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How Not To Become a Blubber Bucket—My Teenage Rescue Story

Helena Wu 335lb Deadlift
Cupcakes for breakfast and Pringles chips for snacks—these were hallmarks of my youth. Now, even though I still have a lot of time ahead of me (I am a high school student-athlete), this still means I spent a decade of my life gorging on fattening foods and growing complacent in the typical sedentary American lifestyle. That’s not how you should raise an athlete, or any growing child for that matter.

Instead of frolicking in the backyard after school, I would hunch over a desk and become lost in video game worlds. Instead of learning to play new sports, I was afraid of extended physical activity and remained ignorant of the power of physical training. In fact, I distinctly recall that I had no idea humans could run for more than five minutes straight. In middle school—the first time I was subjected to the half mile and mile run tests—I was shocked and terrified. How could they expect anyone to run that far? I ascribed super-human powers to the few classmates who had no trouble with it. This was the grim extent of my disconnection from my own body!

Helena Wu BeforeI never had any role models in sports—not my parents, not my siblings, or my friends. Our family focused on more cerebral matters, such as almost effortlessly snagging excellent grades in school. As far as I was concerned up until three years ago (yes, that recently!), the mere fact that I was not grossly fat was enough to convince me that I was in terrific shape. I never questioned it, I just felt a vague pride in myself for being "athletic" in any physical endeavor that took less than three seconds. But, I never paid much attention to my fitness. The notion of working out or strengthening the body was alien to me. I was confining myself to one dark, cobwebbed corner of the great, endless chamber of human potential. Basically, I was a human being who wasn’t being fully human.

With this unhealthy momentum, I probably would’ve turned into a blubber bucket by the time I shipped off to college. I am unspeakably grateful that there was an intervention. The run tests in gym class that I mentioned above were components of the Presidential Physical Fitness program, and students who passed all the criteria would receive recognition from the teachers and admiration from their peers. The only sticking points that prevented me from passing the requirements were—you guessed it—those runs.

I had to come to terms with myself, my fitness level left a lot to be desired. I was determined to stop wallowing in self-satisfaction or despair about how much work I had to do. Instead I trained myself to improve my mile time. It was a concrete goal that eventually led me down the rabbit hole of fitness and movement for life.

Because I had virtually no background in training, my plan was to jog. Every day. Even when I was sore, tired, or lost, I stuck to it and jogged. I even followed some of the "workouts" in those female fitness magazines to help build strength and lose fat. But, I had no real plan, and felt like I had to do something every day or I would lose my fitness. This soon made me a little bored and anxious—not the best start to my journey.

Helena Wu 180lb CarryFortunately, I still improved my mile time by a minute and a half. But after I achieved the goal of passing the Presidential Fitness Tests, I wondered about my next goal. By now I had cultivated a love of being active and making a difference in my health. I got involved with track at school, and started to educate myself on health and fitness by reading blogs. Mark’s Daily Apple introduced me to primal health. From there I started to branch out into the strength and conditioning world, eventually finding Dragon Door.
Last year, I also joined Zach Even-Esh’s Underground Strength Gym. He is an incredibly cool, caring, and knowledgeable coach. His gym had been in my hometown for years! If only I had known earlier!

Over time, my love of training has increased, and health and fitness have become very important in my life. Rather than focus on only one performance measure, I aim to become a well-rounded versatile athlete. It was hard to overcome the inertia I grew up with, but it simply had to be done. Life is so much better when you see all its possibilities and explore your birthright as a human being with movement, wellness, and power.

If I had remained blind to these possibilities, who knows where I would be now?

Helena Wu 335lb Deadlift thumbnailHelena Wu is a high school athlete currently competing in track and field in New Jersey.