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How I Got My Start Print E-mail
Written by Skippy Podar   
Saturday, 20 December 2008

ImageIt's been over 20 years since I first started weight training, so I thought I would finally write down how I got started, and give 'props' to all the folks who inspired me to get started.

My first exposure to weight training was with my cousin Alric who competed on his high school wrestling team, and my one of my Dad's best friends Vaughn (who we affectionately call "Uncle Rumpy").  My Uncle Vaughn (who's originally from Jamaica) has been an athlete all his life and competed in bodybuilding quite a bit during the 1960s, won several first place trophies and has been involved in training amateur and professional boxers.  His passion and knowlege of the sport of bodybuilding is one of things that I feel originally inspired me to compete as I got older.


My cousin Alric was the first person in my peer group that I saw transform.  He's 5 years older than me, and when I was 10 years old, I remember him showing me a bodybuilding magazine.   The guys in the book were huge, and one of them was Arnold Schwarzenegger.   At that age, the only bodybuilders I'd seen were in the movie "Pumping Iron", I didn't know an 'average' person could look that way and transform their physique.  However, over the course of the year, Alric became more muscular and his transformation inspired me to do the same.  Unfortunately, I was too young to join a gym yet, but my Mom said that when I got older, she and Dad would see what they could do to either get a gym membership for me or help me buy weight equipment for the house. 

A few months before I bought my first weight set, I was waiting for my Mom to pick me up after school and I saw my friend Manny coming back from football practice.  He had his shirt off and I was like "Whoa! Manny's huge!".  So I asked him what he did get big like that, because when I met him earlier that school year, he wasn't nearly as developed.  His chest and shoulders really improved, and you could kinda see it in how his shirt fit, but the changes in how he was built was really obvious without the shirt.  As we talked, I told him that I was very self concious about how skinny I was, and I wanted to be big enough where I could walk around without my shirt on and not have people pick at me.  So, he invited me to our high school's weight room to show me some of the exercises he did.  Being a private school, our weight room was exclusively for our athletes, but our wrestling coach who was there at the time said it was ok for me come in and try it out.

Before/After transformation photo
My Before/After transformation photo
Manny was a cool guy and he was very patient with me.  The first exercise he showed me was flat bench.  He put a 45 lb. plate on each side and repped it out for what seemed like forever.  I wanted to try it and he said, "Since you're new, let's try the bar first."  Hehehe... I knew I was weak because when I tried to help him unload the 45 lb. plates off the bar, I almost dropped the plate (it was so heavy).  Needless to say, I struggled with the bar.  I think I got maybe two reps and that was with help. So as the afternoon progressed, he showed me bicep curls, leg presses, tricep pushdowns, pullups (which I couldn't do), lat pulldowns (which I could do, but my form sucked), crunches and barbell overhead press (which I had to use the ez-curl bar for because it was the heaviest weight I could use without falling over.

It was an awesome experience, and my friend Charles who was there at the time, came up to me during phys. ed. the next day and said, "James, you should really start working out.  I can see you looking really good one day.  You have a really small waist, and with a 40-45" chest, you'll look great."  Little did I know at the time, but those words were prophetic.  Both Manny and Charles transferred to another school before we graduated and I lost touch with them.  I wish they could see me now so I could thank them for inspiring me.  

Me with my first weight set
Me (at 30 years old) with my first weight set from when I was 17.
That summer, I'd saved up enough money from my parttime job to buy a DP weight set I saw in my mom's Sears catalog.  I was so excited.  I remember sitting at work daydreaming about exercising and getting bigger, and I asked my Mom if she could take me to go get it (as I couldn't drive yet).

So we went to the exercise dept. at Sears, and I found the setup I wanted.  It was 135 lbs. of concrete/vinyl weights, a standard bar, two dumbbell handles, a small inclinable bench and an exercise manual.  The bench was in one box and the weights were in another.  The weight box was too heavy for my Mom and I to lift, so we had the guy from the store put it in the back of my Mom's station wagon.  Hehehe... on the way home, I asked my Mom, "How are we going to get all this out of the car when we get home?"  My mom, being uber-smart, said "Just do what your Dad does, we'll open the box and take the weights out one at a time."  :D So I cleared some space in my room, set up the bench and read through the exercise manual intently.  My younger brother thought it was weird that I had all that weight equipment in my room, but as I got bigger and stronger that year, he understood more why I got it.  By the time school started again (now I'm in my senior year), some of my friends noticed I'd gained a little more shape.  I was no where near where I would be 5 years from then, but every little bit helped improve my confidence.

Me flexing on my trusty (albeit retired) weight bench.
Me flexing on my trusty (albeit retired) weight bench.
I started college on my 18th birthday and one of the first classes I had was a weight training class.  This was great because we needed physical education credits and this was something I was really interested in.  Our instructor was Coach Childers, and he taught us the basics of weight training and to this day I'm grateful for the information he gave us.  My friends Mark, Gabriel and I took the same class 3 semesters in a row (you only need to take it for 2 semesters), and we were 'encouraged' to join a gym, so we bought memberships at Scandinavian, which eventually became Bally's.  So it was at 19 years old that I really started working out consistently 3-4 days per week, and when I moved to Gainesville, FL to go to school, my habits continued.  I was a member of Gainesville Health and Fitness, then Power Plant (which became Gold's Gym - Gainesville, FL) and then I called Gainesville Gym my home.

Photo shoot with Luis Rafael, October 13, 2010
Me, October 13, 2010 (at 43 years old)
Between 2007 and 2009 I worked and trained at Lifestyle Family Fitness in Orange Park/Jacksonville.  I managed the club on Wells Road (which used to be a "Q: The Sports Club").  I also train at S & J Fitness in Starke, FL, SunState 24 Hour Fitness, in Green Cove Springs, FL and the Santa Fe College Fitness Center in Gainesville, FL.  So if you're in the area, come train with me! I'll be glad to have you join me for a workout!

and as Paul Harvey often said "...and now you know... the rest of the story."

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 05 January 2011 )
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