Merrick Patch Interviews
Happy Birthday to Me
By Frank Bonomo
It was June 17th and I had a 19 hour drive home from Camden Tennessee. I also had a lot to think about. I had just spent the last 4 days taking both the Fighting Pistol and Advanced Fighting Pistol courses with Tactical Response. To put it mildly, it is always worth the time, money and drive to go learn from them. I had trained with them twice before in different courses, and knew going in I’d walk out with a renewed mindset (it had been getting rusty) and improved pistol skills. I didn’t know going in, that course was the first number in the combination lock of my mind to set me down another path.
June 17th 2009 also meant it was 6 months to the day from my 40th birthday. In the 4 days of training, it became very obvious to me exactly how out of shape I was. Some things I did well, others I struggled with a bit more. We were doing a simulation of being injured on the strong side arm and having to get our guns from our holster using our off hand. Simple enough drill, until I couldn’t reach my pistol on my own waist. It was really a holy shit moment for me. Aaron Little, one of the Tactical Response Instructors who I respect deeply simply looked into my astonished eyes and said “Frank, you may have something you want to think about.”
*Turn the dial four times to the left, and stop on #1.
Six months until I’m 40 and I’m in the unbelievably worst shape of my life. Mom Died of Cancer before she was 60. She was also diabetic and was not very overweight. I take after her in many ways, except that I’ve grown in to being very overweight. Where did that leave me? The joke of a mid life crisis approaching at 40, became a reality. I kept thinking that if I keep going at this rate, my life is more like 2/3’s over and that’s neither a joke nor exaggeration. Expecting that 40 would be my Midlife was being optimistic and border line delusional.
The bright spot in my life for the past year and change had been my girlfriend Kathy. For some reason, the girl really adores me, and despite my warnings that I’m really not all that easy to live with, she had just moved in. She really seems to want me around for awhile. As of this past October, I’m lucky to call her my Fiancé. She never once complained a bit about me being overweight. She did however; say (a bunch of times) she just wants me to be healthy. This constituted stop number 2 on the combination lock.
*Turn the dial three times to the right, and stop on #21.
I had been donating my money to a local gym for a few years. About 6 times a year I paid the gym a visit and I never ventured past the elliptical machine, treadmill, or stationary bicycle. I really didn’t know what to do with the rest of the gym equipment. Machines made me feel like a moron because I didn’t know how to use them, and free weights were a no-go because I had no idea what the hell to do once I picked them up. Working out in a gym was like another language and it was all Greek to me.
After my drive back from Tennessee, I was back at work, training dogs and doing my normal day to day. I kept getting dog training referrals from a Gym in Merrick. One of our clients who trained with us years ago goes there religiously with his wife. His name is Rob Derrig. Rob is in absolutely amazing shape. He is also willing to inspire people if they are ready to listen, but doesn’t shove it down your throat. He’s just a really enthusiastic guy. It’s kind of contagious. Rob, and then another client gave us several referrals from that gym. I met Rob at the gym to meet with another of his referrals, and he gave me a tour. I told him about my gym literacy, and basically he shrugged it off and invited me to meet him whenever I wanted, he’d help me. It was a no pressure casual offer. It was the first time I really started to consider it. It was also the first time I felt comfortable in a gym setting and could actually envision myself there.
*Turn the dial two times to the left, and stop on #76.
We set up a meeting with the Gym owner who needed his dog trained. I trained his dog this August. When I dropped off the newly trained dog to Lambros, the owner of Titans Fitness in Merrick, I also asked about joining the gym. I figured what the hell, I might as well donate my money to someone who does business with me. He told me what he needed from me to join, but knowing how effective “joining” would probably be, he suggested an intensive strength and weight loss program they had been very successful with. It had been a long time since I had been in shape. Once, when I was athletic, I did it with organized sports, martial arts and naturally stayed in shape. I never had to take time aside to “work out”. I realized I needed to change how I thought about fitness. Since I train people (and dogs) for a living, I knew I needed to do something long enough to create good habits. Lambros offered a program, and explained I didn’t just need a weight loss diet. He explained how building muscles again will help me maintain lost weight, increase health, lower cholesterol, and get blood sugar under control. They already had people do this as a direct result of their programs. Lambros’ wife was equally enthusiastic. Well, apparently I needed someone who speaks Greek and English to push me over the edge, and Lambros fit that bill.
*turn the dial right and stop on #9 . Twist the handle
It took almost 3 months to get the combination, but something in my mind finally opened. I decided to jump in. Kathy wanted in too.
The 12 week program designed after the “Biggest Loser” kicked off at 6am, Tuesday Sept 8th, the day after Labor Day weekend. I weighed in at 285 lbs. I’d been squeezing into my size 42 pants. I truthfully probably should have been in 44’s, but I was too stubborn admit that. I started my Dog business 10 years ago wearing XL shirts and 36 pants. Now I was size 42+ and barely fitting into my XXL. I found out the first day, that I also could only do 4 pushups before going into muscle failure. Four Pushups.. FOUR…WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED TO ME? Years of concentrating on my biz, and ignoring the vast majority of life is what happened. Some of you reading this can probably relate to the situation. My friend, as Aaron said to me, you may have something to think about. Sooner or later, we all have to pay the proverbial piper. I made the decision to pay the piper a little each day with better diet and exercise instead of with insulin shots or from a hospital bed a few short years from now. I decided to give myself a 40th birthday present.
At 6am, 4 days a week, for the next 12 weeks Lambros and his trainers worked us though 48 progressively more difficult routines. Our diets were strict and laid out for us. We had one eat anything you want cheat meal a week that we HAD to take (I skipped once and got spoken to / educated). I took their word as gospel and committed to the program. It was difficult, especially in the beginning. A 5:25am wake up 4 days a week wasn’t fun. Its also one of the things that helped me commit. Several times I thought of easting some stupid stuff and found myself saying “I’m not waking up at 5 – F’ing – 25 in the morning an not have anything to show for it!” the inconvenience actually kept me on track.
I have strength and stamina now I haven’t had in a long time. I was stunned to find out that I won the “challenge” with 35 lbs lost in 12 weeks. I know the 12 weeks was a good start but I also know I need the discipline of a class. An old Martial Arts instructor of mine, George Demetriou, had opened Crossfit in Holbrook last year. It’s a bit far for a daily drive to work out, but in watching him he went from being in good shape, to amazing shape when he started Crossfit. He planted a seed. About 6 weeks into the program, my Gym was bringing Crossfit the program in. It was the next logical progression for me. I’ve been doing it for 2 weeks now and on Monday I did well over 100 pushups, and another 100+ modified push ups in addition to the rest of the exercises in that session. This is a huge change from my performance 14 weeks ago.
Well today is my 40th Birthday and my weight after 14 weeks is 248 lbs and I took 5 1/2 inches off my waist. Losing 37 lbs is a really good start and I’m on my way to my goal of being back in size 34 pants. It’s also the best birthday present I have ever given myself. This morning I woke up to two surprises. Someone ( I don’t yet know who)decorated my truck with “look who turned 40” postcards and balloons all over it. I drove that decorated truck to the gym for Cliff’s gift, “Frankie B’s Birthday bash” (check it out at CrossFitMerrick.com). I finished in 28 min, 51 seconds.
There are people who knowingly and unknowingly contributed to the changes I’ve started to make. I’d like to thank James Yeager, Aaron Little, Rob Derrig, Lambros Georgiou, George Demetriou, and of course my love, Kathy D’Amato for helping to inspire me to improve my life and health. Thanks to my fellow BFDT trainers, especially Mary and Chris who encouraged me throughout the initial challenge and wanted to hear about my weekly updates.
If you need to make some changes in your life, or as Aaron said to me, you have something to think about, maybe you can ask yourself, “what’s my combination”, “or “what will move me to change my lifestyle?” Good Luck and God Bless. Thank you for reading this.
More information about training for your mind, body, or dog, go to:
www.Tacticalresponse.com – James Yeager, Aaron Little
www.Titansfitness.com Lambros Georgiou, Rob Derrig
www.CrossFitMerrick.com – Cliff Brown
www.SpartanPerformance.com – George Demetriou
www.TruthinCombat.com – Aaron Little
www.MuttManners.com – Frank Bonomo
Cliff and Audrey inspired me to finally join CrossFit Merrick a little more than 3 months ago. I planned on joining sooner but felt I needed to get into shape before going. I thought I would be joining a group of young athletes that had been training for years. So I started exercising at home. I would do my hour of exercise a night and could actually touch my toes. What I quickly learned is that, yes, everyone there “is” an athlete, but not everyone could touch their toes . . . yet. But if you keep coming, you definitely will be able to touch your toes and so much more.Members range from young teens to grandparents with a wide range of weight and health issues. The instructors, members and general atmosphere inspired me to work hard and always do my best. Whether the class size is under 5 people or over 15, I always felt like I had a personal trainer. It’s not just your instructors that support, inspire and guide you but every member of the class.
Every day the workout is different. Each exercise has a modification, so no matter what ability level I may have; I know I “can” do the work-out. I always walk away from a class feeling a true sense of accomplishment. Not to mention the positive changes in my body. I now have some upper body strength where I had NONE before. I can run and jump, do squats and any number of things only three months ago I could not do. I have lost 22 pounds and feel great.
The confidence I’ve gained has changed my life is so many ways. I am a 50 year old widow with three teenage boys. Getting into shape is not only helping me but I know that my children are proud of me. I have learned that you can chose to live this one life we are given any way you want, you can throw it away, meander through or enjoy every moment with good health. I have never been in better shape and always wake up feeling good, sometimes sore, but always good.
So thank you for being there. Your dedication to CrossFit Merrick and its members has changed so many lives, mine in particular.