Learning To Teach!

Before I moved on to manage Gold’s Gym I spent 6 years working in a very nice health food store called Walden Farms. It was fun interacting each day with people from all walks of life and a variety of fitness goals. Nutrition was already a passion of mine and being around like minded people constantly fueled my fire. I tried to learn everything I possibly could, especially about sports nutrition and supplementation. It was while working there that I did my first two natural bodybuilding shows and going through the process of leaning out after having been so focused on gaining more size and strength for years was a cool experience. Even while I was spending years building up from 160-230 I was studying and learning about proper ways to diet for weight loss. When the time came to prep for my first show, it paid off and I lost 30 pounds in 3 months while still consuming 3000 calories a day. My passion for acquiring information led me to believe that you can never go wrong by increasing your level of knowledge.

It was also while there that I started giving my first fitness and nutrition seminars. In addition to working at the store I was doing personal training and more and more I began to see a need for spreading knowledge. It wasn’t that I felt like I knew everything. It was more about seeing where the information gaps were and realizing that if people didn’t have a foundational level of information they might not be able to accomplish the things they were looking to do. I had made plenty of mistakes along the way and wanted to make sure that others had the chance to learn from my errors and avoid repeating them. It wasn’t long before I had a number of regular customers who would drop by each week just to talk training, nutrition and see what was new in the supplement world.

When people start to depend on the advice they get from you, very soon you start to develop a sense of responsibility. You want to make sure that everything you tell them is the best possible information or advice and helps them as much as possible. It actually gets to be a bit of a skill and just like with everything else, with practice you get better and better at it.

One day, a high school student came up to the register carrying one of our most popular weight gain powders. “My friend told me about you,” he said. “You recommended this to him and he’s put on a solid 10 pounds. I’m trying the gain some size for football so I figured I’ll try it as well.”

“It’s definitely one of our best sellers and it taste amazing,” I said.  “It does have a lot of milk products in it so if you’re lactose intolerant at all, it might not agree with you.”

“No, I drink milk all day without any issues so this will be fine. What’s the best way to use it?” he asked. And there it was, the magic question. I explained to him that to gain weight he needed to increase his caloric intake so this was something he should add to his regular diet, once or twice a day, either in between meals or at bedtime to give his body more quality nutrients and additional calories on which to grow.

It was the right answer to good question. But what makes it magic is that it illustrated the need for more. I knew that if he was under-eating regularly, just adding in a “weight gain shake” wouldn’t do much good. So I asked him about his diet. I also knew that if he wasn’t training hard enough or often enough or was over-training, the addition of this powder also would not help him. So I asked him about his training. I also asked him about his sleep habits and overall energy level. After a good 30 minutes, he left with his can of weight gain and a new workout routine to fix his problem of trying to do so much that he was holding himself back. Time had taught me that even the right answers won’t be enough if the right questions never get asked.

That’s when I first started compiling the information that I thought everyone needed to know and handing it out for free at the store. That’s what led me to ultimately write my book and create fitness education courses. I knew that sometimes the right questions wouldn’t get asked so I wanted to make sure that potential critical information was still being passed on.

That kid went on to gain a sold 20 pounds and play varsity for the next 2 seasons. Later he became one of the biggest, strongest guys at Golds Gym. Quite a few times I would walk by and hear him giving out free training and nutrition advice to other guys at the gym. Information is a tool and a gift that should be embraced whenever possible.

Photo: Terry Goodlad

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