After I lost my left leg to cancer when I was 9 years old, my doctor told me I needed to strengthen my remaining leg.
“If you don't build some muscle, your knee and hip will wear out in a few years,” she said. I tried doing squats, but it was hard to balance the barbell on my shoulders while squatting down on one leg.
Years passed and I entered college, where I ate more and started gaining weight. I didn't realize how much heavier I'd become until I ran into some friends from high school and they didn't even recognize me!
I was ashamed of the overweight body I saw when I looked in the mirror. My brother, my friends, even my Dad was relatively lean and muscular. Not me. I was fat. So I cut back on calories and eventually lost over twenty pounds, but at the start of the summer I hit a wall and just couldn't seem to get any leaner, let alone more muscular.
Then I spent a week at the beach with some friends. It was a health disaster – junk food all day, lounging by the pool, a lot of beer. Everyone else seemed to be having fun, but I was gaining fat and felt terrible. By the end of the week, I was so embarrassed by my bloated, pudgy body that I didn't want to take my shirt off on the beach.
On the last day of the trip, I stood in front of the mirror; I looked myself in the eye and said, “No more. I will do whatever it takes to have a body I can be proud of.” As soon as I returned home, I took my “before” pictures and set out on my Body-for-LIFE® journey.
I hadn't been on my bike for several years, but I got it out of storage and started cycling for my cardio. Each morning I woke up at 6 a.m. to ride my bike or lift weights at the gym. My workouts took on a level of intensity I had never known. Each day I pushed for one more rep, one more pound, one more minute, until I literally couldn't go any further. I eliminated sugar and junk food, eating more whole grains, lean proteins and fresh fruits and vegetables. When I was at work or traveling, I ate Myoplex® bars and drank EAS® protein shakes as a convenient meal replacement.
As my endurance on my bike grew, I decided to travel to Pennsylvania to compete in the US Disabled Cycling championships. My time was slow compared to the experienced athletes, but I gave the race 110%, and the members of the US Team encouraged me to keep training. They said in a few years I might be fast enough to make the US Team, maybe even to race in the Paralympics.
During the final week of the challenge, I was at a family reunion at the beach. This time I wasn't afraid to take off my shirt – in fact, I was proud to – because I've lost 6 pounds of fat and gained 10 pounds of muscle since starting the challenge! My cousins complimented me on how lean and muscular I looked. It felt great.
And those leg muscles? Well, my balance and strength have improved, and now I can squat 205 pounds.
*Individual results will vary