Wake up call. This common phrase gets thrown around, but no one ever thinks it will apply to him or her. Sometimes though, that’s exactly what we need, and it often comes at just the right time. What happens after that wake up call? That’s where we are all different, and the decisions we make can have a far-reaching effect, for better or for worse. For me, the wake up call came at just the right time.
When I was growing up, I was always very active and would consider myself to be somewhat athletic. I played baseball, basketball and soccer as a child and continued playing soccer through high school. My senior year of high school, during the final game of my high school career, I tore my ACL. From there, I actually tore my ACL’s two more times in the next 5 years. Unfortunately, this allowed me to focus more on my other hobby: partying. In High School, I routinely drank way too much at parties and this trend continued into college. College allowed me to focus more on this masochistic hobby, and during my freshman year I’d go through 30+ beers a weekend… easily. My health continued to suffer for years, culminating with me winding up at Boston Medical Center on my 25th birthday due to alcohol poisoning. This was not my wake up call. Despite this experience, and really having a problem on the weekends, I lifted weights regularly and convinced myself that what I was doing was normal, and even attributed my weight gain to “gains.” I’d go to the gym, lift weights for a while, then head over to McDonalds for a post workout meal. I wasn’t really doing anything but hurting myself. Thankfully, all that changed soon after the birth of my first son in 2012.
In addition to alcohol and unhealthy food, I was also addicted to computer gaming; World of Warcraft specifically. I wasn’t getting out very much and I was a crappy husband and father. In June of 2012 I had a physical and the doctor told me I was overweight and had a fatty liver. He said that if this went untreated, I could develop hepatitis. This was finally the wake up call I needed. It was time for me to WAKE UP and take control of my health to be there for my family. But how?
I wasn’t sure what to do, so I started looking for group training classes. I found a couple I liked and did them a couple times a week on top of continuing to lift weights. I started to lose weight and I took up running. I ran a 5k in honor of a friend who had commit suicide. It was the hardest thing I had ever done. I felt like my lungs were going to explode, but I felt great after and to make things better I didn’t have a hangover, I felt proud, I felt alive! Unfortunately, I developed shin splints due to the intense cardio of one of the programs I was attending and wound up in physical therapy for a few months. My activity level dipped and the weight came back. I was discouraged, but through physical therapy I found the place I currently call my second home, Drive Custom Fit.
The classes at Drive were like nothing I had ever done. I began practicing yoga 2-3 times a week and this allowed me to push myself even harder. Due to my improved fitness level I began thinking about doing longer races. I remember telling the owner Tony that I wanted to do a half marathon. He replied simply, “you will.” The trainers provided the guidance, I provided the effort. I ran the BAA half marathon and finished in 1:58. I’ve run 8 additional half marathons since then and have dropped a total of 23 minutes off my time. To build off this, I took on my first marathon in 2015 and then ran 3:31 in NYC in 2016.
In addition to marathons and other road races, I also found obstacle course racing. This was where my new passion was found. In a way, it was a safer way to inflict punishment on myself. I’ve run more than 30 OCR’s over the past 3+ years. I started with shorter races of about 3-5 miles in length but eventually began building on my success and wound up doing a 30+ mile Spartan Ultra Beast at Killington Mountain in 2015. I followed that up with three Spartan Ultra Beasts in 2016.
The community at my gym is amazing and incredibly supportive. Success stories and inspiration can be found everywhere within those walls. It made me want to do more. It made me want to be a bigger part of it and I obtained my ACE certification in Oct 2016 and immediately became a trainer at Drive.
This new opportunity combined with the recognition that all my racing had taken it’s toll on me, as well as my role as a husband/father sparked a decision to take a step back from racing in 2017. I decided to pick a couple races and devote the rest of my weekends to my family and helping others get to where they want to go. I planned on accompanying a large group of Drive members up to their very first Spartan Beast at Killington in September. I wanted them to have that same feeling of finishing that I had grown to love so much.
All that came crashing down on April 8th when I tore my Achilles tendon. This injury has been so much different than my previous ones. Back when I did my ACL’s, physical activity was a part of my life, but it wasn’t my life. Over the past 7 weeks I’ve had to change everything. In addition to being unable to walk, I am unable to drive since my right foot is in a boot. Trying to wrangle two children when being unable to walk has proven to be quite the challenge at times. In the end, this challenge will do nothing but push me further. I will learn from this and use my experience to help others. Injuries happen, what we do when we experience injuries defines who we are to become. Do not let an injury define you, do not let destructive habits define you. You control who you are, you can change your life. If I did it, so can you. It’s time to wake up. I’m down about 45 pounds since I started my journey and I’ve done things I never though possible. Believe in yourself and you cannot fail.
Mike Collins blog: https://spartanroadtorecovery.wordpress.com/