The Elite 30
I work at a place that has a great little perk. We’ll call it “The Elite 30” for this article. This is time offered during the day to do a workout or some form of physical activity. When you are done with the activity you take a sweaty selfie and post it in the Elite 30 slack channel. There are sometimes little challenges and rewards and there’s usually a contest for the pic that gets the most emoji reactions. You aren’t in any way required to participate, but if you do you are goina have a good time.
In reality we don’t need a special time to exercise. Looking at the situation at a high level we are all remote-first in a results-driven, flexible environment. Each person has the full capability to exercise during the work day. There are many home workout options. You also have time before and after the work day, where most people traditionally exercise. So everyone exercises, right?
Things are not always what they look like from a high level. People get busy, people get mentally tired from a busy day, people feel like it’s cheating to use work time for exercise, and a bunch of other things. It can be hard to create an exercise habit and easy to fall out of one. This channel is a supportive and encouraging environment where people posted pictures, reacted with emojis, joined challenges, etc. Adding in the challenges and gift cards also are great encouragement. Elite 30 is just another step to showing that our values aren’t just something we’ve got put on a piece of paper or board somewhere. It seems like something very small but it has a big impact for employees as well as the company. Plus I won a couple challenges and who doesn’t like that? Amirite?
It’s easy to see that from the start I was on board with this even though I couldn’t remember to take my selfies. I was lifting weights and doing kickboxing already at this point in time so I didn’t see a good way to use the Elite 30 at first. There were two mornings a week where I could do kickboxing though and that made up for it.
Shaking things up
There are some things leading up to this but I’ll skip the details there and just say on October 20th I was admitted to the hospital for “chest pains”. Why did I air quote that? I would probably call it more of a tightness or mild pain and shortness of breath. I had already been out sick so I called the clinic and after explaining myself they said to go straight to the E.R.
After a couple days in the hospital, what felt like a gallon of blood, and more tests than I can count I was released with orders for more tests as an outpatient. The only thing I figured out during this time was that there was an abnormality on my EKG for an inferior infarct (heart attack) and during the scans they saw my liver was fatty so I needed to get tests and imaging done on that.
The positive part was that I was healthy enough to return home and do the tests as an outpatient. After getting to the E.R. I thought I was in some serious trouble. They were nice, attentive, and thorough but getting strapped up to all sorts of stuff because the doctors are worried makes you realize you’re in a bad way.
When I was talking with the cardiologist to get released she said that this was an early warning sign most likely. Lifestyle changes and weight loss is probably all that needs done. I was told only light exercise until after the stress test that had been ordered. I took all this advice very seriously. I felt a great urgency to make sure my weight loss and diet were on track so that I can live. I’m really very partial to life.
I was now faced with something I wasn’t really experienced with. I’d come into sports in my late twenties after never having done anything athletic. I was very out of shape and quite fat but I lost 100lbs in 9 months so I could have my first fight. I competed in MMA, BJJ, and K1 where I had my first fight at 155 and fought at 170 after that. I left combat sports and transitioned to strongman where I gained that 100lbs back intentionally. I was very used to manipulating my body weight and staying healthy through diet and…. hard exercise. Now I’m in a place where I need to take a break if I feel my heart rate going up which pretty much means I have to stop when I get warmed up.
How I made it work
I had lots of things on my mind at this point. I can’t do anything drastic because I don’t know what type of shape my body is in. I couldn’t exercise hard. I was asking questions like “am I too late” and “will I be able to do it in time” and you can probably imagine. It’s hard to convey the amount of stress I was under. I had never been in a position like this before and I felt…. lost.
I had already started doing the ketogenic diet with my family for health reasons. Both the girls are type 2 diabetic and we’d read a lot about how carbs link to metabolic syndrome and things like heart problems. We’d already been losing weight and my daughter got taken off her diabetes medicines. We had some traveling and vacation and because of that I had gone back to a normal carb diet. I decided to return to keto and found a good meat locker and had already located some farm produce to improve quality.
I also started intermittent fasting. I have used that before in my MMA days and had great success. I stopped doing it because I was not capable of recovering from hard lifting, but at this point I’m not going to be lifting anymore. This has quite a bit of health benefits but also is a good weight loss aid.
I started doing light exercise with my family in the mornings. Mostly just walking but some light upper body calisthenics a couple days a week. I had to pay attention and make sure I took breaks during the upper body work, but I wanted to do something to keep my muscles working. I feel like this would have been enough if I were able to work out like normal, but I knew it wasn’t in the current state.
I’d cancelled my membership to the kickboxing gym and decided against lifting weights. I didn’t see a point in continuing because it would be a while before I had my results, and I’d also decided I wasn’t going to push to that extreme anymore because I now have a heart condition. Instead, I was using part of that time to do the morning workout with the fam, and part of it to dive more into cooking and making sure I ate the most real food possible. Remember I’m flipping all the way out here because I have to get healthy to pretty much save my life. You may see where I’m going here.
One of the things I talked about with the doctors was my traveling and work habits. I needed to make sure I wasn’t sitting all day by breaking it up with breaks and movement. Now I’m seeing how perfectly the Elite 30 fits in. I couldn’t do it at the scheduled time really because of other obligations but I’d already gotten in the habit of scheduling my lunch and trying my best to take it. Now I can just go for another walk or slow ride before I make my lunch. It would cause me to run a little over but I was very comfortable with that because I’d seen the activity in the Elite 30 channel. That meant it was okay for me to use this time, and now I really NEEDED it.
It’s difficult to explain what this meant for me. I went from a normal person to someone who was feeling like I was battling for my life in a very literal way. I was already not comfortable with the time I’d taken off and the time I was going to need here and there for doctor visits. High pressure situations can make your mind play tricks on you and I was becoming very worried about losing my job. There were scenarios in my head where I couldn’t get healthy again and my family was left with nothing as a result of me losing my job trying to get through it. I was paranoid about a lot of things health-wise and didn’t feel like I had a plan. Having a clear way that felt safe to do this gave me a plan I believed in.
Purpose is important to me. It’s my drive that has gotten me to where I am despite all challenges. I had figured out a long time ago two things: 1) You can never stop, even if it looks like you won’t be able to move forwards and 2) you can get through (and do) amazing things if you are driven and believe in yourself. Now that I had a plan I just had to execute it to the best of my abilities.
I’ve explained fighting, camping with wildlife, and other situations to my daughter throughout life. She will ask me if I’m afraid or say she doesn’t realize how I can do some of the things I do. I’ll share how I described camping in bear country, with large cats, or other dangers.
“I know bears are dangerous. I learned the things I needed in order to be safe in that environment, just like I would safety procedures at a job, and I do those to the best of my ability. If this doesn’t work then I may see a bear, and I know what to do in those cases as well. If that doesn’t work then I will try my best to get out of that situation. In this case I will fight the bear. I know what this choice means because of all the combat training I have had, and I know what losing means. So I won’t give up, and I will fight that bear or mountain lion with everything that I have…. And if I don’t win then it’s not my problem anymore.”
This situation isn’t that much different. Make your plan and execute it. You just have to believe in yourself because the other option doesn’t make sense.
When I returned to the cardiologist after all my testing I had lost right around 15lbs. She explained to me that all my tests were great and I did very well on the stress test. She was even happy with how long I was on the treadmill.
I was pretty emotional when I got the results. I’ve never cried in a doctors office before but I sure did have some dust in my eyes. Thankfully she gave me some tissue to help. I looked at the paper so long the doctor just waited and finally said “you did it”.
I would have been happy with that. I didn’t have to worry about surgeries, more tests, etc. I could just have a normal life. If I just kept going the way I was then there were no problems. The relief that I felt was so real amazon could have delivered it. Like I said, I didn’t cry, but I could see how someone might have.
(I just knew I felt way better than I should have in that stress test)
The best part
What the doctor also explained was that my responses to all the tests were normal and that I was healthy. Again very happy with the stress test as well. The last thing we talked about was how the abnormality on the EKG was not a heart attack. The testing was an abundance of caution after seeing the EKG from the E.R. and combined with the context of the visit. What we know now is that I never had a heart attack.
There was no way to know this up front without all the testing. The EKG certainly did indicate something and they took a cautious approach.
As a result of the weight loss and the tests the cardiologist also recommended that I work with my family doctor to start getting off the blood pressure medicine. I also likely have reversed the fatty liver issue with the drinking changes and the weight loss.
My family is happy and healthy and I go in for the final test result for my liver this month. So far the health issues were just a light scare and a chance to change things before it becomes a reality. As a bonus we were able to start working on the blood pressure, and found out something about my liver that could have become an issue later.
I’ve decided that I love the extra time with my family and I’m not going back to the gym. We work out together in the mornings, my daughter still goes for walks with me on her day off, and I spend a lot of time in the evenings with my family.
I don’t take any extra time at lunch anymore, but I do go on walks and use my home exercise bike. I started on a beginner series to get back into shape after I got the go ahead to exercise from the doctor. I currently fast longer so I don’t need a lunch but I’m used to protecting that time so I use it for workouts. Mid day workouts are great at splitting up my day and getting me moving.
When I first moved to Florida I said I was just going to be a normal guy and stop competing. I didn’t want to be a gym rat anymore. When I went to the hospital I was lifting hard 3x a week and doing kickboxing at least 4 times a week along with some grappling and various other activities. Now I have finally followed through.
To date from getting put on my blood pressure meds and starting keto I’ve lost 50 lbs. My first goal was 250 to be at a weight where I don’t have to worry about breaking normal items. 250 was what I weighed when I went into the hospital. The next goal is 225 because that is 10% body weight loss from the time I went to the hospital, and statistically that is a great metric to watch to get off my medicines. Doing keto and IF together it does seem rather effortless though. I mostly cook at home so I always eat great food. After I hit 225 I think my scale work is done, and I’ll just be normal.