Most of you know me as an asshole, as “brutally honest”, as “the guy who always spits it straight and tells it like it is”. Most of you know me as the yelling trainer, the screamer, the smartass, the guy who makes you cry during training sessions, or tells you you’re not doing good enough with sticking to your plan.
Did you know I’m also the guy who sat here crying this morning as I saw my clients Holly Pisarcik and Nicole Grey both get top callouts at the 2015 NPC Nationals? I won’t know until 5pm today, but it looks like each will be receiving her IFBB pro card tonight, Holly as a lightweight female bodybuilder, and Nichole in the middleweights.
I’ve been accused of being overly cold and logical and fact-based, with no empathy or sympathy for failure or weakness. Yet passion consumes my heart and soul at times, and brings overwhelming tears of joy streaking down my face.
How is that possible?
If I throw around the murky term “winning”, most reading this will probably miss the actual point. But in a word, what makes me cry? Plain and simple, winning.
Now, I don’t mean winning a show, or winning a pro card, or “beating the competition”. I mean winning against yourself—putting your best foot forward, consistently, every day, every moment. I mean winning the war against mediocrity, against being an also-ran; the war against “I did my best”. Fuck your best, it’s not good enough. Do better.
And the same goes for me. My “best” sucks. Perfection is what is required—finding whatever lies deep within, and tapping into it, over and over and over again.
I watched Holly up there today. I saw the pictures. I remember four months ago, when her new husband went through a liver transplant, and Holly, despite the stress, despite the emotional turmoil, never once cheated on her diet; never once got her check-in to me late; never once missed a cardio session. I remember how, four days before stepping on stage at Nationals, her Grandmother passed, and Holly had one final decision to make—crumble during the final stretch, or toughen up for one last round. And we see what happens when tough prevails.
I watched Nicole Grey endure a near year-long ordeal, starting on December 15th of 2014 and ending on November 21st of 2015, with no substantial cheat meals, no missed cardio sessions, no missed weight training sessions. I watched Nicole travel up from North Carolina to Baltimore on multiple occasions, just to get in a training session with me. I watched her reach out to pro female bodybuilders to help her with her posing routine. And the end of the story, I watched her dominate the competition on stage this morning, knowing she had done everything in her power—crossed every T, dotted every I, and left nothing to chance.
Holly and Nichole are not my only standout warriors. This year has been chock full of them. I felt tears fill my eyes when Jessica Hyman got on stage at the NPC Jay Cutler Baltimore Classic, after dieting for almost a year straight, going through hell, rearranging her body comp from almost 300lbs down to a beautifully-sculpted 170lbs.
I watched Cylda Hodo, fighting to get back on stage after her first amazing season, endure almost everything possible that could go wrong; I watched her fight for a 4th place finish in her toughest class yet, almost pull the plug, then decide to push through for one more week and take the Overall Title at the 2015 NPC Mid Atlantic Grand Prix.
I watched Jermichael Pratt, after competing for 17 years, finally walk into the 2015 Kentucky Derby and crush almost every class in decisive fashion, then continue dieting for four more months and finally earn his IFBB pro card—again, after dieting for 9 months straight, traveling almost every single week for work, never missing a workout, never missing a cardio session, never screwing up a meal.
I watched Alysia Cronise diet for nine months straight, take first in her class at Jr. USAs and NOT get a pro card, only to continue pushing and finally get her card at North Americans. Raising her kid, going to law school, never missing a cardio session, never missing a workout, never screwing up a meal.
I watched Alicia Wells and Rebecca Mitchell bring their tightest packages to date, both placing top-10 in both of their national shows this year—despite hellish diets and training schedules.
I watched Donna McGinn bring the driest, most striated glutes to the stage at the 2015 IFBB New York Pro, despite being a newer pro and competing against girls 20 and sometimes 30 years younger than herself. Fuck age. It’s in your head. Lay down and die, or push harder.
I felt the tears well up many times this year. But only when they were earned. Only when I was moved and inspired—reminded of what it takes to win at anything, reminded of what it means to be a champion. And I don’t mean “champion” in the modern sense of the word, where it’s about “doing your best”. I repeat, fuck your best. It’s not good enough. Be perfect. Approach every single moment of every day like it’s your last, like you are going to throw your entire person into every decision you make. Every meal. Every cardio session. Every rep of every set of every strength training session.
I get to see the difference between lip-service passion and legitimate passion on a daily basis. I get to see what it takes to win versus what it takes to be an also-ran. I get to see what real warriors look like, those who really want it, with every fiber of their being, versus those who say they want it even though their actions say otherwise.
I am blessed to be surrounded by warriors like these, by champions passionate about their craft. It reminds me of what it feels like to win, to succeed, to be extraordinary.
And yes, I’m an asshole—until you earn otherwise. Then, I will be eternally indebted to you, for giving me the emotional fuel necessary to want to push myself even further. And you, too, will earn my tears.
Thank you, fellow warriors.
-David A. Johnston
A Few Other Motivational Posts…
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David Johnston is the founder and lead trainer of TEAM Warrior Within. You can also listen to him weekely on the GEARD Up podcast. ( GEARDUp.com ) David works with clients ranging from the everyday person just trying to lose weight and get healthy, local and national bodybuilding and physique competitors, to IFBB professional athletes.
David lives and breathes all things related to physique transformation, and has devoted nearly half of his life to passionately studying and educating himself to be the absolute best at what he does. His intensity in the gym is matched only by the passion he gives to his clients.