Many of you have had a chance to see all of these as they were written...I've compiled them into one post for you to reference off and on, as you make your way through your own path to better health. I just read through these again the other day, and it really had an effect on me. It reminded me of some simple truths (this is hard, this doesn't happen overnight, you need to continue to fight through the tough days, etc.) Please, as we near the end of the year, and start looking forward to what our goals are for 2017 and beyond, be sure to share this with someone in your family, or circle of friends that is looking to improve themselves. Hopefully it helps motivate them as it has so many others!
Look...I know this is long...just hang in there, I think it's worth it. So, this is kind of difficult post for me to put out there. That being said, I think it’s something that needs to be done. Not just for me (although that is a reason), but for you. Our members. If I really am living up to my title as your “Coach for Life,” you need a glimpse of what it’s like to crawl around in my head for a bit; to see where I’m at in this process of becoming healthy, and where I’ve come from. I hope that this offering of my story, and myself, will help keep you motivated. Maybe it will re-ignite your fire/motivation? Maybe it will inspire someone in your own peer group to start moving and turn things around. Please feel free to share this series of posts with your friends and family. Let them know that the people you work with each day in our gym are just like you, and just like them. The following is post 1 of 3. The majority of this was written in October of 2015 right after I left my job:
The Way Forward...
How the hell did we get from here….
Shane - June 2012 (248lbs) ...
to here?!?! Shane-October 2015 (362lbs)
The reckoning is upon me, and it has been a long time coming. Not too long ago I felt like I could conquer the world. I had battled obesity and mostly won. Then, as if some sort of unforeseen rogue wave, life happened. Add a divorce, increased hours in the office, stress, 3 hours of daily commute time, and a general lack of paying attention, and all of a sudden I wake up 120 pounds overweight.
Not 24 months have passed since I was at my best, and now, the wheels having come completely off the wagon. Scratch that. The wheels have come off, thrown me to the ground, run me over, and then I ate the damn wagon.
In retrospect, I had first noticed the weight coming back on in October of 2013. I was headed out of town for a conference and had to go buy a bunch of new clothes and realized that I was back up a size. “It’s just a size, no big deal, right?” I didn’t give it too much thought as I was still performing well physically, and generally felt good about life, I had come out of my divorce relatively unscathed, my daughters were great, and career was on track. I had emerged from the darkness of personal strife and was feeling great, ready to conquer the world and boy was I slaying it. So I thought, anyway…
The first thing to go was the gym…from 4-5 days a week, like clockwork, to 3, to 2, then slowly I missed a week…then two… After that it was the diet, went straight in the toilet. The slow creep of bread, pastas, and sugar in replacement of the vegetables I had grown to enjoy eating. The short term high of eating the crap, followed by the feeling of guilt creeping in, and a "promise" that tomorrow I would clean things up.
Oh, let’s not forget the booze…ohhhh the social beers, the pub nights, happy hours, dates, and whiskey cocktail after whiskey cocktail. In time, the guilt faded away, and booze and food no longer mattered. Quantity was no longer relevant, I did what I wanted, when I wanted. I was entitled.
All the while, my work-day still consisted of spending 9 hours in a windowless room, sitting in front of a computer with s bear of a commute staring me right in the face. Fast-forward a few years and things really started to manifest in a real bad way, and reality began to sink in. The first time I noticed I was in real trouble, was when I was dating a woman that lived in a 3 story walk-up. I noticed that I was more than just slightly winded going up three flights of stairs. I also noticed that maybe my...um…”performance” in other areas, wasn't quite what it once was. Some alarm bells started to go off in my head.
In seemingly no time, the bottom dropped out, not for any particular reason, but just because. The stress of the job set in, I completely abandoned eating healthy, didn’t sleep, and apparently erased all memories of working out. In other words, I stopped caring all together, accepted my "fate" as it were, and couldn't even think to summon the motivation to get back on track.
As an example of my lack of motivation, one night, around 9:00pm I receive a phone call from my Coach for Life (Cameron). It went as follows:
Cam: Hey, what are you doing RIGHT NOW?
Me: Not much, just chilling at home
Cam: Get your gear on, let's workout
Cam: I'm in your driveway, I'll work you out right now, you need to get moving man
Me: Do not get out of your car. You should go home
Cam: You know what you need to do here, but it's up to you, you have to want this. I'm parking.
Me: I know, but if you get out of your car, I'm locking the door. You should go
Needless to say, I dug my heels in, and he left, as I had requested, but that was a huge moment for me. I realized that people cared about where I had been, and knew I was in trouble. While I may not have worked out that night, the gesture wasn't lost on me. This is what good friends do…this is what GREAT coaches do.
Sadly, this was the status quo for about another year. I was extremely successful at doing nothing...I mean seriously, fuck-all NOTHING as it pertained to my health. Then, all of my proverbial warts were exposed when I decided to take a trip to Europe. Talk about feeling every bit the fat American. I didn't fit in the airline seat, I was sweating ALL THE TIME, it hurt to walk, I had no stamina for walking through town. It was more than an eye opening, It was downright scary. It was during this trip that I felt the ship begin to turn. Travel is funny, if you do it right, you get some time in your own head. I did some deep thinking about where I stood with things.
Over a series of evenings looking out over the Italian countryside, I took stock of my career, my health, and my life. I spent considerable time trying to locate the disconnect in my life. Long since gone was the time to feel sorry for myself, to be angry about my fall back into the world of morbid obesity. The price of continuing on the same path was too steep and I realized that without a doubt, if I were to continue doing exactly what I was doing, I was going to end up dead.
Upon returning from the trip, I began to work out scenarios where I could continue to work at my present job while carving out time to get the physical work done. Nothing seemed to pencil out. My first goal would be to turn my work situation into a work from home scenario (at least in part), in order to relieve the pressure of the commute, which ate up 2-4 hours a day. There was a general lack of willingness of my employer to even discuss this, which severely limited my options there. Check. Time to try something else.
After weeks of torturing myself with numerous end-game scenarios, it became clear my only option was to leave my job. Once that decision was made, I began to set aside money so that I might be able to take some time away from working in order to focus on my health. A leave of absence from the working world. A sabbatical. Call it what you want, but I wasn’t going to keep doing what I was doing. I had gone to the doctor, I was hypertensive, pre-diabetic, on the fast track to a heart attack at 37. No thanks. So, at the beginning of October 2015, I boxed up my feeble office belongings, packed them into my car, and set off for a 3 month sabbatical in which my sole purpose was to whip myself back into shape.
What happens next...is for my next post...I’ll let you know that that first few days back in the gym was like, what it felt like to see progress, and how the idea of being a “Coach” even entered the universe. Again, please feel free to share this with your friends...
THE FIRST WEEK OF FREEDOM
“So you’re quitting your job? No other plans? Just going to work out?”
These were the common questions I was getting, met with this face by most of my colleagues and friends
It's a terrifying thing, jumping without a net. Well...mostly without a net. I had saved enough money to live for 5 or 6 months without gainful employment, and the only thing on my current agenda, outside of being the best father I can be, was to “get healthy.” I thought I had some idea of what this meant, and what it would entail, but in the real world, nothing really quite goes on schedule…
For those that know me, they might say that I’m pretty methodical (some are shaking their head right now thinking that might be the understatement of the century). To put it bluntly, I’m a pain in the ass in this regard. I’m the guy that plans out almost everything. For example, I rehearse phone calls before I make them…both sides…
It goes without saying, I like to have an idea of how things are going to turn out before I start. This was no different. I had spent hours outlining 3 or 4 different versions of a daily schedule, what I would eat, when I would eat it, when I would work out, etc. I was putting all of my prior fitness knowledge and experience to work. I had decided that I was going to maximize this time. Nothing would have disappointed me more, than to have had this opportunity, and blown it.
To illustrate this point, I had written out a 2 week schedule of how I was going to use my time, I had each day planned out, down to the minute, in excruciating detail. I was going to kick this fitness thing’s ass. Time to put everything together and dominate. So, day one arrives and what did I do?
As in, 14 hours of uninterrupted, cannot muster the will to get out of bed, type sleep. This wasn’t the lazy Sunday, recovering from a hangover sleep that is cured by bacon, eggs, and coffee. This was full on “Boy in the Bubble” recovery sleep. I was broken. My body was sore, it ached from hours, upon hours, upon hours of sitting at my desk or in the car. Wearing a suit every day. Wearing hard soled shoes. Eating shit food. Sore from carrying 120 extra pounds around every single day. I had become somewhat blind to all of this discomfort on a daily basis because of the daily rat-race/stress induced coma my seemingly necessary “routine” required. It was no wonder I could no longer muster the will to workout, or do anything. I felt miserable physically, and this played on my psyche something fierce.
My closest friends will tell you, I’m generally fun to be around. Cracking jokes, generally affable, pleasant, accommodating to a fault. I’m not afraid to say what’s on my mind, or point out flawed thinking when I see it. When I’m at my best, I’m generally well liked. This was not who I was at this point. Far from it. To sum it up, I was a miserable prick. Quick tempered, sharp-tongued, and no filter. I imagine it was something like drinking from a condescending/snarky fire-hose every day.
So, this initial restorative sleep/hibernation was necessary. With no other distractions, my system shut it down and said “you should probably reboot here…you’re kind of a dick.”
This went on for about a week. I spent most of my day in bed, decompressing. By about the 4th or 5th day I started to see the seeds of my former self emerge. So, lesson one was forced upon me. Get my damn sleep in order. Check.
All of my plans, so carefully laid out, needed to be redrawn.
The second thing I did was get my food/diet back in line. Now, I love food. Clearly. I often joke “you don’t get a body like this NOT eating…” I also love eating quality food. Cooking is actually fun, and not at all a chore. When everything was going well a few years earlier, not only was I the primary chef in my household, I was constantly helping other folks get their diet in check. I like that sort of thing.
I was the “Paleo guy” (whatever that now means), at work and at home. I read all the books, blogs, and went to seminars. You know, basically got my geek on and proselytized at every opportunity possible. So, armed with all of that knowledge, I had gone out and done the kitchen cupboard purge. If it didn’t fit the plan, it was out. From there, my hours not sleeping were spent shopping for and prepping this week’s food and I was on track, prepping meals, etc. This is typical first week behavior for most people. By week 3, they’re back to pizza, potato chips and beer.
So, how do you avoid such regression? Well, sometimes its better to be lucky than good. That first week, I happened (quite randomly actually) to be invited to a Facebook group put together by a few people from my gym that were also trying to keep their diet in line. There were something like 6 members of this group, so not very big at all, but it was critical for me early on. I now had a group of motivated folks, posting recipes, pictures, motivational memes, and other words of encouragement. Just having fun, while eating clean. I jumped in and started posting, commenting, and sharing. Almost immediately I felt accountable for my food choices. My friends were expecting something from me in the way of content every day. I highly recommend doing this!!
So, sleep is on point…food is on point…let’s get down to it. What’s the plan physically? Well, first, we have to see how big a hill we have to climb. I’ve documented that I was 362lbs, had the agility of a terminally ill donkey, and fit into exactly none of my clothes. Here’s what I wrote the day I saw that number…
“A horrific feeling looking at the scale. I knew it would read something like this, however, seeing the number and comparing to how I feel makes it so much more real. I have spent this week dealing with the feelings that come along with seeing myself exactly 120 pounds heavier than I was 5 years ago, all that work I had done, in the toilet. It’s been destructive to my psyche. I’m now walking/talking proof that working in the traditional office environment, plus the S.A.D. diet, lack of sleep, plus stress is the recipe for death.”
So, the day arrives, time to gear up and head to the gym. I dust off my gym bag and do a quick inventory. Shit…I have three shirts. Three. Three t-shirts that I feel that I can wear to the gym and actually workout in. What the hell?! This was humbling to say the least. Boy was I in for a shock as to how this was the least of my problems.
Here’s what’s great about my gym. I walk in, and a guy I had literally never met, says “Shane! You’re back!! What’s up brother?!” and gives me a high five. Holy shit. They want me to be here. Also, that guy needs to chill out a little.
I spent the next 10 minutes catching up with my Coach (Cameron) and “new guy.” In no short order I hear “Ok, enough of this crap, let’s see what you got.” Ahhh…the sultry sounds of someone about to catch a beating.
The next hour and a half was some of the most humbling, and at times humiliating, of my life. Oh…how the mighty have fallen. First workout was a SHIT-SHOW. Something, though, was different. I was laughing when I couldn’t squat to depth. Laughing at the burning I felt as I attempted to do so. I smirked as I failed to bear-crawl 25 feet. A sense of satisfaction came over me as I watched the sweat drip off my forehead and pool on the ground as I attempted strict pushups, failing to get one. I was cracking jokes about my failure, but not in a “let’s hide the pain” kind of way. I had embraced the fact that I was who I was, at this moment in time. I was out of shape. That was a statement of fact. This time, however, this didn’t define me as a person as it had in the past. I could see, that as a person, I knew that I was flawed, but I am still of value. I had enough perspective to see that this work I was doing was going to make me an even better person, an even better father, and capable of living a longer, more fulfilling life. For this, I was appreciative, and every excruciating rep, was a step along that path.
There is no amount of planning you can do to gain that kind of perspective. Fighters say that the best plan in the world goes in the garbage, the second you get punched in the face. Such was the case here. I had to accept who I was at that moment, find the good things in myself, my progress, and then just focus on showing up and doing my subsequent homework. I would trust my coach would handle the rest.
On it went like this for a few weeks…I show up, I catch a beating, I laugh, I go home and eat properly and brag about it with friends in my little Facebook Food Nazi group, I sleep. Lather/Rinse/Repeat. The routine begins to set in, and more progress is made, slowly, incrementally, one day at a time. One morning, I realized, that I no longer hurt when walking barefoot. I noticed I could lightly jog a short distance without wheezing, or feeling pain. These are very little things, but just like your thoughts, you have to be mindful and aware of these things, and celebrate them. These are the early signs of major progress being made, and the little successes are what need to be celebrated the most, as they are cumulative. While initially, the there was that brutal inner dialogue each day driving to the gym, within a matter of a week or so, you start looking looking forward to that time. You know it's going to be tough, but you also know that you're up to the task. The feeling of accomplishing something that is difficult becomes the replacement for any food cravings, or desire to sit back and let life pass you by.
Enough for now…next up, current progress...the distance traveled, and the transition from Student to Coach…
…it’s been awhile…sorry about that, but to be quite honest, this part of the story is currently “in progress”, thus, I’ve had to actually live it a little bit before I could opine.
So, to catch up…Last we spoke, it was October 2015, and I was just back to the gym. As referenced, the first two weeks of getting back was the toughest. But the key to success in those early days was a familiar and supportive Coach and community of friends in the gym each day, as well as the support of a great family at home. Pretty soon, however, going in and doing the work, wasn’t “work” any longer. The way I looked at it, I got to see my friends, laugh, and get a good sweat going. 100% of the days I went to the gym, I felt better leaving than I had when I arrived.
In retrospect, that had little to do with where the gym was located, what amenities it provided, or how fancy this or that piece of equipment was, or how clever the coaching was. That early success really boiled down to two things. Progress, and support.
I was seeing progress, each and every day. I had to train my eye to see it a first, but it was there. One extra rep here, or a little more range of motion there. The support came in the form of my new "colleagues". Friendly faces, each and every day, supporting me throughout the process was critical to that early success.
Most surprisingly, however, was that I found that sharing my story and showing up every day to work on my own goals, was a source of motivation and inspiration to others. This is where the seeds of the transition from student to coach began to take root. In no time at all, I was into a rhythm, with no job holding me back, or impeding my progress, I was free to sleep, eat, walk, workout, and rest as needed. I also took time to delve into other areas of my life that I didn't get a chance to explore much. I picked up my guitar again, created art, read, listened to podcasts that I needed to catch up on, and most importantly, spent some time in thought. Not necessarily contemplating the origins of the universe, or anything like that, but simply digging in to what it is I wanted in my professional and personal life, and charting my course.
Most of us drift along from place to place, each day, without some sort of driving motivation behind us. This is fine, but like the Cheshire Cat says to Alice when she asks which path she should take. He replies something to the effect of "If you don't know where you're going, then it doesn't much matter which path you choose." For most of us, this is true, and as long as we just keep walking, we will get somewhere eventually. If, however, you are really looking to make a change in your life, having a point on the horizon to navigate toward is critical. Here are some interesting thoughts on how to figure out what that goal is, or where that point on the horizon might be.
So...brass tacks...where am I at with all of this? Have I gone from doughy wad of goo, to super athlete that looks like he’s been carved out of granite? No. Have there been significant changes? Here are my current “stats,” as it were.
|Measure||July 2013||October 2015||August 2016|
|Max Pullups (w/kip)||11||You jokin’||2|
|Max Pullups (strict)||2||You TRIPPIN’||0 - but its coming|
|1RM Shoulder Press||215||155||205|
|1RM Back Squat||305||225||285|
So, I was never a "world-beater" but I'd say I'm about ½ way “back” as it were. Not too shabby. For the visual among us, here are the photos, so far:
So…no statue of David type results, right? But that’s hardly the point. Progress. Slow, incremental, SUSTAINABLE, progress.
I’m stoked on how this has gone so far. Honestly, I can’t wait to see where I am in a year. It is important to keep all of this in perspective. The most important measure is how I feel everyday. For an idea of what it feels like to lose 57 pounds, go pick up a small child (5 or 6 years old) and carry them around for the entire day. You can't set them down, and you have to take them EVERYWHERE with you. You'll very soon realize how exhausting life can be.
I also realize, not everyone can quit their job to focus solely on their fitness. For 99.99% of the population, you have to live your life, and work the daily maintenance of your body (working out, nutrition, mobility, etc.) into the onslaught of intrusions that are explicitly trying to undo all of your hard work. I say all of this, to reiterate the point, that this is a PROCESS.
It’s awesome to see the dramatic success stories that are shown on TV, or online. They can be very inspiring, but truth be told, the lack of context can be a problem. Side by side, full transformation photos don’t illuminate the daily work that is done along that journey. This is why I have chosen to post pictures as I walk the path. To show that this doesn't happen overnight. Many of the transformations we read and hear about, if done via traditional means, take many months to accomplish. But the photos give us, the reader, the sense that *poof* overnight there was change. The level of consistency and dedication that person put in, gets lost in a quick side by side photo comparison. Thus, people get frustrated when their own progress doesn’t seem to happen overnight. Big results are actually just a string of successful small steps.
Consistency is probably the most underrated aspect of anyone’s fitness journey. Most people get drunk on the early gains they make, they get frustrated that their success levels off, and often times throw in the towel. What people fail to realize is that as your body changes, it adapts to the inputs you are giving it. You must continually tweak, and refine these inputs in order to continue to achieve the success you are looking for.
So what are these measures of success? For most people, it’s the number on the scale. It is extremely important to be careful here. Using this as your sole measure of progress is akin to looking outside and seeing a rainy day and saying “well…looks like the weather is ALWAYS crappy here”, then saying the opposite thing the next day when the sun is shining. This is not to say it shouldn’t be considered, but it’s an incomplete measure, at best. As I have done above, you need to combine outputs to truly measure success.
The things you track should directly relate to the goals you are trying to accomplish. For example, you can tell I'm trying to get back to doing strict pull-ups, I'd like to squat over 300lbs and Deadlift over 400lbs again. The goal isn't just in achieving that number, I know that for me, I feel great physically when my body is in a place to accomplish these tasks. So, do the work in the gym, all of the appropriate accessory work outside of it, and take measurements and photos every 30 days, track your progress in your workouts, PAY ATTENTION TO HOW YOU FEEL, how your clothes fit, and yes, weigh yourself ON OCCASION. This is the safest, and most sane way to track your progress. When you start looking at the aggregate output of your work, you see your true progress. One measure, simply isn’t enough.
So, quite a few people have asked, "why did you write this?" or "Why put yourself out there and expose all of your warts?" Simply put...this is for you as much as it is for me. Anyone reading this far and having followed along to this point, likely has an area of their life they aren’t 100% pleased with. Whether it is your fitness, a personal relationship, or any other area of your life, only you can choose to change or improve it. It’s not going to be easy, it might be painful, it might require that you swallow your ego, but no doubt, it’s going to require work, and consistent effort. Depending on the situation, it could be ALL of these things, but in the end, there is no better decision you will make for your overall well-being.
So what are you going to do?
If you’re looking to make a change to your health and fitness, you have a ton of options. Honestly, no matter which route you choose, remember there is no quick fix. My recommendation, of course, would be to go look for a gym like ours that is a part of the MadLab group and find your “Coach for Life”...TODAY. Of course, if you live near me, you know a guy...drop me a line and we can chat.
Regardless of what your needs might be, get up...I mean it... stand up, right now, and walk away from the device you are reading this on, and write down the 1 thing you want most in life...then chart a course to getting it.
In closing, I want to say thank you. Thank you to Cameron for being my coach, and for encouraging me to get back in the saddle. Furthermore, thank you for giving me this opportunity to transition from student to coach* and trusting me with the responsibility that comes along with it. Thank you to our members and my clients for trusting me with their health and fitness, you inspire and motivate me to be better each day. Thank you to my family and friends for their support as I do this work, both for myself and for my clients, your support is critical.
Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t say thank you to everyone that has reached out to me individually regarding my story. I’m so thrilled to hear that people from halfway across the globe have read my meandering thoughts, and have found some sort of inspiration to begin their own journeys toward personal fitness, or have redoubled their efforts. It is humbling to think that I have helped in that regard. I’ll be sure to check in here from time to time...keeping you abreast of the current state of things!
*I know that I had referenced telling the story about my transition from student to coach. As I wrote this portion of the story, it grew into it’s own blog post. I’ll be sure to revisit this here soon.