How I Got Started in Fitness

A few weeks ago, I wrote an article about my personal exercise and nutrition routines. To my surprise, it ended up being the most popular article I’ve ever written (out of over 250 articles). But then, I got a few questions about how I got started in fitness/personal training, and that’s what I’ll be sharing in this article.
So, in West Philadelphia, born and raised, on the playground is where I spent most of my days.


Wrong soundtrack, sorry.

We’re talking about my origin story, not Will Smith’s. If that joke went way over your head, here’s what I’m talking about (start at 0:30).

Early Life

Before I was even a year old, my father would make me hang off the chinup bar to develop upper body strength. So picture a baby hanging off a chinup bar. Hanging, and crying, and hanging and crying. That was me, apparently. Yes, those are the experiments that crazy Soviet parents used to run on their kids. That’s why nowadays, athletes from the former USSR are crazy strong cyborgs. Just kidding. Sort of.


Original source: here.

When I was 6, and living in Israel, at that time, my dad used to take me to the beach to run along with him. After that, a swim, and after that, some chinups.
By the time I was 8, I was doing 12 chinups on the beach. That was enough to turn some heads.
Along the way, I had enrolled in tennis lessons, and martial arts classes.

High School

By the time I started high school, I had already been doing martial arts for 4 years, but it wasn’t until I started competing in martial arts that fitness started to consume me. In 2002, I started training at the Academy of Integrated Martial Arts (AIMA), and started competing. Credit for this goes to the two greatest instructors of all time, Lal Daswani and Aaron Racette. Although by 2002, I was already training for 5 years, I hadn’t competed up until that point. It was thanks to those two gentlemen that turned me on to competition.
That’s when I really wanted to start learning everything about exercise and performance enhancement. I wanted to win. Unfortunately I didn’t have the best body for martial arts. Short limbs are great for wrestling, but not so great for striking, which put me at a disadvantage. I wanted to know how I can get way above average results with below average genetics.
So as far back as then, I started spending every waking moment reading about exercise, and performance enhancement. When my classmates were out partying, I was in front of the computer, or with a book, reading. When I wasn’t actually training in martial arts, or going to school, I was reading about martial arts and exercise.
But at that point, I never really considered a career in fitness, until…

Last Year of High School

Up until grade 12, I thought I was going to be a computer programmer (I’ll wait until you finish laughing).
My dad was a computer engineer, and thought that it would make sense for me to follow that career path as well. Too bad that I didn’t care much for computers, and didn’t have much of an aptitude for them. To this day, I’m probably in the last 10% to adopt a new technology. The only reason I don’t use a rotary phone anymore is because they don’t sell them. Yeah. I’m a dinosaur. A 28-year-old dinosaur 😉
So going into grade 12, I still thought that I would be a computer programmer. Therefore, one of the courses that I picked was computer programming. Fortunately, only 2 other people picked computer programming, for a grand total of 3 people in that class. Because of insufficient registrations, the school had to cancel that class, to my delight. Awesome.
I was left with a spare class. A spare meant that you could spend 1 hour, 3 times per week doing whatever you pleased. Either catching up on homework, or sleeping, or whatever.
But, I heard that there was an exercise science class running. That seemed to be up my alley, but it was a tough decision to make: free time or exercise science class. Extra work or no extra work. After much deliberation, I decided to go with the exercise science class, while over 90% of my peers chose free time.
My teacher in the exercise science class was Suzanne Gluchy, and thanks to her, I actually started to consider the possibility of a career in fitness.
The middle of grade 12 came, and it was time to start selecting which programs and universities you would apply to.
My first choice on the application (ie my parents’ first choice): University of Toronto, computer programming.
My second choice (ie my parents’ second choice): York University, computer programming.
My third choice (ie my real first choice): York University, kinesiology.
After a couple months, I discovered that I was accepted into all 3 programs, so I had to make my choice, and pick one of the 3. I chose (without initially telling my parents) kinesiology at York University.
And then my parents found out. You know what happens in a Russian household when you disobey your parents? The guillotine comes out.
So after some long fights with my parents, and them trying to talk me out of it, I didn’t back down, and did end up going to York University for kinesiology.


Looking back at it now, it seems like a bunch of huge flukes that I ended up where I am today…


• If I had just done martial arts without competing in them, I probably wouldn’t have developed my interest in performance enhancement.
• If just two more people had enrolled in the computer programming class in grade 12, the school wouldn’t have cancelled that class, and I would have taken that instead of exercise science
• If I had chosen free time instead of exercise science, I would be in computer programming

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