The loss of a loved one.
Life threatening illness.
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)
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!