EAD | CFAH Athlete Nick J Transforms from “Big” to “Strong”

This is another in a series of personal reflections contributed by Elite Athletic Development | CrossFit Arlington Heights athletes about the mental, physical and emotional changes experienced since joining our health & fitness community. Nick was a member of the May 2013 Training Essentials session. His wife, Jennifer, now pregnant with their first child, joined EAD | CFAH a few months later. After regularly attending MetCon classes (now called CrossFit) for several months, Nick added Strength & MetCon classes to his training schedule. That experience re-ignited his love for lifting heavy, and Nick quickly became a regular in the various EAD | CFAH strength-biased classes — PowerBuilding, Strength & Power and Strength & Conditioning.  Nick credits the EAD | CFAH Training Community with dramatically improving his health. This is Nick’s story.

My whole life I have been a “big” guy. For a time while I was playing football, “big” might have actually referred to strong. Mostly though, it has just meant fat. For pretty much my entire life, my weight has fluctuated up and down, mostly up, peaking about the time I graduated college. Years of eating and drinking to excess caught up to me eventually, as it does to everyone. It was bad; I was severely overweight and very unhealthy.

Nick J has transformed his body composition since starting at EAD | CFAH.

Nick J has transformed his body composition since starting at EAD | CFAH.

I knew that I had to do something about my weight, and moving back to Chicago for grad school gave me the time to work on it. With a dedicated diet of strict portion control and working out daily I managed to lose the weight. But like most people, it didn’t last. The fluctuations returned, with the trend line seemingly always heading upwards. It got worse when I moved out to the suburbs and started commuting into the city for work. An hour to an hour and a half each way takes any extra time there might be for working out and saps any energy I might have had to do so. At least, that is what I told myself. The truth was that after having gone through it once before, I just didn’t know if I had it in me to do it again. That is where EAD | CFAH came in.

Nick J recently reached several milestones duirng his first Strongman competition.

Nick J recently reached several milestones during his first Strongman competition.

The first time I lost a lot of weight I mostly did it on my own. It was the thought of having to do it on my own again that I was most afraid of. EAD | CFAH helped me by giving me something that I didn’t have working out at the big name gyms or the student fitness center — a sense of community. A community that is supportive and encouraging. From the coaches to the other people in the classes, everyone was positive and kept me going, kept me showing up for class after class. Even though I felt weaker than I had in years when I first started Training Essentials, the coaches kept me wanting to come back for more. I got over how far I had to go and started focusing on what I was seeing. I was seeing results. Not just results on the scale, though I did see those as well. I felt better, I moved better. I got stronger, faster, and more agile. After a while my clothes started fitting better, too! While the numbers on the scale were what got me to EAD | CFAH, the improvement elsewhere was what kept me coming back.

Getting healthier is more than just working out; eating right is at least as important. As the saying goes, abs are made in the kitchen. My wife and I did the EAD | CFAH 30 Day Paleo Challenge (editor’s note: the EAD | CFAH 30 Day Paleo Challenge is a performance fueling program inspired by Loren Cordain, Robb Wolff, and the Whole30 crew) and got great results. We then transitioned to the Whole30 Paleo Challenge, following the strict guidelines created by Dallas & Melissa Hartwig. It was definitely a challenge! Karen’s support and the resources available on the Athlete Center made it do-able, though. I dropped a bit over 6 percent of my body weight, saw significant visual changes to my body composition, and most importantly, have kept the weight off. Since then the wife and I have stayed mostly Paleo and continued to maintain the improvements we made in our lifestyle. It wasn’t too tough to keep up when eating better makes you feel better, too!

Nick J is stronger today than he was when he played college football.

Nick J is stronger today than he was when he played college football.

After more than a year at EAD | CFAH I feel like I am in better shape than I have ever been. The Strength & Power classes have me hitting 1RM lifts beyond what I could do even when I was playing football in college. After encouragement from the coaches to give it a try, and slightly tailoring the strength program to meet my goals, I was able to try my first strongman competition this past July. even hit my goal of getting at least one rep on every apparatus, including the ones I had never seen or touched before! Probably most importantly for me though, I can look back at pictures from when I started and see how far I’ve come. I still have a long way to go, but I know EAD | CFAH will be there to help me along the way, getting me back to where “big” just means strong again.

Have a success story you’d like to share with the EAD | CFAH Community? Let Coach Karen know … we’d love to hear from you!

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