When I was 13, I was on a bike crossing 44th Ave and University in Columbia Heights, Minn. (where I grew up), when I was struck by a van going 55mph. I was trapped beneath it and dragged for more than 300 feet.
Everyone was convinced I would die. I remember hearing people say it. I just wanted to sleep. Little did I know, if I would have fallen asleep, I would have died. I was in the hospital for a very long time. My whole body was injured. Everywhere. And the worst injury was my spine. I was very frail…so frail that doctors believed I may never walk again.
I laid in a hospital bed for uncountable days at a 20 degree incline, first wearing a brace molded from paper mache to support my upper body; I couldn’t sit up without it. Then they transitioned me into a rock-hard plastic, upper-body cast that I lived in for a long time. But I couldn’t accept what I was experiencing – laying in bed, not walking, or being able to go to the bathroom by myself. I was determined to make sure that wasn’t my story.
One day, when I was by myself in the hospital, my determination got the best of me. I tried to walk to the couch near the bed. But I instantly fell. I remember being in so much pain, crying, with nobody to help. That was the moment when I promised my higher power that, if I could walk again, I would help others. Always.
After hundreds and hundreds of hours, with the help, love, and support of many – including my father – I was able to walk, talk, and lift my arms again. I worked hard every single day to get stronger. And, six months later, I was almost 100 percent. I proved the doctors wrong.
But all through the tragedy of my own accident, something else was going on. My dad – my best friend – was very sick. For years, he headed to the gym to workout so he could feel better. But early on, none of us knew that he had cancer…and, ultimately, the gym wouldn’t help. Even with brain surgery, the cancer couldn’t be removed. And, during his time in hospice, he told me that education was important, that he believed in me, and that I would change lives. Cancer took my dad’s life when I was only 15 years old, almost three years after the accident that could’ve killed me.
Thankfully, 15 years old wasn’t too young to permanently imprint my life…and remind me that I could do for others what my dad did for me.
After the accident, doctors said I would never be able to lift weights – that the compression could be crippling…so I learned correct form. I knew food was my emotional crutch…so I learned about nutrition. I knew pain, hurt, anger, and stress…so I worked out to clear my head. And I knew all of those things I’d learned and experienced could help others.
Eventually, I took my dad’s words about education seriously when I took steps to become a trainer. I had every intention of keeping promises I made to my father. I was committed to doing what he always knew I could do.
After becoming a trainer, I worked at a few different places, but passion led me back to the gym where my father always worked out when he was sick. I enjoyed talking to long-time members because I knew, at some point during their workouts over the years, they might have spoken to my father.
I worked hard and became the number one trainer in the company. When the company was sold, and the building was shut down, I knew it was time for me to open my own gym: a safe environment where lives would be changed, a place overflowing with encouragement, a place where everyone shows how much they care for each other, a place where one person can make a difference, a place where people never give up – no matter what…a place where clients reach their own goals, and then are driven to create more goals, for more reasons than they could list.
My goals have grown and evolved over the years, too. Now, most importantly for me, I hope my daughter understands that a healthy lifestyle makes you feel better and stronger – regardless of what life throws at you.
For me, this business has never been about money. That’s why no one is ever forced to purchase anything. All I’ve ever wanted to do is keep my promise and make my father proud…changing lives every day…just as he told me I would.