Back to the Future: Learning From Mistakes of the Past

Posted by Jason Ferruggia

keith dlGuest post by Renegade Inner Circle Coach, Keith Scott

When I was in high school I was a 3 sport athlete. I trained all year around for football, wrestling and baseball. There was never a month that I wasn’t in the gym, on the field, on the mat, or somewhere doing what I thought would make me the best. I had ZERO idea what I was doing, but I did stuff anyway.

I would spend my weekends jumping off of my picnic table in my backyard. Why? Because someone once mentioned how great plyometrics were. What were plyos? Someone said they were “jumping off of big boxes.” So, I jumped off of a table. There were no thoughts to warming up, hurting my knees, etc…

I was very young, and very dumb. I did stuff like this all of the time. I got my info from books, magazines, ill-informed coaches, etc… Never a thought about 5 years ahead…hell, at that age, I didn’t think too much about next week. 

When I was in my 20s I was invincible. I was…really.

I could do anything and I did it well. I didn’t get hurt, I didn’t worry about pain, I never thought about my shoulders, my knees, my lower back, I didn’t worry about anything when I was training. I was young, I was strong, I was big, I was dumb. That is how it was when I was in my 20s. I didn’t have the internet to fall back on…in fact, the only advice I could get was from magazines, and juice-heads in the gym I trained in at the time.

Mondays were chest days. That meant 5-6 sets of bench pressing (with no warm up), followed by 4 sets of dumbbell flys, followed by 4 more sets of incline bench, etc… I would rip through my workouts and not worry about anything. 

When I reached my 30s I started to feel the sins of my past. My right shoulder was pretty messed up. My lower back started to give me problems once in a while. My knees hurt a little bit too. However, even in my 30s I was still feeling invincible. Besides, I was still young, and I could rebound from things pretty well.

The Result of My Bad Decisions

My training had changed big time from what I did in my 20s. I was smarter, I had 2 exercise science degrees, I had more resources, and way more experience. Even with all of that, I still pushed through my pain and through my injuries. Youth was still on my side. I realized that my shoulder problem started in my teens, and probably got worse in my 20s. I knew this, yet I still pushed through the pain. Again…young and dumb. 

Now I am in my 40s and I am really paying the price for years of dumb training, and stupid advice. My right shoulder hurts every single day. My lower back is always tight, and now my forearms and elbows are aching daily. I am starting to feel things in my ankles and feet that I have never felt before.

I know for a fact that training has done this to me. I know for a fact that my insistence on pushing through it all is the reason I am hurting. I know without a doubt that what I did through all of those years is coming back to bite me big time. Yet, I am still at it. I still train hard…some days VERY hard. I still have the mentality that I did in my 20s…I still feel invincible at times, even though I know I am not. I still do things that I know will probably hurt me even more in the future.

Now with all of this said, I am 1000X smarter about my body and my training then I have ever been before. I warm up, I do soft-tissue work, I avoid things I would have not avoided before. But at the end of the day, I know I still feel like I can do whatever I want. I know that when I get to my 50s I will have more issues. I am starting to project what I will be like when I am in my 60s and beyond. To be honest it scares me a little.

My wife warns me every day before I go to train… “don’t go overboard today” She says. I think she has come to recognize the look in my eye that I get when I am going to go “overboard.” I know it. Some days I get a little crazy. I throw logic, education, and experience out of the window and just “go for it.”

Old Habits Die Hard

I am supposed to be the “injury guy,” the guy who everyone comes to for advice on how not to get hurt. I am the guy who has preached numerous times NOT to go overboard….not to be stupid in the gym, not to hurt yourself now because you will pay for it later.

Sometimes I feel like the guy who smokes and drinks and tells you not to smoke and drink because it is bad for you. Even with all of that, I sometimes wind up being the stupid guy, the guy who doesn’t listen to my own advice. Old habits die hard. 

This generation has numerous advantages over my generation and generations before me. This generation has unlimited resources for training, nutrition, etc…

If I had anything like the Inner Circle when I was in my teens, 20s, and even 30s, I would probably be in better shape than I am in now. I would probably be hurting less. 

I can tell people to do soft-tissue work every day and explain to them how much it will help now and into the future. I never did much of that. I didn’t know. I can tell people to warm up properly…to do more mobility work, etc…All of that is GREAT advice and advice that would have saved me a little.

The biggest advice I can give, is that if you have that uncontrollable fire when you train…that fire that makes you a little “crazy” and makes you push through walls, and do stupid shit…just think ahead a little…think about 10-20 and even 30 years down the road. Think about how your past will come back to bite you in the ass one day. Ask yourself if it will be worth it. If you are young (and dumb) you will probably not think too much about it…you are, after all, still invincible. But you won’t always be that way and the quality of your future life is hanging in the balance.

Make better decisions then I did, better ones than Jay did. Ask anyone that is over 35 years old and has trained all of their life how they are feeling now and they will probably tell you the same thing. There is so much that I cannot do now (that I wish I could) because of what I did in the past. At the time, it was worth it…now, not so much.

I am expecting a son in a couple of months, my first. I think about being able to do things with him as I get older. I think about throwing a ball, picking him up, etc… He is not going to care how much I benched, or dead lifted, or squatted. I just need to make sure I can do the things I need and want to do in my 50s, 60s and beyond.

I know I am going to continue to pay for what I have done, and yet I am still going to train and train hard. The hard part is shutting off that side of me that has fueled me since I was 16 years old…that side of me that thinks he is invincible. I’m not and neither are you.

Be smarter than I was and am today. You have the resources and the knowledge that many of us didn’t have. Use it and make sure you are better off when you are older in life.

By all means, train your hardest, get jacked, get strong, bust through walls…just do it smarter!