How I Started Living the Dream
I love my job. I get to wake up everyday and head to the gym where I hang out with my friends and help them get stronger. To be honest, I still feel weird calling it “work,” because it’s something I truly enjoy doing. I’m human and of course I have my bad days, but since becoming a strength coach they are fewer and farther between, and never really related to my job. It’s a good life.
It was also a long road to get here, and I’m still not where I want to be, but I get closer everyday. I’m relatively new in the field, it’s been a little over a year since I started training other people. I don’t claim to be some world renowned expert, but I’m always looking for new learning opportunities, seminars, courses, and whatever chance I have to get better. I will be one of those experts one day, there’s not a doubt in my mind, but for now I have to be on my grind to get there.
Let me tell you a little bit about how I got here.
I have a pretty common story for working in the fitness industry. I always played sports and lifted weights growing up, but I got picked on for being overweight. Then my college sweetheart dumped which became the kick in the ass I needed to get my shit together and start taking life seriously. I leaned out, changed my life, had a pretty damn awesome body for the first time ever; so I decided to help other people do the same thing.
My first training job was pretty shitty just to be frank about it. I had to follow a training system that I didn’t believe in, and my boss basically fit the description of everything you should not do as a trainer. At the same time I was watching a lot of Elliott Hulse videos and wanted to find that type of environment to train myself.
Eventually I came across Gaglione Strength. Since my old boss didn’t know what the hell he was doing, I’d been looking for a mentor for a while. When I starting looking into signing up for the gym, I saw they offered an internship opportunity and I jumped at the chance.
I still remember the phone call I got from Gags (John Gaglione); we had a lot of the same philosophy’s about helping people and building a stronger community, but I still had no idea what to expect when I showed up. The gym was basically a dungeon back then. I saw the monolifts, the strongman equipment, chains, weird bars, and a ton of stuff I’d never seen before. It was a little intimidating I have to admit, but there was something about the atmosphere and comradery among everyone there that I fell in love with immediately.
Grinding for a dream
It was definitely a grind for a while, especially when I was an intern. I essentially had 3 jobs - one waiting tables, one personal training, and I’d spend another 15 hours a week at the gym as an intern. I was up every morning by 4:30 to either get to my internship or train clients, which meant plenty of nights getting only a few hours sleep after getting home late from the restaurant. But at the end of the day, I always had a bigger picture in mind.
I wanted to be great at something, and I wanted to work with people who strived for greatness. When you’re a personal trainer, you come across people with mostly superficial goals - 6 pack abs, a nice but, big arms, etc. Those are okay goals and all, and I wanted to help people look awesome, but I also believe those things should just be a byproduct of a deeper desire to become a better version of yourself.
I wanted to work with people striving for something deeper than that; to become stronger, leaner, more athletic and overall better individuals. I wanted to turn average joe’s into athletes and help athletes perform at a higher level. To do that you have to build a community with a shared vision of growing stronger. That’s the real difference between coaching and personal training, you’re building a vision on a larger scale. That’s also what I found when I first walked into Gaglione Strength and discovered powerlifting.
Becoming a Powerlifter
When I started as an intern, I had no intention of becoming a powerlifter and competing. My original plan was just to use what I learned and incorporate it into helping people get stronger. The longer I stayed though, the more I started to see competition as an intense motivator with a tremendous impact on training.
My first meet was a spur of the moment thing about a month out from the competition. It made my goals more concrete and gave me something to train for. It forced me to increase my level of focus and dial everything in, and the result was extraordinary. After that I was hooked.
When you get to the platform, it’s just you vs. the weight. Either you lift it or you don’t. It’s a test of willpower as much as strength and how far you’re willing to push yourself. It’s completely humbling which is what makes you stronger. You have to put the work in to grow stronger and do better, there’s no way around it.
It wasn’t just the training itself that drew me in to powerlifting. The sense of community and support were something amazing that I’d never experienced before. Everyone gets genuinely excited watching each other make a big lift and push themselves; they help each other get through tough workouts, push past fears, and become better at what they’re doing. It’s an incredible feeling that’s actually pretty hard to describe.
Even if you’re not trying to become a competitive powerlifter, the big 3 lifts are the best way to build strength and explosiveness, which transfers well into the rest of life. I truly believe it’s the best overall style of training for anyone from soccer moms to competitive athletes, not to mention the mental toughness it builds. Powerlifting teaches you to push yourself past your limits.
Today I focus on helping people grow stronger through both their training and I specialize in nutrition for strength athletes and weekend warriors. When you train smart and eat healthy, you can really unlock your potential. I’m far from the best coach in the world yet, but I will be some day, there’s not a doubt in my mind. I’m going to build an empire of strong mother effers. From now until then, and even after, I’ll keep grinding and trying to improve and keeping that white belt mentality that there’s always something new to learn.
At the end of the day you just have to do it. I turned down job offers which would have made me a ton of money today, because I have a vision of what I wanted to do tomorrow. There was a lot of sacrifice, and slowly but surely that vision is coming to life. You just have to ask yourself how hard you’re willing to work to get their. It might mean working 3 jobs with less than optimal sleep, but if you keep plugging away, opportunities come up and good things happen. Stop putting things off and just go for it.
Check out more from Coach James at Cheeksbarbell.com!
"JAMES "JIMMY CHEEKS" POSILLICO IS A STRENGTH COACH AT GAGLIONE STRENGTH IN FARMINGDALE, NY. HE HOLDS CERTIFICATIONS FROM UNDERGROUND STRENGTH, ACE FITNESS, AND PRECISION NUTRITION.
JAMES CONSIDERS HIMSELF A FOODIE OF SORTS, A POWERLIFTER, AN AVID READER, AND DEDICATES HIS LIFE TO BECOMING THE STRONGEST VERSION OF HIMSELF. WHEN HE'S NOT HELPING HIS TEAM GROW STRONGER, HE LIKES TO KICK BACK WITH FRIENDS AND FAMILY, WATCH ZOMBIE MOVIES AND GAME OF THRONES, OR HIT THE TOWN AND PROBABLY GET A LITTLE TOO ROWDY FROM TIME TO TIME."