"I was out for half a year. I couldn't move or anything. I had symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. I had a bone edema in my SI joint, sacroiliac joint - basically the joint in your hip, near your glutes. And it was so inflamed that I couldn't move my lower extremities. It was just so painful.. the most painful thing I've ever experienced. If you ever research this online, it says it's more painful than giving birth.. that's how bad it is. There were a few times I thought my body was going to go into shock because it was in so much pain. And they gave me Dilaudid and all this stuff and it did nothing. Even the strongest painkillers. I tried not to take too many painkillers because it didn't really do anything.
I felt like I worked so hard to build something to a certain point, and everything kind of...I got hurt. It’s like I started from the bottom and I want to say I even started below the bottom, below ground, because starting back up I now had injuries and such and I don’t have the same advantages I had when I was actually just on a blank slate. And it’s kind of like if you were born handicapped – I'd imagine it’s something like that. Being born handicapped, there’s so many other people that have advantages over you. And I felt like I was kind of born again, but with a handicap."
"It was just so painful.. the most painful thing I've ever experienced…I tried not to take too many painkillers because it didn't really do anything."
THE DESIRE TO BE DIFFERENT
"I didn't want to be average. You go through school and you see tons of kids that are into working out. They play sports, and that’s the first time you get exposed to the weightroom is when you play football and do wrestling like I did - it's kind of mandatory. Not a lot of kids get into lifting voluntarily. But I got into it voluntarily. I remember my main inspiration, my motivation to do it, was because I didn't want to be like everyone else. So if everyone else was lifting for football and doing the routines their coaches gave them, I used that as the blueprint and did more. I remember my high school teachers gave me workout programs. These teachers saw that I was the only kid in the weightroom that wasn't a football player who was working out with the football players. I was only 119 pounds - super scrawny.
"I wanted to be that guy – that 'somebody' out there that is always working harder than you. When people said that, I wanted to be that guy."
But I'd go in the morning too, before the school started. One of the teachers would open the weightroom up for me in the morning. I'd be the only one in there and sometimes a few dedicated athletes would be in there as well, but never more than 5. So I knew that there weren't that many kids dedicated to doing it and to me, I enjoyed it. I enjoyed being at the gym and seeing that nobody was there. Because you always hear that cliché that somebody's working harder than you. When you're resting, when you're not doing something. To me, I kind of envisioned that that ‘somebody’ would be me. When everyone else was doing whatever, I'd be working a little bit harder. I wanted to be that guy – that ‘somebody’ out there that is always working harder than you. When people said that, I wanted to be that guy. I just liked the idea of it. I've always wanted to be different. I think that's part of my personality. It's hard for me to kind of be a follower. I always wanted to do something different."
THE TRUE MEANING OF PATIENCE
"Definitely even after I started getting better in terms of my health, that's when my real mental struggles started actually. Because now, it was like this: I noticed how greedy I was - how much I took things for granted. It's human nature - you have something, you're going to want more. So when I was lying in a hospital bed, I started to feel grateful actually. So there was a phase where I was just grateful. Thinking, "Holy shit, I'm alive. I have a family that loves me." It was just that kind of feeling. And the only thing I wanted to do at that time…I remember my favorite hobby was to lie in bed and watch standup comedy because I'm a standup comedy fan. And I remember while I was watching that, I was jealous of the comedian because he was able to walk on stage. It's crazy right? I just wanted to be able to walk like that guy. Just walk. I'll never forget that. And I remember having that kind of feeling. But then of course eventually I was able to walk, and then you want a little bit more. Now I want to run. Then now I want to go back in the gym and I want to lift. And once I can lift, I want to lift like I could before. I want to lift heavier. And that's when the mental struggle hits you. Because once that greed sets in, you realize you're so inadequate. And there was a shift in my mentality, and as depressed as I was lying in bed, it was even worse afterwards when I started to get back on my feet.
And I think that a lot of times what I told myself to get over these struggles was that time would heal it. That I just have to be patient. So I learned the importance of patience. I think that was the key lesson during my struggle - just having patience. I don't think people understand what patience is. When I say patience, I mean not just in the sense that you just want to pass time. There was a time when I dealt with it like that - by doing things just to get my mind off of it by escaping. But that's not really being patient. Patience is letting time pass while being in a state of peace. Once I started to realize that, everything got better. I realized that it's not just a matter of just killing time - literally that's what I was doing, just killing time. It's utilizing your time because you're able to have a peace of mind. I let time pass that way and let time heal the wounds. And the funny thing is that time not only healed me mentally, but physically too. Because they [doctors] were trying to put me on cancer medication. Really strong stuff like Humera and stuff. That's what I was suggested to take, but there's side effects to that such as suppressing your immune system and just a host of other things, and I didn’t want to take on a whole new set of problems. I also had to be on it for the rest of my life, so I ended up not taking any medication. I let time literally heal me physically and mentally, and I did that by being patient."
"Patience is letting time pass while being in a state of peace."
ADVICE ON GETTING STARTED
"I'd say work hard. The reason I love fitness is because I remember growing up, there were kids that were better than me at things, even though I worked harder than them. And I always thought it was unfair. Kids would run track and field and they'd be faster than me, or they'd jump higher, further. And it was like, "What the heck? Me and you both started today. Why are you better than me?" I never liked that idea. And don't get me wrong, there's definitely a genetic role in fitness. People are predisposed to having certain advantages. But I think it's the one thing in life where your hard work gets the best bang for it's buck. So anybody who works really, really hard, no matter what, will have a good body if that's what you want. If you want to be strong, you can be strong. You might not be the strongest or the fastest, but you will be fast if you want to be fast. You will be strong if you want to be strong. You will have a good body if that's your goal. And fitness allows you to do that. What you do in the gym, the amount of work you put in allows you to do that. So in a way, I think it's the most fair. And I get asked this question a lot. People come to me specifically because people want to ask me specific workout advice - what rep range should I use, how many sets, etc. And honestly, it's meaningless. All I want to tell this person and the best advice I can tell this person not because I want to be lazy in my answer, is to be intense and work hard. That variable in your workout routine is greater than anything else.
I'll always take the guy that's working the hardest over the booksmart guy who has textbook form and knows everything in the book but doesn't have that animal intensity. I'm not going to put my chips down for that guy. I'll still pick the hardworker because that's the X-factor. You can always learn stuff and you WILL learn stuff, and you will learn it through experience one way or another as you get older and you get more experienced. You will learn the stuff you need to know. Everything you need to know about working out is so basic, it really is. It's just people are trying to overcomplicate it. But you can't really learn intensity and hard work. You can't learn desire. As long as you have that, you have everything you need. That's how I would encourage somebody. If they come to me and they're passionate, I'll already know. Before they ask anymore questions, the enthusiasm they have when they ask me, that is all I need to know whether this person is going to make it."