A YEAR IN REFLECTION
Three hundred and sixty-five days ago I would experience my first day at the Forged Athlete. I vividly recall how this came to fruition while sitting on my ass in the living room chair, trolling Book Face, coming across one of those annoying pop-up advertisements. “Who are these brosephs?” Haha! I inquired further, reading the address aloud to my partner, and confirmed this was the same place just down the street that I had walked by numerous times over the course of the past four years. In more serious thought, I starred at those shirtless dudes in the picture ad, reminiscing how I ‘used’ to look like that! I was a State Track medalist, collegiate athlete, and three-time All-American who had washed up and succumbed to an adult life comprising career, family, home ownership, and on the downslide of a 36-year-old dad body.
Dare I? I noted what I wanted for Valentine’s Day, grabbed my credit card, and made the decision to enter the “Mansformation Six-Week Challenge”. This was going to hurt but at a minimum I seriously needed to lose a few pounds. Plus, the proximity of being able to roll my vehicle down the hill to get there was an added bonus.
Before going on here, I want to reflect on a few years prior to better appreciate the magnitude of what was about to take place. The last time I was remotely serious about ‘losing some weight’ was through a couple attempts at work-related Biggest Loser challenges. JOKE! In my last adventure I decided to start running over my lunch hour, establishing a non-negotiable for doing so that was eventually negotiated by work demands, cold weather, and general lack of accountability. I was in a bad place and my personal demise was being mirrored by the body that shelled it all.
I needed change and was set to start a new position of employment. A fresh opportunity and day one on the job would coincide with my first day at the Forged. I remember it well because I overslept. Damn! A deep disappointment in self was ignited and likely expressed through expletives and slight fits of anger.
I didn’t know it at the time, this no show set off a fire inside me that would come to shed light on so many different facets of my life. The naysayers were loud too! My partner is one of my biggest haters, or in my humor a way of really saying one of my biggest motivators. “Spending money on another thing you’ll never use.” But none of this could ever be louder than the voice of the one who was forced to look in the mirror and reconcile with taking the ‘before picture’. Man was pissed at how far I had let myself go where underlying all of this emotion was embarrassment, shame, and disgust. As a dually credentialed psychotherapist I pride myself on providing a strength-based, holistic approach, offering guidance in course of leading a healthier and happier life. At times, I felt like a real phony, failing to practice what I preached in terms of mind-body-soul. I get it; talk is cheap and everything is easier said than done.
Looking back at myself in the mirror, I made a promise to myself that I would not miss another day; no matter what – no excuses. This included the optional Tuesday/Thursday shred class and open gym opportunities. Wake up. Show up. The competitor inside me was determined to restore trust. Man vs. Self. At a very minimum I was going to maximize the benefit of every dollar spent on this whim.
I would eventually have my official first day. Walking into the garage, I was struck by bunch of huffing, grunting, grinding humans. Geez I felt awkward. Am I late? Where are those guys in that poster ad I saw on Face Book? Where should I put my coat? Do I jump in or just grab one of these jump ropes here? Should I announce my presence and call next? Do I go over and introduce myself? I think that is Travis? Is this real life? Oh – I got to the warm up soon enough and that provided all the reality check I needed.
After making it through the six-week-lets-see-how-this-goes-challenge, I was elected winner of the challenge – which was great. But I was the proudest that I had upheld my promise to self and did not miss another day. I do know a bit about the value of intrinsic motivation in comparison to any extrinsic source. While so, internal dialogues seem pretty legit at 5:30am: “Just stay in bed, you deserve a day off, you’re too sore to be productive, it’s dark out, it’s way too cold, go to the evening class (knowing I have to work late)…” The list goes on.
A year later, the streak remains alive and in all honesty, this has not been easy. I acknowledge if it was easy, people wouldn’t call it a challenge and everybody would be doing it. Not many opportunities for personal growth and development occur when laying in bed thinking about it. At least not the type of growth and development I could afford. So I started a new game as it became very necessary that I silence the negative devil on my shoulder. I’ve come to create a repertoire of rebuttals, some as simple as “shut up – you’re going”. Currently, my favorite riddled mantra is, “The only thing worse than going to the gym right now would be not going to the gym right now.”
Ups and downs, gains and dips, highs and lows are all mentionable, but really it has been a series of lessons that I have made mindful effort to synthesize in life. To not skip a day ultimately resulted in a weight loss (252lbs to 213lbs), change in body composition, and increase muscle mass. Assisted pull-ups progressed from using multiple bands to completing strict multiples. I’ve experienced adjustments in sleep routines, water intake, and dietary shifts all for the better – funny thing here is that I used to really think Lean Pockets and Cliff Bars was healthy eating. The addition of supplements and wardrobe further accompanied my journey, going from a size 42” to a 36” waist line. I hit pause on my shoe game and have given focus to getting some pants that fit me right; a good problem to have.
Perhaps less tangible, but significantly more meaningful to me are all of the secondary gains that have come from membership. Topping the long list namely includes improved mental health, re-evaluation of life priorities, and outstanding relationships formed. The contests, the competitions, the bar-b-q, the holiday events, the invites, the opening of homes, the check-ins and likes, all serve as symbols to the sincere camaraderie in all that this term encompasses. More clearly, the Forged Athlete has provided me with a sense of community that was missing from my life and a fellowship that is more difficult for me to express appreciation for outside of using the word LOVE.
At the core, I have better aligned mind-body-soul in a forever process of recovering the person that had become buried in stressful burden and layers of blubber. The outer shell now seems like a mere reflection of a greater transformation. The power of self is magnificent! At the core we are all competent! I reference these concepts often but in gradual disconnect, I believe my words had grown cheap. Today I am better able to ‘BE ABOUT IT’. The gym has been a blessing and served avenue for contextual application of such strong words. It has become one of many crucible momentums in my spiritual awakening where introspection allows me to genuinely accept the paradox of vulnerability and courage. Getting honest with self has brought to surface better meaning with words like dedication, integrity, respect, commitment, and accountability to name a few.
I may never know where my life would have headed/ended if had I not come to randomly discover the gym. In a plan much bigger than me, I like to believe it was destined, but that my eyes needed to be open to see. I mean it is less than 800 meters away from my dwelling! And while I don’t have any medical records to prove the exact state of my true health prior to taking on a personal dare, my best examination is that nearing the grave was becoming much closer rather than farther. With this notion, and closing for now, my ‘after photo’ seems a bit trivial when I say that Forged Athlete helped me to save my life. For that I am eternally grateful!
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