Part I: Practice What You Preach
I’ll open my first blog by saying that this is, in fact, my FIRST blog. One of my New Year’s Resolutions includes being more interactive via social media with Blogs or Vlogs at least 1x/month. I have had an interesting journey over the past 4 years when it comes to my fitness, wellness and health and as a Chiropractic Physician, I believe my story provides value and perhaps and relatable perspective for those that are interested.
R.I.P. Dave Thomas
Let me first say that my “journey” 4 years ago does not start with significant adversity. I was never over 300 lbs, I was not involved in a devastating accident or diagnosed with a malignant disease. Instead, I recall my ‘enough is enough’ moment in the parking lot of a Wendy’s, where I was enjoying my SECOND meal that day from the fast food establishment. In February 2014, I was 6 months out of Chiropractic School, assisting with a seminar in Boston, MA. My business partner, Dr. Charlie Annunziata, and I were famished after lecturing all weekend and decided to stop by Wendy’s before we hit the road back to NJ. About 4 hours later, we were hungry again and mutually decided to stop at ANOTHER Wendy’s before we got back home. Misery ensued as the Baconator coursed through our veins, Charlie & I decide that we need to make some changed to get healthy.
Accountability and Motivation
As former athletes who never really had to worry about weight gain, we both certainly put or diet and exercise routine on the backburner. Without a team, sport or other motivation, we knew we had to lean on each other for accountability. We embarked on a “weight loss challenge” where the individual who lost the most percentage body fat over the next 3 months wins. The winner would get diamond dugout seats to a Phillies game, food/drinks/parking included. If there’s one thing I love more than winning, it’s going to a Philly game and not have to worry about paying for food or drinks. The next day, we jumped on the scale and scanned. I was about 220 pounds, with 25% body fat and a BMI of 33. All of those numbers fall into the “overweight/obese” category, Charlie reluctantly jumped on and wasn’t much better. We knew we had a lot of work to do.
I played football in middle school and hockey in high school/college, my “strength training” was showing up to hockey practice, essentailly non-existent. I was premed in undergrad, with one exercise sports science elective my senior year. There, we were taught to “isolate our muscles for maximum results” (bicep curls, bench press, leg press, tricep extension, etc). In Chiropractic school, I was trained to handle on-the-field injuries and taught to manage patients’ pain conditions by getting them more active in their recovery by stabilizing the core. Long story short, I had no idea where to start for my personal fitness improvement. As I mentioned earlier, accountability is the key for many former athletes so I reached out to my friend of 27 years, Dr. Tom Lizzio (DPT). As it turned out, he was struggling with similar diet and lifestyle issues. We both decided that the best course of action would be to revamp our diet (a topic for another blog post) and start a running program for our weight loss: 5 minutes of jogging, 2 minutes of walking. We started out in February of 2014 not being able to run more than a mile and, together, we slowly improved each and every week. Four years later, Tom is still an avid runner and recently finished his first marathon; over the years, I have ran in 3 half marathons, three 10-milers and a handful of 10/5K’s but my primary focus is CrossFit, which I will talk about in Part II of this post.
Sticking with It
As far as the weight loss challenge, I did end up winning but more importantly, Charlie also lost significant weight and percentage body fat. We both had a long road ahead of us but I am happy to report that 4 years later, we are still sticking with our respective fitness program and a clean diet.
This introductory post boils down to this: If you are unhappy with your overall health there are people in your life that can help. I decided 4 years ago in that Wendy’s parking lot that I would start practicing what I preached to my patients; eating clean and working out. However, I would not be able to maintain my healthy lifestyle without the accountability and support group that I currently have. If you feel like you do not have anyone that you can contact in your friend/family circle to get you started, I am more than happy to point you in the right direction and keep you motivated, just reach out!
Part II: Finding CrossFit
I found my way to CrossFit in an unconventional way. It was a combination of running boredom, hitting a physical plateau and a bad relationship. It was September of 2014, I was completing my first year in practice, down 25 lbs following the clean diet and running program. As a Chiropractor, I had many patients coming in with CrossFit-related injuries, most notably shoulder and low back. For many physicians, this would be a major red flag, but I saw more. I noticed that all of these athletes had common denominators: they were in phenomenal shape, followed my rehab protocol, ate extremely clean and recovered incredibly fast. If nothing else, CrossFit had my attention. I told my girlfriend at the time that I was thinking about trying CrossFit and she answered, “If you try CrossFit, we’re breaking up…my ex did CrossFit and it’s all he would talk about…it’s a cult.”
We broke up that week.
Drinking the Kool-Aid
I tried a handful of boxes out in September 2014 but I just couldn’t find the right “fit” for one reason or another. Then I found a box that had solid coaching, great programming, a fun, welcoming community and they were less than 15 minutes from my house. For me, it was the perfect recipe to start with and commit to, giving CrossFit a fair shot to reach my goals. The more I learned about CrossFit movements and philosophies, the more ‘dots’ were connected to my Chiropractic school training and practice. I was really buying into the process and got myself down to 165 lbs in August 2015, less than a year after starting CrossFit; that’s more than 50 pounds 18 months after committing to a healthier lifestyle. A loss of a little more than half a pound a week will get you to your goals; slow and steady wins the race!
Becoming a Coach
In July 2016 I became CrossFit Level 1 Certified and started my shadowing process at my box where the in-house coaches helped me become a stronger, more disciplined trainer. We must hold ourselves to a higher standard than just a weekend course. In the right hands, CrossFit can transform lives. In the wrong hands, serious injury could occur. Six months after the shadow process, in October 2016, I opened my own facility in Lumberton, NJ. Although I had to move onto a Chiropractic opportunity and we had to close our Affiliate in Lumberton, I am here today with zero regrets. I became a stronger athlete, a stronger coach, a business owner and, most importantly, we created a strong community of likeminded individuals, many of whom are lifelong friends. I still see my former athletes and have the privilege of coaching them every so-often; I have a strong sense of pride as I see our athletes continuing on their own fitness journey and happy that I am able to continue to be a part of that.
As far as my fitness since the 50 pound loss reported in August 2015, I have ‘tweaked’ my macros numbers over the years and found that my ideal weight floats around 175 lbs. At this weight, I feel that my body performs to its highest potential. More importantly than that, I’m happy, proud and confident in my skin. My advice to those of you looking to start a fitness program: Have a realistic goal weight that you would like to get to but listen to your body along the way. A number on the scale is meaningless if you have no energy and are miserable most of the time. Think of the scale as just one small variable or affirmation that your diet and exercise protocol works; it should not run your life. My workout schedule is as follows: CrossFit M, Tu, W, F, Sa. Active recovery day on Th and/or Su (yoga or run). I will mix in a complete rest day, on the Thursday or Sunday that my body 'tells me' that I need rest. If you are just starting CrossFit, I suggest 1-2 COMPLETE rest days/week. Get into a comfortable routine and increase from there. I can honestly say that at age 33, I am in the best shape and happiest I have ever been in my life. One way or another, I have CrossFit to thank for my transformation and journey.