Athletic Puberty

Athletic Puberty

Feb 16, 2014

IMG_1638Athletic Puberty


By Josh Hunt


When I was in my early twenties I had some older friends, coworkers, and acquaintances that used to tell me that things are different once you enter your thirties. When I was 22 I would hang out with my buddy Mark who was 33 or 34 and try to convince him to do some foolish bullshit, and he would look at me and say “dude, you’ll understand when you are 30.” This was hard for me to process because we were drinking buddies and would party pretty often. I would also get this from my friend Noel when I was 26 or so.  This statement always confused me, I would look at these men and try to argue that ten years wasn’t that much of a difference.  To which they would counter “would you say that to a 16 year old?  Because they are 10 years your junior.”  This was hard to retort.  I would try, usually with saying that it’s different and I am a man.  Or, we work together so doesn’t that make us peers (in this case I was thinking on the absolute basis)? I never really understood why 30 had this mythic aura around it.  Why all of a sudden a person becomes enlightened and a boy becomes a man (not to sell too hard to any female that reads this, but from my experience women mature much, much faster than men.  It’s got to be that extra X chromosome that you carry).


Then one day it happened, I turned thirty, and it all made sense.  It wasn’t this flash of inspiration like a light bulb going off on top of a characters head in an old Tex Avery cartoon.  It just kind of happened over some time like how night vision takes a little while to happen when you walk into a dark room from a well lighted one.  It felt like “I got it”, I had foresight, insight, and hindsight (compared to a younger version of me, and when I am 40 I am guessing this will happen again).  I completely understood what Noel and Mark where telling me, and I was kicking myself for not getting “it” earlier.  I can’t really distill it into any one thing.  I believe this “coming of age” has to do with an amalgamated coalesces of facets to include: life experience, knowledge, scene of identity, less concern with other peoples’ opinions, and so much more. I now tell my younger friends and colleagues the same things Mark and Noel told me. I can see the look in these youngsters’ eyes that I had at their age, you know that sharp gleam of “this doesn’t add up.”  Ah youth.


For the record, I am happier now in my thirties than I was in my twenties.  And, I don’t want to have this broad-brush concept that everyone gets “it” when they enter their third decade, getting “it” happens at different stages in peoples’ lives. I believe maturity and experience can make you a happier more whole person.  However, there are a number of older people that I run into that are still trying to be that 18 year old attempting to pick up chicks, which is confusing to me.  These older ‘gentlemen’ (for the most part) are stuck in a form of arrested development, and can’t see what life can be because they are trying to live out teenaged fantasies (which is why I think Hugh Hefner is pathetic). Then there are people like Ryan “El Masa Grande” Carrillo who impress me with asking hard life questions at an age when I was more concerned with drinking beer.  I also want to say that I do not have it all figured out, nor do I think I will in the future.  But, I have a better grip on who I want to be and what I want to do than I did when I was a party boy focused on having a good time instead of making life beautiful.  I bring this concept up because I think there are parallels and lessons that we learn through the act of maturing and growing up that and give us insight into specific aspects of our lives.  This is where I realized I am going through athletic puberty.


I realize this sounds weird, but I am going through an awkward stage of my lifting career and I am excited to see what will happen after I finish developing.  I have been lifting since I was 14, I would do the “normal” go in the gym do a template that I found online, miss one or two workouts because of a hard day or a hang over, and repeat. I was just a toddler in the sport at this time, still dreaming of getting strong and doing pretty much nothing right. Then 13 years later I moved to Illinois.  I hooked up with Brady and can still remember meeting him at the Belleville Weightlifting Club (BWC) for the first time.  I was like a child on his first day of school.  I got lost; I had to be guided into the club (literally I got lost on the way to the club and had to call Brady for directions).  Everything I knew about lifting was challenged and to be honest it was scary.   I clung to Brady for a few reasons; one he was lifting more weight than I had ever seen someone lift.  Two, we had met before and he was nice, and I could always talk to his brother whom I had befriend before just incase Brady ended up being a dick (this was really early in our friendship).  Lastly, I was intimidated.  I had been wanting to get into competitive powerlifting for some time, but never had the stones to do it.  Now, I was hanging out with guys who had lifted at the national level, and one guy who was on the world team.  I was entering my pre-teen, pre-pubescent phase of my life at this time. 


As I hung around the gym more and more the guys looked at my form, asked me questions, and tried to figure me out.  This was much like being an intern working for guys that have been in the business for forever.  I tired to drink from their wellspring of knowledge as much as I could.  I got stronger and I started to compete, but I was still handled.  There where a lot of things I could not do on my own, or didn’t think I could do for myself.  My training partners would help program my templates, establish opening weights for my lifts, correct my technique, teach me things like when and where to use chalk vice baby powder, and so much more.  So, even though I had lifted for 13 years before hand, and spent time at the BWC I was still a child.  I had to be looked after and tended too, even when I was lifting at state and national meets.  With my 30 plus year old hindsight, I can now see that I was juvenile in more ways that what I listed.  I did not have the experience to realize that you can’t force strength, which is something that you have to work hard to attain.  Up until a few months ago I would get pissy and sullen if I missed a rep because I misjudged the weight.  I was immature in my own responsibilities, I would rarely research any medical, strength, nutrition, or work out information.  I would expect to have all the answers delivered to me by my training partners.  Which I am kind of angry with myself for because that idea is so self absorbed and childish.  When it comes down to training and all the goes into it, people can help, they can guide, and they can motivate, but everything is really your own responsibility.  I am now just realizing this.  Aside from these items I didn’t take rest, diet, sleep, or stress management seriously, just to name a few things.  Essentially, I expected everything to happen just because I was “paying my dues.”


I have been competing in the USAPL for nearly five years, and some of these things have gotten better.  I think I have moved from my childhood as a competitor into my adolescence, or maybe (hopefully) my late adolescence. I have grown a tremendous amount in this last half decade, but I still have trappings of boyhood.  I have been able to pick the minds of great athletes and friends like: Jona Leo, Jeff Snyder, Brady Steward, Dave Doan, Dennis Cheri, and others.  And, although I can understand some of their ideas and strategies, I am still inexperienced enough to utilize them in a way from which I will benefit.  This is one of the shortfalls of having an undeveloped/under-developed athletic thought process. This harkens back to some of the lessons that I could have learned easier when I was in my teens, but was too hardheaded and inexperienced to understand. However, I am becoming cognizant of my failings to incorporate these concepts into my training life, much of which is due to my experience gained by competing and thought process development.  There is a parallel between this idea and the example I gave at the opening of this article.  My older more experienced friends told me what to expect, it just didn’t occur to me until I had the experience to understand a la you’ll understand when you are 30. That being said, I feel like a teen changing into someone else.  I have enough knowledge and experience to be dangerous, but it can cut both ways.  I have made gains in some of my lifts while I have cut my bodyweight due to being a more mature lifter.  But, I have suffered from some of these ideas because I didn’t know how to engage them properly, which has lead to some frustration, burn out, and other negative affects.


Now that I realize I am in this strange phase of my competitive athletic life as a powerlifter, I can start to chart my path for how I can develop.  This sport is not for childish competitors; it’s for seasoned mature athletes.  It takes a lot of effort, responsibility, and sacrifice to become one of these grey breads, and this is something I want to do.  Things don’t happen over night, aren’t given, and definitely aren’t easy. The idea that they are, are the machinations of a boy.  It is going to take time for me to grow as an athlete and in order to become a better one I am going to need to be patient.  I also have to delve into mature endeavors because a 500-pound bench press is not just going to happen.  I am working on this.  I have started to devote time to looking at nutrition and supplementation very carefully.  Earlier in my lifting career I would just say I deserve two pork chops because I lifted hard that day and that got me to be almost 50 pounds heavier and not as strong.  I would also listen to the used car salesmen at the local supplement shops, and would buy snake oil and expect it to work wonders.  Now I am looking at forums, listening to podcasts, and reading books in order to determine what will work for me.  I want to know how I can tweak my diet in order to shed off some of some bodyweight and become more effective as a lifter.  I am taking mobility and flexibility much more seriously.  This is for three reasons; injury prevention, recovery, and the ability to aid my lifting technique. I attend a yoga class once, if not twice, a week.  Additionally, I roll around on a rumble roller at 5 AM 3-5 times a week, and I stretch and hit the sauna any day time allows.  When I was 27 I would have made fun of myself for doing this, because the immature boy in me would have thought I was wasting time and the only thing a person needed to do to get strong was to lift.  I am paying close attention to how my body feels, what the weight moves like and how I do in the gym.  I am being pragmatic in figuring out my strengths and my flaws.  I am delving into strength and conditioning documents in order to make myself better.  Currently I am rereading the Reactive Training System and trying to get every last drop of knowledge out of that book. I am reading articles on this website ( and other sources, talking to people that are stronger than I am, checking out podcasts like Iron Radio, and trying to glean anything I can to become stronger. Lastley and most importantly I am trying to be a smarter lifter.  I am paying very close attention to how I lift, what my template looks like, and how I should proceed.  I used to just write the numbers that I moved down, now I really think about what my next rep should be and how I can get more out of my workouts. I am showing signs of becoming a man, because a well thought out plan is something that a man does, a boy just jumps into action, sometimes without thought.


I know I have a long way to go to become a better than average lifter.  Hopefully, one day I can go head to head with some of athletes that I look up to.  This will take commitment, work, and patience to get there.  I am starting to see a lot of my childishness as a lifter fall away (but not as a person because I will totally argue with you about why Superman is the WORST comic hero of all time), but there is still a lot to overcome. I am still going through my weird phase of this, but like my physical puberty I am going to get through this, just with less voice cracking and Retin A (zit cream for those of you that never had to battle acne).   I am willing to take on more and become more invested in my own efforts. I have to do this because in the end no one is going to give you shit. You have to be your own advocate for strength, and we all go through awkward times.


– Running from beating, deflating. I’m becoming more than a man, More than you ever where. – Pantera



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