A Friday Fitness Feature: My lil brother!

Today I am thrilled to feature a guest post by one of my favorite fitness and healthy lifestyle experts… my lil brother! :) My younger brother Matt has been an athlete and fitness buff for most of his life, but in the past recent years he’s really taken a change with things and completely dedicated himself to his training. He has a great story to share along with some interesting tidbits on how he stays dedicated to his lifestyle and some encouraging words for others. Take it away bro!

Hi there, my name is Matt, I’m 24-years-old, and I’m here to tell you a little about myself, my fitness routine and my overall healthy lifestyle change.

Working out has been a part of my life from an early age. In middle school I played pop warner football, and hitting the gym and weight room was highly encouraged. But at that time, my fitness and weight-lifting knowledge was minimal and mostly gathered from coaches, friends and magazines. I had some encouragement from my godfather, and he took me with him to the gym in my early high school years. But a lot of his routine was body-building based, and as a football player what I needed most was power. My football strength and conditioning coach  was one of the most respected in the city, and with his knowledge and my work ethic, my strength and power improved significantly. At only 5’10” I was a defensive linebacker for our varsity football team and eventually earned myself a division 3 football scholarship.

Power lifting became more than an athletic tool for me, it also became a hobby. I joined the weight lifting team which competed in both bench press and power clean and jerk. I had an amazing weight lifting coach, but to reach a higher level in competition I needed more one-on-one training. By God’s good graces I met Joe, owner of Advanced Fitness and Performance and current coach of Team Florida Olympic Lifting team. Joe usually charges fees that were out of my range, but we worked out a sweet deal where I helped him out with cleaning and chores around the facility and in return I received private training. It was truly one of the best experiences of my life and I trained with him for several years.

But division 3 football just wasn’t the same as those Friday night lights during my high school days. I knew I didn’t want to play football for my entire life so I transferred schools and relocated to the University of Central Florida, where I am currently a senior. After my transfer, I began to feel the stress and pressure of an intense everyday fitness routine and decided I needed a break. At this point, the college lifestyle really sucked me in. I joined a fraternity and late nights of drinking and partying became an everyday habit. After 2 years of this I was not only damaged physically, but I also suffered mentally.

I fell into a severe depression and also suffered from acute anxiety disorder. I ran through the standard treatment of doctors and medication, but I couldn’t seem to snap out of it. I looked into the mirror one day and realized that I didn’t like what I had become. All of the drinking and late-night snacking and fast food runs had really taken a toll on my body. It was hard for me to get re-motivated and return to the gym because I felt like I had lost everything and I would never be as strong as I once was.

To conquer my feelings of doubt and insecurity I set my goals small. I decided to focus on one day at a time. Change doesn’t happen overnight. I knew the most important thing for me was changing my lifestyle, and drastically at that. I started with small changes. I still went out with my friends but I switched from downing cocktail after cocktail to sipping on club sodas most of the time. And trust me, it wasn’t easy. I definitely started to hear some slack from my friends. But then it turned into something good because my friends started to really appreciate me as their designated driver. Ha!

My eating habits changed significantly. I cut out fast food, junk food and processed foods. I decided to focus on lean protein, fruits, vegetables and whole grains. I’m not going to lie, my friends still give me a hard time when I turn down buffalo wings slathered in blue cheese dressing with a pitcher of beer on the side. But I realized that if stayed disciplined, the results would speak for themselves.

My gym routine has changed since my football days. I am no longer working towards just power and strength, but rather focusing on staying fit and healthy. I still include power lifting exercises into my routine, because I find them athletically challenging and fun. One of my fitness tools is shocking my body and changing up my routines to build muscles and sculpt. Shocking the body helps to avoid a stagnant plateau, and aids the body in finding new gains.

There are several ways I change up my routines. I change the weight lifted, number of repetitions and sets, as well as the exercises and muscles used. Not only do I change up my routine from day to day, I also make sure to change it up from month to month. This really helps shock individual muscles and build.

Month 1:
Day 1: Chest and triceps
Day 2: Rest
Day 3: Back and biceps
Day 4: Legs
Day 5: Shoulders
Day 6: Arms
Day 7: Rest

Month 2:
Day 1: Chest and back
Day 2: Legs
Day 3: Shoulders and Arms
Day 4: Rest
Day 5: Chest and back
Day 6: Shoulders and Arms
Day 7: Rest

It has been 2 years since my lifestyle change. Not only have I surpassed my high school physique and strength, but I finally feel at peace with myself mentally. I enjoy eating whole and natural foods, keeping alcohol to a minimum and incorporating physical activity into my everyday life. I also have a sense of pride and satisfaction from my hard work and dedication and the amazing results I have attained.

I have to say, I am so incredibly proud of my lil bro, and how far he has come. He is so dedicated to his healthy lifestyle and fitness routine. He makes it a priority but he still has fun doing it! He’s always smiling and full of laughs and I’m blessed to call him family. He’s also my go-to source for any tips, hints or tricks when it comes to weight training. Thanks for the inspiration Matty!

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