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My second dads—Glenn and Roger—were also my first two training partners. Walking into Greg Long’s gym, I was slightly intimidated by Greg and his brother Dennis. I had heard so much about them from when I was young that meeting them in person for the first time left me almost speechless. I wanted more than anything to make a good first impression. My dad lifted at Greg Long’s when he was in his late teens/early 20’s. He tried to convince me for several years to check it out, but being the stubborn cardio bunny that I was, I declined his suggestion more than once.
After about three years or so, I agreed to check out the infamous dungeon-like gym. When we pulled up to the gym for the first time, I was surprised by its secretive location behind an Acme, backing up to the woods and a residential neighborhood. I was whisked into a time warp with the old school vibes as we walked down the steep red, white and blue stairs. When I opened the door, my father and I were greeted by two older gentlemen. I had finally met Greg and Dennis. Greg stopped what he was doing to welcome us both with a smile and laugh—it had been years since my dad stepped foot in Greg’s and now it was time for a new generation to take over.
Greg looked me up and down, shook his head and said “ah yes, very good.” He set me up right away with Glenn and Roger. I had taken a semester off during this time while transferring colleges, so it was the perfect time to start fresh and integrate bodybuilding-style training into my life. I started right away: 5 o’clock every night, Monday through Friday.
I remember our first leg day together. I had never really trained anything properly, but knew my legs were strong. It was go time. I wanted to prove I could “keep up with the boys” (that is, two seasoned lifters who had been in the game for many years). Right away, the three of us clicked. They were astounded by the numbers I was pressing and pushing. I gave it my all. They refused to let me wear headphones and told me to stop taking any stimulant or pre workout. They wanted me to go in there in my rawest form to become the best possible version of myself.
With these guys, I didn’t need music or stimulants to get me moving after a long day. They were enough motivation. They reminded me during every lift the importance of connecting my mind to my muscles. Whichever body part the exercise was targeted to hit, I put all of my focus on squeezing that muscle and bringing all of my mental, spiritual, emotional, and physical energy to working that muscle to its greatest capacity.
“Move!” “Let’s go Michelle!” “Too easy!” “Keep pushing!” “That’s all you got?” “Yeah baby!” “That’s what I’m talking about!” The guys really knew how to amp me up. They were my stimulants…they were my pre workout…the three of us were like the Three Musketeers. We started to think alike, we started to sound alike, we started to talk alike. We were becoming one in the same being. Our thoughts were processed the same way and our minds were always focused on one thing—the weights.
We did not stray during any lift during our time together. If one of us was having a bad day, we all knew that we would channel that energy and utilize it during our lift. Negativity was not welcomed. We did not allow one another’s problems to affect our performance. We made sure to give 110 percent and nothing less for each and every workout.
These two men taught me more about lifting in the first several months of training with them than anyone had before. Although I had a personal trainer when I was a cardio bunny, I felt as though I was simply going through the motions. I had never questioned why I was lifting. I just wanted to look good and be skinny and toned, but there is so much more to this sport than that.
My old thought process does not even apply anymore. Glenn and Roger taught me the importance of training with people who lift you up. Train with people who encourage you to be your best, even when you don’t feel your best. They showed me the importance of connecting with each and every muscle during every single lift, and breaking the barrier during the most difficult and body wrenching moments of the lift. With Glenn and Roger, I was able to go beyond my wildest expectations and enter a completely new dimension—a world that only those who have made that connection will witness. This is a world filled with a deep sensation of euphoria; a world where nothing else matters but the task at hand.
The day I stepped foot into Greg Long’s gym, my life changed forever. I found a family—a real family. I was accepted for all that I was and all that I am. I was not judged for my past, my present, or my future thoughts. I was guided in such a way that only led to the most incredible outcome—finding myself. Through the weights and through the help of the most amazing training partners in the entire world, I was given the tools necessary for a successful life both in and out of the gym. It was up to me whether or not I chose to use those tools or forget about them. I decided to use them and could not be happier with that decision.