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Week 21: Fitness-Freak Faith

Faith is 36 years old and has been dating 39-year-old Fabian for over seven years. Faith met Fabian eight years ago when he was coaching her first high-intensity group-training class at Warrior Workhouse, which she agreed to try on a whim with a couple of her friends who were members.

Leading up to this chance meeting, Faith had always been active. She competed in gymnastics in elementary and middle school and cheered throughout high school as well as all four years at the Division 3 college she attended. Faith continued her active lifestyle at a local fitness franchise after beginning her career in the HR field, where she ran three times each week on the treadmill, took a couple of body-sculpting classes each week, and almost always tried any of the new class offerings her fitness center introduced.

But this class with Fabian was different! Faith was hooked midway through her first workout, with sweat pouring off of her entire body as he barked out commands of pull-ups on the gymnastic rings, squat jumps to maximum height, medicine-ball throws, sprints, and more. Faith’s gymnastics and cheer background came in super handy, as she was crushing her friends as well as many of the regulars in this timed event. Her body felt like jelly after the workout, and she awoke the next day to an unbelievable amount of soreness, but her sense of accomplishment and endorphins were through the roof. The following day she was back at class ready to compete and also ready to show off a bit for the super ripped and fit Fabian.

It didn’t take long for Fabian to notice the attractive, high-energy, and athletic new student in his 5:30 p.m. class. And it took him even less time to make his move. Within a few weeks, Faith and Fabian were on their first date. It turned out that Fabian had joined the same warehouse gym three years prior to Faith when he was looking to get back into shape after working in the sedentary and entertainment-filled mortgage industry since graduating college. Fabian got hooked on this high-intensity training as well, for he was quite the athlete in high school and picked up on this “athletic” stuff pretty easily. It wasn’t long before Fabian started entering different fitness competitions as well as becoming a coach who taught fitness classes. He loved that as a bonus, teaching got him a free membership to the gym.

As Faith’s relationship with Fabian started to get a little more real, so did her desire to train competitively, and it wasn’t long before she herself entered her first fitness competition. Faith placed 18th in that first competition, and from then on she was an absolute animal in the gym, training six and sometimes seven days per week, with muscles on top of her muscles to prove it.

Faith was on top of the world because her training left her feeling great about herself, and her relationship with Fabian was perfect. They shared all the same interests in training and eating, and they just so happened to love their own and each other’s ripped, muscular physiques. Their lives revolved around their training and eating, and most of the friends and couples they hung out with were cut from the same fabric. The more competitions Faith entered, the higher she finished, which sparked a flame deep inside to want to be The Best. So she trained even harder, sometimes twice a day.

But just as Faith had muscles upon muscles as a result of her training, she also had injury upon injury as a direct result of her training. Two years after the start of her competitive training days, Faith developed tendinitis in both elbows that likely stemmed from pull-up after pull-up, which she was able to endure with a corticosteroid pack and dual training sleeves. In the next couple of years, things got a little worse when she had minor surgery to repair a tear in her shoulder that likely arose from high-volume overhead lifts. In addition, she got to wear “the token boot” multiple times to deal with the stress fractures in her feet that likely manifested from excessive amounts of jumps and runs.

In the ensuing years, things got much worse as Faith had to cope with a couple of bulging discs in her back that the doctors felt were a direct result of the excessive loads on her frame, which essentially limited her ability to perform most of the activities she fell in love with. Unfortunately for Faith, there wasn’t a band or brace that could mask the radiating nerve pain running down her legs.

Now only in her mid-30s, Faith has been fighting the realization that not only have her event competition days come to an end, so has her aggressive style of training within the classes themselves. As for her man Fabian, he, too, has been plagued by injuries and trains very little on his own. He has resorted to mostly coaching verbally, as his late-30s body is simply unable to instruct many of the complex movements that came so easily to him in his 20s.

Ironically, Faith and Fabian have switched their memberships to the same fitness franchise that Faith was a member of eight years ago. The same fitness franchise they ridiculed for being inferior to their elite way of training when they were in the prime of their competitive years. But now their cardio is limited to the upright bikes and elliptical machines as their injuries related to their excessive running and jumping do not allow for much treadmill work. And while they still are able to perform a few fancy feats in the free-weight room compared to the average member, they are a far cry from max efforts under the squat bar and the pull-up area, and the fast moving Olympic lifts are but a distant memory.

Furthermore, Faith is actually dealing with some emotional issues with her own personal image and physical fitness, as she is no longer able to maintain muscle volume due to her inability to train excessively, and she feels Father Time is closing in. Now at age 36, after years of focusing on herself, she’s just now starting to think about marriage and a baby and is concerned she waited too long. Fabian is dealing with some personal vanity issues himself and is wondering if he’s too old to be a first-time dad.

Dear Faith and Fabian,

You have been struck with the addiction of exercise that so many have before you. Just like a professional athlete, the ability to perform at a high level comes to an end in the late 20s and early 30s, with a few exceptions. We so often see our favorite all-stars experience their first hamstring pull, then another and another as they enter their final years of competition. Sometimes it’s even more unfortunate, like a career-ending Achilles tear that’s hard to watch on the replay, yet is shown over and over. Faith, you and Fabian were dominant in your 20s because you wereÉwell, you were in your 20s. But just like real athletes who competed in real sports for years on end, you now have the wear and tear on your body to deal with from the excessive and intense workouts you’ve taken part in for years on end.

But the ho-hum health-club approach is not your answer. You need to seek out a system of training that can heal much of your damage and allow you to progress forward in a safe and sustainable way. Neither of you are spring chickens, and while your age is certainly not a death sentence, you need to train smart going forward and leave the day in, day out, competitive-style of training to the young and resilient (although those young and resilient will need to pay the piper one day as well if they take the same approach you two did).

And by all means, if you have personal fitness goals and objectives that you want to meet, go after them. If you want to match that highest jump or that best lift of your past, please have at it. But choose your goals wisely - one at a time and within reason! - and embrace the aging process by training strategically, safely, and sustainably. While training within this type of system may not result in you being the best in the gym or the fittest in your county, this approach will allow you to be powerful, strong, and mobile, and your cardio will be well developed, now and for years to come.

Faith and Fabian, if you want to continue a life together as a team, make a real commitment to each other and get married. Build a family and learn from your mistakes by teaching your children the lifelong lessons of training sustainably.


Week 21 Quiz:

1) Just like a professional athlete, the ability to perform at a high level comes to an end in the late 20's and early 30's, with a few exceptions.

a) True

b) False

2) Embrace the aging process by training:

a) Strategically

b) Safely

c) Sustainably

d) All of the above

3) Faith was experiencing tendinitis in both elbows that likely stemmed from:

a) Pull up after pull up

b) Running

c) Jumping

d) None of the above

4) Faith was dealing with stress fractures in her feet that likely manifested from excessive amounts of running and jumping.

a) True

b) False

Once you've taken the quiz, click here to see how you did.


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