goal setting

90-Day Challenge Winner: Mike

The competition was fierce but Mike fought hard and inspired us all in the process. He puts it all on the line every time. With a smile on his face he stays mentally focused, holds nothing back and continuously pushes himself to the limit while challenging us to give him more. His determination to reach his ultimate goals have made him a winner and saved his life. Congratulations Mike! You deserve it.

Mike’s Interview:

Mike at 305lbs.

Tell us about your background and what got you interested in working out?

I’m 41 years old and have been a cop for 12 years. I am married and have two kids, 8 and 6 years old. After about 25 years of alcohol abuse (a whole other story), I had my last drink on July 25th, 2009. I weighed 305 pounds, couldn’t walk a flight of stairs without a rest and knew that a heart attack was waiting right around the corner if I continued living the way I was. I decided that after poisoning my body and mind for most of my adult life, I was going to make a sincere run at changing my life. At first, exercising was something that I was doing to kill time and release some energy now that I wasn’t drinking or nursing hangovers. My workouts were occasional at best, and even then they were half-hearted efforts and thoroughly ineffective. They were usually torn from some muscle mag that promised quick and easy results and focused on the arms and chest. My nutrition had to improve generally, due to my lack of alcohol intake but I had just as many misconceptions and poor information about nutrition as I did about exercise. In hindsight, I can see that I was spinning my wheels regarding my fitness during the first few weeks of my sobriety. But then the rubber met the road when I met Doug and AJ from Rise Above and my fitness level took off!

Mike now at 253lbs. and counting

Describe your first Rise Above Class, was it what you expected?

My first Rise Above class was not at all what I expected. It was an intense, grueling, full body experience. It included using chains, sledgehammers, ropes, a tractor tire and those silly looking cannonball things with handles that I’ve since learned to love and respect so much. This was not an ordinary gym or an ordinary experience. I’d be lying if I said that first class was fun. It hurt. It hurt because my body only knew to be stagnant, lazy and ineffective and I was now getting my ass kicked by this explosive, full body experience! I literally couldn’t walk the next day. I’m not kidding. My legs wouldn’t move, I could barely lift my arms, and muscles I didn’t know I had were screaming at me! But I still felt great! I felt like just completing the workout was an accomplishment and that If I could make it through just one more, I would feel even better about myself. I felt I was paying the price for years of neglect and when I had paid my bill, I would have my reward. I went back again and again. Now fitness and Rise Above are an important part of my daily routine.

This old tire is no match for Mike's thunder

What motivated you to come back to the gym and start working out again?

My motivation for my commitment to fitness comes from many factors in my life that are specific to certain scenarios. I’m motivated by my wife and kids who never wanted anything except for me to be a husband and daddy. They could have left me a hundred different times during my drinking days but they didn’t and when I finally walked out of the fog, they were there to take my hand and support me. I want to be the husband and Dad I should have been all these years and Rise Above helps me be that guy.

I expect every workout at Rise Above to be harder and more brutal than the one before. I push myself to leave it all out there in the gym. If I drop dead during my last set of a prowler pushes or a killer kettlebell circuit, I’m cool with that because it’s the one place that I know I’m giving 100% of myself, for myself. The great feeling of the pump afterward, the confident feeling, the higher energy level …those are things I get to share with others in my life. But the work I do to get those rewards is all mine.

I wouldn’t be true to this process if I didn’t mention that I’ve learned from Doug and AJ that motivation breeds motivation. In all aspects of life, it’s contagious. Doug and AJ are as fanatical as I am about my progress. They treated me with respect, patience and tolerance the first day we met and it continues today. I hope that someday someone will look to me to motivate them as I look to Doug and AJ. I credit them both with being part of a small group of people that literally saved my life. Essentially, I went to two strangers and asked for help in changing my life. They gave all without question and do so every time we meet. If that’s not motivating, I don’t know what is.

Mike tearing up The Prowler

What were some of the changes you made in your diet that enabled you to lose the weight and keep up your strength?

As you know by now I’ve discovered that I’m allergic to alcohol (It makes me grope women and say things I regret). It’s also really bad for your fitness goals….unless your goals are to be fat and lazy. So I don’t drink alcohol.

Secondly, I didn’t do everything all at once. It’s a lifestyle change and it can feel overwhelming at times so I didn’t want to set myself up to fail. After getting used to living without booze, I cut out refined sugars found in all the stuff I love like pastries, cookies, pies, and on and on. Then after getting a handle on that I cut out all fried foods. Now, I’ve moved on to eliminating (or cutting way back) on carbs. Not all carbs obviously, just the bad ones found in all the stuff I love (see above) and pastas, breads and potatoes.

I think people are doing themselves a disservice and will be working against themselves if they don’t make an effort to understand nutrition and how foods are processed by the body before starting a diet. Although diets are traditionally thought of as eliminating foods, you also need to add healthy foods that support lean muscle growth. I also eat more often. I try to eat some protein about every three hours and don’t allow myself to get so hungry that I make poor choices. It takes some practice and training of the mind and body, but it’s very doable and results come quickly if it’s taken seriously.

Lastly, I would say that the occasional beer, burger or slice of pie won’t kill you or de-rail your fitness goals. Life is good and it was meant to be enjoyed. You just need to find the right balance that works for you.

For newcomers to the Rise Above experience, what words of encouragement can you give them?

Believe that your mind and body can do things you never thought were possible. You are the only thing holding yourself back.

And because I’m a drunk that lacks originality, I’ll steal a common line from Alcoholics Anonymous that applies to Rise Above also: Keep Coming Back. It works.

Looking good in his uniform; sorry ladies he's taken


Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010 Articles 5 Comments

90-Day Challenge Winner: Kristen

Kristen is the type of person that trainers enjoy because she works hard and is willing to learn and try different training methods. This 90-Day challenge was perfect for her and together we came up with a plan to help her achieve all her goals. She quickly realized that like life, training can ebb and flow but with a little patience, focus and persistence you can succeed.

Kristen’s Interview:

Give us the cliff note version of who you are.

My name is Kristen. I am 33 years, married to a firefighter and blessed with two healthy girls.  For the past eleven years I have worked as an elementary school teacher and next school year will be starting my career as an administrator. I love being active and getting in a good-hard workout (especially at Rise Above).

You chose some challenging goals to accomplish during the 90 days.  What were they?

  1. 3 pull ups (although Doug said 3, I was set on doing 2)
  2. Push-ups with 40 pounds of the dreaded chains. My goal was to work towards the Rise Above Women’s record.
  3. Then on about day 80 I had Doug show me how to do a pistol squat and decided for myself that I would add that to my list and try for one clean pistol squat on each leg.

She went from zero to 3 pull ups

Why did you choose those goals in particular?

I couldn’t do a single pull up. I thought the push-ups with the chains looked fun and cool at the same time. The pistol seemed impossible and the process of learning and practicing was just funny and made me laugh. Overall, I just like a good challenge that I can set my mind on and focus.

How did you accomplish them?

Really, it was a combo of Doug’s torture, weight loss, lots of practice, and just plain diligence.

What were the most challenging aspects of your training?

As for training, every part of my training with Doug is challenging, so that’s sort of a trick question! I had a mental block about doing a pull-up so I put a pull-up bar in my hallway at home and that helped me get over the intimidation.  Towards the end it was challenging because I knew I was getting close, but wasn’t sure how close.

Were you confident throughout the 90 days or were their moments when you thought you may not achieve your goals?

Right away I was thinking that these goals are way too high, so I started out not confident but hopeful. I trust Doug, so I knew that with persistence I would get there, and I am good at being persistent.  Overall, I had moments of doubtfulness and moments of confidence, and all of the other moments I was just focused on the goal and how much time I had left!

What advice would you give others who have jobs, kids and/or busy lives and find it hard to find time for themselves to train and be healthy?

I am a busy, working mom of two and I have four bits of advice:

1. Plan it into your day! It doesn’t need to be long; a 20-minute run is perfect. I feel that I gain more time after I workout because I have more energy to give to my family and kids.

2. I draw 7 boxes on my kitchen chalkboard at the beginning of the week. I work all week to check those boxes one at a time each time I workout. Just this little check system keeps me motivated and focused. It feels great to check a box right after a hard workout!

3. Learn how to use kettlebells, (I suggest learning from Doug). Then get one or two at home paired with a stopwatch, and you are set!!

4. Nothing tastes as sweet as being fit feels. This one took me a long time to realize, but I promise, it’s true!

Doing push ups reps with 40lbs. of chains

Now that the challenge is over, do you have other goals you would like to accomplish?

I want to keep improving on my pull-ups and push-ups (with chains), and I want to work towards getting on the Rise Above Record Board!

Let’s say you are taking a much needed vacation for one week.  If you had to choose one piece of training equipment what would it be?

A kettlebell of course (and my running shoes)! The challenge would be deciding which one to bring.

Just for fun she knocked out a 3 pistols each side


Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010 Articles 4 Comments

Get the Most Out of Your Workouts

We are about two-thirds into the year; the New Year’s resolution are long lost, summer is fading fast and those dreaded winter holiday months are coming. Now is the time when our workout routine can start to become a little bit harder to maintain.

The following article gives some suggestions to get you back in the gym, back on track and get the same results you were when you started the new year.

Set Specific Goals:

Everyone should have goals; both short term and long term. The goals should be very specific, challenging yet attainable and something you strongly desire. Telling yourself; I want to lose weight is not a very concrete goal. It is better to say I want to lose 27 pounds by my birthday in 6 months; the latter is specific and more focused.

After you decide on a goal, ask yourself why you want to achieve that goal. If you do not have a strong emotional attachment tied into that goal then the chances of obtaining it is small.

Goals should be written down and put into daily view; this way they are always kept in focus.

Have a Plan:

After you have your specific goal then it is time to have a plan of execution; do you know how to get there? If you do not have any clues then hire a fitness professional to help you out. If you go to them with your specific goal, time frame and a reasonable amount of time you can dedicate towards it, then your trainer can make you a plan to get you there. All you need to do is follow it.

Find a Training Partner:

Misery loves company but so does success. When you are training with other people with similar goals you are much more likely to achieve long-term success than if you were training alone. Partners provide training accountability, motivation and support all of which are ingredients for success.

Relishing the Small Victories:

Though your primary focus is the main goal you set for yourself; it is very important to realize and celebrate all of the milestones you reach along the way. If your main goal is to lose 27lbs. you first have to lose 5lbs, then 10lbs. etc. If you are too focused and worried about the whole 27lbs. and do not recognize and be proud of the milestones reached alone the way; you can grow more stressed, frustrated and lead yourself down the road of failure.

Do Exercises You Dislike:

There are not too many people that I know of who like to do lunges, but you know what? Lunges are a great way to train your legs individually and are effective in building leg strength and they keep your knee joints strong and healthy. I am sure you can think of many more exercises that you do not like, however those might just be the right exercises to get the job done. Much like eating broccoli, it might not be your favorite thing to add into your life, but it offers a huge benefit to your strength and overall health. Who knows, you might feel so good that you will actually start to like lunges and maybe even broccoli.

There you have five ways to get yourself back on track and primed for success. Now go out and train hard.


Tuesday, April 7th, 2009 Sports Performance Training No Comments


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