Foreword: Lynda a long time friend and client referred Gregg to me. When I first met Gregg, I was in the initial stages of opening the CA and navigating those waters. We met for lunch at a diner around the corner from his office. Gregg’s general energy will floor pretty much anybody and everybody that has the pleasure of meeting him. He is high speed and invested in everything he does, and everybody he meets.
As we began to discuss his current state of being, he dropped a bomb on me of wanting to run the “Tough Mudder” in less than a year. Time was stacked against us and it was running out every second we sat at that table discussing the “plan” of action we were going to take to get from there at that diner booth. Eating grilled chicken salads; to the finish line of Tough Mudder on race day.
We had our work cut out for us. I was afraid 9 months was not enough time to get there. So I wrote a very aggressive program that weekend and away to work we went on the following Monday. I am always interested in a challenge both internally and externally. Gregg offered me exactly that. A lot of “good living”, an aggressive timeline and a race far from just a 5k “feel good” race was laid out ahead of us.
I asked Gregg to start writing about this whole process of reclaiming his life and becoming the person he is. This is part one. It’s been a great process so far and I think we both have learned much and are always learning more from each other. With race day around the corner I am excited to see how it is all going to pan out. No matter what I am proud of Gregg and all he has accomplished to this point of time. The road is long and always winding. It’s how we handle those challenges is what defines us.
(Gregg rocking a “wiper” workout, and me just being a good cheerleader!)
My personal journey to reclaim my healthy life: Part 1.
Mired under the pressures of daily family life and a demanding professional career I had covered myself in a suit of 296 pounds. My weight gain was equaled only by the weight of the psychological pressure to make everyone else happy around me.
On January 2, 2012, I made an impulsive decision and committed to a challenge I had failed to complete many previous times- I quit drinking regular soda “cold-turkey”. I am still unsure of why I chose to make this change but little did I know I had ignited a transformation in myself for good.
Sunday May 6th 2012 would become a pivotal day in my journey to greater health. I woke around 5:00am on this particularly cold, crisp early May Sunday morning to support my dear younger sister Kathy. She and a group of friends, “The Mudder Smokeshows” hailing from Winthrop, MA were registered to compete in the 2012 New England Tough Mudder @ Mount Snow, VT. So I jumped in my sports car, to drive a road I know all too well, which by the end of the day would be a road I hadn’t traveled in a long time.
I appointed myself the designated “Team” photographer for the Mudder Smokeshows. Kathy and her friends were psyched when I was already at the mountain waiting for the arrival at registration the 36 degree day. Nerves were high as they signed the release and death waivers, inked themselves with identifying registration numbers, foreheads, arms and legs.
What I began to realize was the adrenaline and energy around all the competitors. I felt something inside me I hadn’t felt in a long time too. The Smokeshows entered the starting area (climbing the 8 foot wall) my heart began to race and I was just a spectator. After a prayer and motivation slap of mud on each other- Kathy and the gang were off on their odyssey.
I would walk and move around the mountain to catch photos at as many of the 26 obstacles to be covered over the next 12 miles. I was psyched- my sister and her friends impressed me at each obstacle. Other competitors were on a dead-run, eating up the ground between challenges like I used to eat a bowl of Penne al vodka @ Pasta Pane. What became quite apparent to me was I wasn’t in any shape to be moving up and down the trails of Mount Snow. There was a time where I could ski all of this terrain without hesitation. This day I struggled just walk around.
I made it to Everest, the second to last obstacle, as the Smokeshows arrived. As a team the ascended the front side, supporting and pulling each to the top. As the climbed down the backside of the wood structure, I hustled down to the last challenge- the electrical field dash to capture my last images of their endeavor.
Tough Mudder completed, the Mudder Smokeshows team donned the reflective blankets, orange headbands, and began consuming their victory beers. I stood outside the finish line area- heart pounding and I realized my little sister Kathy was a ROCKSTAR. As they posed for their celebratory picture, I was gasping for air. When the posing broke-up they team came over to me to thank me for the encouragement, support and photography. That’s when my life would change forever, this version of Gregg would cease to exist. They as a group declared- I was no longer the Team Photographer, rather I was joining the TEAM and doing the Tough Mudder the next year. How could I say no, anyone who has a competitive or athletic bone in their body, would accept the challenge and I DID.
(Gregg and his awesome daughter Gianna, earning it together)
On Monday August 13th, 2012 I committed to another level of personal health- this was the day I began my training with “Bender”. I had managed to shed the addiction to soda and was slowly changing my dietary intact- I was eating less at every meal. So having lost the “Healthy Gregg” along the way the rediscovery was on and I met Bender at 6:00 am on Skidmore’s turf field for my initial evaluation.
Well, to say my first workout was an event is a classic understatement. As only in true Bender style (the Zen-ninja trainer) he wanted to know my reasons for not working out. After a feeble attempt at the “I am too busy excuse” Bender and I had a coming to Jesus meeting that indeed I did have the time to give myself one hour, three or four times a week to reclaim a healthy life.
So it was on – Bender handed my first piece of equipment to train with- the dreaded band. Not red, black, blue or green, rather the yellow band, around my ankles and off I went 5 yards out, 5 yards back … The sun was slowly rising, warming the field, what better way to start the next step in my transformation. The what I now consider a reasonable and doable 17 minute warm-up routine didn’t quite go so well.
Picture the esteemed Bender/Ninja Master huddled in his hoodie, shorts, flips flops, drinking his usual hot mug of coffee. I am using all my memories of myself as an athlete around 20 years old to complete each exercise in the warm-up series. I am trying to breathe and catch my breath while moving as nimble as possible, think rhinoceros in sneakers moving on turf.
All was going well as I gulped for more air and realizing, gosh I feel pretty light-headed. Dave asks, “How are you doing Gregg?” As only those who train know- the answers sometimes come out fast, intense and inaccurate as I respond, “Fine-doing great Dave!”
(Gregg Surviving a “Drag and Carry” in January)
As I realize this couldn’t be further from the truth- Dave moves me off the turf to a trackside aluminum bench to gather myself and recover here at just the halfway point of my warm-up. I know admit to Bender I am a bit light headed and dizzy. He asks if I want to sit on the ground instead of the bench- so I lower myself on the ground- as I sit there I mentally ask- why am I on the ground – still dizzy, I stand-up and sit back down on the bench. Next thing I recall is feeling much better and relaxed. I am thinking boy I feel pretty good, my eyes are closed and I feel somewhat rested … I open my I eyes to see Dave standing next to me with his cell phone out and I am laying down- hummm that’s funny why am I laying down.
The not so relaxed expression on Dave’s face and these words, “Gregg, you were three seconds from me hitting the send button for a 911 call.” Surprise, surprise- “go big or go home” as we like to say- I managed to pass out cold- great way to start the day and week with my new trainer- medical emergency!
We will skip the many of the details, but upon reflection perhaps the lack of sleep from a weekend of partying in Boston with my Little Sister Kathy and Brother-in-law Charlie, Dehydration, mal-nourishment, and sleep deprivation partially contributed to the loss of consciousness.
I good baby-ninja fashion- we assessed the medical situation, checked my heart-rate, modified the intensity of the remaining training session and back in the saddle- Bender guided me through my first session …
(The pull-up. Always hard, forever honest.)
Great luck at Gunstock buddy!