7 Stories in 7 Days: Day 2 - Building a Resilient Mind and Body, Teofe Ziemnicki's Story
Where It All Began
At a young age I struggled with self-confidence and self love. It could have come from constantly being told I just wasn’t good enough to make the cut in hockey, I was fast but too small to play at top levels for my age. I was always on the brim of what could have been. The imperfections that others took note of in me, I exacerbated in my mind, which drove a heavy sense of critique towards my own inner person. By the time it came to the decision of going to college or playing another year or two of junior hockey, I chose college and walked away from my career. At that point, I had heard the same song and dance enough.
It wasn’t until my Sophomore year of college that I started lifting under an actually periodized program given to me by a friend. I started noticing results and so did others. So I dove deeper into the endless abyss of fitness information online. I started taking my diet seriously, becoming more calculated with my training, understanding the concepts and theories of lifting. I was, in short, addicted to the development of my body and the recognition of others. I entered sophomore year at 140lbs. I left at 180lbs. Over the last two years of college, lifting became less about the outward look and more about what it offered me mentally to get away from the day to day and add structure to the day where I could have easily fallen off. I was becoming more confident in myself, not because of what other perceived of me, but what I was able to achieve.
Leaving college left me with more time to myself and without a real path. I truly didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life upon leaving college. Originally, I thought it was research, but time spent in a lab just wasn’t what I was built for. I had this love for fitness and lifting, so why not try to make something out of that? I became a certified personal trainer in Boston and instantly felt right at home passing on my love and enjoyment for lifting with others. I taught all my clients that they were stronger than they could ever know. Even if the strength they gained was just enough to add function back into their life. I wanted to give them what lifting had given me, a sense of self sufficiency and confidence. Eventually, my athletic background came back to me in full force. The lack of competitiveness from the general population scene led me to go back for my Masters.
I received my Master’s in Exercise Science and I began a career as a strength and conditioning coach. I worked at Yale University for 5 years. My goal was to win games but further to create an environment of security and development within the weight room. I wanted athletes to feel their development as a player and person was of the utmost importance, because that’s what college was about for me, development of the self. There were days where I needed them to push but also days that I wanted them to know they were heard when they themselves were not in the best headspace, whether they said it directly or not. I’ve been there multiple times and I know the feeling of not feeling alright. My thought was that a day of healing will lead to better, more consistent days in the future.
Lifting transformed my body but also my outlook. The gym, the weights, the movements, the patterns, the sets, the reps, the volume, the intensity; it’s all consistent. You know what to expect, you know there won’t be much of a surprise when things are done a certain way. It is something that requires effort but if done properly, is truly effortless. There will be times you fail though. You don’t get the rep, you don’t set a PR, you don’t get the chance to lift that day. The beauty is, nothing changes. You have full control over how you react. The weights still weigh the same, the people who support you still support you, the world doesn’t stop around you. There is a sense of consistency that the gym provides that life can’t sometimes. It’s a place of development, betterment, and progress all filtering back to the individual. It’s a place to socialize or isolate (personally, I like my alone time at the gym) but with a common goal of development. It’s taught me that not everyone has the same path, though we all have a similar destination in mind. We want to better ourselves one way or another. It’s taught me that failure isn’t a consistent outcome but should be accepted and never feared.
The plateau will only last as long as you are complacent with the same style of training. Whatever you’re going through in life, the gym will always be a place to continue to pushforward, no matter how far you've been set back.
Now I train 2 days a week and it’s exactly what I need. It's a time where I get out of the house and put down my phone, and just enjoy the consistency and reliability of training. It’s on my terms and how I enjoy it. It’s to the point where I don't follow much of my plan, I don’t fret when I miss a day, a rep, or an exercise. I truly just enjoy the act of training, it offers a true reset point when I need it.