Today begins “Year 2” of my efforts in transformation. While transformation never ends, this concerted effort continues on as I work towards my greater goals. I can achieve great things when I apply my mind and body to them. It wasn’t always this way, however…
A year ago, I was in a severe depression. Every single day I woke up in misery, both physically and mentally. I felt like my body was in a complete shutdown mode. It hurt to walk, my feet feeling the pressure of over three hundred pounds of weight. I couldn’t climb half of a flight of stairs without becoming very winded. In addition to my physical problems, I was having severe mental concerns; specifically, I was constantly dwelling on death. Every day, nearly every minute I would have thought about death. I assume it was because I felt like it was impending given my physical state of being.
Around that same time, I met someone who would help kick me off on the journey of the next year, a man named Andrew. He who would become my trainer, Andrew had me come in for an assessment in September 2015. We met, discussed my current condition, and agreed to meet again. In October we met and my weight went down… but my body fat went up. Not sustainable. After some thinking, I decided to try him as a trainer for a little while.
There is a longer story around this… but that’s for another post.
Beginning in early November we began the process of basically breaking me down and rebuilding me. I was having mobility issues, so we began to work on those. We also began working some dynamic exercises. I couldn’t do a single push-up unless it was on a fairly steep incline, for example.
After I progressed a bit, he pointed to a squat rack and smiled, “we’re going to do squats.” I immediately panicked. I had only ever done squats on a Smith Machine (and not very heavy) based on advice from prior trainers. I got on and fumbled through squats. Then shortly thereafter he had me do a deadlift with a trap bar; my very first non-dumbbell deadlift ever. It felt good. It felt right.
We progressed, but I wanted to know more. I started researching and came across the Nerd Fitness community. I had been a subscriber to their blog posts for some time now, and only just rediscovered them. I decided to join.
In April, I made the decision to ‘cleanse’ my diet. I started eliminating bad food from my diet, taking everything I made poor decisions on before and kicking it to the curb. Instead I focused on clean foods made from whole ingredients whenever possible.
Sometime in May I made another decision… Nerd Fitness was hosting a camp, and I was going! I signed up shortly after they announced their third annual camp, and realized more of what I was working towards. It created a nice deadline to work towards my goals, and allow me to focus on what I needed to do.
I continued working on my body fat. I began incorporating cardio classes into my workouts. What once became a chore became easier as time went on. I discovered I could have endurance if I simply worked at it.
September came fast, and it was time for camp. I was off the the northern mountains of Georgia for 5 days of fitness, workouts, classes, and who knows what. Days before I was to fly out, panic started setting into my mind. I’ve lived with a fear of the outdoors most of my life. As a youngling, I was instilled with a fear of the outside; wild animals, bugs, and all sorts of critters that will eat you.
I didn’t let those fears stop me, and on Wednesday, September 21 I was off to Atlanta to catch a shuttle. On the shuttle ride, unbeknownst to me, I sat down next to one of the headmasters which gave me a captive audience with him for a couple of hours. (Sorry if I drove you nuts, Jonathan.) 2.5 hours north of ATL, I arrived at camp and settled into my bunk. That evening I was off to opening ceremonies. As Steve Kamb, who founded Nerd Fitness, talked about the week ahead, I had a smile on my face. In the back of my head, however, I was screaming bloody murder at myself. “What have you done?” I screamed. “You’re going to get us killed, you moron!” I continued telling myself. I did some deep breathing, and relaxed myself. After ceremonies, I was off to the bunks; would need sleep for the day to come.
As the first full day began, I was feeling much calmer. I lived through my first night of sleeping in a bunk in a room shared with five other people. I attended Jonathan’s class first thing, Moving w/ Longevity. He told me about it briefly on the shuttle, so I had to experience it. Wow. What can I say? Wow. He taught us to move every joint in our body and be one with our own bodies.
Next up as some Martial Arts Multi-Pack action. I had zero exposure to martial arts going into this camp, so this was a good primer for me to understand the differences… and apparently roll around in the grass with another dude mounted on me; he actually became a regular I saw during the week. Then I moved into Rising Above Emotional Eating with Amy Clover who was simply amazing. She talked us through what impact our emotions had on our eating, and how to be more mindful. She also talked through being more positive about ourselves, which I found very enlightening.
Hit the lunch chow line.
Just after I finished lunch, Troy, a very awesome dude I met the earlier, asked if I wanted to go blobbing. Basically it is jumping off a dock onto a giant inflatable blob and then getting launched. Being fearful of heights, I took 20 seconds of courage and jumped off. Four times. Each time, I fell off the slippery blob. However, I did it and felt a sense of accomplishment.
As I finished blobbing, I realized I had 10 minutes to change and get to my next class. Ran like a beast from the lake to the cabin, and then off to class.
Self Defense with Rachael was intense but so helpful. It helped me understand what to do if their is an assailant after me. I worried I would be out of place as a man, but there were other men in the class as well. Having missed my morning cardio, I felt like getting my heart rate up so now it’s off to Hero’s Bootcamp. Amy again… and she built me up earlier, and knocked me down later. It was a rough class, but I will fully admit smiling through most of it. “I AM A HERO!” we all screamed. OK, I’m beat to hell, so I’m going to go take a class on solving a Rubik’s cube to calm down.
Had some amazing dinner, and as I was leaving was chatting with a few people I had met earlier in the day. Sarah, a wonderful person I had briefly spoken to earlier, was going through her checklist of quests. I sat down and went through mine. We both realized we finished the core quests, and we could go do a “Legendary Quest”.
So we headed off together, teaming up. Halfway through, we ran into two other people, Joe and Joscelyn, who also teamed up to do the quest. Suddenly there was some competition. As we met later in the quest, all four decided to team up to finish it together. What we realized was all four of us were from different houses; the camp had split people up into Harry Potter style houses for fun for the camp, and instilled some rivalry in trying to get points for your house. By teaming up, we all represented all the houses. We solved the Legendary Quest, and we were the first ones to complete it!
Then I got into my costume of Arthur Dent… don’t forget your towel.
Arthur Dent, I Presume?
On Friday, I took a class on Speed, Agility, and Quickness that was not what I expected… and that wasn’t a bad thing. I got so much out of it. I then took Primal Movement 101 where we learned how to become more connected with nature as we walked and crawled across all sorts of surfaces, including gravel, asphalt, grass, and plastic.
Improv 101 was so much fun, although I nearly got myself killed when I suggested people do jump squats. I then was off to learn how to Life-Hack a home gym which will come in very helpful as winter arrives. Then grip strength to learn how to improve one of my weakest points.
Dinner, and a casual evening around the camp that evening. No major parties, just went and hung out at the campfire and enjoyed some S’mores for the first time in my life by a campfire.
Saturday, I was back in Jonathan’s class in the morning again, trying to build the habit of daily movement to open my joints and being mindful of my body and the connection to the world. I then spent the next several hours doing Brazilian Jujitsu and Grappling with Rog and Takao who were both simply amazing. After lunch, I learned some Wrist, Elbow, and Hand care techniques, and then attended a talk on how to apply what we learned after camp with Steve. The rest of the day I just did some relaxing and enjoying the camp before it came to an end. A glow party ended the night, and then I headed to the campfire for an hour before turning in.
Camp was over, and it was time to go back to the real world. I was amazed by the openness and acceptance of everyone in the community. I was amazed by how friendly people were. I was amazed by how people connected and hugged and didn’t think twice.
Camp ending also means that Year 2 was beginning, and that meant…
Year 2 – Ben 2.0
So what is Ben 2.0? Well, it’s a culmination of all I’ve learned and done over the prior year. I’ve learned to accept myself for who I am while continuing to work on improving. I’ve learned by body can do amazing things thanks to my amazing trainer. I’ve learned I’m not alone in the world thanks to the awesome people of Nerd Fitness.
Ben 2.0 simply means I recognize I am not the same person I was a year ago. I am a very different individual with very different life goals. I no longer dwell on death, but rather embrace life. During camp, someone said something amazing… “People say life is short. It isn’t. It’s long, enjoy it!” A year ago, I wouldn’t have believed them. Today, I know I’ve begun setting myself up for a long life ahead with better health that ever before.
As I move into Year 2, I have begun goal setting. The base of a goal is the long-term year goal. Steve Kamb may have unintentionally helped me set that. Back at the Saturday glow party, I took one more 20 seconds of courage and finally went up to Steve to say hi and thank him for creating the wonderful community he did. I told him my back story briefly about my weight loss and what the community has meant to me, and he gave me a big hug. (For those who don’t know, he hugs a lot.) He then asked me what was next. I said I wanted to keep burning fat off and build up some muscle mass. Steve gets this huge smile on his face and says, “so next year you’re coming back as Captain America.” Click. Something in my brain just went off… exactly! So now Year 2 is the year I work towards becoming as much Captain America as possible… no, I will be Captain America. Why? Because I AM A HERO!
One final note: I mentioned several people as part of the narrative. If I didn’t mention you by name, you are no less appreciated. Everyone I met was wonderful. My friends.
Oh, and one more final note… Rheeeeeeeeeenooooooo!