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Brendan’s Story

Brendan’s Story
November 13, 2018 Dan Raimondi

Brendan first came down from Winnipeg to see me in May. He’s done a great job of staying consistent and it has led to some awesome progress in a short period of time. He’s worked to get his bodyweight down while also getting stronger in the barbell lifts. There have been some things that we’ve worked through as they’ve come up (elbow and knee pain), but he’s been dedicated through it all and continues to improve.

Who am I, how did I get here, and where am I going?

I’m Brendan. Almost 48 years old, and I’m Canadian eh?

I started my career as a firefighter at 24 years old. Things were good. Got a job, got married, and life started happening. I was in pretty good shape physically as a lot of young men are.

I lifted weights, did “cardio” of some sort, and ate reasonably well. Periodically I’d “tweak” my back lifting. A couple days rest and some Advil did the trick. Around the age of 30, I tweaked the back bad enough I needed to see my doctor, who told me to lift lighter weights and focus on cardio, which of course I did. He’s a doctor right? Who am I to question medical advice?

All the while life continues on. Life happens. Then life REALLY happens. An in-law loses a battle with cancer, the other in-law becomes very sick. Divorce, and increased work demands.

Exercise takes a back seat to life and year after year I got older, fatter, and weaker, and 24 years later I hit my record weight of 265 pounds. This is from my absolute physical peak of 179lbs. I’ll admit 179 is unrealistic, but becoming a firefighter is competitive, and I worked hard to achieve my goals.

Sure, along the way I exercised on and off, light weights, cardio, p90x, Tae-bo, step aerobics, etc. been there, done that. Tried all the diets too. Keto, Atkins, low carb, no carb, high carb, some stupid cabbage soup diet, and my favorite of all the “see food” diet. I see it, I eat it.

Older, fatter, weaker.

Fortunately, I also got smarter along the way, and then there’s this internet thing, and Google that came along as well.

I decided I didn’t want to get weaker or fatter. Can’t do anything about the age thing.

It was time to change. At this point, it’s gonna look like I have a bias for strength training. I  actually have a bias for things that work. What worked for me was eating reasonably, and lifting heavy weights.

I ordered The Barbell Prescription by Dr. Jonathon Sullivan on Amazon as well as Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe because Amazon told me these books were usually ordered together.

Starting Strength is considered by many the gold standard for basic barbell training and The Barbell Prescription is more specifically for lifters over 40.

One thing I’ve learned is that if you’re going to do something, do it right.

I studied the books and visited the associated web pages and Youtube Channels. Turns out I was lifting weights incorrectly in my earlier years. There was no internet, so I learned by watching others. I wasn’t tweaking my back because I was lifting weights, but because I was lifting incorrectly.

I decided to get some in-person coaching, and this is where Dan enters my story.

As I said earlier I’m Canadian eh? I live in Canada, and Dan was the closest Starting Strength Coach to me, located in Fargo, North Dakota.

Fortunately for me, my wife and I travel 3-4 times a year to the Grand Forks/Fargo area for shopping and mini vacations. It’s a common thing for Canadians to do eh?

I booked a two-hour session with Dan in May of 2018 to go over the basic lifts to make sure my technique was spot on.

Truth be told my intention was simply to do an initial session and continue doing things on my own, with perhaps an occasional in-person “tune-up” on future trips to Fargo.

I can’t remember specifically where I heard the saying “if you love your job you’ll never work a day in your life”.

When I had my session with Dan this saying popped into my head immediately as it was apparent he wasn’t just punching a clock. He wasn’t “working”, he was enjoying what he was doing. I can’t even properly explain it but you know what I’m talking about. Every now and then you come across these kinds of people and it instantly shows.

The session went great, I had a great time, and learned how to lift properly. Books and videos are a huge help, but nothing can replace a live coach.

Since I’m in Canada, and basically 3 hours from Dan it’s a 6 hour round trip. It’s doable 3-4 times a year, but certainly not on a regular basis. Dan offered some distance coaching for me, and I accepted.

I primarily interact with Dan online. He sends my programming to me via email. I do the workouts, and upload the video of my work-sets. Dan then reviews my videos within 24 hrs (usually the same day actually), and will then correct any mistakes. I can comment on each workout and Dan will respond to my comments.

In addition to the weekly programming and video review, we do a monthly Skype session where I can ask questions, voice any concerns, etc.

And of course, when I’m in the Fargo area I do an in-person session. I’ve done one already in September of this year.

My weight is currently down to 240lbs. Not earth shattering weight loss but the trend is downward. More importantly, I’m stronger than ever.

*Dan’s Note: Brendan dropped from 265lbs to about 240lbs currently. He made steady progress while making small changes, like dropping soda from his daily diet. 

Strength training is the key. It is simple, and effective. But it is also hard work. Very hard work. But as you get stronger a funny thing will happen. You will look forward to the hard work. There is something very rewarding when you hit a personal best in one of your lifts.

My goals are simple. Lose some weight, and each day I want to be stronger than I was the previous day. I’m cool with that. Ok, I’m not gonna lie, I like to see the reaction of a co-worker half my age when they witness me do a bench press with 3 plates for a single. That’s pretty cool too!

Brendan’s 315lb. bench press. He has also benched 325lb.

Actually, you should have seen my own face when I did it! I still can’t believe it. I’m not so weak anymore, or as fat. Still getting older, but that’s ok.

Brendan’s 415lb. deadlift.

In a nutshell…..

  • You need to strength train
  • You need to read the two books I mentioned above. They will explain why you need to strength train, and how to do it.
  • You need to find a Starting Strength Coach
  • I highly recommend Dan as a coach