So you wanna hear my story? Let’s do this in two different versions then.

Here’s the short, short, cliff notes version (For those interested in the nitty, gritty details scroll down):

I was a fairly athletic kid growing up.  I played high school sports and lifted weights, but once I got into college I pretty much ceased all athletic activity. This continued into my professional career and before I knew it I was 50 pounds overweight.

Fortunately I had the will to do something about it and I got into running and endurance sports.  I lost the weight, but always struggled during the winter months when I wasn’t training for a race.  And while I may have been fast and able to swim, bike, and run all day, I got WEAK.

And weakness led to injury. Injury led to weight gain.

Again I found myself needing to lose weight.  This time I focused on eating healthy and getting strong and feel I’m now the fittest I’ve been in my life (and that’s saying something coming from a 2x Ironman). I fell in love with lifting and what it could do for my overall fitness and well being. It’s sparked a passion to share this lifestyle, and hence my aspiration to get into coaching and the birth of this website.

 

Whew. Okay got that out. As promised what follows is the drawn out, more detailed version of that story for those that are interested.  I’m not promising and exhilarating read, but it does highlight my struggles with weight loss and body image that I think many people can resonate with.

 

Growing up my father helped my brother and I get into athletics at a young age. He provided all the tools and help we could have possibly needed to become great athletes.  We had a wrestling mat in our basement. He would take us to the gym to lift weights. We would ride bikes to the baseball diamond for batting practice.  You name it and he would help us out. I was very fortunate in that regard.

The life stories of many of my favorite fitness professionals and strength coaches often share a common theme of them falling in love with sports and lifting and knowing instantly that that was their passion.  That is not my story.

My passion to lead a healthy lifestyle and pursue athletic excellence did not firmly take hold until several years down the road.  One could argue that it still hasn’t completely taken hold, but I know that each day I strive to get better those roots grow a little deeper.

You would think that with all of the athletic opportunities at my fingertips that I would have morphed into a badass multi-time state champion wrestler or stud pitcher or linebacker or something.  That didn’t happen. Instead I worked hard enough to be decent at the sports I played and finished my high school athletic career with a couple of varsity letters in football and wrestling, but never posting any real outstanding results.

The champion mindset and work ethic never took hold.

So off to college I went, and here’s where my story takes an all too common turn.  Couple a lack of physical activity with a buffet style cafeteria and late nights of drinking and post bar pizza and it was physical disaster.  By the time I graduated I had put on a significant amount of weight and the same sort of lifestyle led to continued weight gain during the first few years of my professional career.

Fortunately I hit a tipping point where I decided enough is enough.  It was time to lose some weight.

It was time to take action. That action was running around the block.

It sucked. And my friends laughed at me the first time I came huffing and puffing back to the apartment.  But I persisted at it and one loop turned to two, two loops turned to a mile, and slowly but surely the weight started coming off.  Of course, if I knew what I know now I would have taken a different route to lose the weight, but it was working and I couldn’t argue with the results at the time.

I dropped 50 pounds, fell in love with running (which was odd because I never was a track or cross country guy in high school), and eventually started doing some local running races.

Then I heard about the sport of triathlon from a coworker. It sounded like a challenge and since I was already running so much it was just a matter of teaching myself how to swim and buying a bike to ride.  I did my first race a few months later and was absolutely hooked.
Turns out I was fairly decent at it too, which made it fun and exciting.  I progressed up the distances, eventually completing a couple of Ironman distance races, which still remains to this day one of my proudest achievements.
But there was a downside to that lifestyle. Through it all though, while I was enjoying success, I was never entirely satisfied with how my body looked.  I could never quite understand how I could be working out so much (18-20 hours a week during Ironman training) and still have a gut that never went away. Guys that I was so much faster than were so much leaner than I was.

IM Gut

My “Ironman gut” before Ironman Wisconsin 2010

I worked out more, and ate less and that didn’t work.  I consigned myself to believing that I could never lose that last 10 pounds. That belief in the futility led me in the opposite direction. I fell into the typical trap of the “I’m going to eat a bunch of crap anyway because it really doesn’t matter” mentality.  I had NO idea about food quality and fueling for performance.

During heavy training periods I could get away with that and remain somewhat lean, what many would call skinny fat.  The off season was a different story.

Ahhh….the off season.  That period of time after your last big fall race and before you really need to start preparing for your first spring race.  There are two approaches to the off season: work your ass off to come back faster next year or rest on the prior year’s achievements and be lazy all winter.

Unfortunately all too often I sent with the latter option.  I had a good year, I deserved some time off right? This led to a bunch of weight gain in the off season that I had to work off come the spring.  It was my version of a yo-yo diet, only seasonal.

This trend persisted for several years, and probably would have persisted for several more had I not injured myself in the summer of 2013.

At that time my training focus had shifted to the marathon and trying to qualify for Boston.  The year prior I had fallen short of the qualifying time by 3 minutes.  I was determined to shave those 3 minutes off my time and started piling on more mileage during the spring and early summer.  I was racing too and failing to recover properly between races. I was so focused on the goal and determined to follow the plan that I had laid out that I neglected to listen to my body.

My Achilles tendon absolutely rebelled.  Of course I was fearful of getting off schedule and I made the mistake of trying to run through the pain. It only made matters worse. I eventually had to take time off.

I won’t lie, the time off made me depressed.  I didn’t feel like doing much of anything to even try and stay in shape even though I knew I should. Often times, instead of going for a run after work, I would I would down a six pack of beer, another vice of mine that I had been unable to kick since college.

Before I knew it I had ballooned up to 180 pounds!! This was 20 pounds above my “racing” weight and a little heavier than my typical off season weight.  And it wasn’t even September yet!

Paper

My second tipping point. Does this look like the body of an endurance athlete to you?

So for the second time in my life I hit a tipping point.  I couldn’t afford to put another 20-30 pounds on in the offseason.  I had to do something about it.

I started with diet because I still couldn’t run on my Achilles.  I didn’t know much about diet, but I knew enough to start cutting out processed foods so that’s where I started.  Then I did a stint of raw foods for awhile before settling of my own versions of the JERF principle (Just Eat REAL Foods) that included meat.

Diet wasn’t enough for me. I needed to exercise too. Endurance stuff was off the table due to the injury and my lack of interest to get back in the pool (swimming was always my least favorite of the three triathlon disciplines) so I picked up a beginner strength training program that focused on bodyweight exercises.

Tyler Bramlett’s CT-50 program was exactly what I needed (Bonus points if you check out the site and spot me in the testimonial video).  Like too many endurances athletes I had completely neglected strength training and it showed. I had no muscle whatsoever.

And I was a giant wuss.

But that program got me into shape.  There were different levels and challenge workouts that you had to pass before moving onto the next level.  You constantly had a goal to work toward so it was easy to attack each workout with gusto.

I slimmed down some and eventually graduated the program and needed another challenge to keep shedding fat.

That’s when I found kettlebells, Travis Stoetzel, and his “Train Aggressive” philosophy. It was the perfect combination at the time.

In four months I went from soft and pudgy to the leanest I had ever been in my life.  I hadn’t felt that strong and athletic since my high school wrestling days.

GBBFrontBefore

After CT-50, before GBB

GBBAfter

After 4 months of GBB. Yes, the first time I can remember seeing my abs

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

And I could run again!

All because of the strength training.

It was my epiphany of sorts: to realize how beneficial getting strong really is.

It truly is a foundation that everyone needs.  I believe that had I cultivated this foundation during my endurance days I would have suffered far fewer injuries and been a better athlete because of it.

So how did I get from there to this website? Well, the epiphany led me to want to learn more about becoming stronger and healthier. I started following other coaches, reading books and blogs, listening to podcasts, and testing workout and diet strategies.  I am in constant pursuit of knowledge and I want to use that to help others learn and improve themselves.

As I said on My Mission page, if that’s just one person, then I’ve accomplished what I set out to do.

So that’s my story thus far.  I invite you to listen to what I have to say and hopefully you learn something too. I can’t promise all of the answers because I still have so much to learn myself.  When in doubt do what I’ve done in pursuit of health and fitness and follow the advice of Bruce Lee:

“Absorb what is useful,

Discard what is not,

Add what is uniquely your own”