“STRENGTH DOESN’T COME FROM WHAT YOU CAN DO. IT COMES FROM OVERCOMING THE THINGS YOU ONCE THOUGHT YOU COULDN’T.” –Rikki Rogers
This quote not only embodies my entire 60-Day Challenge; it embodies our NICU journey to a T. In September 2015, my world as I knew it changed instantly. My 2nd daughter Zariah was born 4-months early, weighing 1 lb 6 ounces. She was given a 15% chance of survival. Our NICU journey entailed pneumonias, heart surgery, 12 blood transfusions, and lung collapse. In April, things took a turn for the worse. Zariah’s lungs were deemed the worst the hospital had seen. We were told that she had a 0% chance of survival. I left work and spent every waking hour at the hospital. The medical team had lost hope, but Zariah was still fighting. She would squeeze my finger with her tiny hand and look into my eyes. In those moments, all I could hear was “DO NOT GIVE UP ON ME DADDY”. I was the only one who could calm Zariah without the use of sedations. This resulted in endless shifts in the NICU to keep our daughter alive.
As a family, we searched and found Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio who gave us a 96% chance of survival. Zariah and I relocated to Ohio while mom and big sister stayed home in Utah to maintain our insurance coverage. NICU life continues to be amazingly stressful. Being 1700 miles away from my wife and 2 year old is unbearable.
Since April, my focus has been on Zariah. I sacrificed everything. I would hold her until my back gave out. I would go hours without eating or sleeping. I had cut out exercise completely. The events of this past year left me mentally, emotionally and physically drained. Eventually, all the stress, lack of sleep, and poor diet caught up with me. I ended up in the ER twice for signs of a heart attack. I had focused on Zariah for so long that I had neglected my own health.
While I was in the ER and Zariah was alone in the NICU, I could not help but think what would Zariah do without me. Would she be able to keep fighting as strong as she was without daddy by her side? I realized then, that I needed to start taking better care of myself. I knew I had to make some dramatic changes in my life, so I could be there for my family.
Getting back to the gym was difficult. I found myself so embarrassed that I had let myself get so out of shape. I could barely do 10 push-ups and could not withstand any cardio. I needed some sort of motivation. On November 5th, the General Manager Jessica asked me to join the 60-Day Challenge. Instantly, I knew this would be the driving force I needed to take back my life. I weighed in at 203lbs with 25.9% body fat. It was the highest my body fat percentage had ever been. Greg M. asked me to set a body fat goal for the challenge and I chose 15%. Then he guided me to proper supplement regimen by adding Life Time Multivitamins and L-Glutamine.
For my routine, I was hitting the weights daily, and started doing some cardio on the recumbent bikes. I utilized the LifeCafe for healthy shakes and meals. I soon realized that I was not hitting my goals as quickly as I would like. I was eager to meet with Ashley O. for my Training Solutions appointment. She helped set up a program which included strength-training, cardio and group fitness classes that fit my schedule. We added Fish Oil to my plan. The routine she put me through was great! I also decided to seek advice from Matt F., the nutritionist. He advised me to stick to chicken and fish for lean protein sources. Matt suggested nuts and avocados for sources of healthy fats. He also recommended the addition of LifeGreens to my diet. He made himself available for questions anytime of day. Once I utilized a trainer and nutritionist, the body fat started melting away.
I had to overcome several obstacles during my Challenge. I found that I was getting bored with my workout routine. Group Fitness and Yoga classes were the key to keep me disciplined. During weak moments where I was tempted to cheat on my diet or cut my workout short, I reminded myself of all the hurdles Zariah overcame and used that as my motivation to not quit. I reminded myself that my family needs me. They were my driving force.
As a father of a NICU child, I had every excuse on why I couldn’t get in shape. I am sharing my story in hopes that it encourages others to take that first step. This challenge has shown me that the seemingly impossible is far from that. We are all capable of anything! Now I am at 4.5% body fat. I wake up excited to go to the gym for my workouts. Now I have enough energy to take care of Zariah and myself.
Initially, Life Time was my escape from the consistent alarms of the NICU. Then the Amazing TEAM at Dublin helped me get in the best shape of my life. They have given me the dietary knowledge and necessary tools to continue on with a healthy, balanced life. This 60-Day Challenge not only added years to my life, but it has added life to my years!