What a journey Matt has had! I can’t tell you how happy it made me to read Matt’s responses to my questions here. To see a dad transform his life in this way on our team – bettering himself physically, mentally, and emotionally – and inspiring others with his story is an amazing thing. I’m so proud of Matt, and it is a joy to watch him help other people accomplish their goals the way he has. This is his story:
What was your motivation for looking into joining your first challenge group?
By October (2014) I had been contemplating getting healthier and in better shape for over a year but hadn’t been doing anything about it. I have never been a real “fitness person” but I have attempted getting fit and building muscle in the past. However, everything I accomplished was never a lasting change for me. I could never continue to keep myself motivated or if I had reached my goal I would always get complacent and lose motivation, which of course would eventually send me right back to where I started.
I was beginning to feel like it was pointless to even try. But at the same time I was depressed about how I looked and felt. When I went to the beach or on my boat I often didn’t even take off my shirt. I hated taking off my shirt so much that past summer I mostly opted to keep my young boys at home in their kiddie pool instead of taking them to the beach (just 100 yards away from our house) or to our club pool where I could teach them how to swim. I was even self-conscious with my wife.
I think I just had enough of feeling bad about what I looked like. I also felt weak and winded a lot. The fact that my issues were affecting my kids lives was upsetting me. I am their caregiver half the week so I wanted to be able to help them develop as much as possible when they are in my care. And I really wanted to be a strong, positive and healthy role-model for them. I was none of those things and I needed to be.
Right at that time, my sister-in-law approached my wife about doing this challenge group thing with her – the funny thing is, she didn’t think to approach me because she just assumed I’d say no – and my wife said no thanks, but you should ask Matt. I thought, why not, I can do anything for 30 days, and I can share motivation with my sister-in-law and this whole group of other people doing the same thing. This could work. I have nothing to lose.
Were there any excuses holding you back before this point? If so, what were they?
I touched on this already but I was always telling myself, what’s the point? It’s never going to last. Why put in all that work when I know I’m just going to let it all slip away eventually.
What programs have you done in the challenge groups and what have you liked about them?
I started with Focus T25 in October. First the Alpha Cycle, then Beta, then Gamma, then back to Beta again followed by another round of Gamma with some Alpha and Beta workouts peppered in. To be honest, at first I did not like the way that I was getting my ass kicked! My heart was beating out of my chest and I was taking breaks left and right just so I could breathe! I was going from 0-60, and beyond, from couch position. But I knew I wasn’t going to die and I knew I would get better and I also knew that without challenge there is no change. I loved the fact that T25 was only 25 minutes a day so it was easy to get it done. I thought it was challenging but not impossible, and in the beginning I liked having a modifier to fall back on. I liked that it mixed up cardio and strength and speed. Alpha uses no weights – just the resistance of your own body weight. Beta starts to incorporate weights more so you build more muscle. Gamma steps it up with the weights – one of the workouts has you holding dumbbells almost the entire 25 minutes. I think this progression was fantastic.
I also did a month of Les Mills Combat. This was an MMA (mixed martial arts) style workout with exercises inspired by boxing, karate/kung fu, tae kwon do, capoeira, muay thai/kickboxing and jiu jitsu. As a fan of MMA it was really fun to feel like a fighter during these workouts. And the trainers keep it light and humorous even though the work is serious. Plus I got to wear these gloves that made me feel bad-ass during my workouts!
Finally, for the last two months I have been doing Insanity Max:30. Wow, this is HARD. But what I like about it is that it’s supposed to be very hard! You are not expected to be able to go the full 30 minutes. It is designed so that you are challenging yourself more and more each day. How it works is you just push as hard as you can until you have to stop because you are either out of breath, your muscles are spent, or you are sacrificing form. When you have to stop, you write down what time you stopped and that is your Max Out time. But then you jump right back into the workout and do the best you can for the rest of the time, regardless of how often you have to take a quick break. And the next time you do that workout, you look back on your old Max Out time, and you push yourself to beat it, so you are always competing with yourself to be better than the last time. So you get to make that progress happen and you see it on paper every day. When I look back at my times for month 1 and see 7:30 for week 1 of “Cardio Challenge” and look down and see 17:10 for week 4 I instantly know I am getting more fit by the day.
How has Shakeology impacted you?
I’ve never been a shake drinker, but I depend on this amazing stuff every day now. Shakeology is comprised of 70 super-foods, it’s the equivalent of 9 servings of vegetables (which is great because I find it hard to eat so many vegetables in a day), it has helped me lose weight, curb my junk food cravings, it gives me energy throughout the day, helps regulate my digestion and on top of all that it tastes like dessert. I used to get heartburn a lot, now I never get it. I used to have IBS problems – not even an issue anymore. I feel like I’m so much healthier on the inside as a result of drinking Shakeology every day. It is the ultimate complement to my fitness routine.
Plus I enjoy it so much because I make it with all these different recipes, many of which I have come up with on my own, like Chili Honey Almond (amazeballs), Banana Daiquiri, Cookies and Cream, S’mores, Strangoberry, Almond Joy, Snickerdoodle, and the list goes on and on.
Why have the challenge groups themselves made a difference for you?
Challenge groups are the single biggest component to my success. I told you why I failed in the past – I was not able to stay motivated and/or I became complacent after achieving some success. Challenge groups are fun, engaging, supportive and hold everyone accountable each and every day. I can’t tell you how many times in the beginning I was like, “No way I’m working out today,” but then I’d be on Facebook seeing everyone in my group posting their workouts and I’d get my butt in gear and make it happen. I never missed a workout, but I knew that if I did my coach Charise would call me out, and I was not about to let that happen.
After I became a coach and started running my own challenge groups, the effect was even greater! I now had challengers that had signed up with me and were depending on me for support and motivation. There’s simply no way I could not show up and get my workout done and post it in my group so that everyone else there could get that motivation from me. I now have to lead by example. It is no longer just about me. And because of this I am succeeding beyond my expectations – continuing to push, where in the past I might have stopped or slacked off. By helping others, I am helping myself more than ever.
Have you experienced any weight and stats changes during your time in our challenge groups?
Oh my God, yeah. With my first round of T25 Alpha (5 weeks) I lost 10 pounds and 4 inches around my waist, hips and chest. When I completed T25 Beta for the first time I had lost another 12 pounds and 5 inches around my waist, hips and chest, plus an extra 4 inches in my arms and thighs. In 10 weeks I had lost 22 pounds and 13 inches of fat. After almost 8 months of continued dedication, which is unheard of for me, I am happy to report I’m down a total of 30 pounds and 18 inches: 7 inches around my belly, 4 around my hips, 3 around my chest and 2 around each thigh. The most dramatic results obviously happened in my first two months, but this lasting change over time, with slower but continued improvement, is the most impressive thing for me.
What non-scale victories have you had?
There have been so many and I love to talk about them because they are just as important, if not more so, than weight loss and stats. I’m going to mention 4 of them here.
The first one was this winter when I took my oldest son (4 at the time) skiing for the first time. It’s a tough thing to do teaching someone that falls all the time to ski while you yourself are on skis. I was constantly picking him up on the bunny hill. But he was begging me to go on the big chair lift to the top – and that’s when the real victory happened. I took him on the big chair lift to the top (mind you, it’s Shawnee, a small mountain in the Poconos but this was his first time). I put him between my skis, held the back of his jacket, and we snowplowed all the way down to the bottom, fast at times, without stopping once. And we did this several more times. He was so happy and now he says he loves skiing and can’t wait to go again.
This March we went to Naples, FL to visit my wife’s parents. While there we went to the Naples Zoo. At one point we got to the camel rides area but they we closing in like 10-15 minutes and only took cash, of which we didn’t have any. So I said, “I got this,” and I left everyone there and sprinted the mile round-trip all the way back to the main entrance to get money from the ATM. Made it back in time so my kids could ride the camel with me.
My wife is a runner – she recently ran the NYC ½ marathon. I am not a runner. But in April, my wife and I ran together in a local 5k and finished in under 30 minutes. It was the first time I have ever run a race like that. I didn’t train for it. I just knew I was in good enough cardio shape to do it, just from these at-home workouts.
Earlier this month (May), a college buddy of mine asked me to do an adventure course with him, climbing and ropes and zip lines through the trees. It’s like a ski hill there, with their difficulty ratings. They start you off on Green (Easy) and if you make it through you can move up to Blue (Intermediate), then Black Diamond, then if you dare, Double Diamond – described as “very difficult, requiring physical strength and athletic ability”. Well we breezed through the Green and Blue courses. But half way through the Black Diamond, my friend couldn’t physically continue and bailed out. I finished and moved on to Double Diamond. The DD was definitely what it was cracked up to be and it was very challenging but I made it all the way through. At one point, my friend who was watching from below shouted up to me, “No way you could have done this a year ago!” Damn right.
So I was able to help my son develop an interest in skiing. I was able to give my sons the experience of riding a camel and creating a lasting memory. A spent a morning bonding with my wife doing something she loves, running a race; something I’d never done before simply because in all the time I’ve known her (15 years) I have never had the desire or ability to do so. I have been able to do things I would not have imagined a year ago. At 41 years old, I’m healthier and in better shape than I was 15 years ago. Yes, I have lost 30 pounds and 18 inches, but what I have gained is absolutely priceless.
How would you say participating in our challenge groups has impacted your life?
In short, I’m just a much better version on myself. Matt 2.0. Now I feel more healthy, have more energy, I’m happier and more confident. I really feel (and some say look) 10 years younger. I think I’ll even live 10 years longer than if I didn’t set myself straight. I’m excited about doing more things with my kids and my wife. And I’m excited to get other people involved and help them change their lives as well!
Why did you decide to become a Coach, and how is coaching impacting your life and your goals?
It’s been nice making extra money as a coach, but the true reward has come from helping other people change their lives like I have. I can’t even tell you how good that feels. And in turn, like I said, it motivates me even more. The physical, emotional and financial rewards that have come from coaching are incredible.
If any of our readers would like to connect with you, how can they find you via social media or contact you?
My fitness page: http://www.facebook.com/fitnesspapa
My personal FB page: http://www.facebook.com/matt.gai