“You know, life can be very funny. Every day we make choices in our life uncertain of how they will affect our future the only guarantee is that those choices will affect us eventually, whether it is in a positive or negative manner.
Throughout my life, the choices that I have made both good and bad, led me to Anytime Fitness and USA Elite. The bad choice being my unhealthy eating habits and lack of exercise and the good choice of getting myself up off the couch and into the gym.
I had wanted to get into the gym for a long time. It had been over 25 years since I had done any type of regular exercise program. But you know how life can sometimes get in the way. Before you knew it, the years were passing me by. My choice to “wait till tomorrow” to start an exercise program was causing life to make a choice for me.
Having a mother who died from cancer and a father who died from a massive coronary and myself having been a smoker, I had a lot of negative family history stacked against me. I had always believed that you have to play the cards that you are dealt, so it did not totally surprise me on that day in 1994 when I went to the doctor because I wasn’t feeling well and was told that I had cancer which had already metastasized to my lung. My only thought was that I had to somehow get through this. I didn’t want to die, I wanted to LIVE! So I chose to fight and do whatever I had to do to get healthy again. I had just met a wonderful woman (whom I would later marry), and we had three young children that were counting on me to be there for them. I had no choice but to put on my big boy pants and do what I had to do. It was a rough year for me, between chemotherapy and two surgeries to remove tumors and part of my lung, but I made it and was deemed cancer free in 1995.
Having survived my cancer and doing my fair share of living in doctor’s offices and hospitals back then, I made it a point to avoid doctors as much as possible in the here and now. In January of 2009, my wife convinced me to go get a checkup. As expected, I didn’t like what he had to say. I had now followed in my father’s footsteps. I was overweight, my cholesterol and triglycerides were elevated, my blood pressure was extremely high, some of my major arteries were clogged including one to my heart and he was ready to put me on medication for type II diabetes, high blood pressure and hyperlipidemia. He stated to me that I was now in a medical situation that I too, could have a massive coronary just like my dad! I felt like I was at death’s door again. My nutritional choices and lack of exercise had finally caught up to me. How could I possibly go home and share with my wife this news after all we had been through with me not even 15 years prior, that my dream of living a long life with her was again in jeopardy? I asked the doctor how long he would give me to change my diet with exercise to see if I could avoid medication for all of my health problems. He gave me three months to try this on my own. It was then that my wife and I made our first lifestyle change. We started making healthier choices for meals and we met with Stacy and joined Anytime Fitness. At my next office visit with the doctor, three months later, I was happy to hear that my numbers had changed drastically and that I wouldn’t have to take medication as long as I continued down the correct nutritional path. My doctor was amazed that I had self-corrected my health problems in just three months and encouraged me to keep doing what I was doing.
My wife and I were both on a good path with our weight loss. As a result of this, I noticed improvements in all aspects of my life. I was more energetic, more focused at work and I actually looked forward to going to the gym and doing my workouts. This, along with the health benefits and staying off the medication, made me want to continue with this.
When I decided to enter the Body Challenge, I thought that I was about 10-15 lbs overweight and that it would challenge me to get some weight off and to further enhance my fitness goals. I started at 254 lbs and when I was told that my first goal was to get down to 232 lbs, I thought that it was a bit unrealistic but attainable. Little did I know that Tony Bonawit (USA Elite) had other plans for me. I really thought that Tony was crazy when he told me that my next goal weight was going to be 218 lbs. I hadn’t been 218 lbs since the 80’s. I couldn’t even picture what that would look like.
So I started down this fitness path with a lot of help along the way. I soon found out that I know nothing about nutrition and/or fitness. With the help of my wife, who really helped me with the serious lifestyle changes I needed to make at home with my diet modifications, as well as Tony, C.J., Joe and Tonya coaching me along the way, I started slowly seeing results. I became even more confident that I could do this. The goal of entering in the Total Body Challenge changed to, I was going to put the work in that was required to compete in the TBC. Everyone around me was working hard and I made the “choice” to step my game up. I continued with eating better and making better choices. I started to maximize my time at the gym. When I say I started slowly, I mean that I really wasn’t as committed as I needed to be in the beginning. I wanted it – but was only working at a mediocre pace to get there. I wasn’t sold on the whole diet thing. I was cheating fairly often. But now my cheats were protein bars and rice cakes and stuff like that. The choices were better but I knew that I still had more in me.
For me, I love going to the gym and working out. But what I learned was that it takes more than just lifting weights. Working out for a couple of hours a day did not guarantee the fitness goals that I wanted to achieve. I soon realized that there were 22 more hours in a day that I needed to make use of. Choosing the right foods and when to eat was something that was proving to be more difficult than just pushing iron around. But with the help of Tony and C.J. and lots of patience on their behalf, I learned that making further eating modifications was going to be an essential part of pushing me to where I needed to be. One of the greatest things that I learned during this journey was how to maximize my efforts I learned that I didn’t have to spend hours upon hours at the gym, but I did have to insure that I was working with the proper intensity. I learned that if I went hard for forty-five minutes of cardio, it could be just as effective as 90 minutes of cardio. I learned how to give my time at the gym everything that I had.
On day 60 of the challenge, I passed the goal that Tony had set for me. We established a new goal weight. Again, Tony and USA Elite challenge me to better myself. This time when Tony gave me the number, I didn’t blink. I lowered my head and decided to work even harder and with more intensity. If Tony thought that I could achieve that new goal, then I was going to work hard to show him that I could. Throughout all of this, Tony always believed in me more than I believed in myself. I became stricter with my diet. I didn’t think about what they told me to do – I just did it.
With the help of my wife, friends before the TBC and with the friends that I have made since starting the challenge, the USA Elite and Anytime Fitness team, my “choice” to compete in the TBC was the best choice that I could have ever made. This just proves that there are no excuses. If you make the “choice” you can overcome health issues or any other situation that may be preventing you from getting started on a path to a healthier you!
I know now, so much more about “choices” than I ever knew before. Every choice we make can “make or break” us. I am now resolved to making the types of choices that will “make” me. As a direct result of my motivation to get healthier, my wife by my side to help lead me down the path and the great coaching staff at USA Elite – I am in a great place today at over 60 pound lighter that I was when I started and have a good foundation to work with. My new motto is “To get something you never had, you have to do something you never did”. With the help of Anytime Fitness and USA Elite, I think I lived up to that this year.