Our story begins just over a year and a half ago in June of 2019. I had recently learned that my father was dying. I was running a business, bartending 2 evenings a week, working out 5 days a week, and keeping track of about 40 in person training clients. My training had stalled, heck it had been stalled for a while. Between wanting to look my best and be my strongest I spun my tires for months. I had used programs like 5/3/1 and 10/20/Life in the past and they worked decent. But, I would always find myself deviating from them in search of something “better”. This left me burned out, washed up, and severely overtrained. When I got the news that my father only had a few weeks, few months at best I decided I didn’t want to cover my own programming anymore on top of everything else I had going on.
So, I reached out to the only Powerlifter I really knew anything about, Brian Carroll. Brian got back to me and we set up an initial FaceTime. On our FaceTime I was mesmerized (for lack of a better word). I honestly felt like I was in the presence of greatness. Some people dream to meet Will Ferrell or Keanu Reeves (I wouldn’t mind meeting John Wick), I got that celebrity feeling when I had a FaceTime with Brian. I was humbled that someone that knew so much agreed to take me on despite not having any real talent when it came to weightlifting. Brian was a cool dude, very understanding and very thorough. After our FaceTime we agreed to get started later on that week.
Brian sent me my first round of programming and a host of instructional videos. The warm ups were the thing that surprised me most. On certain days I had 9-10 movements to do before I even got under a bar. From there, the work began. To say that this was the biggest learning curve, and learning experience of my life would be an understatement. And to think I thought it was going to be all sunshine and rainbows once I hired a coach. Hahahahahaha, yea fat chance.
Over our time working together I learned 6 concrete values that will guide my training for the rest of my career.
1) THE BEST COACH IN THE WORLD CAN’T DO ANYTHING FOR YOU IF YOU DON’T DO YOUR S***
Brian is a world class lifter, and a great coach. Yet, I had a really hard time building momentum for the first 6-12 months that we worked together. This was derived from a series of bad choices. A year ago my sleep was garbage. Bartending until 3 am and waking up at 7am to take clients really wasn’t a healthy balance. It was necessary to build my business, but as I began to prioritize sleep more my lifting got much better. Picking weights that were far too heavy was a regular problem. 5x5 squats, let’s try my 1RM, now to be fair I wasn’t that stupid, but that isn’t far from the truth. Lack of knowledge. Even a great coach can’t teach you everything. There simply isn’t enough time. Which is why I learned that research was my best friend. Over the past 18 months I’ve read more articles, watched more videos, and read more books than at any time in my life combined. I had to learn this the hard way when I was paying for great coaching, but wasn’t making exactly the progress I wanted. So, no matter who you hire, you have to do your part otherwise you will never succeed.
2) MOST OF THE TIME YOU HAVE TO GET A LOT BIGGER AND EAT A LOT MORE THAN YOU WANT TO
Now, this isn’t true for everyone, but it applies to most. I gained about 35 pounds in my time working with Brian and I still could use a few more lbs. Making this drastic shift from aesthetics to performance was a hard gap to bridge mentally. However, when I made the right choices the weight on the bar went up. And the extra fluff was worth it. AGAIN, this is not true for everyone, but for most I believe it is. I’ve worked with a ton of people that were afraid to eat more, yet once they did they got tremendously stronger.
3) TRAINING IS ALL ABOUT MOMENTUM
Momentum, the one thing that alluded me for years and years, and still sometimes gets the best of me. Training is about momentum. In order to get stronger you need several good training sessions behind you. If you are constantly redlining your car, eventually the engine will break. Same concept goes with training, you have to push enough to change, but not enough to kill yourself. Building momentum usually requires a bit of mental shift for the newer and aspiring lifter. There will be many sessions where you have to train with your head and not your heart. Being able to detach yourself from the weight you are lifting and listening to your body can be the difference between one bad workout and a month of bad workouts (or longer).
4) ONE REP MAX’S AREN’T AS VALUABLE AS PEOPLE THINK (OR AT LEAST AS VALUABLE AS I THOUGHT THEY WERE)
WAIT WAIT WAIT, I am a powerlifter my job is to lift one rep maxes. Yes and no. One thing Brian imparted to me was that one rep maxes are a reward for hard work. There are only certain times where doing a max makes sense. If you are spending time building your engine and hammering your weaknesses 3-5 reps work better, or simply adding more volume. Basically, your 2-6 rep sets will build most of your strength, and your one rep sets will simply “showcase” it. One rep max’s still hold their place though. They are important for gauging what you want to go for if you plane to compete, and it’s nice to stroke you ego from time to time.
5) FAILURE IS A HUGE PART OF THE PROCESS, BUT FOLLOWING THROUGH IS WHAT GIVES YOU ANSWERS
Bad training days, weeks, and even months are not uncommon. However, you cannot abandon the plan when things like this happen. Sometimes you have to try a million different things before one thing actually works. So, if you abandon ship in the middle of this process you may never fins what actually works. Obviously there is a happy medium to this process. If something isn’t working for 3-4 months then yes, its probably time to scrap it. But, if it doesn’t work the first week you still have to give it more time. Again, this comes down to listening to your head and not your heart. The heart wants things now, whereas the mind sees the value in the long game (at least it should).
6) TRAINING DOESN’T ALWAYS MAKE SENSE (IN FACT USUALLY IT DOESN’T)
One day you might walk into the gym and hit a PR. The next week you might walk into the gym and barely be able to move half of your best weight. Our bodies are not machines. Lack of sleep, stress, dehydration, less calories, and hundreds of other factors are at okay whenever we step foot into the gym. If you have a bad session learn to walk away from it without getting down on yourself. Use it as a learning experience and remind yourself that tomorrow could be the best session you have ever had.
The post year and a half has been one of the most challenging, yet rewarding experiences of my life. I have had many of my highest highs and lowest lows training over the past 18 months. I have learned a lot, grown a lot, and will continue to live by the principles I have learned. My career and my training have both drastically improved from where they were 18 months ago. I believe I am armed with the tools to have a great lifting career. I will continue to expand my knowledge and work on the weaknesses that I have. But, now my training has a purpose, and I owe it all to what I learned working with a world class powerlifter.
My name is Patriel Dunford and as the owner of Infinite Fitness my main goal in life is to spread good advice in the health industry and help people live healthier, longer, more fulfilling lives.