Remember to Learn! Lessons From my Early Workouts

During one of my workouts this week I had the doors open at Raw Strength to get some fresh air in. It was a beautiful day and I was lifting hard and heavy. Then as I was chilling out between sets I breathed in the scent of something fresh and summery which took me straight back to my early days of lifting outdoors and in my Grandad’s garage gym in Wales.


They say that memories triggered by scents are the strongest of all, and I was really taken aback whilst remembering what I used to do for my training back in the ‘Good Old Days’! It got me thinking how little some of my methods have changed, whilst others have been completely dropped, never to be done again!


My old school garage workouts when I was 13 years old and starting out playing rugby saw me jogging 1 mile from my house to my Grandads garage, working on my overhead press, bench press, machine flys, machine bench press, rock bottom back squats, leg extensions and curls. Then jog home again!


Bear in mind I grew up in Abergavenny, South Wales, so to get to my workouts I had to jog up a HUGE hill almost ALL of the way there! The good thing was it was downhill all the way home!

I trained anywhere from 5-10 reps for usually 3 sets, up to 30 reps on the leg extension (!) and that was about it!


Looking back on these early workouts I don’t think they were that bad, I still do overhead press, back squats and bench press, but I don’t do any machine work whatsoever, I also drive to and from the gym! I also learnt from an early age how to work hard, how to train alone and to a certain degree how to eat for muscle gain.


I used to eat loads of eggs (still do), tuna and steak, I would have a MASSIVE Joe Weider weight gain shake after each workout (was over a litre of milk and lumpy powder!) and lots of cans of tinned fruit (sugar overload!). I pretty much ate whatever I wanted and went from 9 stone to 12 stone in 3 years, but stayed at 12 stone until I was 18!


I always did the same exercises, I always ate the same foods, I always ran for my conditioning work….I stayed at the same weight! I played back row and as I developed quickly between the ages of 13-15 I played really well, then when everyone else grew bigger than me it became a struggle again.

It’s taken me a long time to realise that when I was training, although it was a good start, I really should have been LEARNING. Noticing what is happening to your mind and body and staying ALERT AND AWARE will help you progress into a better athlete. Here are the lessons I went through but didn’t LEARN from until many years later:


Lesson #1 - I didn’t train, and then I started training and became better. So starting something new made me improve, and still does.


Lesson #2 – I always did the same workout and hit a plateau. Again, variety helps me progress, same workouts means same results.


Lesson #3 – When I introduced heavy squats and deadlifts I got bigger and stronger again. So lifting heavy and aiming to lift more weight is good.


Lesson #4 – When I stopped lifting heavy things I get weaker. Yep, took me a long time to learn this one! Now I always train my squat, deadlift, bench press and pull-ups even if they aren’t the main focus of my training, you gotta stay STRONG!


You must understand that everything you are doing at the moment is a means to an end, you lift to become a better athlete, look better, get stronger or whatever, but EVERYONE has to realise that life gives us lessons, do you sit back and ignore everything (as I used to), or do you look for opportunities to learn?


You will instantly perform better when you wake up and realise that everything you do in your sport and in training is an opportunity to LEARN.


Write your workouts down so you can learn from them, read about and listen to other athletes and coaches so you can learn from them, listen to your body…when are you most sore? What do you suck at doing? Are you too fat? Are you too slow?


All of these things point us in the right direction to become better athletes, the problem is, we aren’t even awake enough to see it.


I’d love to know what you think about my early workouts and hear about your life lessons! Drop all comments below and I’ll reply!

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