Our perfected cooling system lets us run for days, making us endurance machines. Our endurance not only comes to us in a very natural way but also is very useful as the endurance of the body grants the brain the ability to be more focused and concentrate for longer periods of time.
- Sport is the ultimate anti-depressant. When you rip yourself apart in the gym you experience pain, and your body in response to it synthesizes endorphins, which essentially have only one role. They are painkillers. After you finish your workout there is no more stress, no more pain, but your blood is saturated with endorphins, and that’s why you feel high. This is why sports enthusiasts often call themselves ‘workout junkies’.
- People tend to think that the primary target of the exercise is the body. I encourage you to reconsider. The primary target of the exercise is the brain. Please take your time and immerse yourself in a brilliant book of Kelly McGonigal “The Willpower Instinct”, where she explains in details many mechanisms behind the functioning of your will. In short, she describes the neuroplasticity in the areas of the neocortex that are responsible for will. Your brain is changing in response to exercise forging your willpower which you can apply in any activity making you more disciplined and expanding your capabilities for deep work.
- Same stands for running. Up until not so long ago, people believed that we can grow new brain cells only up to a certain age. Recently this conception was dismantled. It was proved that intensive running and associated with it hyper-oxygenation of the brain is actually promoting neurogenesis. Running helps you grow gray matter.
There is no such thing as a bad sport. The point is to find what works for you. There is no ultimate athletic solution for all of your objectives unless you create one. The journey is the reward. The experience and knowledge I have acquired over the years came along with countless mistakes. I learned it the hard way, and I still learn. Your belief system should be shaken by new incoming knowledge and undergo constant evolution.
Ask yourself “What kind of body do I want to have to live this life through?” Set your objectives right because setting the wrong goals might bring you disappointment.
After 6 years of training, my objectives are Longevity, Endurance, Enhanced Cognition, and Comfortable Feeling inside my body.
I believe that most of us don’t want to become professional athletes. Professional sport is rock hard and often traumatizing.
I believe that most of us want to look good, feel good, and live a healthy and happy life. I hope that you choose wisely and wish you all of the above.