Ferrara uses the gym to build physical and mental strength

August 5, 2017

Nicholas Ferrara is different from the average college student living at the beach for the summer. He doesn’t stay out late, go to parties or try to get into bars. Instead, he spends most of his time going to the gym to prepare for the upcoming lacrosse season. But the most impressive thing about his commitment to a healthy lifestyle is the fact that he started working out with me more than a decade ago when he was only 10 years old. Now a sophomore at Elizabethtown College, he uses the discipline and work ethic learned in the weight room to attack his goals and achieve success both on and off the field.

Nicholas started training with me in 2007 when his mom approached me to ask if I thought there was anything I could do to help a 10-year-old get into shape. I told her that we could start by teaching him proper form and basic moves with light weights, so we signed him up and started training two to three times a week. The idea was to give him a good workout while teaching him how to exercise properly. After a little trial and error, I decided he was too small to lift free weights or use machines, so I created a workout with some speed and agility drills, and limited body-weight movements. This worked great and he worked very hard, and as he grew bigger, we began to incorporate more difficult movements.

Over the next couple of summers, we introduced new exercises and challenges to make Nicholas’s workouts more difficult. We added squats, power cleans, deadlifts and all the major core lifts, and since he started working out so young, his form and ability to do the exercises correctly became near perfect, and his attitude and work ethic were even more impressive. No matter how tired he was or what I asked him to do, he did it with 110 percent effort. This was reflected in his senior year of high school, when he was named first-team all-conference and second-team all-state as a long stick midfielder for Appoquinimink High School. He also was part of a team that placed second in the 2016 Delaware State Lacrosse Championships, and he had a very successful academic year as well, graduating in the top 50 of his class and posting a 3.7 grade point average.

This June, Nicholas finished his freshman year at Elizabethtown College, where he was a member of another accomplished lacrosse team that won the conference championship and made it to the second round of the Division III playoffs. He had a very good year, receiving some playing time and working up to second team on the depth chart. This fall, Nicholas will be a sophomore looking to break into the starting lineup. He will also be pursuing a degree in biological science and is considering going into the medical profession. When I asked him what he personally gets for investing so much of his personal time in the gym, he said, “I feel accomplished when I finish a hard workout, kind of like I started my day the right way. If I don’t work out, I feel like I’m not living to full potential.” 

At age 20, Nicholas has spent half his life in the gym. He has not only built a strong body, but also learned that hard work and commitment are the means to achieve his goals. He is a great example of how living a fitness lifestyle can not only build physical strength, but can help establish the confidence and discipline needed to succeed in life. Look for him to do great things on and off the field over the next couple years.

  • Chris Antonio is a personal trainer and former world-class weightlifter. He has been lifting for more than 20 years and has trained a wide variety of clients ranging from All-American athletes to the average person trying to get into shape. To send a question to the Ask the Trainer column, email Chris at or check out

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