Meet Damian Addison, father, boxer and personal trainer. In this episode of From the Source, Damian talks about developing positive mental agility, the relationship between confidence and fitness, and what he knows to be true about transforming your life.


Jourdan: Damian Addison works as a certified personal trainer and boxer. He started Academy Fitness to help clients learn their whole body.

Damian: Movement is medicine, like just moving. Just getting out and moving, walking every day.

Jourdan: He has a lot to say about developing a positive mental agility. The relationship between confidence and fitness and what he knows to be true about transforming your life.

Damian: You don't got to necessarily hit the weights hard or run 10 miles. You don't get to do all that. Doing some calf raises, stretching, that goes a long way. just movement.

Jourdan: Growing up in the Hill District, Damian said he was known as the kid with a strong, competitive nature who could not sit still. Ya'll know the type, the energetic, athletic daredevil child who is always looking for an opportunity to race or do a no hands backflip for an audience. As a previously incarcerated person, Damian found refuge in the joys of his memories from sports training.

Damian: Like, I went back to a kid playing sports, having fun like that kind of like reverted my mind back to there. So I wouldn't, felt like I was inside and I didn’t want it to feel like that, so I had to take my mind somewhere else. When I was just outside playing football with my friends, and that's kind of when it clicked and I had all that time to think

Jourdan: when it came time to think about what Damian wanted to do next. He knew he wanted a future that incorporated discipline, joy, personal satisfaction and responsibility. This is season three, episode eight, and this is Damian Addison.

Damian: Her name is Damian. And what I know to be true is, you've got to stand on what you believe and you've got to be genuine through the trying times, through everything you go through. You got to have some solid people around you. People that’s gonna call you on your BS and let you know when you're wrong. Be real with yourself. Be real with the people around you.

Jourdan: You got certified last September and you said you had to take classes to help you get your rhythm and help you to figure out like how you were going to like training people, I guess, like what your program was going to be. What do they teach you when you go to learn about how to become a trainer?

Damian: Oh man, there’s things from like the human anatomy, how your body reacts to certain, certain workouts. It actually helps you learn your body. Like, I was like, I'm like, Oh, okay, so that's what that's called, okay, so, so much detail. And it's intense. I'm not even going to lie to you, but I like learning new things, and I like a challenge so it's fun.

Jourdan: It's crazy. Like, I know I can remember being in high school and them talking about anatomy and biology. And I mean, some parts of it were interesting. Some parts of it weren’t interesting. It's crazy. It's like it's not until you find that something is a part of something that you're interested in, then you become passionate about it, right? Like, I'm sure doing the personal training classes or requirements wasn't the first time you heard of a tibia or like a shin or something, but like because it was in regards to something you're passionate about was like, Oh, okay. yeah. the shin. the tiba.

Damian: Yup, yup. definitely. I was overwhelmed so many times, like I wanted to give up. I ain't going to lie to you. I wanted to give up multiple times, but I spent my hard-earned money on that.

Jourdan: I was like, I paid for this. I'm going to finish. For your clients, like the people that you see. Would you say they're coming in for like fitness or they coming in, to like, look a certain way or they coming in for like a weight concern? Like what's kind of the makeup of things that people are coming in to work with you on?

Damian: It usually starts with a look, it's like, Okay, so I get a lot of women. They say, it's these two things I want to lose this stomach and I want to tone my butt up and I kind of explain to them, I think it’s bigger than a look. No, no, we're going to, we're going to train instead of working out. We're going to test the whole body, it's wellness. And it's like, I want to, want to improve the quality of life.

Jourdan: That sounds like that's your mission. Like when you talk about it, your eyes light up like this. Like, I can tell that you really, really are passionate about it and you care about it. Like, what is it that, like drives you to like, preach fitness and wellness to people and like being disciplined and taking care of their body and knowing their body and everything that you do?

Damian: Honestly, like it started from being a kid. Like I said, being a kid, playing sports and just seeing how that brought joy to people's faces and how that brought a joy to me, obviously. But then it turned into, I enjoy helping people, like however I can help them, like I enjoy that part of life. So I was able to, you know, to kind of like, put my gift and like kind of infuse my gift with that. It's seeing how, it’s seeing the look on people and it’s seeing the look on people's faces when you know, when they start to see their body change or when they start to meet their goals and things like that, it's kind of hard to put it in words

Jourdan: Your passion is speaking for you. You know what I mean? Like, I'm sure people will be able to hear, like exactly how you feel and why you're passionate about it and feel that connection between everything you just said. Did you ever have any hesitation about being a personal trainer or any insecurities about it? And if you did, how did you overcome those insecurities?

Damian: Most definitely. I definitely had some, ah, some insecurities about it. First off, you know, I already know that it’s a competitive, super, extremely competitive field. But I've always been like, I've always been small. So it was kind of like, Man, damn like, you got to look a certain way to be a personal trainer or, you know, your arms got to be like this, or your chest gotta be like this. Now, I got a nice physique, but I'm not big. So it was kind of like people are going to look at me like, he ain't no personal trainer. They're not going to take me serious or, you know, things like that. But like when I was working out and I sort of just look around a little bit and see what was going on. Other, other trainers in the gym and things like that. And I kind of like, sort of like taking notes and just like just observing. I kind of like, let me give myself some credit because, you know, I go in the gym. I don't mess around. I'm not in there texting. I'm not in there trying to talk to women or anything like that. I don't like that. I don't like to converse when I'm in the gym. I picked up, like some clients like that, just like, just my workouts, just the work outs that I put myself through. People just look just like with their wide eyes, like, dude, you're a beast and like that builds my confidence. That makes them feel good, and that lets me know that I'm doing something right if I get multiple people coming up to me and commenting on my videos and things like that. So that kind of like that was my validation there.

Jourdan: It sounds like working out, training yourself, training other people is like, that's like a spiritual practice or a joy practice. Like, That's your zen. Could you think of a time? I'mma say this, I was a child, I’m an only child, right? I have like step siblings, but I'm, like a for real only child. And when I was younger, I was really observant. I wasn't quiet, I just would rather, like look and pay attention to what was happening on, like going on around me than, like actually engage in it. I noticed that, in like middle school, I found like the Oprah Winfrey Show and I would just like, yo, this is the coolest thing ever, you could just go and listen to someone talk, like, participate when you want to. It’s kind of like class, but there's no, like the demand on what you have to know or what you need to learn. And I feel like I needed to know about, like storytelling and communication at that age. Like that was the perfect time for me to figure out, like how I am, is, will serve me in the future. How I am will put me in a position to do the things that I'm interested in. How I am, is like a gift, or like a positive in some arenas, and I just got to figure out, like what arenas to put myself in to make that click. Can you take me back to a time where you can be like, Yeah, I needed it, I needed it to be physical. I needed to have a fitness regimen. I needed to be working toward something. I needed fitness before you knew you needed fitness.

Damian: I would definitely probably say high school, once I really started wrestling. That's what it was. Football was one thing, but like wrestling took me to a whole nother level, conditioning mentally. Oh I needed, like, what is it like, I need this. It kind of went away. Then, like, once I started boxing, I started boxing as an adult. And that's when it came back, but it came back like full throttle, 110 percent. So it was like, Oh yeah, this is, this is it. This is it right here.

Jourdan: Everybody needs something to be good at. Everybody needs a space where they can feel safe to make mistakes, but also feel championed in the things that they're trying to accomplish. You and I were talking about how there's a need for, No, I’m not going to say a need, but you were trying to impart upon your children, like to go after the things that they want to go after, to be serious about things to like, try new things. Why is it important to you to, like, share those things with your children?

Damian: Because growing up with a single mother, there was only so much she can do by herself. Like, you understand what I'm saying? I didn't have no dad, so it was like, my mom is going. My mom got to provide, my mom gotta, you know, play mom and dad. I want my children to get the dad aspect that I didn't get. Somebody pushing you, but at the same time, letting you know that it's ok to do whatever you want to do. You can do whatever you want to do, but whatever you choose, what it is that you want to do, we going one hundred and ten percent. Giving them nutrition gems and things like that, and getting them in the habit of working out early, so you know when they're, when they're older, it’s second nature and just not having that myself and just trying to give it to my children.

Jourdan: Trying to give them lifelong gems, them things that are going to take them throughout the rest of their lives.

Damian: Most definitely.

Jourdan: Instead of putting the flaming hot Cheetos in their hand, they have for some fruit in their hands, teaching them how to make a smoothie, so they aren't 30 fighting the addiction of flaming hot Cheetos like me

Damian: Yeah.

Jourdan: Although I did find some, like healthy ones at Whole Foods and I was like, Oh my gosh.

Damian: It's on now.

Jourdan: What words would you tell yourself at, like 15, 16? What would you tell yourself, where you are now looking back on, where you were, how you were, how you were passionate about things, how you would do what you wanted to do when you wanted to do it? What words would you want to share? What do you think that person needed to hear then?

Damian: That's a good question. I like that. One of the things, this came right to my head was patience. Patience, patience, patience. I had no idea that I would go through the things that I went through. Man, like at that time, 15, 16, at 30. I would be, you know, I would be financially well off, I would be married with two kids. I would have everything figured out. Boy was I wrong. Things got real, real, real, real fast.

Jourdan: Sometimes life sets in for us unexpectedly. You know what I mean? Like one day, you’re living your life, doing whatever, then the next something happens and it's like, Oh, I wasn't really ready for all this. At one point in your life, you were at a place where you didn't think about how your actions affected the other people and that mindset and what you had to do to change that mindset. The person that you were then, what you went through, what you learned in that time and how you came out on another side, how does that all make you the person you are today? How does that fit into like, how you train, how you train other people, how you talk to other people, how you deal with other people?

Damian: Yeah, I definitely had to learn quick, I had to learn quick how my actions affect other people. I went through some, some exercises that kind of like, opened your eyes to, you know, this is, this, it’s bigger than you. It's not. It's not about you. When I speak to other people, you know, No matter what I'm going through at that time, mentally, physically, whatever, I try to, you know, keep in mind that like, this isn't about me. I watch how I say things. I just try to bring a completely different energy now. Speaking to people. Holding the doors open for people, pretty much take that mindset to training. I'm super respectful. Yes, ma'am. No, ma'am. You know, looking you in your eyes, firm handshake, just being a stand up gentleman just all the way around.

Jourdan: Sounds like to me, you're talking about being, like flat footed on the ground and seeing what's going on around you and seeing the role that you play in it, but also like how you can be a positive motivating factor in that moment. We've come together in this space to share lessons, opinions, what you've learned, all of that. As a human being, it's very gratifying and encouraging to hear someone be like, I see what I need to do and what I need to do affects me, and it affects other people, and I'm willing to do that, because it's the righteous thing to do. It's the best thing to do. It's the right thing to do.

Damian: Definitely. Most definitely.

Jourdan: You know, you could of, got on here and been like, fitness is important and you got to watch what you eat and drink water. You could have gave some super, like regular answer, but you're really like telling people what you learned and your story is valuable. Everybody's story's valuable, and everybody has something that they can share. But not everybody is willing to share what they've learned for whatever reason. You know what I’m saying? But here we are able to hold space together, and talk about something that you're passionate about, and I think that's really important.

Damian: Most definitely. One thing I preach about with this fitness stuff, is it's a mental thing. More than anything, I had some women that I was training, and like the type of workouts that we were doing, they were intense. She's like, I can't do this. I never did a push up. I can’t do it like this. Just try, come on, give yourself a chance. And next thing you know, she, Oh, I didn't know I could do this. I’m like see, like, push yourself like, give yourself a chance. I'm telling you man, it's mental.

Jourdan: What are some, like motivating things you tell yourself? Do you still hit barriers? Let's keep it at work out. Do you still hit barriers, like hard times, or like difficulties?

Damian: Yeah, I do. I do. But my hard times and difficulties is when I'm going through something on a personal level mentally. And I ain't been in the gym in two days and three days, and I get back in the gym and I get back to my regular routine, which is intense, high intensity. And I'm like, Oh, my stomach is hurting. Oh I'm about to pass out. Oh, let me sit down and drink some water. Honestly, those are my barriers now. But as far as, like working out barriers. When I get into the boxing gym, when I get into that boxing gym, man.

Jourdan: what is it about boxing?

Damian: It's not like your common sport. Like boxing, it's kind of, like unorthodox. It's like anything goes in boxing, like the type of, the type of shape that you got to be in, what you got to put your body through to endure a fight. You got to literally prepare your body for battle. So you're doing things that you're not doing in literally no other sport. Super sore, you wake up the next day, you're super sore. Your legs hurting. Just imagine feeling like that on a regular basis.

Jourdan: What do you know to be true for sure about being a personal trainer?

Damian: What do I know to be true about being a personal trainer? It comes with long nights, early mornings. It’s very, very, very satisfying. Just seeing the look on people's faces when, you know, when their goals are met or when their goals are on the way to being met and or, you know when they're locked in mentally. I know it be, I know. What I know to be true is that feeling that I get inside when I, when I see the smile I put on other people's faces. I know that that's real. I know that I'm passionate about this fitness.

Jourdan: Season three of From the Source podcast is produced by Jourdan Hicks and Andy Kubis and edited by Halle Stockton. If you're curious to learn how you can share your story with us or appear in an episode of From the Source, you can get in touch with me by sending me an email to Rtvsrece is an independent nonprofit newsroom in Pittsburgh. You can find all of our reporting and storytelling at Jourdan Hicks. Stay safe and be well.

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Jourdan is a senior community correspondent at Rtvsrece. Previously, Jourdan was engaged as a community-based educator in the Hazelwood section of the city. A lifelong Pittsburgh resident, she’s...