Stories of personal transformation are particularly inspiring when we know the success was not easy. Dan O’Toole isn’t a pro athlete, but he busted his ass over a long period of time. He now squats more than a good percentage of the MLB players I shared clubhouse space with.
Dan is one of the funniest cats I know. He and Jay Onrait are the anchors and my teammates at FOX Sports Live. Together, they keep me laughing on a nightly basis. I’m envious of Dan’s quick wit and impeccable comedic timing. He was equally enamored with my commitment to health and well-being. He began peppering me with questions about training roughly six months ago. There was something different about Dan’s line of questioning. His queries were consistent, pointed and convicted. After a few weeks, I knew he wasn’t bullshitting.
I often have initial consultations with men and women who want to make a lifestyle change. Many chats fizzle out quickly. Folks sometimes just want a sounding board. I get it. They’re not ready. They haven’t been blasted by the necessary internal motivation yet. We all get there when we get there.
I didn’t motivate Dan. He was propelled by fear. He didn’t want to be visiting doctors and getting soft in his late 30’s. His concerns were far from unique, but his commitment was rare.
I want to thank Russia and their cuisine that did not agree with me. Because of them, I just squatted 305 lbs. on my 39th birthday.
Spending a month covering the Olympics in Sochi forced me to open my eyes and acknowledge a cold, hard fact. I was a skinny fat guy. Because of the schedule, my food choices were limited, and the hotel restaurant wasn’t an option. I ended up eating McDonald’s every day for a month. I returned home weighing 192 lbs., the most I’ve ever weighed. On a 5’8” frame, it was a lot. When I leaned down to tie my shoes and was winded, I knew I had to make a change.
I started small. I’ve worked the late shift for the past 12 years. Every night, I would get home around midnight, eat a large meal, drink a couple of beers and watch TV. I cut out the late night eating. All those calories, the food just sitting in my gut – all gone. The change in diet alone would make a world of difference, but I also decided to add in some exercise. I hadn’t worked out in years, so I began by simply jogging. It got me off the couch and got my heart rate up.
The jogging turned into sprints and pushups, and I was starting to feel a difference. After a couple of weeks, I hadn’t given up, so I decided to step it up a bit. I tackled Insanity, the workout program from hell. Not a single second of it is fun. I would literally swear at the screen. People in the Insanity video can’t even finish some of the workouts, but it works. If I took a day off from it, I would jog, sometimes up to 4 miles. I hated every single second of it, but I pushed through. I put in my head that every single day I worked out meant one more day on this earth to spend with my kids. It gave me motivation.
I found myself addicted. If I missed a workout because I was too busy at work or with my family, it drove me nuts. I did that for 3 months straight. I lost 22 pounds, but I wasn’t finished. During all of this, Gabe was there by my side. He stood by me every night at work answering every single idiotic question I had, and there were A LOT. I had lost the weight, but I needed to bulk up and develop some muscle. He put me on a weightlifting program. I joined a gym and started lifting once every 2 days. I doubted it, but it worked. After 3 months on the weightlifting program, I achieved that 305 lb. squat.
My doubt didn’t really stem from a belief that it wouldn’t be effective. I doubted because I hated it. Even as I was miserable, I knew if I wanted to get more out of life, I needed to get my act together. Fast food meals at midnight 3 days a week is a one way ticket to all kinds of health problems. For everyone starting a program and encountering that same doubt, I can tell you this: it is worth every second. You will see results, and you will get that spring in your step. The first month was the hardest for me. Get through that, and you will be on your way.
With a serious commitment and some time, it is possible to go from doing zero workouts to the best shape of your life. I now have the goal of squatting 400 lbs. on my 40th birthday. Because of these past 6 months, I now can’t see me living my life WITHOUT physical fitness in my life. It is truly a great feeling.