As an author I would say the first post of any blog is always the hardest. You feel like so much is riding on it. It sets the tone for all that is yet to come. I suppose you all want to know a little about myself, and why I feel like I have something worth sharing.
A little preface
My name is J.P. Wells. I live in Northern Wisconsin with my beautiful wife and two sons. I was never easy on my body growing up. Being from a place we spend eight out of twelve months with snow on the ground, I naturally gravitated to winter activities. I began snowboarding around sixth grade. I decided to teach myself, because I was smarter and tougher than everyone else, and didn’t need help from no one. I had that “young and bulletproof” syndrome… bad… and it would only get worse as time went on. Countless falls, bumps and bruises later I became a really good snowboarder, and it is in fact a sport I enjoy to this day. I was even able to share it with my oldest son. However, he took a much smarter path and just let me teach him how.
Fast forward to my junior year of high school. I was your typical teenager. I hated my parents, school was completely useless, and all I wanted to do was get out of my small-town hell. I held a deep interest in the military from the time I got my first G.I. Joe. The thought of jumping out of airplanes, shooting machineguns, and blowing stuff up like Rambo excited me! I knew I didn’t want to wear a suit and tie to work every day like my dad, so I decided I was going to join the military, and this is actually where my fitness story really starts to begin.
Where my journey really began
I had never really been interested in fitness or exercise, or dieting. I didn’t really care about my health. I was young, and at that point I knew I would just live forever and never get hurt. At 17 years old I joined the United States Army, and left home for the first time in my life. I spent my summer vacation getting a master’s degree in “embracing the suck”. I came back for my senior year of high school even more hardheaded and cockier if that was even possible.
Things were going well for a while. I liked the Army. The structure suited me. I thought I had found my purpose in life. Everything was great till Christmas-eve four years into my enlistment. I was in a bad car accident with a city snowplow. That morning changed the trajectory of my life forever. I woke up in my car facing the wrong direction, sitting in a bush. It took me a minute to realize what had happened or even which way was up. I looked around mentally grasping at cohesion but was truly just grasping at straws. I was vaguely aware of the plow truck, now in front of me, also pulled over, and the driver jumping out and yelling to me to see if I was ok. I looked over to the passenger seat and noticed a large chunk of the engine bay was now where the dash and passengers foot space used to be. My illusions of being an invincible super soldier had officially taken their first hit.
Some dark times
The doctors told me I injured the discs in the lumbar region of my spine. I had gone through pain meds, and muscle relaxers, and steroid injections, and all sorts of different therapies to try and reduce the pain to a more manageable level. The Army stuck with me for some time, but after a while of me not being able to perform my duties I was given a choice, gut it out or be honorably discharged. I was in too much pain to even stand straight; much less be a soldier so I chose the latter. That was it… My lifelong dream career ended in 4 and a half short years.
I’d say for about two years or so I was a walking pity party. I was the posterchild of inaction. I got really depressed and felt like I had zero direction or drive. I continued to eat like I did when I was in the Army which was pretty much the “see food diet”. I saw food I liked… I ate it. Problem was I was no longer running around burning thousands of calories a day to counteract that sort of diet. I could hardly get of the couch and shuffle around. My metabolism slowed due to inactivity and I gained a ton of weight. This is turn just made the pain worse which in turn made me feel more depressed and helpless which of course led to more eating.
I just had enough
The doctors began talking to me about the possibility of surgery if my condition did not begin to improve. I was twenty one years old, sitting in a pain specialists office and he was telling me it was beginning to look like my only option was to fuse those discs. I would lose mobility in that part of my back. I would never be able to live the active lifestyle I grew up loving again. Like a switch in my head the soldier inside me woke back up. Right then and there I drew a line in the sand and said no more. I told the doctor I refuse the surgery, and if I had to, I’d live in pain till I just couldn’t take it anymore.
I began researching different back exercises for the elderly. I was looking for simple stretches I could do at home. I even started learning about water aerobics. Anything I could think of that would allow me to strengthen the muscles around my spine to help support the damaged discs as well as things that would allow me to begin losing weight.
At my heaviest I was up to around two hundred and seventy pounds from my Army weight of around one hundred and eighty pounds. I was carrying around an extra ninety pounds my body was not used to. I began comparing it to all the gear we used to carry around in the military. I was living my everyday life as if I was carrying every piece of battle gear the Army ever gave me. I remembered what it was like to carry that weight on long distance ten- or twenty-kilometer marches. I remember that feeling of dropping that gear off your back all at once when we got to our destination. That pressure release all at once almost felt like weightlessness, and I was just walking around with it.
Blood, Sweat, and Tears
I learned as much as I could, and I began slowly working the process. My plan was to strengthen the muscles around my injured spine. I began with just simple stretches the physical therapist gave me. After a while of that I added in some water aerobic exercises designed to strengthen those muscles without putting stress on the joints. Swimming became my best friend for a while. It was the best activity I could find that exercised my body without putting undue stress on my back. As time went on, I could feel my back slowly strengthening. My pain levels seemed to be going down, and I found myself needing less and less pain medication throughout the day.
Eventually I began doing deadlifts with almost no weight at first. I started out using two and a half pound dumbbells at home. As I got stronger, I began going to the gym with some friends. They were all really into bodybuilding, and kept talking about guys like Kai Greene, and Jay Cutler. I had never heard of these guys. When I thought of bodybuilding only one name came to mind… Arnold. I kept hanging around these guys and kept hearing about these almost god like monsters of men who seemingly could control their physiques at will. I was undeniably amazed. I wanted this control over myself that they had.
By this time my back pain was almost nonexistent. It had taken me 2 or 3 years of working at it, but I felt like I was back to the point I could live a regular life. My diet was better than it was but was still not what I would call a “healthy diet”. My weight was still not the one hundred and eighty I had started at, but I had lost enough excess weight to live comfortably and gain my full mobility back. I began to think “if I could come back from this injury, I wonder how much further I can go”.
My next Chapter
I knew nothing about bodybuilding science, or nutrition science but I began to emulate these guys my friends in the gym kept talking about. I began watching endless YouTube videos of their workouts, different diet plans, and supplement reviews. I started to figure out the absolute basics. If you wanted to get big you had to eat big. So that’s what I did. I began eating six or seven meals a day. I also began spending four or five hours in the gym lifting weights. This lifestyle consumed me. I would wake up at four in the morning while everyone else was asleep and begin making my breakfast and packing my meals for the day. I began carrying mountains of Tupperware around with me filled with food measured out to the gram. The back seat of my truck was evolving into a gym locker room filled with dirty gym clothes and empty Tupperware. I loved it!!! For the first time since leaving the Army I felt challenged.
I began seeing real results. I started to become stronger than I had ever been. My deadlift had gone from lifting two and a half pound dumbbells in my living room to lifting five hundred pounds with no back pain! My bench press went from twenty-pound dumbbells when I first started going to the gym to sets of ten at three hundred and fifteen pounds. I felt like an immovable force of nature again.
The only problem I found with bodybuilding was at some point you have to switch from your “bulking routine” where you eat dirtier, and lift heavy, to your “cutting routine” where you use all the added muscle mass you gained to then help burn the fat off. I had gotten comfortable in my bulking diet and did not want to have to restrict myself the way I would need to for my cutting diet. So, I started procrastinating, and pushing it off. I adopted the mindset that “I felt great just as I was, why should I change. I don’t plan on doing any shows. I just did this for me”. So, I just kept lifting heavier, and eating to continue building strength. My body took on the look of a powerlifter. I was extremely thick and solid, but I carried all my excess fat on my stomach.
Turns out I’m not superman
I was rather happy with how things were going. My ego was building about as fast as my muscles. I was among the strongest guy in the gym I went to, and I garnered the respect that came along with that fact. People started coming up to me, and asking me for advice, or to show them how to do a certain lift. I LOVED helping people. Not to show off or feel superior, but because I truly enjoyed helping them. It felt good being recognized for all the hard work that went into those results. My big gym friends and I would constantly compete on lifts as a way to push our progress. Eventually my ego would get the better of me, and I would sustain my second somewhat life altering injury.
I was never real disciplined at warming myself up or doing stretches. You would think with my past injury, I would have learned but you’d have been wrong. I ended up injuring both my rotator cuffs. My bench press dropped from a routine three hundred and fifteen pounds, to a painful one hundred and thirty-five pounds over night. I was pissed!!! A woman I was best friends with at the time told me in a not so round about way that I was getting fat, and I needed to do something about it. She was especially athletic at the time and was running and/or mountain biking every day. As much as I HATED RUNNING WITH THE FIRE OF A THOUSAND SUNS!!! I began jogging with her every chance I got. I didn’t hurt matters that she was completely gorgeous and I was totally into her, so I just used the jogging as an excuse to hang out with her more. She would obviously embarrassingly outrun me every time and would never slow her pace or sacrifice her workout to stay paced with me, but… she was always waiting for me at the end cheering me on. I always admired that. If I wanted to hang with her, I need to learn to keep up.
Now we’re here
Eventually I did learn to keep up, and in fact I kept up so well we began dating and eventually got married. Her nutritional background was wildly different than mine. She was big into fasting, and potion control. She told me about this diet she used to do called the “Ketogenic Diet”. The more I learned about it the more I liked it. I’ve never been good at super restrictive diets. I truly enjoy food, so I had to find a diet that worked well with me. Both of us had struggled with dropping weight past a certain point simply because of our body types, so we began doing keto together. The benefits I’ve gained from keto are simply amazing. In three weeks of doing a very strict keto friendly diet, with smart portion control, and consistent exercise in the mornings I was able to drop thirty pounds from where I was at to be the closest I had come yet to my Army weight.
Keto has truly changed my life, and the purpose of this blog is to share all the lifechanging things I’ve learned with you. I continue to work on my weight and my fitness as we all do. Fitness is a constant struggle. No one will ever truly “make it” in the sense that it is never over. Life has curves, and changes that force us to adapt or die. I think most people eventually do adapt however not always immediately. Change and adaptation is only ever in your own time. I forget who said it, but I heard a quote once that has stuck with me for years. “Success is merely a series of small decisions made well” – unknown. The key to achieving any and all of your goals in life it to simply narrow your focus, and make the small choices you know are right. Hopefully this blog will continue to help me help people and affect real change in peoples lives. I can not wat to begin this journey with you all. The future is bright, and together anything is achievable!