My freshman year at Auburn was spent in the stereotypical way of fraternity rush, band parties, college football and getting used to college classes. What fell by the wayside for me was my fitness!
Although my parents were paying for school they made me pay for my fraternity dues which meant I had to get a job washing dishes at a local restaurant. Between school, work and fraternity life there didn’t seem to be much time for anything else. Plus, I was having fun and enjoying the freedom that comes with being out of my parents house for the first time in my life!
In the first few months of getting accustomed to the college way of life, I didn’t even miss working out. Not even a little.
Included in my firsts were poor choices of food and alcohol. I no longer had instant access to my Mom’s cooking. I had lost at least ten pounds of muscle and my abs that were once tight and defined were now covered with the evidence of my new lifestyle.
It wasn’t pretty. Technically, I had not gained the freshman 15. What I had done was trade hard earned muscle with fat!
There was a cute girl, Ginny, in my calculus class that I was interested in. She mentioned she was going to cheerleading practice that afternoon for those interested in trying out for the cheerleading team.
This was my opportunity to impress her. So what did I do? I assured her that I was going to try out as well and that I would join her for practice.
… I had literally given this no thought before. I was terrified.
I couldn’t back down now. I told her that I would be there and she seemed excited that I would be coming.
As I arrived for the practice that afternoon, self doubt filled with me anxiety.
Was I really strong enough to lift a girl over my head? I had never done anything like that in.my.life.
Although I’ve always been able to do some basic tumbling I’d never tried anything like this. I hadn’t been going to the gym and my bodyweight had slipped down to around the dreaded 145lb mark.
Don’t get your hopes up. It didn’t go well at all.
The only girl I could even remotely get over my head was Ginny and that was because she was only 105 pounds. I was as shaky as a leaf in the wind as I tried to press her overhead. Most of the girls were scared to stunt with me (I don’t blame them). In some cases, they didn’t weigh too much less than me. They were all tiny girls; I simply wasn’t as big or as strong as I wanted (needed) to be.
I hated facing what I had become. I had wasted all my hard work. So, naturally I threw myself into learning all I could about how to execute the basic stunts required to try out. I had a new goal!
It was clear that my biggest limitation was strength. I only had about one month before tryouts so I had to get creative.
I started going back to the gym. I had become so weak, and in only 8 months of inactivity. By the time tryouts rolled around I had only managed to gain about 3 or 4 pounds and wasn’t sure I was even going to be able to hit the stunts that I needed to to make the team.
On tryout day, with Ginny as my partner, I did (barely) manage to hit all of my lifts (although it was shaky at best).
The interview was a big part of the tryout and I will never forget the athletic director asking me, “I couldn’t help but notice that you were shaky in all of your stunts. Was that because you are brand new to the sport or because of your obvious lack of strength?”
What did they expect me to say? “Yea, I have been a lazy bum for 8 months, thought a girl was cute, and decided this was a good idea to get her attention”? Umm… No.
I muttered something lame about how I had a poor grip on her shoes and that it wasn’t a strength issue at all. Deep down I knew the truth. I hated the truth.
Later that night the new cheerleaders were announced.
I was shocked to hear my name.
I remember standing on stage as the newest member of the Auburn cheerleading team and all I could think about was; I was one of the smallest guys by at least 30 pounds! I knew that I had some serious work to do if I was ever going to excel and contribute to the team.
P.S. Ginny did not make the team. No, it wasn’t my fault. Well… I don’t think it was anyway. Besides, I got the date and she did make the team the following year.
We immediately started practicing for the annual spring A day game. We also started working out together in the athletic department’s weight room. It was quickly confirmed that not only was I the smallest guy on the squad, but just like middle school, once again I was the weakest!
Somehow I made it through that spring even though my partner, Rachel, and I had to stick to the basic stunts and couldn’t even attempt the more advanced and fun one-handed stunts that everyone else was doing. I was in awe of the other guys and how they were effortlessly tossing their partners up only to catch them with one hand in a move called a cupie. Rachel was extremely patient but I was embarrassed that I was obviously holding her back. I was also holding the team back because some of the pyramid formations and moves like a diamond-head were extremely difficult for me as I simply didn’t have the strength to perform them.
We broke for summer break and we were told to report in August to begin two-a-day practices in anticipation for Football season. I quickly calculated how much time that would give me and realized that I had almost three full months! I knew that if I went back to all of the research and programs that I had done in high school and committed myself to nutrition that I could come back better than ever.
I don’t remember ever setting written goals with a plan to hit them until this moment in time. Something that I know so well and even teach about now was foreign to me then, but I was desperate and this seemed like the best possible plan of attack.
I bought a journal and set a goal to gain 30 pounds in three months. I also committed to writing down every single workout and everything I put in my mouth that entire summer. A new supplement had just come out that summer of 95’ called Met-RX and it was the first meal replacement product on the market. I borrowed my step dad’s credit card and ordered as much of the product as he would allow to get me through the summer.
Operation GET BIG was under way and little did I know that it would change everything…