I’ve often been told that I am considered laid back, living a bohemian lifestyle. For most of my adult life, I’ve managed to eschew the conventional 9 to 5 workday. Though friends and family members believe that my life is indeed dictated by this laissez-faire attitude, the gym members that witness my workouts have a different perspective.
I was born in Manila, Philippines in 1968. My mother worked as a pharmacist, and my father was an engineer with his own consulting firm. In 1973, both of my parents gave up their professional careers for the prospect of a better life for their children by moving to Toronto. Once in Canada, my mother stayed home to raise her five children, whereas my father had to take two full-time blue-collar jobs to support us, because his degree wasn’t recognized in Canada. As many can attest, the life of a first-generation immigrant is rarely one of comfort and luxury. But thanks to my parents’ efforts, my siblings and I hardly noticed.
As a child, I recall my father beginning every morning with a routine consisting of various calisthenics. Almost 40 years later, he actually still begins his days the same way. When I was 12, my father bought my oldest brother a York barbell and dumbbell set, complete with concrete plates and plastic collars. I was the one who immediately took to it. The wall charts that accompanied the weight set was to be but the first of a multitude of routines I was to follow throughout my lifetime. By the age of 14, besides on comic books, I began to spend my allowance on magazines such as “Muscle & amp; Fitness” and “Musclemag.” It was in my teens that I also saw “Pumping Iron” for the first time. While Arnold was impressive, it was actually the physique of Serge Nubret that inspired me.
By the time I was 16, my parents bought me and my younger brother (my first and still occasional training partner) my first workout bench, along with a cast iron weight set. My father also set up a chinning bar and heavy bag in the basement. It was also during this time that my bedroom walls were adorned with the images of Frank Zane, Serge Nubret, Scott Wilson, Steve Reeves,
Samir Bannout, Bob Paris, Mohammad Makkaway, and one of my earliest crushes…. Gladys Portugues. Developing my physical attributes, however, was not my only interest. I had displayed an early aptitude for creative endeavors, both in the written word and in visual media. After graduating high school, I studied English Literature at the University of Toronto. In 1991, while I was still a student, I was offered a personal training position at a commercial gym. Although I enjoyed the job immensely, after just a year, I left when I was accepted into a prestigious full time program for Illustration that presented me with the opportunity to realize my artistic dreams.
For most of the 27 years since I first held the barbell in my hands, I’ve trained. Naturally, during that time, my goals have not always remained the same. My early ambition to pose on stage and compete as a bodybuilder was supplanted by the prospect of stepping in the ring as a boxer or kickboxer. In my mid 20’s I was content to a look fit, a essentially maintaining the gains from my earlier, more earnest efforts. Eventually, complacency replaced consistency, and my workouts became sporadic, at best. Finally, I walked away from training altogether. I had erroneously assumed that the time spent in the gym was a distraction, and prevented me from applying myself career-wise. During this period, I lapsed into a deep depression that affected both my professional and personal life.
It was at the end of 1998, at the age of 30, that on a whim, I returned to the gym. The passion was immediately rekindled, and I’ve remained faithful ever since. In the past 8 years, two weeks has been the longest I’ve taken off from training. From that point forward, I’ve made my best gains. Gains I attribute to hard work, focus, and drive, but just as importantly, to consistency. Everything came to full circle when in 2001 I also resumed personal training.
My goals for training still continue to evolve. I have also come to the realization that for me, training is an end in itself. I’ve never been one to be motivated by angst or by competition – simply, by passion. While I enjoy the benefits of improved appearance, health, and strength, they’re all secondary. I can be found at the gym six or seven days a week, and at various times, twice per day. I’ve often wondered if my enthusiasm and zeal actually hinder my progress, as it sometimes seems to take greater effort of will to give my body the much-needed rest.
Some define themselves by their education or career. Others define themselves by their salaries and material acquisitions. But whether it is the subtle application of oil to canvas, or the straining and heaving of hard iron, I choose to define myself by my passions.