It is 2am. I am sitting in our nursery with my son in my arms and a bottle of ice cold formula to his lips. His gaze wanders back and forth between eye contact with me and the rolling jungle menagerie illuminated on the roof with toucans, monkeys, and geckos in rotation.
In this moment, I start to tear up, just shy of outright balling. I have a thought of who this “man cub” will grow up to be, and something my wife said the other day, “You know you’re going to be his hero right?”
All I could think about in this moment was the impact my father had on me and how I turned out as a result. My love for fitness, training, coaching, and ultimately mentorship through physical activity is a direct reflection of the ever-so-slightly guided path my Pop put me on. My folks always had us in sports. Once they saw that we had a knack for athletics, and more importantly, that we enjoyed it, it was game on.
When I was 11 or 12 I will never forget the first time my dad invited me to the gym. I felt like it was a huge deal. I was going to do “big boy” stuff with my old man. This turned into a weekly bonding session where we didn’t even touch weights, we would just got hit the racquetball court for “Best 2 out of 3”. When I started to hold my own and win a few from time to time, the number of games got bigger: 3 out of 5, 4 out of 7, and so on. But what I realize now was the low barrier of entry, and the motivation of curiosity that was taking place. As we would walk though the gym to the court, we passed nothing but meatheads and behemoths, lifting massive amounts of weight with huge muscles. I can vividly remember almost bumping into equipment on the way because I was just starting in awe. “Dad, how much weight is that?”, I would ask. My dad would simply reply, “A lot. You’ll be there one day. I just hope you brought your A-Game tonight.”
Years later, when I committed to football, and the consensus was that I had scholarship potential, things evolved to another level. As we moved through the weight room with our racquets in tow, he would casually tell me that if I wanted to play past high school I would have to get serious about the weights. Realizing that he may be too close to the situation, he introduced me to a number of awesome guys that were massive to me at the time. He then invited me to train with them. Instead of trying to deliberately coach me, he simply invited me into the “inner circle”, an experience that was priceless in my eyes. I was soaking it all in: barbells, dumbbells, “man talk”, all of it. It was all fun. I got to hang with my dad, and had a blast lifting with the guys at the same time.
Here I am years later, still training, and loving every rep. But as I sit here in the dark with my boy, I can only hope that I have such a positive impact on him. My dad has since passed on, but his impact is felt just as heavy as ever. What he was able to teach me via weight training about overcoming adversity, embracing challenge, and enjoying the process while surrounding me with positive role models simultaneously, makes me appreciate him so much more as a man and a father now. I thank him everyday for who I am today, and the career path I’ve chosen. I can only hope to impact my son in the same way, and help cultivate a shared passion through shared experience.
I look forward to the day that Trystan comes to me and says, “Dad, can I come to the gym with you today.” For now, I just look at him, smile, and cry a little. WE have quite the journey ahead of us my son.
Its funny how the smallest things have the biggest impact.
- Mycal Anders, MS, CSCS