I’ve always been overweight. I’ve enjoyed athletics at different parts of my life, but so far as I can recall I have not yet lived a single day “as prescribed.” Not one.
Whether you believe in a divine creator or not, isn’t it our responsibility to maximize the gifts we were given? Do you not owe it to yourself, your family, your children and to life itself to use the machine you were given throughout life?
We have manufactured a society that worships youth. It assumes you have fewer contributions as you age. It sets limits on your spirit, your mind and your body because you’ve made too many trips around the sun. Why do we resolve ourselves to the couch? Why is there cheap sugar, fat and salt on every street corner? Why do doctors treat sickness and not promote health?
My divorce was no more tragic than anyone else’s, my troubles not insurmountable. This isn’t a Cinderella story. It is a story about a troubled 40-year-old guy who spent every day of his adult life weighing between 250 and 300 lb. When life happened, even more weight piled on.
Diabetes was ravaging my body. I had to plan my day around the seven-and-a-half hours I could stand up. I desperately had to leave work each evening and go straight to bed. I was dehydrated. I was mentally sick, physically sick and utterly without hope. My blood sugar was so high and my addiction to sugar so bad that my doctor said I wouldn’t live beyond 50.
And then I met Mike Suhadolnik.
We worked out seven days a week, including Christmas, New Year’s and Easter. I rode the Airdyne at night several times a week. My diabetes virtually disappeared. I lost 60 lb. in roughly 90 days and went on to lose 25 more during my first year. At one point, my friends and coaches were begging me to buy new clothes. In the dressing room, I realized I’d been wearing pants 10 sizes too big. I stopped taking all medication. Better still, I learned new methods to care for my nutrition and new Olympic-weightlifting skills I still use today. I remember the first day I bought groceries for my new diet. It had not occurred to me until I came home that all the groceries I bought had to go in the fridge. My cabinets had no processed foods in them.
While Mike and I racked up some impressive numbers in the gym, there’s something even more powerful that happened at CrossFit Instinct. It will take you just a moment to read, but be assured it took me a long time to write. It brings back a flood of emotions that I cannot contain. It’s my moment on the precipice—the single most defining moment of my adult life.
About six weeks into training, Mike and I were making solid progress and I was moving pretty well for a big guy. He had programmed a WOD for me that included walking the length of the gym with a barbell overhead. He asked me to do this 10 times.
There’s a moment each day at the gym when you see what you’re about to attempt and you think, “There’s no possible way I’ll survive this.” While I had completely surrendered myself to my coach, I can safely say I never once believed I could do anything he asked of me.
I didn’t believe any of it.
I thought it was kind of Mike to show me such devotion at the gym. It was kind of so many classmates to encourage me. It was kind of countless people to loan me their energy and enthusiasm so I could finish a workout. But I didn’t believe it meant anything. Soon, I’d return to my old ways and be right back where I had started.
I struggle to describe my state of mind at that point in my life. The divorce. My kids. My diabetes. My finances. My weight. My struggling career. My insecurities. My self-loathing. My contempt for myself. My negativity. My toxicity. All those thoughts, feelings and emotions manifested themselves in a kind of “background noise” in my mind. I mean this literally. Not a moment of my life went by where I wasn’t thinking negatively. Every single second of every single day, every waking moment, I could hear the voice in my head telling me how worthless I was.
“You’re an idiot.”
“You’re a fat, lazy, worthless piece of trash.”
“You’re a despicable person.”
“You’re the worst father.”
“You’ll never make anything of yourself.”
“You can’t stop eating.”
“You’ll never succeed.”
“Stop trying because you’re not worth it.”
“You’re a dumbass”
“No one likes you.”
“Stop making jokes. People hate you.”
“Everyone is repulsed by you.”
“You’re ugly and fat and you need to shut up.”
“You’ll be dead soon and no one will care.”
“Your kids hate you.”
“No woman will ever find you anything but disgusting.”
“You’re a broke no-talent.”
“Everyone is laughing at you.”
Add several colorful expletives to those statements and you have my inner monologue. This background noise was growing louder. It was omnipresent. The productive thoughts had to shout above the noise.
Back to the workout and the moment.
Beginning to Believe
I say, “Yes, sir,” as I always do, and I lift the bar overhead. I know I’ll never manage to finish the movement.
For entertainment value, let’s pretend the bar weighs 600 lb. It’s actually more like 110, but it’s my story, so let’s say it’s slightly less than 600 lb.
I begin to walk the length of the gym and back, and I manage to get about halfway through the set.
I feel the bar start to come down. This moment of failure is familiar.
As the bar and gravity take over, as I’m about to lose my grip, as I am about to fail again, my life changes.
My mind gets quiet. Silent, even. I hear four words: “You will not fail.”
My eyes grow wide. My breathing is erratic as I began to process what just happened to me. I can feel a swell of emotion building up, and because I’m a guy I’m glad I’m facing away from my coaches and classmates. “Stunned” might be the only way to describe my feelings in the moment.
My mind is silent, and while those four words were more of a whisper than a shout, the bar starts to rise. I press that 110/600 lb. back over my head, lock my arms, keep the bar in the air and finish that damn workout.
The bar never touched the floor.
A New Man
There were a couple of other classmates doing the same movement at the same time. Mike was working with them. I was on the floor, dumbfounded, processing the moment. I couldn’t explain what happened. Looking back, it’s the moment I started to believe.
That moment, more than any, was the crossroads of my adult life.
My CrossFit coach believed when I didn’t. He knew what I could do. He could see the path when I couldn’t even imagine where I needed to go. He saved my life.
In the following days, I could hear myself think again. I felt a new passion for my future. My weight started coming off faster, and my intensity increased. I believed.
I believed I was worth something. I believed I could contribute. I believed I could add value to my friends, my family and the world around me. I learned how to better take care of myself. And to this day, one of the saddest moments of my life was having to leave Mike and my CrossFit Instinct family back in Springfield, Illinois.
You have a responsibility to those around you to shine. You have a responsibility to God to use the miracle machine he gave you to its fullest potential. You have a responsibility to your family and friends to lead.
“When the student is ready, the teacher shall appear.”
Are you ready to be the best version of yourself?
Today I live in Nashville, Tennessee. I’m an afternoon host on a radio network that broadcasts to about 30 affiliate cities across the country.
I have a beautiful girlfriend I don’t deserve.
After a serious accident, I severely sprained one ankle and had a hairline fracture in the other. This put an end to my six-days-a-week workout schedule (for now). And yes, some weight came back. It’s hard to stay lean on crutches. Recovery was slow but I can’t help but believe that CrossFit saved my life and also taught me to deal with life.
Sure, there are always ups and downs. But getting knocked down isn’t so bad if you get back up.
About the Author: Jason Addams is a CrossFit athlete who lives in Tennessee.