What My 25th Year Taught Me

 A few weeks ago I turned twenty-six–an arbitrary age that people tend to dismiss. However, the year that led up to putting twenty-six candles on a cake taught me a lot. Here are a few, hopefully applicable, lessons I’d like to share.

1) You are the Culmination of Your Choices: There is a widely accepted notion that our social and emotional output is the direct result of the collective input of the five people we spend the most time with. That’s depressing, isn’t it? It’s disturbing to think that we are nothing more than cogs, responding to the world based on what we subconsciously perceive as acceptable.

This is a faulty, reductionist idea, and I think it’s bullshit. It completely disregards congnition–the psychologically definitive element of being human.

We can think–this means that we can make choices that direct our behavior.  We are more than automatons that respond to input.

Make good choices based on well examined information–and do it continually. Your life will be the culmination of your good choices. Start by choosing to be happy–then choose to surround yourself with good people.

2) People Don’t Understand what Lifting Heavy Means: Maxing out every day on the same movements isn’t lifting heavy, it’s lifting stupid. Training hard to give your body the stimuli it needs to get stronger, without destroying it, is lifting heavy.

3) I’m not a Doctor: I know, it’s an obvious statement; but sometimes people neglect to notice that I don’t have D.C. or M.D. after my name. It’s almost every day that I receive a question about rehabilitation for a damaged elbow or a query about healing a torn rotator cuff. People even ask me what to do to beat the common cold.

In the past I would field these questions–I know, dangerous territory. But this past year I grew wiser and I deflected. I’ve developed a network of viable resources and I constantly refer out.

I don’t mess with pain and I leave healing to doctors.

4) It’s Worth the Drive: I drive a lot, and for multiple reasons. My girlfriend lives 200 miles from me; I drive 30 miles every day to my gym; and I frequently travel to coach at seminars. I can’t forget my Rumba classes on Wednesday evenings and driving to watch my athletes compete. Veronica, my Saturn Vue, has put some miles under her wheels. She’s a sassy lass.

It’s an obnoxious amount of driving, and I sometimes wish that it wasn’t necessary. But as my life goes, so do I. Thus far, though, every mile has been worth it.

My clients are a group of incredible people–athletes willing to train like they just broke out of the psych ward and fitness enthusiasts committed to making themselves better. Missing out on seeing them every day would be a tragedy.

I’ve met incredible people at every seminar–four of which have been from different countries. Each experience has made me better and I’ve been able to help a lot of people.

Opening a door to a beautiful, smiling face makes 200 miles seem paltry.

Every mile has been worth it.

5) It’s Good to Have Heroes (But It’s Better to Meet them): Some say that heroes aren’t necessary–implying that admiring heroes is a limiting practice.

Bullshit–everyone needs heroes.

Here’s what Phil Knight (Chairman of Nike) had to say about his hero, Joe Paterno.

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 Like Mr. Knight, I’ve always needed heroes. I spent my early twenties looking up to guys like Eric Cressey, James Smith and Tony Gentilcore–great coaches and great men. But reading articles and watching videos only goes so far. At some point I had to get off of my ass and take action. Seeking out and meeting my heroes had a dramatic impact on my life and career.

I took some drives during my 25th year–one to Hudson, Massachussetts, a few to New Jersey and many to Elmira, New York. At the end of each road I found humble guys willing to help me; some of them I’m proud to now call friends.

In lesson one I discounted the idea that we are entirely who we spend our time with. I believe we are the culmination of our choices, but choosing to spend time with incredible people makes us better–seemingly by osmosis.

6) Mobility Doesn’t Always Precede Stability: I’m not a doctor, and by the same token, I’m not a physical therapist. I do, however, pay attention to what I see during movement.

During the past few years the dogma–mobility precedes stability–dominated my programming thought process. After a year of quasi-experimentation, I don’t think the same way.

When it comes to training, everything is relative and situational–and every situation requires a different training stimulus. It’s true, there are times when mobility must be trained before stability. But, when necessary, stability training will improve range of motion and solidify a movement pattern before extensibility or joint range of motion is addressed.

Don’t be dogmatic. Choose a tool based on need, not expectation.

7) Ebb and Flow: Running hot all the time leads to burn-out. It’s a simple lesson my mom taught me when I was young. I’ve instructed others to construct their daily schedules in ebb and flow, but I’ve never been great at taking my own advice. Finally, this year, I have. Information has influenced my behavior.

Working until 11:30pm and then getting up at 5:30am to start all over again is a bad idea. I kept this pace for months and it kicked my ass.

Now I make time for downtime, trade out metal for Mumford (sometimes) and I go to bed before my eyes start to burn.

8) Fruit Snacks are My Cryptonite: High-mileage driving often brings me to refill at gas stations. Our local, Central Pennsylvania chain is called Sheetz.

I think that the company is plotting against me because they always have several varieties of Welch’s fruit snacks in stock. Even worse, they are seemingly always coming out with new types (the tangy fruits are my favorite!). So I say to me-self, as I walk down the aisle, “Shit. I haven’t had those yet. I’ll have to eat them.” Then I snag a bag, spend $1.69 of my hard earned money on gummy sugar diguised as oranges and I walk to my car, defeated.

9) Conditioning Isn’t My Strength: I’ll say, hat in hand, that I’m the best strength and movement coach in my area. I get people moving well and I make them brutally strong. After we accomplish those two ends, my clients and I power Top Gun high-five.

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I’m not, however, a great conditioning coach. Don’t get me wrong, my clients condition, but my understanding of energy systems training is my limitation. Reading the work of Anthony Mychal and Joel Jamieson exposed my weakness. I’ve got a lot of work to do.

10) I’ve a Long Way to Go: At the risk of self-deprecation I’ll tell you that I don’t know that much. My twenty-fifth year taught me that. As I’ve reflected, I’ve realized that I’m growing humble and quiet–and that I learn more from interaction than from any other source. But I don’t think I’ll be trading wisdom at the expense of youth.

My goal is to forever keep the fervor of my twenties as I accumulate understanding. I think it’s a good goal, that’s why I’m sharing it with you.

I’ve a long way to go, but hopefully I never reach a destination.

The Big Take Home:

I want to leave you with something actionable. I’m not here to tell you how awesome I am (I have red hair for crying out loud!); my goal is to teach in parables. We’re all in this together, so let’s share what we’ve learned.

At the end of each month make a list of the things you learned–then narrow it down to one or two important things. Track the source of the information and take action using your new understanding.

Over the course of the year you’ll compile a good list–review it on your birthday. Reflect on what you’ve learned and what you’ve taken action on. Has it been a good year?

Keep Learning and Get Stronger,




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Todd Bumgardner
M.S./ CSCS/ Owner of Beyond Strength Performance/ Ginger
Todd Bumgardner

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M.S./ CSCS/ Owner of Beyond Strength Performance/ Ginger
2 Responses
  1. Michael

    26 is considered your prime in soccer! Not sure if that transfers over to strength and conditioning but maybe you should start playing soccer!!

    FYI, last year was your 26th year and you’re now in your 27th year. Sorry to bring you down!!

    1. Todd Bumgardner


      I don’t think there is any soccer for me in the future, but thanks for the suggestion! I have a strongman competition to hit this summer, though. Hopefully you are right about 26 being prime for strength and conditioning.

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