That happened

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Mobility:
Hip Mobility on Box, 2 minutes each leg

Warmup:
15 Overhead Squats
15 GHD Situps
15 Hip Extensions
15 Strict Pullups
15 Push ups
20 Double Unders
25 yard shuttle sprint

Workout of the day:
Eight rounds for time of:
10 Burpees
15 Jumping alternating lunges
20 Double-unders
25 yard Shuttle sprint (5 x 5 yards)
Rest 90 seconds

Rule for the shuttle sprint is that hand must touch the line.

Cool Down:
25 Hollow Rocks
20 GHD Situps
15 Strict Knees to Elbows

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Ten years ago and a million miles away

Today will be the first day in a series discussing how my life has changed over the past ten years or so.  Most people assume I have been into fitness and health or an athlete my whole life, but the truth is that I used to be the exact opposite.  Lets take the above photo as an example.  The year was 2002, and I was sitting in a fridge to test out the weight capacity, as we were about to have a gangsta themed 40oz party.  No, the gold tooth wasn’t real, but that cigarette certainly was!  Leading up to the party, I spent hours making invitations, shopping around local outlet stores and costume shops to buy props for the party.  This was what I spent my time and money on, health and fitness didn’t really fit in to my lifestyle.

The truth is that I began writing the story below when I first opened the gym, almost 2 years ago.  I realized that people did not understand how long the process was to reverse years of inactivity.  I had worked for 5 years at that point and was still struggling to perform workouts Rx’d.  I would hear stuff like, “That’s easy for you to say, you’re Mr Fitness, or you’re an athlete!”  If they only knew!  This sentiment and these feelings are what I want to address head on and as honestly as possible.  Most of us need to reverse years of poor posture, eating habits, lack of exercise and proper movement.  We need to face our familial and social traditions and educate ourselves on human physiology and nutrition.  These processes are all essential to making a lasting change to your health and well being and it takes time.  I wrote this because I want you to know that it is possible!  Progress may seem slow, but we really can change!  I hope you enjoy the story…

Getting into the business of changing lives, I had to start with my own. I still worry about a lot of things. I know that I shouldn’t. Take money for instance. The evidence is everywhere, and I have seen enough E! True hollywood stories to know that money is not happiness. But its still this nagging itch that I have never conquered. Growing up, I made the classic assumption that I would somehow be wealthy enough to never need to know anything about budgeting, simple economics or personal finance. Full of optimism and a things will work out because I’m a good person attitude left me broke and directionless (ie, struggling actor) at the age of 25.

I find myself in an interesting position of selling a product to people that I would not have purchased just five years ago. I would not have been able to justify spending $150-200 on a ‘gym membership.’ The amount is certainly nothing to laugh at, but when you prioritize the things you spend money on, it seems obvious that health should be somewhere near the top. Instead, I would justify spending $75 on a night out drinking at least once a week. Somehow the concept that we have only one life to live has not transferred into the notion of taking care of our one body. Listen to what this high school student has to say about their health, “If I want to be physically fit I’ll do it on my own time, maybe when I’m older. Right now I need to focus on my future, not on my body. Thanks.” I used to be this person. Maybe not exactly, but I saw my health as something I would get to eventually, that I was young, I wasn’t overweight and I was having fun. No regrets, funny right.

I can recall trying to convince myself that I had something of a physique when I looked in the mirror, that I had a six pack just under that extra skin if I pulled it down, that I wasn’t that out of shape. That my lifestyle wasn’t the cause for my ever worsening digestive issues. After all, I was going to be rich and famous. I literally believed that it would happen because I was special. In the words of Tyler Durden, “We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.” Hell yeah, I’m pissed off! Are you? Where is the emphasis on health in our education system? It simply doesn’t exist! I went to school in Chicago suburbia and I swear I had one class during one half of my freshman year called health. Think about what they served in your cafeteria. Our PE class had us in the weight room three days a week (only because I was on a sports team, the nonathletic kids didn’t even get that), with little to no instruction about movement and nothing about nutrition. The education part of the class was lost sometime long ago. You didn’t go there to learn anything. Not the way you did to history class or science class anyway.

I was lucky enough to have parents that believed in cooking their own food, but many families are ‘too busy’ to go shopping or prepare their own food. My mom was disgusted by how I loved the Chef Boyardee canned raviolis my friends served me at their homes. I couldn’t put my finger on why it was so delicious, but it just was so different than anything my parents made at home. I had a love affair with Little Debbie snacks. I would come home from school and eat two or three nutty bars or star crunches. My mom would have to hide the boxes from me so they would last for my school lunches. People eat what they think is normal food, with no idea how it affects their bodies. How could they know?

Take all of these factors into play: poor financial responsibility, lack of physical education, delusions of grandeur, and social pressures and you can begin to envision me as a young adult.

Let me explain quickly the life I lived and defended vigorously until about 5 years ago. Socializing was my life. School was a vessel for me to get out of my parents house and party like I had always dreamed. I did just that. Six years as an undergrad, my first semester I received a 0.98, politely asked to leave after my first year, I attended two junior colleges, and finally ended with a degree in Leisure Studies from the University of Illinois at the age of 23. Through it all, I drank and I smoked and I got by, with no plans for where I was going or how it was going to work out. I planned on being a bachelor for life. Traveling the world, bedding beautiful women and at some point I would probably become an actor. Things always just worked out and there was always a funny story to tell. I continued the party after college as I got a job on a cruise ship and eventually ended up in the Virgin Islands for two years. There is no ‘sin tax’ there, so booze and cigarettes are dirt cheap and a fresh batch of willing party goers arrived each week. It was the pinnacle of the life I had been looking for, but reality kept creeping into the back of my mind. What was I going to do for work for the rest of my life? Was I going to continue to scrape by? I needed to finally make my move and prove to everyone how special I was. It was time. I decided to move to LA and put my face in front of the camera. There are a few things that happened along the way here that need to be pointed out, the seeds of my physical fitness journey had been planted. You may have heard these stories before, but just in case, there were two moments within months of each other that opened my eyes to the fact that I needed to start doing something to get in better shape.

The first was an intramural soccer game that my fraternity was playing. They were short of players and needed a few extra people to help out. Since I played soccer all my life up until college, I said I could play. The reality was not pretty. They subbed me in for a player, I ran and chased the ball around for about 5 minutes and puked on the sideline. That was event one. About two months later I was invited to go wake boarding for the first time. Like so many other things I had watched on television, I knew I could do this, the physics made sense and I was a capable individual. Things did not go according to plan. Not only did I barely stand up, but when I did, I was completely out of control. I was an epic failure and the following day, my body was ruined from head to toe. I couldn’t move my arms or make fists, my back was jacked up, my neck was aching from whiplash. That was event two. It suddenly dawned on me that I was going to have to be physically fit in order to achieve the life I had envisioned. That month I began to run and do push ups. Since I was so out of shape, I made a rule for myself, it doesn’t matter if you don’t run very far or if you can’t do that many push ups, but be sure to run one step further each time you run, or do one more push up than the last time and I knew I would get somewhere eventually.

Interesting side note: My roommate at the time was a biochemistry major and made a comment one day as I was doing pushups, that you can build more muscle by working out with shorter rest intervals at higher intensity, typically less than a minute between sets he told me.  Veeery interesting!

That somewhere I ended up being was St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. If you haven’t been there, imagine a few mountaintops sticking out the sea. Beautiful beaches that rise into steep switchback roads and then down again. They have a race called the 8 Tuff miles. It was not something I had any interest in doing, until some girl made a comment about doing it and I drunkenly said, “I should do it too!” The race begins at sea level with a six mile 1000ft climb, and finishes at sea level two again some miles later. Brutal. I had six weeks to train and I had never run more than 3 miles in my life at that point. I ran the hills around my house a couple times a week, before a night out of drinking of course, but I was diligent. When race-day came, I remember passing the 3 mile marker saying I’ve never ran this far before in my life! And I have 5 more miles to go! The girl I was running it with, was saying crazy shit like, “Isn’t this fun!” and “I should come back and run here some other time!” It was miserable, but I made it in under an hour and a half. When I looked back at what I had done, there was this huge sense of accomplishment. Funny right. How obvious. I thought to myself, I can do better than that next year! And so it began, the missing link fell into place. I finally had something to train for. As it happened, I was already planning on moving to LA and so the follow up race was to be a grand trip back to the island.

To be continued…

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