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Tom’s Fitness & Paris Martial Arts


Posted: July 21, 2008

I’ve spent a lot of time these last few years talking about some of the people I’ve worked with. Since the latest contest is over, I thought you might like to learn a little more about me, and why I do what I do.

For those of you that don’t know my story, I grew up as a severe asthmatic, back before they really had medicines that would help. Not allowed to do any physical activities, I had to sit on the sidelines in gym class (back then, we had P.E. every day).

The other kids gave me quite a hard time about it, but what they didn’t realize is that I would have given anything to be out there with them.

I spent most of my time reading and practicing music, but wanted to do things, play sports, and wasn’t able to. I was a pretty skinny kid, and my parents didn’t give me much junk food, since it was thought to contribute to asthma attacks.

Still, I was pretty lucky, because now-a-days, such inactivity is a sure recipe for obesity (more on that another time). If I’d had access to all the fast foods and junk foods that kids have today, I’d have been in trouble.

After graduating from high school and moving down to Vincennes, IN to go to school, I was hit by a train on October 2nd, 1980. Ironically, the thing that almost did me in wasn’t the train, but a massive asthma attack at the time, and I went into respiratory arrest and quit breathing.

God was surely looking out for me that day. Instead of dragging me down the tracks, the train simply knocked my car off to the side. At the same time, an ambulance also just happened to be returning from a call!

If I’d been knocked to the other side, I’d of been blocked by the train, and they wouldn’t have been able to get to me quickly. As it was, they got there right away, knocked out the back glass and got me out to start rescue breathing.

I have a faint memory of going down a bright hallway. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t heaven—just the hospital corridor. A few hours later, I woke up on a respirator. The nurse asked me if I knew what had happened, but I didn’t remember anything. She told me I’d been hit by a train and I was lucky to be alive.

When I went to see the car a week later (remember the old Datsun B-210?), my knees got weak. It was twisted up in a ball, and I couldn’t see how anyone could have made it out alive. I only had a couple scratches.

I knew I had to have been spared for a reason, cause people don’t survive things like that. How many people have you ever heard of that got hit by a train and lived?

I continued college, and started training in martial arts and working out, to get stronger. I got so interested in it, that I became a martial arts instructor and eventually got a master’s degree in physical education, specializing in exercise physiology and sport biomechanics.

I still had a lot of problems with asthma attacks, especially during workouts, and spent quite a few stays in the hospital—several near fatal. Later, the medicines got much better, and I could finally do more and more.

I never outgrew the asthma, but a couple years ago, they finally came out with Advair and Singular, medicines that let me train as hard as I want, with no symptoms at all! I’ve got to stay on the meds though. If I stop, all the symptoms come back, big-time.

That’s when I started running, and was able to start competing in some pretty rigorous jui-jitsu competitions. I’ve run 3 marathons, and am training to do one September 13th. I’m also doing some pretty crazy workouts at the gym and am even working on some basic gymnastics—great for your core.

Looking back, I’m pretty sure this is helping me make up in some way for those early years. The running has also made it much easier to help maintain my weight—especially as I’ve gotten older.

Even though there were a couple occasions when I almost died, when I look back, I’m grateful for all the experiences. It’s led me do everything I’m doing now, and has made me want to help everyone get moving and eating right, because I know what it’s done for me.

Anytime I get to run or do one of our crazy workouts, I’m grateful for the opportunity, because I couldn’t always do it. Now that I can, I’m going to take full advantage.

Research shows that inactive kids are at great risk for obesity, and once a child is obese, odds are that they’ll continue to be obese as adults. The good news is that most kids don’t have any physical reasons why they can’t get moving.

If we can get them up off the couch and off the computer, they can stay healthy and avoid the growing trend of youth obesity. Then they won’t have to spend a lifetime making up for it.

I’m the lucky one. I want to work out. It’s not work for me. Many people don’t see it that way though. Once they get started and lose some weight, it can change. When they look and feel better, and feel better about themselves, just like I did, they’ll find a new life in front of them. That’s why I do what I do.