Training has been my life for two decades, personally and professionally.
And in those twenty years, I've seen more people falter with effort and consistency more than anything else. They'll dispute the best means of periodization, criticize others' techniques or training methods, and argue all day online about shit that doesn't matter. But they'll rarely train hard consistently with true effort.
Others will program hop every three weeks because they want to "try" something new without sticking to the plan long enough. Or they'll never train hard enough to ever experience real progress.
Sadly, these folks are missing the point.
If you're reading this site, you probably already know what bullshit training is and what will produce real results. You know that following a program, progressively overloading, tracking your progress, and getting stronger in the six fundamental human movement patterns (with some isolation exercises sprinkled in) will help you build the physique you want.
If you're training your ass off and intelligent about your nutrition and recovery, odds are you will see results.
But there's a massive piece that most people don't see.
But First, A Story
About 20 years ago, my older brother became addicted to drugs. As you can imagine, this created a lot of turmoil in my household. It also created a lot of pain and stress for me as a younger brother. I fought with him and drug dealers, played the nice guy card, argued with my parents, and went to meetings–I did everything. All of this ended up leaving me more frustrated, stressed, and in a depression. His addiction consumed my life.
Training was my way out. At seventeen years old, I knew a few exercises from training for high school football, but I didn't know what I was doing. What I did know was how to train hard and push myself. Back then, I trained five days per week and took all my pain, anger, and aggression out on the weights.
I was angry, and I was in pain. The only thing that gave me some relief was the gym. So I'd spend about three hours a night there.
My training wasn't perfect, but I packed on about fifteen pounds and got stronger over time.
The first book I read on training was Triple H's Making The Game. It still makes me laugh to say that, but that book was my bible for the ensuing months. I did every single exercise for every single body part that was listed in that book. I was overtraining for sure, but luckily I was about eighteen years old and got away with it. As a result, my body composition continued to change, and my stress and anger were under control.
Time went on, and my brother's addiction worsened, as did the environment in my house. I'd see my mother crying and sometimes hear her crying herself to sleep. Those experiences would put me in an uncontrollable rage. I was getting into fistfights with my brother and broke my hand twice. My anger was fueled by my pain, and I learned that fighting and arguing wouldn't change or help anything.
I was in a horrible place over the next few years. I would still train hard, but I was boozing, eating like shit, and sleeping until about 3:00 PM. It was a dark time for me, and training was still the only place I felt at peace. Some friends and mentors told me to get my shit together, so a few of us started a hard diet and training program for the next sixteen weeks. Training was grueling, but the diet was even tougher for me. I liked the physical changes I was seeing, and I had shredded abs for the first time in my life.
What I didn't realize was what was happening mentally. I developed structure, discipline, and learned to understand commitment. So not only did my physique change but how I viewed myself changed. I had more confidence and clarity and felt happy for the first time in a while.
This experience also showed me that I was in control only over what I do and not what others do. It was an important lesson for me then, and this new sense of control gave me peace and acceptance.
Consistency Over Everything
People argue online about the best diet out there and macro breakdown, but if they just committed to something long enough, they'd see real progress!
This newfound structure and passion had me fired up to train others even more, and I ended up opening my gym, Tutela Training Systems, in June of 2012 after six years of training people.
At this point, my relationship with my brother and father was rocky. My dad got sick and ended up bedridden in 2013. He refused help and got worse as the years went on. His sickness and my brother's addiction were heavy on me. I was living through one of the darkest periods of my life, and my training got more intense. It was the only way I knew how to numb the pain.
Training Saved My Life
Looking back, I believe training and dieting hard over the years helped callus my mind. Not only did those brutal workouts help me at the moment while I was training, but they helped me develop mental and emotional resilience in my everyday life.
My training and nutrition continued to evolve as I grew over the years. I made mistakes, learned from them, and grew from them. It was never something that stopped. I read, watched, and listened to anything training and nutrition related that I could get my hands on. I became obsessed. I would learn a new program or training methodology, do it for some time, keep some of what I learned, tweak a few things and keep it in my arsenal. I didn't hop around to try a million things at once. I stuck to the plan, executed it relentlessly, and watched what happened.
Sure, over the years, I played with Joe DeFranco's WestSide for Skinny Bastards, Jim Wendler's 5-3-1, and Jay Ferruggia's Hardgainer programs, among many others. But I stuck to them for months and years before trying something new. I never stopped halfway through the program to try something else.
As a result, my body composition changed throughout the years, as did other facets of my overall fitness.
Training remained my rock.
In November 2020, my dad died. I was hurt, but all my training helped me prepare for that moment. Later that week, I was back in the gym, slaying my demons and mourning my father. As I trained, tears poured down my face. It was one of the most therapeutic sessions I've ever had.
My dad's passing led to my brother going into a downward spiral. I tried helping, but he wanted no part. I was sure that he was going to overdose. In June of 2021, he let my mom and I help him. We got him on a plane to Florida from Jersey to rehab. He was doing the right things for the first time in his life. Sponsors, meetings, the twelve steps…he was doing it. He got a job and loved the new life he began in Florida.
After eight months of sobriety and his new life in Florida, I got the call on February 16, 2022, that my brother had died. He relapsed and overdosed just one month after his 40th birthday and 15 months after my dad passed. My family and I were devastated–we still are. It was the most pain I have ever felt in my life.
The weight of losing my dad and brother in such a short time frame was enough to break me. But it didn't.
I continued to train, but I'll be honest, I was going through the motions for my own sanity the first few weeks before I started to push it again. And although the pain was devastating, training was helping me heal.
If I Can Survive, So Can You
The point of me telling you all this is that training is more than just sets, reps, and programming. It's more than just getting jacked and shredded (although these are fantastic side effects).
It's you vs. you. It's about challenging yourself, testing your will to improve, overcoming adversity, and developing strength.
It's a strength you develop through hard physical training that allows you to deal with the shit life throws your way at times.
I genuinely believe that I would be broken if it weren't for the mental and emotional strength and resilience I developed through hard training all these years. Shit, I might be drinking or using drugs myself. I certainly would not be sharing my story and running a successful training facility and online program.
I want you, the reader, to stop overthinking. Stop searching for the perfect program because it doesn't exist. All of that second-guessing is wasting your time and energy.
Just START training and stay consistent. Make your mistakes, learn from them, and grow from them.
Otherwise, you'll miss out on the shit that can truly change your life.
Thanks for reading.
Chris Tutela is a Strength and Conditioning Specialist in Clark, New Jersey. He is the owner and operator of Tutela Training Systems, where he works primarily with college and high school athletes and the general population. Chris has been working with athletes since 2006, including two seasons as the head strength and conditioning coach for a high school football program in New Jersey in 2013 and 2014. He has also worked with a nationally-ranked high school basketball program in New Jersey. Tutela Training Systems has a reputation for drastically developing, strength, performance, and total body transformation for athletes and clients of varying experience levels and goals.