10 Things I Didn’t Know About Lifting Weights When I Was Skinny

Shane, Marco and I all built muscle. But our reasons for building that muscle in the first place couldn’t have been more different.

For Marco, as a teenager, his initial reason for getting into lifting was that he wanted girls to like him and he was dealing with injuries from sports. For Shane, he wanted to feel like a protector, instead of shyly taking jokes about being the one protected.

For me, at 23 years old, building muscle (45+ pounds) wasn’t even on my radar.

But pain was.

More specifically, my tendonitis—chronic tendonitis—or the newly coined term, tendinosis…. whatever name you’re familiar with. Well, my heavy computer use was keeping me up at night and kept me worried about work.

Long story short, I had tendinosis in my right arm by the time I was 18 years old. Shortly thereafter I became ambidextrous to continue to support my heavy computer use. I was spending all day on the computer building and running websites. It wasn’t long until I had tendinosis in my left arm. My physiotherapist said she had never seen tendinosis in someone so young, let alone someone who was suffering in both arms.

Whatever you believe about destiny, materialist chance, or providence—I feel so incredibly blessed to have been to be connected to Shane with his passion for bodybuilding, and his connection to Marco with his passion for helping people reach their full potential with athleticism and fix their injuries.

Because of lifting and eating well, I no longer deal with crippling tendonsis. It is a non-problem for me.

With this huge burden removed, I’ve come to discover some of the less talked about benefits of lifting weights that I didn’t know about when I was skinny. And my own hope would be that perhaps this article could play a minuscule part of passing these same blessings I experience onto you in your own story.

1. It fixed my tendonosis & knee pain

It’s hard to fully communicate the burden that’s been lifted. Like trying to describe the feeling of love. Something that had been plaguing me for over 5 years was suddenly making remarkable progress and is today no longer an issue.

At the time, my doctor and physiotherapist had me try prescription drugs (NSAIDs), ultrasound therapy, heating/icing, massage, stretching, bracing, and even acupuncture (I was desperate.)

Within the first couple hours of me meeting Marco, I told him about my struggles with pain. After he made an off-hand joke that tendonosis is caused by masturbating too much, he showed me a sports physiotherapy technique called Graston. That, alongside a rich diet made of whole foods and the following months, spent lifting iron, and I was making radical improvements.

It’s not clear what was the true driver behind my cure. Was it the Graston technique? Was it lifting weights and strength development? Was it a surplus of calories when I was clinically underweight? Was it eating more whole foods that would have the vitamins and minerals my body needed to heal? Was it by Marco’s programming to fix my posture that put my muscles in a more optimal position? Or was it simply the sum of all those parts?

Similarly, I had knee surgery when I was 15 related to skateboarding damage. There was still a pain that I had just learned to accept. After lifting for a few years, my form had improved substantially and I wasn’t feeling pain for the most part. Then I came across some studies on undenatured type II collagen. I was taking a capsule a day, and after a couple of weeks, I had noticed that I no longer suffered from knee pain.

I don’t know if you’re struggling with pain. I sincerely hope that you aren’t. But weight-lifting has been confirmed in many studies to help with all sorts of aches and pains, and notably with lower back pain. For someone who initially thought that lifting weights was reserved for athletes and the vain, I had no idea it was a cornerstone remedy for the body.

2. It helped me become less shy, more outspoken & confident

Me in university when I was only 130 pounds at 6 foot tallWhen I was young, and my parents would go out on a date, they’d leave my brother and I a $20 bill to call for pizza delivery. My shyness to call a stranger to get food would take hours to be eclipsed by my hunger. Perhaps this story also sheds light on why I was underweight.

Anyways.

There are subconscious changes in actions we make when we’re around people who take up space. Imagine the biggest person you’ve met. It takes a bold personality to tease this person. Why? Perhaps it’s because we live in a physical world, and we cowardly fear death—as if it’s the worst thing in the world.

While I strive for peace, sometimes it could have been seen as a lack of courage. As I continued to lift, I noticed that I started speaking up about my convictions. Speaking the truth was slowly becoming more important than consequences.

Perhaps my increasing outspokenness was also due in part to the verbal sparring between Shane and I about controversial topics while we trained together.

But there’s also research that suggests testosterone could make you more honest (study). The research here is murky but we could see some more light on this in the coming years of research.

3. It removed the anxiety to take my shirt off

Going to the beach, getting changed for the gym, and going to swim at someone’s pool was fun.

I don’t know how to explain this emotional switch. Maybe I was subconsciously embarrassed of my skinny body, I don’t know. But I do know that it’s no longer on my mind.

4. It made me like the outdoors & other physical activities

Want to go for an excursion and then a 40-minute hike up to sight-see from an original Ojibway viewpoint? Sure.

Enjoy chopping firewood? Sign me up.

Want to try trap shooting with shotguns? No bruising and I had a blast.

I can now say that I can endlessly throw my toddler into the air, more times than she can say “Again!”, since even with it burns, it’s all bonus reps.

Growing up I played little league soccer and the like, but in high-school, I became a lot less active. I still played soccer in the summer, but for the rest of the year I would often get up early to play video games and then get right back to video games once I got home from school. Anytime I wasn’t playing video games, I was on the computer reading about them.

At that time I wasn’t interested in hiking. And I certainly wasn’t interested in doing physical labour, that’s for sure.

Lifting weights helped to break the cycle. While lifting weights was difficult in those short moments of pain, I could choose when those difficult moments were and built my life around them.

Life outside the gym just became so much easier. Going on a hike or going snowboarding was no longer something that caused one week of soreness and was exhaustive. It was fun and painless.

We’ve seen this a lot in the Bony to Beastly community, too. Lots of guys, now that they’ve bulked up, ask questions about how they can adapt their training to do things like obstacle races like Tough Mudder.

5. It made me more helpful

One thing I didn’t know when I was skinny was that friends asked other friends to help them move. I had never known that… for I had never been asked.

Once I gained weight, I was asked to help carry couches, heavy boxes, moving houses, loading and unloading at things like weddings, and the like. It was a pretty immediate change after I bulked up and the requests came in often.

And I wasn’t resentful at all. In fact, it was easy work because of all my training and I could see how appreciative people were. It became my privilege to have a healthy, strong body that I could help people with.

6. It made me better able to cope better with painful & annoying things

Lifting weights and eating well has been shown to improve your mood, your willpower, and your energy (Willpower, 2012). So things that tire you out, frustrate you, or are just painful, are now a much different experience.

While weightlifting doesn’t hurt that much, it does a little bit, especially higher-rep hypertrophy training that has the lactic acid build-up (the burn). And consistent training teaches you that while pain exists, often a lot of physical pain is only temporary.

I’ve been finding the more I continue to lift, the less that the threat of minor pain scares me since I’ve had a lot of experiences healing from it.

7. It allows me to experience a sport-like fun as an adult

I loved playing on organized sport teams all the way from being a tyke to a young adult. But the reality is that with a family, at least in this part of my life, I cannot justify spending several nights a week at practice and game nights with strict schedules. That means even less time with my family.

But lifting weights allows me to see progression in a variety of ways and compete with myself:

  • how much muscle I’ve built and how many inches I’ve gained (size)
  • how much weight I can move (strength)
  • how many times I can move that weight (different type of strength, work capacity)
  • how my range of motion has progressed (athletic and body potential)
  • what new challenges can I do like pistol squats, one arm push-ups, etc. (calisthenics)

And I can do this myself, on my schedule, without it taking up a lot of time.

I know a lot of people enjoy this competitive and group part of doing Crossfit in a box, but for myself, interacting online in a supportive community where I can post my latest lifts is more than I could hope for.

8. It creates a common interest to bond over with a lot people you wouldn’t expect

Whenever I’m out and about people, ask what I do for work. I tell them that I help skinny guys gain weight who couldn’t ever gain it before. After we get past their initial shock that someone in today’s world might need help to GAIN weight, and not lose it, I find out that a good number of people are currently, or have in the past, tried lifting weights.

You find out about guys who are overweight now who were just inches away from the NHL but got injured. They’re still lifting weights, not to get jacked, but to help with back pain. Or you find out that this normal but healthy looking person is, surprisingly, 70 years old. And he’s been lifting weights to maintain his brain and bone health, and he’s excited to find someone else who can share his passion for his regimen.

One of the common stories we hear in the community is once a guy has gained 30+ pounds, it’s notable how many of their friends and family begin asking them for advice. People you had no idea that were interested in building muscle start talking to you about what you know and how you did it.

9. It made me realize that my brain is not separate from my body & sharpened my thinking

Being in my twenties as a skinny person, I was under the illusion that my brain was separate from my body. I thought my body was something like a car that was only there to move my brain from place to place.

But after lifting and eating well, not only do I feel better but I feel like my thinking and memory has improved. It’s hard to tell if you’re feeling terrible or have a poor memory since you’re in it, and you can’t objectively look at your memory.

But there is growing research in this area about how lifting weights (and cardio) is incredibly important for maintaining the brain health you have.

Now I’m not going to claim that lifting weights will change the intangibles of who you are like your personality or who you are. But for an analogy, Dr. Jordan Peterson has likened your IQ to a computer. So how fast do you process things, can you access those memories stored on the hard drives quickly and accurately, and can you think critically and problem solve? Lifting weights helps keep your brain/computer keep running at the latest top of the line specs.

10. It was the gateway-drug to getting healthy

Once my tendinosis was solved, I fell in love with lifting. And I wanted to pursue that more. I found out that many things that helped you with lifting weights were incredibly healthy.

For example, I started looking into supplements to help build muscle and found out that vitamin D can help you build more muscle if you’re deficient in it.

So I started supplementing with vitamin D to help with muscle. Years later I found out vitamin D plays a crucial role in our body’s process of synthesizing serotonin and dopamine. Meaning it helps fight off depression, it helps us feel pleasurable emotions the way we’re supposed to, it reduces the effects of seasonal affect disorder (SAD) for us northerners, and help our body’s fight off numerous amounts of cancers. And weird research starts throwing out questions like is premature hair graying related to vitamin D levels? We don’t know yet, but we’re learning more every day.

Then I found out about bone density, and how it’s a growing concern as we age. After training for 5 years, I took a DEXA scan test scored in the top tier for bone density.

When I was skinny, I once lost a part of my beard. The dermatologist said I had alopecia. There’s not much known about it. Once I started lifting weights and eating well, it filled back in.

Before I lifted weights I used to drink a couple Dr. Pepper’s and Coke’s a day. Then I started eating a diet designed to build muscle. It totally changed my taste preferences. Sugar-laced foods are now disgustingly sweet for me. I didn’t even need to fight it, it just happened naturally as my body began to prefer nutrient-dense foods. For example I find it difficult to eat chocolate that’s lower than 70% cocao (85% is pretty nice.) Today I don’t drink pop much (maybe half a Coke every month.) I didn’t demonize it or fight it, it’s just not even on my mind.

More research comes in about the epidemic of diabetes and while there is still much research in regards to reversing diabetes, you find out that resistance training is one of more promising interventions. (If you think you can’t get diabetes as a skinny person, that’s not true. And skinny people with diabetes are in an even worse position than those who are overweight.)

Summary

Most people have one driving problem that makes them finally take action and start lifting. Maybe it’s wanting to look your best and become more attractive. Maybe it’s wanting to be strong rather than weak. Maybe there’s a pain that you’re suffering from or want to avoid.

But maybe you have a belief that’s stopping you from taking action. Maybe you think being more attractive or strong is silly or superficial. Some people might say, well, who cares about being attractive? “A narcissist, for sure, and that’s not me.”

This is why I wanted to pull back the curtains and reveal the mystery a bit by writing this article.

Why do we become more attractive when we lift weights?

It’s because we’re healthier.

We’re less plagued by pains, and we’re fit enough to enjoy the challenges this world has to offer.

We have the willpower to work on the aspects about ourselves that bother us, we’re more outgoing, and in a better mood.

We’re more honest and straightforward, we can think more clearly, and we have the strength and capacity to be more altruistic and helpful. And speaking for myself, it prepares me with the physical strength and determination to protect the “least of these.”

No, lifting weights will not reveal the purpose of life. But it’s quite clear that to thrive while we’re here, we should be eating well and exercising. And if you can find a way to shift your life towards being better for you and those around you, then you should do it.

If you’re ever feeling lost when it comes to building muscle, we’d love to help. You can check out our free article ‘How to Gain Weight If You’re Skinny‘. Or if you’re looking for a bit more help and a system to follow to start gaining weight right now as you continue to learn more, you can check out the full Bony to Beastly skinny guy muscle-building system.

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13 Comments

  1. Krsiak Daniel on February 6, 2018 at 1:52 pm

    Thanks Jared for sharing your story 🙂

    • Jared Polowick on February 6, 2018 at 4:51 pm

      My pleasure, Daniel. I hope it was an enjoyable read.

      • Krsiak Daniel on February 9, 2018 at 7:23 am

        Absolutely 🙂 You could swap the name and pics and it would be article about me 😀

        The best part, I had the exact same experience and suffering, long gone, with tendonosis. It was some 10 years ago when I started my first job. Also heavy PC user, at work and my free time. I could barely move my finger, it burned, I had inflammation on both hands, nothing, no doctors could help. It lasted for some 6 years, until I started working out and eating a lot and healthy.

        This “chronic ilness” as they told me, was gone, never came back and doctors ask me what I did 🙂 Funny.

        Btw, seems you have typo there? “… this world has offer.” = should be “… this world has to offer.” ? Not sure, just wanted to let you know.

        • Jared Polowick on February 10, 2018 at 10:21 am

          Great to hear about your own successes, I had no idea you too struggled with that.

          Fixed up, thanks Daniel!

  2. Joshua Abbate on February 7, 2018 at 3:40 pm

    Great read Jared! You reminded me of the tendonosis I’ve kicked and the false fear it will return when I get back to gymming (knee surgery). I was just talking about graston today to a coworker. Looking to join the b2b forums again.

    • Jared Polowick on February 7, 2018 at 6:31 pm

      Glad to hear you’ve had your own success kicking it, Joshua! That’s great. Did you find Graston was helpful for you as well?

  3. Doc G on February 8, 2018 at 11:47 am

    Wow, Jared. That’s a great story, thanks. Chronic pain (knee, back, hip) is the reason I got into this also — at age 41 after too many years being a desk jockey — and our stories are so similar. Those pains are all gone now, postural problems got fixed, and the list goes on. I sometimes call weight training the “balm of Gilead” when people ask what happened to me. Could you explain Graston a bit more — what is that?

    • Jared Polowick on February 10, 2018 at 10:18 am

      So glad to hear about your own success solving your chronic pain! I know what a relief it is. It definitely is the balm of Gilead, I like that way of putting it.

      The training side is definitely more up Marco’s alley, but for Graston, the idea is that through manual therapy work you’d see some benefits. It doesn’t seem to be that well studied, so who knows what the mechanisms are, if in fact there are any benefits. To me it feels like some are and I’d say it’s at least worth looking into if someone is in pain. Given that Marco interned with him, I trust Eric Cressey a good deal. He has some short but solid articles about manual therapy and tendinopathies.

  4. Adil on February 9, 2018 at 1:54 pm

    Simple, honest and clear.
    Excellent article, Jared.
    Loved it.

    • Jared Polowick on February 10, 2018 at 10:22 am

      Thanks Adil, much appreciated!

  5. Matt on March 7, 2018 at 9:21 am

    Great article. Couldn’t agree more.

    You’ve also got just all-round ‘robust-ness’… stronger bones, stronger immunity, hormone balance 🙂

    • Jared Polowick on March 8, 2018 at 3:08 pm

      Thanks Matt! I totally agree. Robustness is a great way of putting it.

  6. Brandon on April 21, 2018 at 5:21 am

    This may not be the place to ask this, but I’m curious. Let’s say your dating someone who got with you when you were bony, but then you decide to get beastly because of personal motivations. What’s the likely hood of said female having an increase in anxiety because you’re becoming more attractive and she refuses to get in shape herself (not that she’s bad looking by any means or that you’re resisting her to do the same, just that you’re tired of being a bag of bones).

    Is it possible that bettering yourself in several ways could cause you to grow out of a relationship as it no longer serves your needs? And that a subconscious fear of this happening is the root cause of her anxiety? Has anyone experienced this before?

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