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Aug102014

J.R. C – South Jordan, UT

I was an active kid and gravitated toward team sports growing up. In high school I ended up getting a significant amount of interest from colleges for football. Logically, I decided to start cutting back my other activities and narrowed my focus to football. I ended up with a scholarship but only played one year before deciding college football wasn’t what I wanted to pursue. When I left football it was the first time in ~15 years that I could remember not being involved or committed to a team or having a scheduled practice or games three or four times a week. My brain and body took a vacation. Soon thereafter, I joined the military. After my initial obligation was complete, I remained in the reserves and went back to school where I met the most amazing woman on earth. As amazing as she is, she obviously had a major flaw - she said yes when I asked her to marry me. 

We were only married a year when I was called to active duty and deployed to Iraq in 2003.  The deployment changed me, my outlook became grim, and I was eventually diagnosed with PTSD.  We had children - two boys three years apart. Becoming a father gave me a new sense of pride and a strong sense of responsibility to right the wrongs of the world for my children and future generations.  Before I could start changing the world though, I needed to change, both for myself and my family. I realized one day back in August of last year that I wasn’t contributing to my family as the husband and father that I had always pictured myself as being. I had just been going through the motions when it came to the treatment offered by my healthcare provider, instead of fully engaging and owning the responsibility to change myself. Though I knew that I wasn’t alone in my depression and I had the most tremendous support from my friends and family, I finally made the conscious decision that there was no reason for myself or anyone around me to suffer any further for things that could not be changed. I decided the change needed to start with getting my health back. I was 6'5”, 310 lbs, and just over 35% body fat, with unhealthy cholesterol and a triglyceride levels. I made a commitment to myself that from that moment I would move forward and make every day count. 

I had no idea how to proceed. Being involved in athletics and the military my whole life had kept me healthy.  As a result, I never had an interest or concern for obtaining or sustaining health. I knew being healthy meant being active, and I knew that spinach was a healthier choice than French fries. Unfortunately, the places where I ate never served spinach. They did, however, serve plenty of French fries. I, like many, equated health with weight loss. I’d tried several times to lose weight, usually through fad diets where I rode the roller coaster of losing weight and gaining it back, followed by a feeling of failure and ultimately, accepting being fat as who I was. 

With my new outlook and commitment, I decided to reach out for help from professionals. I began researching gyms in my area. One of the most important deciding factors would be flexible hours. I work a 12-hour swing shift and rotate back and forth from nights to days, so I needed 24/7 access to a gym. I also needed support. I found everything I was looking for and more at Life Time. My transformation started when I sat down with Rich Aldridge, a member engagement adviser who got to know me and find out what goals I wanted to achieve. Armed with knowledge about my background and goals, Rich proceeded to explain, in very real terms, how Life Time fit into achieving those goals.  He offered several options and ideas, including group fitness activities, online diet and multiple customizable health improvement resources available to me through www.mylt.com. He also gave me names of a nutritionist and personal trainer that he felt would be a good fit for my personality. He also educated me on Life Time’s tremendous resources for children, which addressed a big concern of mine: getting my kids educated about healthy choices early so they will have the tools needed to live long, strong, happy and fulfilling lives. 

On Oct 10, 2013, I sat down with Brittany Machala, who administered my initial “myHealthscore” assessment.  The results were nothing to be proud of by any means, and were downright depressing: 52/100 on the Life Time “myHealthscore.” Brittany was great. She explained to me that number was not representative of who I was. It was simply the reality of where I was. Having the number gave me even more determination to make the necessary changes that only I could own.  Next I sat down with Mary Dimmick, the nutritionist that Rich had recommended. I knew from the moment I met her that I needed her in my corner. She introduced me to the first stage of the nutritional path I was to take.  She referred to it as the “nourished starvation mode.” Mary knew this would be a difficult stage for me, since during our initial interview I'd fully disclosed to her my belief that beer and buffalo wings must be an excellent source of vitamin B, since they both begin with the letter B and I didn't have a vitamin B deficiency. 

This first stage basically consisted of limiting my caloric intake, restricting carbs, and adding micro-nutrients, healthy fat and protein. Prior to meeting Mary, I hated vegetables and gagged at the thought of an onion or pepper even touching my food. My salads were more dressing than salad, and my protein was greasy animal fat flavored in sodium and sugar-rich sauces. The only “healthy fats” were the peanuts inside my M&M’s. Nonetheless, I made the commitment and fully entrusted my diet to the professional. After a couple of weeks, I noticed amazing changes in myself, more internal than external, but I knew that, even without six-pack abs and a chiseled chest, the changes in my diet alone were helping me sleep better and focus better and were giving me more energy for being active with my kids and for being a better husband to my wife. I was on the right track. 

Next, I consulted with metabolic specialist Casey Ruff. He tested my AMA (Active Metabolic Assessment), which gave me my heart rate zone numbers. Those numbers ultimately kept me from over-stressing my heart during workouts, which was a significant concern raised by my doctor when he saw my comprehensive metabolic test results. The heart rate monitoring gave me confidence that I wasn't going to die on the treadmill, while every step I took was trimming the fat I needed to get rid of,  building my endurance and making me stronger. 

Next up was Russ Sherman, who became my personal trainer. Russ is an energetic and motivating individual, just the type of person I was accustomed to associating myself with throughout athletics and the military. I knew right away I was going to need him at my side while I faced my challenges in the gym. He got to know me and my goals, and he explained his role as a personal trainer and how he would help me achieve my goals and even surprise myself by going beyond them. We started with an initial strength, range of motion and agility assessment, then moved to improving joint stabilization. We progressed to dynamic movements while monitoring my heart rate during the workouts, allowing me to maintain the best level for optimal fat burning results without over-stressing my heart.

As my body fat dropped, Mary began to introduce complex carbs into my diet and increased my daily caloric intake from ~1500 to ~2000 per day. Russ continued to challenge me with every workout.  As part of my self-commitment, I didn’t question him or show any doubt. Instead, I put my head down and did what he told me, even though an internal voice asked me, “Are you sure we're ready for this?”  Without fail, during every workout I surprised myself by doing something new that I hadn’t thought possible. My confidence increased daily and helped me start making regular activity and workouts a part of my daily life.

In December, I missed three weeks of training and consulting with my team because of the death of my grandmother in another state. Even though I had consciously made the best choices I could while I was gone, I wasn't able to go to a gym or prepare my own meals for those three weeks. I was nervous that I would have to start all over again. When I returned and had my first meeting with Mary, I was relieved to find I had successfully been able to maintain my weight and body fat. I also maintained my strength and endurance levels that I’d gained from working with Russ. That’s when I knew I could do it on my own. 

I still had a couple weeks left on our initial agreements, but the moment I'd been dreading from the day I started my consulting and training was quickly approaching - life without the support of Mary and Russ. What I hadn’t counted on was the complete support I felt from the entire Life Time Team. I had learned that challenges and goals were a good thing, that they would keep me focused and fulfill my competitive spirit. I took on the 90-Day Challenge with my newfound knowledge of nutrition and my rekindled desire for physical activity. 

The first challenge was an eating plan that I could follow while at work. Since I work a 12-hour shift with alternating day and night schedules, all while inside a clean room environment, I knew this was essential. The chips seemed stacked against me, but my determination and outside support made it possible. With trial and error, I eventually learned to prepare a week’s worth of meals at a time and eat six meals a day for a total of 2000 cal/day. I did circuit training with resistance four days a week and cardio six days a week with one rest day. I used several of Life Time’s supplements to further enhance my progress.

With the 90-Day Challenge ending, the last two weeks were especially challenging, as I needed to further cut even more carbs and sodium from my diet while transition to the night shift schedule again, guaranteed to throw off my circadian rhythm and body clock right before pictures and final weigh out. After confronting the last minute challenges and adapting to the changes, I am now confident I can maintain my new lifestyle. 

I decided to have Casey retest me on the second to last day of this challenge, to see how much progress I had made since starting my journey with Life Time. My “myHealthscore” changed from 52/100 to 100/100 from that day back in August of last year when my weight was 310 lbs and my body fat was 35%. With the help of Life Time, I lowered my weight to 232 lbs, and my body fat is now 8.4%.  Something I hadn’t foreseen, but that has become an enormous source of satisfaction, is seeing the new respect in my son’s eyes - and his many requests to flex my “big muscles.”  It has also inspired my family to be more active. My son has forgotten about his video games and frequently requests that someone come outside to play soccer with him. By continuing the healthy eating habits, most of the supplements, and challenging myself and family with obstacle races, eventually I hope to participate in the Leadville100 Mountain Bike Race. 

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