TJ Sider’s Story | Strong Side Conditioning

TJ Sider's Story

Achieve your personal best.

The Journey

Life doesn’t come with a “help” button.

“Its so easy for you”, “I don’t think you understand”, “You’re already in great shape”, these are things that almost every client I’ve ever had has said to me at some point or another. What they fail to realize, is that simply couldn’t be further from the truth.

I’ve come to see, over the last decade or so in and around this industry, that no one has any respect anymore, for The Journey.

What people, in general, have become used to, are easy fixes. Quick solutions to all of life’s little problems. I’m no different, when something goes sideways, I expect to be able to hit the “help” button and have an answer spoon fed to me on how to correct the issue. If I’m sick, i have a physician; accident? paramedic; too hot? air conditioning; too much body fat?…

When simple issues and complex problems begin to be lumped into the same category, we now have a problem. Unfortunately, we can’t fix 10 hours a day in front of a screen, readily available calorie dense foods, and an increasingly heavy toxic load with a pill, procedure, ab zapper, or 10 minute workout done 3 times a week.

Life doesn’t come with a “help” button.

Nothing has been “easy” for me. When I began this process at the age of 17, I was about as miserable as a teenager can be, well, at least a teenager pre-social media.

In my grade 10 year, I had been on the football team in the fall, City Champions. I had played rugby in the spring, I hated the running so much, but loved the game, loved my team.

I didn’t make the football team in Grade 11. Thank God the teachers were on strike that spring, so I wouldn’t have had to get cut from the rugby team too. I remember shortly before Christmas that I had stepped on the scale, hiding ominously beside my bathroom sink, and seeing the dial, (yes dial), spin past 270lbs. I stopped looking at that point, I honestly didn’t really feel like watching to see where it stopped. Was that the “easy” part everyone is referring to? Didn’t feel all that easy to me, pretty earth-shattering actually.

I made it through Christmas, and the first few months of school before I felt what rock bottom is. We had 13 stairs in my house, I wasn’t sure I could make them without feeling like my lungs were going to explode. I had a big black leather jacket that was my grandfathers’, I wore it everyday thinking that it hid how I looked, I actually had someone ask me if I ever took it off. Was this the “easy” part?

I finally asked for help. I found a nutritionist online, and paid for some counseling. It wasn’t groundbreaking or complicated, but it was working. I had changed a few things, modified some meals, and I started to see the weight on my scale dropping. I had gotten brave enough to use the school gym, usually before class in the morning so that it was empty, and then again immediately after school if a supervisor decided to show up. I felt better, and besides, Muscle and Fitness Magazine told me I could look better in just 6 weeks.

6 weeks later, I was stuck, I had stopped losing weight. I needed something different, and so came across the Atkins diet. That lasted a week, with some moderate success. Which led me to the Carbohydrate Addicts Diet. This was like finding Atlantis, I could eat ANYTHING I wanted for an hour each evening? This was the “easy” part right?! As an aside, it is interesting to note that while the science in the book is pretty off, the pattern of eating is now one of the more popular variations of carbohydrate manipulation. Low carb, no carb during the day, then back load large quantities at night, wrong science, but not a bad idea. Application in this industry is often miles ahead of the science, but that’s a whole other topic, and I digress.

Now I was making progress again, but doing something the right way has never been my style, time to get caught by the Haymaker that let reality slip away. I was in GNC getting some protein powder (we had so many choices, vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, vanilla again), and creatine, when I saw the most jaw-droppingly gorgeous girl. She had no curves to speak of (cardboard cutouts tend to be rather 2 dimensional) but she was shredded, and holding up Hydroxycut. Now, I’m not going to go into the merits and dangers of stimulants and appetite suppressants here, but the words “Lose Fat Fast”, and “No Hunger” sounded pretty good to me.

The fat burners were working, I just knew it. The cardboard girl wouldn’t lie to me, I felt great again, I had lost a little more weight. I even got to use the regular notches on my belt, not the ones I had poked in it with my Swiss army knife. Then it happened, the uppercut. I missed breakfast one morning and I didn’t have my lunch with me either, so I did what every high school kid does, “hey man, can I borrow a dollar?” and bought a diet Coke. I made it through my day, although I felt pretty sick, ate some of my dinner, mostly the meat, and went to sleep. Morning ritual complete, it was scale time, obsessively, everyday. 6 pounds gone. I was shocked, I checked again, 7 pounds gone! (our scale had to be dead level or it lied a little). If one day was good for 7 lbs, what would 2 do? Same story, no breakfast, no lunch, a bottle of diet pop, small supper, 5 lbs down the next day. In 2 days I had lost what had taken me weeks before. I didn’t need to understand the physiology of what was actually happening, I was SMALLER. The downside was, I was tired, but hey, I had my Hydroxycut and diet Coke.

Cutting ahead to the end of the school year. I was up to 16 pills a day to get enough energy to make it through. I tried every brand, every new compound or variation. I drank diet Coke during the day, trained according to the Mens Health Testosterone Advantage Plan in the afternoon (hey, it sounded cool), ate my dinner, played video games, and slept. I didn’t exactly have the focus required for my schoolwork, so I just didn’t bother, my grades were stellar…Was this the “easy” part?

I don’t remember when it happened exactly, but I finally realized I couldn’t keep doing this. I wasn’t well. I couldn’t bring myself to throw out the empty bottles of supplements, I hoarded and hid them. I was starving all the time, I hurt, All. The. Time. I stepped on the scale one last morning, 169 lbs. 6 months, over 100 lbs at least had come off of me. Intermittent fasting? Try Real Fasting, buttercup. But I couldn’t keep doing it. I slowly started eating again, but it hurt. Food made me feel sick, my stomach rejected a lot, and my guts rejected even more. It took the whole summer before I was eating with anything resembling normalcy. Sadly, my obsession with diet pills didn’t stop. I honestly felt that if I didn’t have them, anything I ate would appear on my stomach again. Obsession is healthy right? Was this the “easy” part?

There’s a lot more to share here, including some relapses which I’ll go into in the future, but what I’m trying to make you understand is that, there is no “help” button. I wish I had access to someone with the knowledge to keep me from harming myself, but I didn’t, and I had to hurt, starve, be miserable, make mistakes, and learn the hard way.

Nothing has been “easy” for me, and it wont be easy for you either. Its the responsibility of good coaches to help you make the best decisions when you hit those sticking points. To give you the best information we currently have available in order to make the changes that you want. To modify workouts and exercises to maximize hormone responses, muscle growth, reduce injury and be better. But there is no “help” button, no one to do the work for you. We aren’t there to spoon feed your meals to you while you spend your time doing other things, You just get to cowboy-up like the rest of us and grind it out.

No matter what the goal is of the program you’re on, you need to respect the Journey. Reaching your goal is a huge deal, and is to be rewarded, but skipping the middle would prevent you from learning anything along the way.

Respect the Journey, its worth it.


TJ doesn’t believe in shortcuts...

TJ Sider

TJ Sider

Owner & Personal Trainer

He does believe in hard work, time-tested tactics, and redefining your personal best. It was his own experiences with obesity and chronic pain that lead him to discover nutrition, strength and conditioning.

Upon seeing the positive effects fitness had on his own life, he wanted to share his knowledge with others. After extensive training at the university level in applied human kinetics, plus courses in nutrition, the BioSignature method, and advanced methods for strength, conditioning and functional movement, TJ had the good fortune of interning with some of the best minds in the business – including Barry Butt of Premier Strength in Edmonton Alberta. There, he worked with up-and-coming athletes (many of whom have since entered the NCAA, NHL, or Junior Leagues), before going on to work with the Poliquin Performance team. His approach to training and conditioning brings balance and structure to an industry obsessed with fads.

TJ’s focus is on restoring true strength and function to the body, all in the pursuit of improving the quality and performance of movement.  Through systematic programming, sound, scientific nutritional strategies, and a wide range of biochemical and physical testing, he doesn’t offer a quick fix. Instead, he gives his clients a complete approach to fitness and health.

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