After years of swimming, I had to quit. I couldn’t stand those difficult workouts anymore. I wanted to relax a bit, do something else and on top of everything, I also got bored.
Swimming is not like team sports. These are more fun, more enjoyable. It depends on the environment as well. In Romania at that time, nobody cared about us being athletes nor supported our effort. It was a post-communism country and the mentality derived as expected. I can honestly say that many still have it even after 30 years of democracy. Somehow, suffering was part of the routine. If one found it hard? Screw him. Go train! Nobody is doing well around here either way! It is a consequence of living a poor life and full of survival problems which our parents had to overcome somehow.
Nobody had the time nor the will to support us emotionally. The only moral support I and my colleagues received was the occasionally slaps from our coach when we were trying to cheat on training and not behave accordingly. Our parents were more interested in school grades than how well we perform in the pool. That is why the coach had the whole authority over us. He was like a parent, with good ones and bad ones.
Besides all that, nobody saw any future for an athlete or a successful profession in sports whatsoever. As a consequence, it was seen as useless and we’ve been told by society to focus more on school instead.
So here I was, a skinny boy with a huge amount of stamina and swimming skills. Even though I didn’t quit sports altogether. I can tell you that everything else felt easy in comparison with my previous training.
I started playing a lot of soccer. I was also riding my bike all the time, as it was my only way of transportation. On top of these things, I was running on the athletic field with consistency. I had too much energy and I couldn’t stay inside the house.
Soon after I went to high school, I attended the gym with my new colleagues. I was 15, skinny and very athletic. I needed to get stronger and build some muscles. I couldn’t do pull-ups very well nor bench press with great resistance. I was a total newbie into bodybuilding.
In the 4 years of highschool, I was playing football, ran throughout the city and lifted weights. To be honest with you, I found the gym too easy and I still consider it a fart in the wind compared to hardcore training. Nonetheless, I had great results. I enhanced my aesthetics and strength a lot.
All the knowledge I received back then about bodybuilding came from the bodybuilders next to me. There were no free programs or Youtube channels you could learn from. Part of that information I received back then, I find it to be ridiculous today, but it was enough for me to get me started. They had good advice too. I just needed a little bit of know-how, which those guys provided successfully, the rest like work-ethic was already known of me thanks to my swimming training.
I loved the gym and kept doing it for about 4 years without interruption. Even if I am dedicated to calisthenics training nowadays, I can find a lot of similarities between the two of them because I, basically, brought all I knew about muscle-building, plus what I learned after, into calisthenics today. Everything is connected and as my results speak for themselves, I dare to say that I also know how to do bodybuilding with bodyweight training only or by running.
The gym provided me with my first huge body transformation. I finally looked muscular and strong. And honestly, I got stronger and better than those guys who taught me how to do it in the first place. I had results pretty quickly. In less than a year, I had muscle definition and was able to bench press with 90-100 kg. My body weight didn’t surpass 75 kg. I also used 20+ kg dumbbells for bicep curls, which again was something only the strongest in my gym were able to do. Those guys were all adults, I was just a kid.
I don’t care what anyone says, cardio is the foundation of fitness and performance. We should begin with it and master that before strength training! It is not about building stamina only. It is about building athleticism and enhance our metabolism to its maximum potential. We should first become fit and athletic, muscles and super strength comes secondly. Because once the metabolism works very effectively, then you will be able to lose weight, build strength, grow muscle, get better, feel better.
That military discipline prepared my whole body and taught it to work to my advantage. People were surprised by how fast I can evolve and said that it happened because of my great genes. I was pretty ill as a kid and signed up to swimming because of survival issues, to improve my health, not to become muscular and performant. This is what mattered to my parents so I can live a normal and happy life. They never stopped me from doing sports or gym. It made me feel energized and healthy.