It is the story of how my life was shaped as well as the reason I have dedicated my life to helping people become fit, healthy and, most importantly, happy.
My Life Before The Accident
Let me start by telling you what I was like a few years ago. Like most people in their twenty's, I was a bit of a party animal. I had a decent job and therefore a bit of money to party with. I drank, ate out several times a week and stayed up late. The only exercise I got was when I played sports.
I did play a lot of sports, but did a lot of abuse to my body in the process. I mean, how much does the exercise of a nice hockey game really mean to your fitness level when you drink ten beers and eat a couple pounds of wings after the game? Not much. I was almost 240 lbs, which at five foot nine is a lot - too much!
I worked a physical job in a chemical warehouse, but I hated it. I wasn't where I wanted to be at all. There was no end in sight. I was a lifer! I was destined to work 7:30 am until 4 pm for the rest of my life - five days a week. But the money was ok and I partied after work.
But this is not about my former job. Not at all.
The Night Of The Accident
It was a normal Friday night. I worked some overtime and finished work at 11:30 pm. I met up with some friends at a local bar; it was someone's birthday. I got to the bar, did some karaoke and drank some beer. It was now 2 am and my brother's fiancé, who happened to be there, asked me if I wanted a ride home.
Did I want a ride home? Little did I know, that was the question that would hold the answer to the biggest decision of my entire life. I said no. I had a designated driver for my car.
At about 2:30 am we jumped into a couple of cars, all with sober drivers, and headed to Subway for a sub. It was only a two-minute drive. Home was two-minutes further.
From my extra long day and the beers, I fell right to sleep as soon as I got into the passenger seat of my car. When I woke it was a different world. Chaos.
I awoke suddenly to see my car springing backwards away from the tree. There were broken teeth and blood in my mouth, and blood gushing from a large gash on my forehead. My knees were pinned to the seat by the floor and the dashboard and I was almost broken in half by the seatbelt.
I got out of the car to notice utter destruction. The car had hit a tree head-on at 120 km/h on the driver side. The driver was not wearing a seatbelt. I am sorry to say, rest his soul, he was ejected about 60 feet from the car and died.
One young man in the back seat, right behind me, lay in the back seat with a broken neck. Finally his girlfriend lay with her head out the back window, eyes open, unconscious. My world, as I knew it, had ended.
Minutes seemed like seconds. It seemed like there was a crowd instantly. Police, fire and ambulance along with some co-workers and residents surrounded the destruction. The accident happened only minutes from my home. I was taken to the hospital for repairs.
At The Hospital
At the hospital I was x rayed, stitched and consoled by doctors, family and friends. The police were there to ask me what kind of car it was. I remember yelling at them, "what do you mean". "We can't tell" was the sad reply they gave me.
They couldn't tell what kind of car it was. It was that destroyed.
The x rays showed that I mysteriously had no broken bones, except for my nose. Imagine how I felt. I felt guilty. How come people are gone, paralyzed and broken but I have no broken bones.
The CT scan even showed no signs of brain damage or even a concussion. My face hit the windshield and only stitches. My knees were badly damaged. They were not broken, but the damage was bad nonetheless. My ligaments were, and still are, all out of whack. I couldn't walk for 4 months and was told that sports were done for me. A cane might be in my future.
The young man driving the car was gone at 23. The young man in the back seat, directly behind me, is now paralyzed from the neck down. And the girl is, for the most part, fully recovered. It is a tragedy that 4 lives were forever changed at the age of 23. A definite tragedy.
The Decision To Become A Fitness Professional
There was absolutely no way I was going to spend my life without sports. I was not going to be dependent upon a stick to walk properly. As soon as I could stand on my leg I decided to sign up for college and become a personal trainer. I would fix my own injury and help prevent anything like this from happening to anyone ever again. It had to be the reason I was spared. I believed it then and still do to this day.
Imagine being 60 lbs overweight and deciding to become a fitness professional. Everyone thought I was nuts. That wasn't about to stop me, say what you want.
I began and finished college, got a job as a personal trainer at a large health club and learned how to deal with people. I learned to really connect and teach people a new lifestyle.
I was helping. I soon became a fitness manager, teaching other professionals to help change lives. It was great for a while, but I wanted to help more. It wasn't about money or even recognition. It was, and always will be, about people.
That is how Fit 4 Real came to be. It came from the ashes of destruction. Passion coupled with the vision, determination and integrity of an overweight and broken man started something wonderful. I will never forget what happened, where I was or who was there. I was given a gift; an eye-opening event changed my life, and many others in one moment.
This is my story. Does it have a happy ending? Well, I am happy, those that I have helped change their lives are happy and many more will become happy as they become educated and empowered. Fortunately, I see no end in sight. I hope that my story has taught you a few things. No matter what your circumstances, there is absolutely no reason for you not to change your life.
If I can do it, anyone can. Secondly, I hope you understand that change can happen in an instant, one decision can change the course of your life forever. Make good ones. Finally, it doesn't take what happened to me for you to change anything you want. If you are having trouble, we can help. There is a program for everyone. We can help you develop it.
One final note; I would like for everyone to understand that they can email me at any time. I will always respond to your emails. It may take a day or two, but I will always get back to you. Never doubt the fact that I am here if you need me.
My Diet & Exercise Regiment While Recovering
If I was to make this lifestyle transformation, I had to make some extreme changes to my diet and the amount of exercise that I did. For my diet I adopted Supportive Eating, this allowed me to get all of my micro and macro nutrients in the correct amounts. I have written an article about supportive nutrition for optimal health as well a an e-book that I available on my website.
My exercise routine was, to say the least, a little bizarre if you were watching from the outside. My routine was also far from traditional.
Typically I did a 3 day split. The split consisted of:
- Day 1 - Legs and core.
- Day 2 - Chest and back.
- Day 3 - Shoulders and arms.
- No more than 12 minutes of cardiovascular activity after my workout.
I know this sounds traditional but it wasn't. You see, I used no weights. I used body weight, bands, balls and resistance but no weight. With my understanding of the human body I was able to build my body the way it was meant to move.
So, what did this training accomplish? I was able to walk again, play all my sports and shed 70 pounds of pure fat.
I did it and truly believe that anyone can.
About The Author
John Leonard is a Fitness Professional, Author and speaker. John is a contributing writer for the World Natural Sports Organization producers of the acclaimed FAME World Events Series. John will be taking the competition stage for the first time in June 2005 at the FAME 2005 World Championships. John has dedicated his life to helping improve lives as President of Fit 4 Real Fitness Inc. Visit his website.