Take a Shot!
Always believe in you.
Published: August 14, 2012
Life lessons from the Body by Jake guy.
It is May 1998, and I am running like a maniac around the grounds of a luxury hotel in Detroit, Michigan.
I’m in the middle of a three-mile sprint that my workout partner has referred to as “a little jog,” and I’m digging down deep just to keep up with this guy, who runs strongly and effortlessly and is in phenomenal shape. Now listen, I’m in pretty good shape myself. But the thing is, I’m not a big fan of running. In the sixth grade, I did manage to finish the 50-yard dash—in three days. So I’m not exactly Usain Bolt.
But here I am, sprinting around the hotel, trying to keep up with this gazelle I’m running with. This guy is barely breathing hard, so I hide my fatigue and keep going, too. There’s no way I’m ever gonna let him see me struggle, even though I’m sweating like a farm animal. Just a day earlier, I had put him through my rigorous workout, and he did surprisingly well. I’ve seen a lot of people raise the white flag halfway through my routine, but not this guy. So I was going to keep up with him, even if it knocked me out. And around mile two, it looked like it might.
“Come on, Jake, we’re almost finished,” the guy says to me.
“No sweat,” I say to J-Man—the nickname I’ve given to John F. Kennedy, Jr.
How did I end up in a fitness throwdown with the son of a President? Me, someone who started life as a fat kid with zero confidence and a bad stutter?
Let me back up the story just a bit.
As a kid growing up in middle-class Baldwin, New York, I had some pretty serious confidence issues. In addition to being chubby, I stuttered so badly that I didn’t like making phone calls, even to order pizza (and I loved pizza, which shows you how bad my stutter was). And I might have stayed that way if my dad, a street-smart Navy veteran, hadn’t come home one summer day with a set of weights and a weight bench. He put them in the backyard and said, “Let’s go do some bench presses.”
And since I was too busy eating a Twinkie or stuffing some other kind of junk food down my throat, I said, “No thanks, Dad.”
So the bench and the weights stayed in the yard, unused, all summer. Then in the fall my dad told me to bring them into the basement laundry room. It so happens my bedroom was in the basement, too. It was a pretty cool room, with a Jimi Hendrix poster on one wall and an Alice Cooper poster on another, and a desk where I did everything I could to avoid studying.
Well, one night I was dragging myself through some social-studies homework, and I leaned back in my chair and started daydreaming, as I often did, and I happened to notice a barbell sticking out of the laundry room.
Just because I was so bored with my homework, I got up and brought the bar into my bedroom. It was an E-Z curl bar, with not a whole lot of weight on it. I set up this long skinny mirror on top of my ottoman, and I put on a tank top to cover my belly. Then I went over to the turntable and put on a record. Did I choose Hendrix or Cooper or some headbanging heavy-metal song? Nah.
I put on Frank Sinatra.
That’s right, I loved listening to Frank sing a live version of “My Way,” not so much because of the song, but because, after he finished, there was a long burst of wild applause from the audience. And there was something about that applause that really fired me up. So I put on my headphones, stood in front of the mirror, and, with my gut hanging over my underpants, I lifted the curl bar for the first time.
That first curl was a magic moment in my life.
I started doing my bicep curls to the sound of that applause, imagining I was doing it in front of 50,000 screaming fans at Madison Square Garden with all those people cheering for me. The weights became my best friends, and the more muscular I got, the more my confidence and self-esteem grew. And, over time, I gained more control of my stutter. Then when the girls started to notice me, man, I was really over the moon.
Can you imagine what a powerful realization that was for me? That I didn’t have to let the world tell me who or what I was—that I could decide what the world believed about me?
I got into great shape and never looked back. I started visualizing thousands of people cheering me on no matter what I was doing. Even when I was mowing the lawn of our home, I’d visualize that I was actually mowing the outfield at Yankee Stadium. I’d even stop and wave to all the fans, acknowledging their cheers. My mom would look out the window, see me waving at imaginary people, and ask me what I was doing.
“Ma, I’m waving to the fans!” I’d say. “I’m in Yankee Stadium!”
And my mom would think, What is wrong with that boy?
Well, what can I tell you? It’s just the way my brain works. Just because something doesn’t exist, doesn’t mean that it can’t exist.
Jake Steinfeld is a world-renowned fitness expert and motivator who founded Major League Lacrosse in 1998. The founder and chairman of Body by Jake Global® LLC, he pioneered the personal-fitness-training industry and created America’s first fitness-lifestyle television network, FitTV.