When faced with the prospect of wallowing in pity and self-doubt or transforming his life for the better, Errol Hannigan, 59, chose the latter, and with the help of his wife Judi, one of his saviours - the other being Jesus - and the Body-For-Life transformation program, he is now in the best shape of his life and an inspiration to all who chose to follow their physical fitness goals.
What motivated Errol to become a transformation success story was relatively clear-cut: either shape up or die. Mentally and physically at his lowest point ever - the aftermath of a leg infection that led to his left leg requiring amputation, mid-thigh - Errol, battling amazing pain, struggling with his identity, facing inferiority issues and contemplating taking his own life, decided positive change was needed in his life.
He chose fitness. But before his fitness journey would commence, he experienced constant phantom leg pain, which required over 2400mgs of morphine a day. Even at this level the pain was made just "bearable." An "incredibly deep and dark time" ensued.
Says Errol, "I was just sitting around feeling sorry for myself along with eating badly and getting fatter by the day.
"One day I just broke and after much thought and feeling that all was hopeless I loaded my pistol, prepared a place so I wouldn't make too much of a mess and went and more or less told, but still asked, my wife to give me permission to allow me to end my suffering and take my own life."
His wife explained that she has married a fighter, who would never quit, words that rallied Errol into action and ultimately prompted his transformation.
Today Errol serves as motivation for legions of transformation aspirants as they seek to overcome their unique physical and mental limitations.
With the help of his loving wife (herself an inspiration, having battled an energy-robbing health problem while completing her own body transformation), the right guidance and, ultimately, a strong will to win, Errol has shown there is no excuse for failure if we develop a plan, practice consistency and keep the faith.
One of the key messages gleaned from what Errol has to say is: regardless of what we must overcome, we can all make positive change in our lives. Sure, some have it harder than others, and for some the outlook is indeed bleak, but with strength of mind we can all make gradual improvements. Errol is an excellent example of this. In the following interview he tells his story.
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Errol Hannigan's BodySpace Progress.
[ Q ] Can you provide some background on your life, pre-transformation?
I have always been what most people refer to as a biker. I started riding Harley Davidson motorcycles at the age of 19. Up until I had my leg amputated, I enjoyed riding and owning at least one Harley every year of my life.
I estimate that over the 35-plus years that I rode, I probably put in close to 500,000 miles in the saddle and visited at least every state in the U.S. except Alaska and Hawaii and every province in Canada. I really enjoyed riding.
In the past I have managed a Harley Davidson dealership as well as a custom motorcycle shop and ended up becoming the president of the British Columbia Coalition of Motorcyclists (BCCOM), which is the premier motorcycle safety, education and awareness organization in Canada. I led that organization for approximately 6 years and left to run my own consulting business, which is what I was doing when I lost my leg.
I met and married the absolute love of my life, Judi, who also has made a fantastic body transformation and has her own BodySpace site under the name "judimax." It was one of those love-at-first-sight things that you usually only see or hear about in the movies but for us it happened in real life.
We met and started dating about 12 years ago and were married December 23, 2000, and the honeymoon has never ended. She is my best friend and the hardest working and most demanding training partner that I could ever dream of working with.
We have what we refer to as our two kids, who are our two Chihuahuas, a male Zeke who I rescued from being put down at 6 weeks of age because he was "not of show quality" and who has returned that small kindness back to me a million fold, and Ruby, our little girl, who is scared of her own shadow inside the house but will charge and attempt to tangle with a Coyote that came to our yard (true story).
As far as working out, it was something that I had messed around with but quit doing in my late 20s or early 30s. I was never serious about lifting weights and when I boxed in my late teens and early 20s, I was told not to lift weights because they would make me slower and more muscle-bound, obviously that myth has been long since exposed as a mistake.
[ Q ] What prompted you to go all-out to re-shape your body?
To be honest I didn't start by thinking of going all-out to reshape my body. My wife, after what seemed like a never-ending series of tests, had been diagnosed with a serious condition, which finally explained the total lack of energy and severe pain she endured for the past couple of years.
Once knowing the reason for her symptoms, she began doing a lot of research and found out that even though it flies in the face of common sense, people with this health problem need to exercise to combat their total lack of both energy and stamina. Armed with this knowledge she decided that she was joining a gym and going to work out and to this day I have no idea how she did it, but she got me to join with her.
The first day I went to the gym I did not believe it would do me one iota of good and that I was wasting my time, but I was going to try to help my wife.
Amazingly some interesting things happened regarding my phantom pain (it goes away for 2-to-3 hours once I start lifting weights). I felt better mentally afterward and so I decided to keep plugging away. That plugging away ended up getting me judged 10th overall in the 2007 Canadian Body-For-Life Challenge, an honor I am extremely proud of, particularly since I competed as an older adult and an amputee against mostly younger and able-bodied folks.
Right now I am working to not only see how much I can change my body at my age. I will be 60 in November, but I especially want to show, inspire or motivate or whatever it takes to demonstrate to people that no matter what is going on in their lives, whether they are able-bodied or handicapped, be they young or old, slightly overweight to very overweight that life becomes so much more enjoyable once you start working out and there is no limitation to what they can do once they put their mind to it.
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Errol & Judi Hannigan.
"She Is My Best Friend And The Hardest Working And Most
Demanding Training Partner That I Could Ever Dream Of Working With."
[ Q ] What have been some obvious and less obvious obstacles you have faced as you have progressed?
I guess the most obvious is my artificial leg. I have what is known as an AK amputation which is an above-knee amputation and that limits me in some areas because I don't have a controllable knee. I have to adjust by pushing my hip and thigh forward to get the artificial knee joint to swing and bring my foot forward to walk. That inhibits my ability to run.
At this time when I do cardio I can just use just the treadmill and I am limited to just walking, but I still manage to get up to a decent speed and I find that gives me a pretty good workout.
Another part of my artificial leg is the socket that holds my remaining leg: the medical profession refers to it as a stump but I refuse to; I hate the term "stump" and always try to find another way to refer to it.
In the beginning the main problem was finding the correct fit and while they were experimenting I ended up getting some pretty ugly blisters and sores from the leg rubbing inside the socket. Now that they have that part fixed a new problem has surfaced.
My remaining leg has no solid muscle to hold the bone from pushing against the skin and then pushing against the side of the socket. When I put a certain amount of force or pressure, be it pushing forward, backward or either side, I find it painful to say the least. So, when it comes to a number of exercises I have to completely isolate my left leg and make sure that I don't bring it into play at all. It has taken a while but I am becoming fairly good at doing just that and making sure to concentrate on just my right leg.
I guess one of the less obvious obstacles I have faced was my ego. I used to look at myself as a guy who could take care of business if need be and all of a sudden I couldn't even stop myself from falling to the floor in the supermarket or while trying to walk on the sidewalk. I had a real problem with how I viewed myself in the beginning.
I felt that the amputation of my leg also took away part of my manhood. Here I was married to this vibrant, energetic and beautiful lady and even though I was never anything amazing to look at before I was now going to present myself to her minus a large part of my physical self and that didn't sit well with me.
No one wants to be without a body part. But, bless her, she never flinched and was always in my corner and has taken great steps to make sure I know that she loved and married the man, not the missing leg.
I also had a problem letting people see the artificial leg. I just wanted to hide it but little by little and with her beside me, I ventured out into public but making sure that I covered my artificial leg with sweatpants and even when the time came to exercise I wore sweatpants into the gym, but as I started to feel better about myself fitness wise I also started to feel better about revealing my artificial leg.
One day I made the decision to wear shorts and "expose myself" as I put it, to the world and from that day on I have never hesitated to wear shorts, which I do almost every day and I hope that by doing so I can help educate the general public that there are amputees among them and they are really no different than anyone else.
I actually enjoy it when a child asks me about it, they are usually pretty straight forward with their questions, God bless them, and I make sure to answer them truthfully and take the time to let them look at it and in some cases they have asked if they can touch it and of course I let them. It may be through kids that a lot of the stigma associated with artificial limbs gets taken away.
[ Q ] What program did you use to re-shape your body and what program do you use today?
As I said before it was my wife Judi who did all the research and she found the program we used in the beginning called Body-For-Life. Once I had a chance to look it over I knew it was a good one for us to begin with. It had everything we needed listed on its website including the nutritional aspect all the way to the weightlifting and cardio programs, and unlike a lot of other transformation programs out there it was free.
Sure Body-For-Life wants you to buy your supplements from their mother company EAS, but it is up to you if and how many you decide to buy, and you can even use their program and buy from some other manufacturer, what's not to like about that.
The program, for those not familiar with it, is a 12-week body transformation program that uses well-researched science to help you get into the best shape possible.
Their nutritional program and has you eating 5-to-6 small, high protein, low (high glycemic) carb and low (bad) fat meals per day with 2-to-3 of these "meals" being in the form of protein shakes. It has you lifting weights for no more than one hour every other day and your cardio consists of 20-minute sessions again, every other day.
One of the more interesting and highly-desirable (at least for me) aspects of Body-For-Life is its built in cheat day. They factored in that people have lives as well as cravings and knowing that you might have parties or functions of some sort to attend as well as knowing if you really crave that cheesecake with hot-fudge topping there is a good chance you are going to break down and have it so why not remove the guilt and make it part of your weekly diet.
One day per week you get to eat anything and everything that your little heart desires and there are no consequences, you just go back to your regular 5-to-6 meals starting the next morning. It doesn't sound like it should work but believe me it did for both my wife and myself along with the thousands of other examples on their website.
I lost more than 50 pounds and went from around 36% to close to 10% body fat in the 12 weeks I was doing the Body-For-Life program and enjoyed every minute of it.
The program that both Judi and myself are using now is a bit more advanced than the Body-For-Life one and we are concentrating on hitting a different muscle group at each workout rather than an upper-body workout one time and a lower one the next.
I try to do abs & back on Monday's and chest on Tuesday's and take Wednesday off. Thursday will usually be abs & leg day, Friday is arms and Saturday is abs & shoulders with Sunday again being an off day.
I find that I get the best response from doing 3-to-4 sets per exercise with 4-to-5 exercises pert body part and doing anywhere from 8-to-12 reps depending on what I am trying to achieve.
I always like to do abs first thing when starting my workouts. I do this because number one, I want good abs so I want to hit them when I can really focus all my energy on the exercises I do for them and not after my workout when I am usually dragging my tail and don't have much of anything left to give them.
Cardio always follows weightlifting. I like doing it after lifting weights because, once again, if I do it before lifting I will not have the energy I want to push myself hard when it comes to moving the weights. When I do it last I can still push myself aerobically even though my muscles have given their all during the weight portion of my workout.
[ Q ] How has your approach to training evolved since your began?
When I first began lifting weights and doing cardio I didn't have a clue as to proper form and how to incorporate certain exercises into my program. I also didn't know how to push myself so as to receive the maximum benefit from each and every session.
I have learned a lot especially after watching a number of videos on Bodybuilding.com with my favourite trainer Charles Glass working with various folks, (I believe that man is a genius) he preaches proper form and the correct technique to isolate each muscle and work just the target muscle and get the very most out of each lift. I have found that by following his techniques I have been able to achieve extra definition and even a bit more lean muscle gain.
When I first started I was following the Body-For-Life program which has you lifting weights for no more than one hour every other day and doing an upper body workout one time followed by a lower body one the next time.
Cardio with the Body-For-Life program is just 20 minutes using a high intensity approach. Now I am currently using a 2-day on, 1-day off, 3-days on, 1-day off routine targeting one major body part per work out.
I do back Monday and chest Tuesday with Wednesday off and then Thursday is leg day, Friday is arms and Saturday is shoulders then Sunday is off. I will do cardio 3-to-4 times per week and go anywhere from 20-to-45 minutes per session. I find this type of routine pretty intense but it gives me the best results.
[ Q ] How has you approach to nutrition evolved?
It actually hasn't evolved too much since I began working out. I still eat 5-to-6 smaller, high protein meals per day and incorporate my cheat day, except I have decided to rename it; it is now called an earned day. I call it earned because after pushing yourself with weights and cardio all week as well as eating "clean," I feel I have really earned that day of eating whatever I want.
With a bit of experimenting I have found that including 2-or-3 fish meals per week along with chicken, lean pork, lean ground beef and egg meals I am able to keep my body fat at around the 10% to 12% range which is right where I like it. I am also seeing new muscle growth so that must mean I am using the right percentage of protein and carbs to provide that.
[ Q ] You have experienced some very tough times throughout your transformation. Can you tell me what inspired and motivated you to continue pursuing your physique goals?
I don't want to sound too sappy or anything but I would be remiss if I didn't single out my wife as one of the main factors in my motivation. As I mentioned previously she has a serious health condition which if you are not familiar with causes the body to actually attacks itself in various ways and this can cause all sorts of symptoms, not the least of which is a complete loss of energy.
To go along with that she gets bad headaches among other problems that make daily life difficult. When I see her hurting so badly and yet still push herself just to get to the gym I tell myself I better "man-up" and do what needs to get done.
Another big part of all of this is my faith. I believe strongly in the Lord and also in His ability to grant me the strength to push myself to achieve the results I have been able to achieve. I have been truly blessed to be able to achieve my body transformation and go from where I was to where I am today.
I feel the Lord has a plan for me and unless I am way off base it includes fitness and showing people how easy it actually is to lose weight and get into better shape. I hope to be a fitness ambassador and do whatever I can to help eradicate this epidemic of being overweight that is crippling our population.
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I Would Be Remiss If I Didn't Single Out My Wife
As One Of The Main Factors In My Motivation.
[ Q ] In your experience what are some of the more significant benefits one can achieve from transforming their physique?
For me personally I am no longer down on myself and previously I was to the point of taking my life. I have never felt this happy before in my life. I no longer have certain conditions which at the time had required medication.
I have more energy than I can remember ever having. I am no longer moody or quick to anger. I stand taller and walk taller, even though I am missing a limb. I look forward to each and every day and pretty much only see the positive side of life now.
I believe what I was able to get benefit-wise from working out can be achieved by almost everyone who embraces fitness. I don't look at myself as unique but rather as just a regular guy with no real special talents, and therefore any other regular guy (or gal) can and should be able to get close to if not the exact same results I did.
[ Q ] What has your new physique provided for you, both tangible and intangible?
Self-esteem for one. As previously mentioned I felt like less of a man after my leg was amputated but getting used to having an artificial leg has helped, but also so has getting a better physique. I find that I stand taller and walk tall and proud rather than slouch like I used to with my gut hanging out.
People tell me that I look at least 10 years younger, which is nice to hear but I feel at least 20 years younger. I was able to visit and have a tour of Bodybuilding.com both the corporate office and the warehouse and if it wasn't for fitness I would never have met any of the wonderful people who make Bodybuilding.com what it is nor would I have known about Bodybuilding.com, and if I wasn't fit they would not have known about or been interested in me.
I (along with my wife) was on the cover and had my story included in Beyond 50 magazine, which was special indeed. People are always coming up to me and complimenting me on my body and asking questions about how they can get into better shape and I love talking fitness with people and I hope I can make a difference in their lives and show them they too can get into good shape and it doesn't take long to do it.
[ Q ] What are your views on supplements and how do you structure them into your diet (what ones do you use and why)?
I consider supplements to be exactly that, a supplement to an already good nutrition program. I try to eat the right foods making sure I include good quality lean meats, as well as a diverse selection of vegetables and grains and essential fatty acids.
I add or supplement certain products to "top-up" what I may not be getting in my diet. I think there are too many radical claims being made by supplement companies and it is too easy to believe all the hype and spend hard earned money looking for something that isn't there.
I use what I believe is a good multivitamin to make sure that I get every one of the vitamins and minerals that I need and although there are hundreds on the market I have gone with a company, after doing a lot of research, I feel is reputable and has in its products what it says is in them.
Next I include protein powders. I use whey and micellar casein at a variety of times, like right after working out and especially right before going to bed. I want to make sure I get my protein requirements met when I need them most. I use a couple of manufacturers again that I believe I can trust to include the best protein on the market rather than the bottom of the barrel, which some companies sell to us.
Next comes creatine. I found it helps my overall strength. I experimented with a bunch of different creatines but I favor the basic creatine monohydrate over the others and that may just be a personal choice.
I add glutamine to my regimen to help me in my recovery from stressful workouts.
I have heard a lot of good things about the amino acid Beta Alanine and will probably give that a try; it is supposed to increase strength and stamina for older lifters.
Last of all I make sure to add EFA's to my nutrition program.
I have two personal preferences for protein powder. My first choice is from Beverly International, a company that does not advertise in magazines but instead puts all its money into research and development and in providing the best quality protein powder that money can buy.
I also utilize a flavored casein protein powder from Optimum Nutrition because Beverly International does not make one in a banana flavor and that is what my wife uses when she makes her 100% super healthy banana cream pie dessert.
When it comes to vitamins I also believe strongly in Beverly International and use their Super Pak and I have also tried and like Universal Animal Pak vitamins.
I use a few other of Beverly's supplements as they have a whole array.
[ Q ] What transformation tips would you share with those wanting to experience the kind of results you achieved?
There are a few that I would like to stress. First, find and follow a quality and proven program. Just because it is in a magazine does not mean it is right for you. I used Body-For-Life, which has been around for years, and thousands of people have made astounding body transformations by following it.
There are others that have good science behind them that can work equally as well. Next, I see so many people just going through the motions and not pushing themselves or trying to better their last workouts numbers.
I see them moving weights but not ever breaking a sweat. If you want to achieve weight loss or a body transformation you are going to have to put in what I am now referring to as "sweat equity." You will need to push yourself a bit out of your comfort zone but once you do the results will be so worth the extra effort.
One that personally gets my goat is when people believe that by taking some well advertised and promoted "diet pill" that their body fat will magically fall off. I tell them to quit relying on the magic pill. The only way to lose weight is to work it off. Sure a diet pill can assist you, but you still have to do the work.
Last of all I would like to stress to people to learn to lift with correct form and technique. So many people use improper form and wonder why they are not seeing results. Men especially need to leave their egos at the door.
Just because you do a bunch of weird contortions while raising the barbell with a lot of weight on it does not mean that you are actually hitting your biceps or whatever body part you are targeting. Its not so much the weight you lift, but rather how you lift the weight, that gives you the results. At least that is what I believe.
To learn more about Errol Hannigan visit his BodySpace page: http://bodyspace.bodybuilding.com/CaptainAhab/