My old High School Science Research teacher Dr. Pavlica repeatedly told us budding young scientists that you can’t just talk the talk – you have to walk the walk. It certainly stuck and as I became more active in coaching and training clients, I made sure that I was pursuing my own health & fitness journey with the same commitment I wanted my clients to have. Given that I am now 40 years old and have achieved many of my health & fitness goals, I thought there was no better time to post a client success story featuring me. This was a 10 year journey and, as the picture below clearly shows, the transformation was significant.
My Initial Goals
In 2007 I was 30 years old and very skinny. Given my height is a whopping 6’3″, my frailty was plainly obvious to everyone no matter what I was wearing or doing. I didn’t like the way I looked. I was nowhere close to looking like models in fitness magazines – I was literally skin and bones. It was about this time that I decided to take action that would place me on the road to looking and feeling better. I knew I couldn’t do this alone and that I would need help. Yes, even coaches need a coach.
I had several coaches that played a very significant role in my success over these past 10 years, so I am more than pleased to be able to thank them publicly here for all their guidance. They are listed below in timestamp order from the earliest connection to the most recent:
My Parents: We now know nutrition is fundamental to meeting any physical goal, whether it be body appearance, performance in activities, or simply staying healthy and free of disease. That my parents figured this out years ago was a true blessing. From a very young age my parents raised me with a diet that centered around whole, unprocessed foods and minimized added sugar. Yes, we still had pizza night and the occasional soda on a holiday, but those weren’t staples of my diet. My mother cooked nearly every meal. And when she had to pack a lunch for school, my snacks where vegetables and real fruits. Meanwhile, my classmates were eating Cheetos and Oreos. I was ridiculed daily and often ate alone. It was a miserable experience, but my parents said this was important for my health and when I grew older I would look back and say that it was worth it and I’m all the better for it. Well, they were exactly right. My journey would have been much harder had they not instilled healthy eating habits early on in my childhood.
Me: Yes, I am listing myself as one of the coaches I need to thank. This isn’t to be egotistical, but to remind everyone that it is YOU that ultimately has to take your journey. You are the one that has to find the other coaches who are right for you, who has to learn what works and doesn’t work, who has to come to grips with what you want/need, who has to make the time to put the work in, and who has to carry through on the tough decisions. We must always give ourselves due credit when we go on our journey. I probably contributed more to my journey than my average client would to theirs because I was also a scientist and a coach. I knew a lot about biology and read materials relating to health and fitness voraciously. So, I noted and employed many approaches on my own (and still do). But invariably, even the most knowledgeable person will hit a stumbling block. As Gandalf said, “Even the wisest cannot see all ends.” And so a few years into my fitness journey I had added only a tiny bit of muscle mass and still had too much “skinny” fat in certain locations (my buttocks). It was enough to force me to do something I always had a hard time with – talking to strangers. One day I asked a fit guy sitting next to me on a plane how he got so fit and he said “CrossFit.”
Anthony Preischel (CrossFit Hell’s Kitchen): I read/watched everything “CrossFit” that was available in 2009 and hopped around to several CrossFit boxes until I finally landed at CrossFit Hell’s Kitchen. On my first day there Muscle-Up skill work was the first part of class. I didn’t have this movement and had been told previously I was lacking the strength. Anthony, however, sized me up and told me I did have the strength. Then, after several skill progressions spanning 20 min of practice, I got my first muscle-up on the rings. That was just the beginning. I continued to learn innumerable things from Anthony. I realized I wasn’t lifting heavy enough, wasn’t pushing hard enough in conditioning pieces, had technique/movement inefficiencies that were holding me back, and wasn’t eating enough. The list goes on and on. My skill set flourished under Anthony. Nearly every CrossFit skill I now possess was obtained under his coaching (Ring Muscle Up, Bar Muscle-up, Rope Climb, Handstand Push-Ups, Double Unders, etc.). These skills, which I never thought I’d be able to develop, all became goals and eventually realities. And of course, in the process, I added muscle and dropped some of that unwanted booty fat.
Michael Wolf (Wolf Strength & Conditioning/Starting Strength): In 2014 I found myself coaching at Solace New York where Wolf was running a strength cycle based on the Starting Strength method. I had read the book years ago, but it didn’t seem to click. Nobody I knew was using it in my CrossFit circle. Wolf was (and still is) big and strong. At this point in my journey I looked good. I was very lean and stronger than in 2007, but still somewhat lanky and wanting to be even bigger and stronger (it’s really hard for tall guys to not look skinny; they need a lot of muscle mass). I knew I could keep improving doing CrossFit, but I also knew that given my height and age, it would be a VERY slow progression. So, I started chatting with Wolf. I read all the Starting Strength material again and he took me under his wing, mentoring me in the program’s ways. I loved that the program was based on the biology and mechanics of the human biology. The science spoke to me and I fell in love with it. I really wanted to try the program myself, but it meant taking a break from CrossFit for a while. I was very reluctant to do this and Wolf didn’t press me. So, I tried doing both Starting Strength and CrossFit at once as a Novice and, of course, ran into trouble. Wolf came back to me after that and asked me to trust him and give it a shot. And like a good pupil, I listened to my coach. I did the program properly. The results were substantial. I was lifting more weight that I ever thought I could. All of a sudden I had new goals with more weight to lift. Although I was training for strength, I now had caught a bit of the Powerlifting bug.
Of course, deep down I am still a CrossFitter and somehow needed to marry the two training disciplines. With all I had learned, and continued guidance from my coaches above, I figured out a way to do just that. I became fitter yet again. And here I am. At 40 years old I look, feel, and perform better than I ever have before.
When I started out at 175lbs I had virtually no CrossFit skills (no Muscle-Ups, Double Unders, Handstand Push-Ups, etc.). I was also incredibly weak. A Back Squat with added weight was foreign to me, my Press was under 95lbs, my Bench Press was under 115lbs and I couldn’t Deadlift even 135lbs off the ground).
I am now 200lbs at around 9% body fat and I have the majority of CrossFit skills under my belt, along with significantly more strength. You can see a lot of my progress on my Instagram and YouTube channel, but to summarize, as of about 4 months ago when I tested them, my 1RM lifts were: 355lb Back Squat, 242.5lb Bench Press, 147.5lb Press, 455lb Deadlift.
All of these accomplishments are in large part due to the wonderful coaches I have named above. I am extremely lucky to have met them and luckier still that they continue to coach me even now.