Bankruptcy, The Closing Of My Gym, And Donuts…

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The loss of a loved one.

Life threatening illness.

Divorce.

There are certain life events that are so gut wrenching, so debilitating, that they can crush the health habits of even the most disciplined among us.

For me, it was recently shutting down my gym and filing bankruptcy.

Since I was a kid, all I wanted to do was own a karate school.  Later in life, as I became devoted to fitness training, it seemed natural to blend my two passions into my own business.  In 2004 I opened Metro Martial Arts & Fitness in Columbus, Ohio.  I was living my dream.

But it wasn’t all sunshine and rose petals.  My business was born on heavy debt, and from the very beginning I was playing catch up.  Year after year of 14 hour days and my failure to adequately cope with the financial pressures eroded most of what I held dear in my life.  I lost touch with friends, destroyed my relationship, and to large extent lost the passion I once had – especially for the martial arts.

I know I did good work.  The outpouring of support I received from my former clients and students went a long way in reminding me of that.  Computer programmers lost 30 pounds.  College professors fought off osteoporosis.  And many of the hundreds of kids who came through my doors over the years improved their grades, served their community, and protected themselves from school yard bullies.  People came up to me with hugs and told me in no uncertain terms, “You changed my life.”

But as much as I succeeded as a trainer and teacher, I failed as a business owner.

There is no other way to put it when you find yourself sitting in a bankruptcy lawyer’s office.  And I was a complete wreck during the weeks leading up to that moment.  My diet consisted almost exclusively of donuts, coffee, pizza, and beer.  Working out was the farthest thing from my mind.  I didn’t shave and I was lucky if I took a shower every third day.  I was losing my dream and I was letting it effect the very essence of my being.

But there comes a point (maybe when you notice that you smell worse than your dog) that you have to snap out of it.

There comes a time when you have to ask yourself if you really believe all of the motivational bullshit you’ve been spewing to others over the years.  You have to look at yourself in the mirror and remember that you have the choice to not let this event define you.  And then you have to move on.

Below are a few things that helped me through this difficult time.  I hope that others going through the trials of life can find some benefit.

Move. I’m notorious for slamming long slow cardio.  But if 30 minutes of the treadmill trot while watching Oprah is all you can muster at the moment, it’s way better than twisting another bottle cap.  Clean the house, play with the dog, go for a long walk.  Do ANYTHING that will get the blood flowing, even just a little.  For me it was supersets of chin ups and push ups – not max effort mind you – just 5 chin ups and 10 push ups repeated 3 times.  I always felt better afterwards.

Put The Fitness Goals On Hold. So you were working on packing on 10 pounds of muscle before the car accident?  Or you were getting ready for your first powerlifting meet before you accepted the certified mail for the foreclosure on your home?  I was experimenting with a new program for losing stomach fat when things fell apart.  Stop.  Just stop.  Your new goal is to come out on the other side of this major life challenge in the best way possible.  Everything else can wait.  It will be there for you on the rebound.

Find The Silver Lining. I played fetch with my beloved golden retriever Coda for an hour yesterday.  I had NEVER done that before – it was damned near impossible with the hours I was putting in.  Everything is a trade off.  And as brutal as it can be at first, once the smoke clears you can start to see that the major life changes often yield some unexpected benefits.

Let It Out. Losing my business was pain like I had never experienced before.  And part of getting through it were the tears and the anger.  Holding it in would have only prolonged this stage and made it difficult to get some forward momentum.  So whether you journal, talk to a close friend, seek professional counseling, or just let loose with a good cry – the release you feel can help clear the path for moving on.

Let It Go. Nearly all of the life events I am referring to involve great loss.  For me the greatest pain came from refusing to acknowledge the loss.  But one small gesture – bagging up all of the t-shirts with my business logo that I had acquired over the years and donating them to a thrift store – gave me much needed finality.  Find what works for you, some gesture or symbol of the end, and then don’t look back.

On a long enough time line, life will throw us all a few curve balls.  Everyone goes through tough times and if you’ve made it out on the other side, I’d love to hear your story (or just a comment about whatever below)

- Vic

P.S. – I will still be running Gym Junkies and posting new content each week along with John & Rannoch.  I actually am working on 2 new BIG projects for Gym Junkies that I think you guys will absolutely love.  While my gym may be gone, my love for helping you reach your goals is not!

Gym Junkies

I’m Terry I’m here to help you achieve the body you want. I truly believe anyone can achieve the figure they want, with the proper guidance. Through my eBook I have been able to help thousands of people online lose weight, tone up and get in shape. My goals are to continue to help people all around the world and change people’s life for the better.

104 Comments

  • avatar

    Hey Vic,

    I’m so sorry to hear about your business loss and just wanted to let you know that you have absolutely changed the way i work out and view fitness. I’m all the way in australia and feel so blessed to have found your website, it sucks you lost out on this one but at the end of the day life is tough. You’ve done amazing things for so many people already and your honesty and integrity will see you move through this to success. I hate quotes and all that shit so i’m just gonna say thank you for all the hard work you’ve done and for opening my eyes and mind to a new way of working out.
    You rule

    God Bless dude

    • avatar

      Thanks Tony. At any given time in my business I would have between 150 – 200 clients between the kids karate, fitness kickboxing, circuit class, and private training. But I never could have influenced someone from Australia without the internet and GymJunkies.

      I appreciate your readership. Thank you.

  • avatar

    Hi Vic,

    I really want to compliment you on your strength to come out and make this public. You know that we’ll be here for you to offer you our support. Your blog has remarkable content that you are happy to give for free and is inspirational for all of us. You have my utmost respect!

    I am struggling with some bullimia and have made good progress. However, reading about your situation has made me realise that there ate others out there who, despite being honest, kind, helpful and generous, have been dealt with predicaments that they scarcely deserve and have not brought upon themselves. What right do I have for feeling sorry for myself? You have really given me a sense if perspective and helped me be thankful for the fortunate state I’m in. Be strong!

  • avatar

    Well dude, shitty…wish I could say something to make it better…or could have helped. Actually, there isnt even much I could say that hasnt been said…

    But I can say with all honesty, No…u did not help me lose weight, that was easy. I started that 40lbs before I met gymjunkies.com. You did open my eyes about food and fitness (even tho i was a gym rat for years prior) and I respected your attitude and the fact that your site was not a pump and dump supplement site like the other ones out there.

    You showed me the manmakers, the burpees, and were always there when I needed a good pep talk during the challenge. Without your feedback it would have been wasted.

    You showed me something I had all along and didnt know. You actually helped me make the leap to this mayhem as a job. You taught me how to ‘not give a shit’ what others thought at the gym.

    Vic, I am broke too…and I wish I could help financially. We’re warriors, dont give up…ever. I will do all I can to help drive traffic here and will get back on the ball.

    I just needed to say THANKS…not for a weight loss, but for making e realize I had it…we all have it….

    BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAST!!!!!!!!

    -Mike.

    • avatar

      Damn right, BEEEEAST! The doors are locked on my storefront, but they are always open at GymJunkies. I’m not giving up, just switching focus. I’ll have to go back to a 9 to 5 for sure, but even with that I will have much more time to dedicate to this site than when my biz was open.

      I will miss that damn warehouse style gym though. . . gonna have to make me some renegade work out in the park videos like you! Stay tuned. . . And many thanks for your support for so long.

  • avatar

    My sympathy, Vic. You’re a great guy and I’ve learned from you. You wrote really important things in this post, from “Stop” to get a counselor to keep moving. For the first time in my life, I’ve gone through a process where I could just listen to me. I lost my job undeservedly. I’ve spent the last couple years working out, becoming a Spin instructor, training a rescue dog, and doing what I want. I know that some friends and relatives have been uncomfortable with my long pause but I’ve worked out more backlogged mental blockage and pain than most people would believe can exist in one person’s life (and isn’t that true for all of us?). I say all of this to endorse what you’re writing here: you have to feel and deal with your suffering before you can move on. You have the tools to do that and, like you always do, you’re sharing your tools. Peace!

    • avatar

      Thanks Marilyn; for your kind words and sharing your experience. That first week after I shut down was brutal. I did the clean up and moving this weekend and locked the door for good yesterday. Tomorrow will be exactly two weeks since I shut down. And I have to tell you. . . yesterday (and today) I felt great. A little anxious about getting a job, but no regrets about shutting down at all. It’s time to move forward. Thanks again.

  • avatar

    This is an incredible post. Great advice.
    It’s okay to grieve. We all have to do it. It’s okay to feel like a failure, to mope around and to eat cheetos for a week.
    But you’re right. We have to snap the heck out of it. And it’s a matter of choosing to take the steps that you’ve listed here. What the body does, my friends, the mind will follow!

    • avatar

      Thanks so much. Yes, move move move! It always helps. :)

  • avatar

    I felt so sad when I read this.

    You and gym junkies really improved my life. I found this place about a year ago and it is fucking great. Really.

    I often thought to myself that if I ever went to the USA your gym would be a place I would visit.

    Good luck man with your new projects, I really hope it works out for you.

    • avatar

      Thanks David. I am very excited about the new projects (one could be revealed very soon) and the fact that I still have GymJunkies as an outlet form passion for health and fitness. If anything, you will see MORE information from me at GymJunkies. . . now that I have a little free time on my hands. :) Thanks again.

  • avatar

    If you haven’t seen it yet, you should watch Conan’s last tonight show episode.

    You’ll be back, and you be faster…stronger…better…

    Best of luck Vic.

    • avatar

      I have seen Conan’s last episode! And I feel exactly the way he did – no regrets, and happy to have had the best job in the world! Yes, the daily business stuff was a grind and eventually lead to the undoing. But there was nothing like seeing someone light up when they saw the scale drop 6 pounds in a week or when a kid tied his black belt for the first time. Thanks, Yash.

  • avatar

    I’m sorry to hear your loss vic, I have to admit your training techniques were much more advanced than I realized at first.

    Whatever your future plans are I wish the very best for you.

    Take care, and good luck.

    • avatar

      Thanks, Fred.

  • avatar

    Sorry to hear about your gym Vic, this is my first time posting on your site. I wish it could have been under a happier subject.

    Everything happens for a reason, sounds corny but I have come to realize this with my own life. One thing that I have found is that there is more to physical training than just the physical aspects. Its very much a state of mind we develop – to go on when we think we can’t.

    As a business owner with my wife I know exactly the sacrifices we make without even sometimes realizing where our business is really taking us.

    You are much more than the physical walls of your gym Vic, let the past go, it cannot be changed and deserves none of your energy.

    Be grateful for what you do have and not sorry for what you don’t. I mean that in a very sincere way.

    I wish you all the best Vic – take care,

    Namaste

  • avatar

    Thank you so much for sharing your situation. Best of luck to you as well and feel free to email me directly if I can be of any help with those push ups and sprints. Thanks again.

  • avatar

    Hey Vic, I just want to say thank you for sharing your situation. It must have been rough to post. I am with you though; I just lost my grandma to cancer and lost my job as well. Your post reminded me that it is important to keep a positive outlook even though everything just fell apart right before us. Good luck and stay strong. Thanks again.

  • avatar

    Vic, I am days late on getting to this blog post and I’m not sure that you’re still reading the comments, but I wanted to tell you that I have totally been in your situation and have come out of it all the better because of it. You only learn from failure and any business venture you start in the future will be better because of it.

    It took me about 2 years to figure that out, so I thought I’d share. Kudos to you for being brave enough to be honest with your readers on what’s going on in your life.

  • avatar

    Hey Vic,

    I’ve been reading your post and watching the vids you’ve posted (unfortunately didn’t get to workout as much as I would’ve loved to)..and am really sorry to hear your situation. I know you are a survivor and will get through this rough patch..just keep the faith…like you have been instructing so many of us.
    Cheers & all the best.

  • avatar

    Dammit
    This article was opened here since you posted but just today I read it and fits like a glove.
    Did you write for me? lol

    Thanks dude, made my day.

  • avatar

    wow Vic, my heart goes out to you. I could not believe what I was reading – Thank you for all of the knowledge you’ve shared on these pages. You’ve definitely changed the way I think of exercising and I appreciate the insights you’ve shared into the way you view life. I don’t know what the answer to this one is, but perhaps just take a break, and go again – and I think you can… I simply refuse to believe that such a seemingly genuinely nice guy, dedicated and hard working cannot rise above this. Wishing you nothing but the best.

  • avatar

    Vic,

    Wow, sorry to hear about your loss. I’m at 145 pounds now (up from 130 4 months ago), and I’m getting stronger… all thanks to the help of your website.

    I don’t know what to say (I’ve never been through any pain near what you have gone through, nor have I known anyone close that has gone through your suffering), but I pray that you will have the strength and willpower to pull through and emerge successful.

    I’m sure your next venture will be even more awesome and more successful than ever.

    Best of luck, and don’t stop being awesome!

    -Max

  • avatar

    “If you are going through hell, keep going!”

    The grass will be greener my friend.

    Stay strong,

    -Yavor

  • avatar

    hey Vic

    remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.
    everything that happens in this life should teach us a good lesson. we’d be idiots to ignore it (the experience).
    now you have one more experience you can share with your fellow Americans and maybe if you tackle it right, you can provide priceless help to those who are near you, to those who’ve been sent your way. (silver lining, eh? (yes, i’m canadian))
    Sometimes tough times get us closer to reality, some wonderful person, or to a place of no ego.

    I’m struggling to quit smoking. I’m struggling to teach myself financial discipline(after being in debt and not being able to get out of it no matter how small for over 10 years). I’m struggling to make exercise and healthy eating a CONSTANT part of my life (could never drop those last 10 lbs that became the last 25 lbs ).
    and while I’m still not victorious, I’m learning so many new ways in how to deal with life, I’m meeting so many great people.

    on a bad day, I’ll admit that I’m not where I want to be, but at least I’m not where I used to be. and that’s an indication of progress and brighter days ahead.
    after all, smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.

    Stay strong Vic
    I’ll keep you in my prayers
    xox

    A

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