Category Archives: fitness

My Fitness Journey

I first started taking fitness seriously in 2005.  That was when I had finally had enough of not being fit.

Our creator provided each of us with a billion dollar machine when we were born, yet most of us treat it like it is an old junker.  I know this to be true of me – I have been through my share of ups and downs over the years with my body.

I have expressed my love for the martial arts a number of times before.  It was through Jiu Jitsu that it had become clear that I needed to make drastic changes or I would not be able to participate any longer.  At the time I was getting beaten, hurt and felt like crap all the time.  I had always lifted weights and did some form of cardio, but I lacked in either the diet or conditioning part of fitness. I was unwilling to step out of my comfort zone and take in new methods of approaching fitness.

I was stuck in the 1980’s Encyclopedia of Bodybuilding workout mode, which would be fine if I wanted to be a bodybuilder, but I wanted to have an athlete’s build.  I am short, stocky, bulky and look puffy if I pound iron like Arnold.

It just so happens that at the time I was about to start investing in my well-being a lot of information was becoming available on the interweb. I spent a lot of time reading material, researching everything I could find on training, strength, conditioning, and diet. I had to use my B.S. filter a lot because while there is a lot of great information, there is also a lot of bad.

It was then that I purchased my first kettlebell. It was not what I was used to at all, it was hard to grip, awkward and unwieldy.   

I am sure all of you have heard this statement or might have even spoken it. “I hate cardio.”  I have said those words many times.  I did, however, walk and/or hike every day depending on where I was in the world.  It is a good base, but not what I need for endurance or the energy burn of Jiu Jitsu or kickboxing.

And so, I became one of the zombies you will see at any big box gym in every city, town or village on a cardio machine: reading, watching tv, talking etc. I would spend hours on them and still I was getting smoked during practice because you cannot get functional cardio doing a repetitive session on a machine.

It was then I met Krzysztof Soszyński who was a UFC fighter at the time. He started training everyone at Reign Training Center in his KSOS system which was circuit training that mimics what we experience in an MMA fight.  It opened my eyes to unconventional methods of training.

The weight came off me and I really started to have a lot of endurance.  My cardio was through the roof.  I learned a lot from him while he was at Reign Training Center. When he was away at a fight or doing promo for the UFC I taught his classes using his methods. I had taught privates before when I was at Joker’s Wild, but I never took any money. One day after class a woman asked me if I would hold boxing mitts for her, and when we were finished she handed me some cash.  It was at that point I became a trainer.

I was training Jiu Jitsu under Lars Wallin in Los Angeles at LBS 4 LBS Boxing at night a couple times a week.  If I had a day off or I was in town early I would stop by and see Lars.  He is also a personal trainer who trains a lot of high-end clients. Lars also worked with his cousin Magnus Samuelsson who was a long time competitor and winner of the World’s Strongest Man competition.  Lars had a lot of really great training methods that I was able to learn and utilize.  Lars was always able to smash guys who were much bigger than him with his Jiu Jitsu, so I was willing to pay attention.

My friend Wade who trained with Lars and I told me to meet a guy named Justin Fortune.  It was my time spent at Fortune Gym where I was really able to put things together.  I learned the mental aspect of boxing and combat sports from both Justin and the legendary boxing trainer Macka Foley.  The first time Macka told me he was going to work on my mental boxing skills, I thought to myself, “Why can’t I just hit mitts and throw punches.” It did not take long for me to realize how valuable Macka’s lesson were to me and anyone who I would go on to teach.  

It was Justin Fortune who taught me how to work with fighters and how to pull the best performance out of others. Justin was a former powerlifting champion from Australia who became a heavyweight boxing contender. After he retired from boxing he worked with Freddie Roach as a strength and conditioning coach for many champion fighters.

I was able to watch Justin train boxers, kickboxers, MMA fighters, actors and regular people for over six years. I asked him many questions and sometimes he would just give me advice. There are a lot of trainers who went to school or took a class, but there are very few who take the time or have the opportunity to learn under the direction of current working top tier trainers. This experience opened my eyes.

I had been in pretty good shape for several years at this point, but I only pushed myself to peak shape if I was going to fight or compete. Afterwards, I would binge on whatever I felt I’d missed.  One time, after a fight, I ate a gigantic blueberry tart from an Armenian bakery all by myself.  Candy corn was another weakness, and trust me, when it hit the shelves every fall I was there stocking up.

It was not long after I became a Christian and I was praying for guidance that I began to see things more clearly. I felt that I needed to be more in control of my behavior and take better care of my body. I started cutting things out of my life that did not fit into the new life path I was on.

Two years ago I cut out sugar in many forms especially foods containing high fructose corn syrup (candy corn!). Alcohol was no problem for me to cut out, because I did not drink. It is amazing how much better I felt once so much sugar was out of my life. I had never realized the ups and downs of my emotions were so driven by food until that point. For me, there is no such thing as going on a diet, I had to make a lifestyle change.

Thinking back on all the people I have trained alongside over the years, including the world champions in various sports, they all have something in common: they all put in the work, day in and day out. They stick to the plan and make no excuses.

I love to hear the success stories of people I have trained with and trained over the years. Recently, a Hollywood director friend named Christian sent me a picture of all the clothes he was donating because he has lost so much weight.  

I then heard from a guy I had a talk with one night many years ago in the parking lot of LBS 4 LBS named Kenneth. Kenneth was over three hundred pounds at the time. I told him about my journey up to that point and I encouraged him to keep up the work.  We would see each other at the gym over the years and I would always speak to him.  He was shrinking fast and he even became a personal trainer!  When I moved to Illinois he started a website www.fatboyshrink.com and I still keep in touch today.

All of these people and experiences have really energized me to pursue my own fitness journey.  I studied and became certified as a personal trainer.  I spoke to coaches and researched as much as I could.  I began to refine and expand my training methods.  I found out about Rock Steady Boxing for Parkinson’s and I went to Indiana to get trained so I could start that program at my own gym.

I pray every day for guidance, that the right doors will keep opening to lead me to where I’m supposed to be.  I have noticed that there are very few options for people over the age of forty when it comes to fitness.  They can go to a big chain gym and hit the machines.  They can get a trainer who is in their twenties with very little life or work experience.  Or they can go the discount rate at the YMCA.

When I began training in Jiu Jitsu I noticed that older people would want to train, but without the physical conditioning, they would always become injured. So, when I trained clients I would focus on their strength, mobility, and balance together with their Jiu Jitsu skills training.

That is where I am today. Fitness does not have to be an endless session of weights or cardio machines. I want to encourage everyone, regardless of age or diagnosis to find a sport they love and work on it.  Commit yourself to taking care of the body God has given you.  Once your mindset is right, and your body is strong, there are no limits to what you can accomplish.  We have a saying in our Rock Steady Boxing class, “Sharp Minds, Strong Bodies, Fight Back.”   This is my fitness journey and I feel like it has only just begun.  Where will yours take you? You too can fight back against the chains holding you down.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

Hebrews 12:11-12

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees.

 

A Change Of Pace

It has been two years since my wife and I made the decision to relocate to the Midwest from Southern California. It was actually a decision that came fairly easy, because we were both ready for change. We thought about it, prayed about it, and things fell into place quickly.

We set the move date, loaded a moving truck up with our belongings and sent it on its way across the country.

We arrived at the farm on July 1, 2015.  It was the first time I had ever seen it – the place where my wife grew up. A farm that had been in her family for over a hundred years.

I had two things on my mind. The first was to unwind after the long drive, and the second was finding a gym where I could train martial arts. A friend of my wife’s family stopped by that day and invited me over to his farm the following weekend to help butcher broiler hens.  I was trained on the spot and soon our freezer was full of delicious farm raised chickens.  I hadn’t realized that you raise some chickens to eat, and another kind to lay eggs.  There was so much more to learn.

After googling local MMA and Jiu Jitsu gyms, I found one nearby and headed over to check it out. That day was the first time I thought maybe I had made a mistake moving to the Midwest.

I introduced myself to the man who ran the gym, and asked if I could train.  He invited me back for a Jiu Jitsu session later that night.  When we returned, he was extremely rude to both my wife and I.  I didn’t realize what had changed in the past few hours until he confronted me about being “a rat,” and told me that I wasn’t welcome in his gym.  This was after he made me wait an hour to speak with him.  Apparently, he had googled me and felt I wasn’t worthy of his gym based on my past.  What a welcome to my “fresh start.

It turns out, that was the best thing that could have happened to me.  It forced me to rethink about the things that were really important. It took me out of my comfort zone, but looking back now I can see how much I was forced to grow.  

The next week I found a great gym with talented fighters who were not interested in my past, but in how I trained as a fighter.  They have always treated me well and I like the guys I have gotten to know there.  

My wife had a clear vision of what she wanted to accomplish and she headed back to school.  I knew deep down what I wanted to do – open my own gym and write- and in reality, I could do both wherever I was located.  

I have been passionate about three things in life consistently: Martial Arts, fitness, and writing.

The word passion is overused a lot today, so I will explain what I mean by it. To participate in each of the arts I love I was willing to put in the years it takes to become proficient in them.  To me one of the greatest attributes of all three “hobbies” – Martial Arts, writing, and fitness – is that you are never great, you can always improve.

I was introduced to Martial Arts in the 1980’s when I had just turned 13 through David Miller and Ted Lucaylucay. David owned Musashi Martial Arts Supply which was an equipment wholesaler. He also taught kickboxing to a few people at his warehouse. I met Ted through David and I was soon taking Jeet Kune Do at Ted’s Dojo in Huntington Beach.  In those days I would ride my bike to both places which would take over an hour.  I had to settle for boxing after David and Ted stopped teaching because there was no other place to train back in those days.

Throughout my teens, twenties, and early 30’s I trained sporadically when life wasn’t too crazy.  I later started training Mixed Martial Arts and I found out I really liked Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. In 2005 when my life stabilized after two decades of craziness, I began training Jiu Jitsu twice a day.  I came to the conclusion that I wanted to take it up a notch, so I started training with the fight team at Joker’s Wild in Orange County. It was there that I met a lot of future world champions.  During that time of my life I would get to work by 4:30am so that I could leave to train at noon and again at night.  I never turned down an offer to train with any fighter, because I knew that was the way to improve. When I entered the gym I would look around. Whoever was the best, that was who I would train with that day.  I cannot begin to count all of the black eyes, bloody noses, bruises and injuries I have had over the years, but I never quit.

I have a lot to say about a lot of things so writing has always intrigued me. There is nothing better than a great storyteller who can bring you into the world they are writing about.

I never took the time in school to learn anything useful about writing, so I had to do it the hard way.  I started writing a blog around the year 2000. It was called Crimeman and it almost cost me my life.

After that, I used to write on legal pads and in binders, but it was just thoughts with no direction.  Once I decided to really tell my story, it took about four years of hard work to get the book Breakshot into a form that could be further shaped and edited.  That book was rejected by publishers close to a hundred times before it found a home.

Breakshot brought me into Hollywood where I learned to write screenplays. I wrote seven over a period of years and to date I have only sold three.

Looking back my life has been a rollercoaster ride because I was always in search of the next thing. Once here in the country, life slowed down there were fewer distractions.

I knew I had to rededicate myself to my endeavors. I began to write every day on a schedule that I set for myself.  The words began to flow from within and I realized that I no longer wanted to write about criminals and their world. It no longer held my interest.  In fact, it brought me down. So I began to write about what it takes to make changes in your life, and other topics that did hold interest for me.

Training people in Los Angeles was easy for me. If a client did not meet my standards I could always find another.  In the gym, we had a constant stream of new clients. In Illinois, I had to rethink my approach and learn some patience when working with people.

It was in this process that I learned a lot about myself and what I really like to do. I found out that while I enjoy training people that fight or want to fight, it is those people who will never fight that I enjoy training the most. I found that I can help those people change their lives through their experiences in the gym.

It seems like so much more than two years have passed since I have started over in the Midwest.  I have grown and learned a lot.  My wife says I have changed a lot (for the better).  I have truly witnessed what God can do in my life.  I have seen God close some doors and open others.  I have worked hard and have met great people. I am looking forward to my future.

Ephesians 4:22-24

To put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

2 Corinthians 5:17

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.