An Intimate Look at the Mental and Physical Aspects of the Fitness of Life

**Right off the bat, I’ll add the disclaimer that there are two shirtless pics in this blog. I don’t want anyone who may read this to be caught off guard by the pics. They are used to depict a past version of myself and the journey back to that version.

I’ve been debating on whether or not to share this post for a while now. According to my admin page, since 1/18, to be exact. I published once before and pulled it within the hour, so this is my second attempt. It’s all mental, I know. However, I still struggle with opening up on certain topics, and this particular topic is an important one to me.



This blog is an intimate look at me as an individual and the path I have traveled. Albeit it is a condensed version, it still is quite personal and will give you some insight into what makes me tick.

In 2006 my way of life changed forever. I was in the best shape of my life. I was beginning to prep for body building competition when I decided to go a different route. I declared 2006 to be “my year.” However, something happened that changed everything for me.

I no longer felt invincible. I no longer felt unstoppable. My years of preparation leading up to my best year were all in vain. My body had just broken down on me.

This was a picture of me that my wife took in 2006:

I was in peak physical condition as I prepared to step onto the football field once again after recovering from a lower back injury. The season started off with a bang. Everything was going perfectly. My redemption was finally imminent. Everything for me physically was going well, but I noticed that my body was not adjusting to the physical trauma/toll of playing football. I kept encouraging myself, saying, “it’ll come back.”

As the weeks progressed, the physical toll did not ease up. I immediately knew something was wrong. I had shortness of breath but felt fine otherwise. The shortness of breath had gotten worse. I finally decided to shut things down.

Admitting Something Is Wrong

Growing up in sports, you tend to shake smaller injuries aside and continue on with life. Most sports have a “next man up” mentality, so having that methodology imprinted on my brain, I decided to deal with my injuries in a private manner. I was not ready to quit just yet and continued playing football, unable to swallow my pride and admit injury. However, I did decide to call the doctor and describe the feeling I was having, to which he immediately set me up for an appointment.

The biggest fear was a punctured lung. I went to get x-rays because he was confident it was a punctured lung.

The test results were in, and they showed no punctured lung, but he noticed fluid in my lungs as he looked over the x-rays.

I remember his phone call asking me how I was feeling, and then he told me he needed to see me again immediately.

After doing a throat culture, he wanted me to do the usual “turn your head and cough” as he listened to my lungs.

I paused for a moment and then told him, “coughing hurts.”

Naturally, he wanted me to elaborate, so I finally let him in on additional health issues that I was hiding from him.

At this point, my body had already broken down. I couldn’t pick my arms up above my head, I couldn’t turn my head, and I showed him that I had a winged scapula. He then asked what I’ve been doing, and I said, “playing football.”

He looked at me and said, “not anymore.”

I could tell the seriousness in his tone and did not challenge his words.

He was writing up a referral to have everything looked over when I asked, “what about working out? Can I still do that?”

He stopped and thought about the question for a split second, “stop everything. This is pretty serious.”

I hung my head. The stuff I loved doing was just yanked out from under me. I started questioning why I waited so long? Why did I handle it so carelessly?

I went to an orthopedic surgeon. He thoroughly investigated everything and was blunt with how I should proceed.

He said, “no surgery if you stop right now.”

I asked, “stop what football?”

“Yes, you are done with football unless you want to be paralyzed down the road.”

He had diagnosed me with a severe cervical sprain/strain and severe nerve damage in my neck. He compared the damage done to my neck to that of a severe car crash. I knew he was an excellent doctor as he knew details that I had not shared with him to this point.

He said, “the numbness you feel. I know you are experiencing it in your fingers and all-around your body. It will not go away unless you stop right now.”

So I promised him I would stop everything for the time being.

I told him the only physical activity I’ll do will be PT when it comes time.

I was done playing games when I realized what I had just done to my body.

On top of all of that, my MD called back, letting me know that the fluid in my lungs was due to walking pneumonia and bronchitis.

From that day on, I stopped everything. I let my gym membership expire, and I walked away from football. I was facing an unknown future.

Reality set in for me a couple of years later as depression began to sink in. I didn’t replace my favorite activities with anything. I just sat around eating, watched television, and went to work. My weight ballooned, making my depression even worse. All said and done I had a nearly 50lb weight gain.

This is a pic of me with my newborn son during that time.

The Wake Up Call I needed

I ran into a good friend that I haven’t talked to in a few years. Not hearing from him for a while wasn’t from a lack of trying. It turns out he was unavailable because he had joined the military. He said, “wow, you grew out a bit there.” He went on to say he wasn’t used to seeing me in that type of shape. Again, this is a good friend who would never mince words and freely tell me what he was seeing.

After that encounter, I kept thinking of his transformation in his life. He had always struggled with his weight but got sick of it and joined the military, completely changing his life. I was utterly blown away by this encounter.

I started thinking of things that I can physically do because I could feel my life continuing to slip as I sat in depression. I got thinking that I can get outside and enjoy nature as my body healed. I gave my newborn son all of my attention but still something wasn’t right with my mindset.

It’s a Mentality and a Mindset

In order to correct my behavior, I needed to understand it and get control of it. If I attempted to get my life back in order physically, not fixing the destructive behaviors would ultimately lead to failure.

I ran with this little trickle of optimism. I was beginning to feel renewed.

A quote from Confucius became my mantra to aid me in my ambitious attempt at a return :

“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”

Month after month, I continued exercising by jogging, running, and going for hikes. I was starting to feel like myself again. Working out was such a big part of my life because the endorphins it releases works wonders on a person’s mental health—I was feeling this feeling again.

Football was becoming a distant memory for me, and I was okay with that fact now. I had made my peace with it.

I started wondering if God was guiding me towards a different path for me to travel. I ran with that thought and enrolled myself in college.

I was also now a father and a husband as I shifted my focus to having a family.

Fast forward six years, and I now have two degrees and graduated with great honors/magna cum laude. I realized this is the path I was meant to take.

I was always meant to use my brain over my brawn, but I just never embraced it.

Maybe I never needed football at all?
What if I can return to the gym now?

I had so many thoughts and questions to ask my doctor.

After a short visit, my doctor was perfectly fine with me returning to physical workouts so long as I listened to my body this time.

I felt different this time around. Armed with better knowledge of my limits, I attacked the gym ferociously.

After several months back at the gym, I felt confident enough to take a picture of myself. Something I avoided doing for almost a decade!

The Reveal…
This is me in 2020:

When everything happened back in 2006, I thought my life was over. I wanted to quit, and I wanted to give up and hide. For some reason, though, I didn’t, and I genuinely believe it is because I kept up my faith. I didn’t travel the traditional path to get to my destination, but I still did arrive.

I realized that time had no bearing on me. For the longest time, I thought I lost a decade of my best years, but the truth is, I didn’t miss out at all. I put my brain to use instead of my brawn. It was as if God was telling me to take a break. I listened and do not regret it one bit.

I hope this blog helps anyone who may be going through a similar transition in their lives. It was important to get both the physical and mental parts of me in check and in sync to boost my self motivation and self esteem. My goal was to motivate and help you understand that just because one door closes on an opportunity doesn’t mean that another one won’t open. When that door does open for you, take it, do not be afraid of the unknowns.

Thanks for reading!

Travis

48 thoughts on “An Intimate Look at the Mental and Physical Aspects of the Fitness of Life

    1. You’re welcome! Thank you so much for the kind words! Exactly, well said! When everything happened, I initially sat idle, and wow, what a mental toll that took on me. Once I started moving forward with my life, the self-doubt began to dwindle. I don’t regret any of the decisions I made. They were all important life lessons that I can pass on to my family. Thanks again for reading and the support! I greatly appreciate it! 😁😁

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Such encouragement and inspiration for anyone struggling with challenges, whether mental, physical or spiritual. The term ‘self-love’ is controversial, but if you see someone going through this kind of difficulty you wish you have something to offer. Unless you take care of yourself, you can’t really be there meaningfully for others. It’s so wonderful your life took an amazing direction when you began your rehabilitation. You’re very courageous!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Well said. Self-love is real and quite essential. Exactly, having lived through such a situation, it is quite valuable in life experience. I’ll be able to offer valuable insight to my kids and others. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger; that old adage holds true in this case. Thank you so much for the kind words and the support. I appreciate it so much!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It was a journey. I look back on it and do feel good that the experience and life lessons were not wasted. I learned so much from them. Thank you for the encouragement. When I started back to the gym I kept telling everyone that I was just cultivating mass and decided to start harvesting it. 😆 Thank you so much for reading and the support!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Awe thank you! That is so good to hear you enjoyed it. I’m so glad I was able to convey that type of message. Thank you very much for reading and the kind words. Also, thank you for the support, it means so much!😊❤

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, you have you been through quite a lot… What a journey. Some life lessons learnt. I’m so sorry for everything. Happy you are doing great now. Listening to our bodies is so dam important. Really hard, but sometimes we just have to, because if we don’t God only knows what could happen and be the end result. Thanks so much for sharing your intimate personal story. Congrats on all your achievements 😊🌹

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh, you’re welcome! It was very personal, and I sometimes find it hard to open up about things, so thank you so much for the support and encouragement. I feel that I was meant to go through that experience to learn from it, no doubt in my mind. Listening to our body is so important. There are indicators when something is wrong. I ignored them, assuming I’d overcome them. In the end, I learned some invaluable life lessons that I can pass on. 😁😊

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great story Travis! I had a friend that went through the same thing years ago. He was a bodybuilder and a neurology fellow, so cruel irony to learn he had spinal disease. Life will continue to kick us down even as we move forward again and again. The greatest joy in life is overcoming it and moving on, stronger every time. Football was not your enemy, it helped you learn fortitude, discipline, fellowship, pride. Nothing can take that from you. Great job!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh wow, that is such cruel irony your friend had to go through. Life is such a rollercoaster ride sometimes; that is exactly why I chose the quote, “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall,” as it fit what I was going through so well. I learned so much from football. It was hard to accept the reality that I had to move on from it because it meant so much. But just as you said, it instilled many intrinsic values. I feel that it played a pivotal role in where I am today in my life, and I am grateful for that. Thank you for reading and also the encouragement. I greatly appreciate it!

      Like

      1. Absolutely! I was a swimmer myself but my sons play and I see what it’s done for them and their friends. Nerdy looking fat kids as freshman turned into confident stud linemen and linebackers in a couple years. My younger son had knee surgery so moved onto volleyball, but my older is playing receiver in college now and loves it. 💪🍻

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It’s incredible how much it helps with self-confidence for a young man. They start seeing the potential, and it sounds like they total bought-in on what it could offer. That’s unfortunate about your one son, but hey, he found another opportunity with volleyball, which is excellent! My whole fiasco started with a “stinger” at the end of a game. I wanted to throw a highlight reel type of block on a toss play, I did, but at a significant cost. It felt different than other stingers and didn’t subside as quickly. It stuck with me and the stingers became more and more prominent. So cool he is playing it in college. Ride it until the wheels fall off!

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      3. Yeah, I guess they start to add up like concussions but good thing you got out in time to recover. Hopefully he gets to finally play this spring after Covid, but don’t get me started on that whole thing…
        I’m new to WordPress, thanks for checking out my blog and I look forward to more of your posts.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Yeah, they definitely are, especially if you keep hitting the same area and the same nerves. I echo the same sentiment on that man. Let’s hope he gets to play finally. Same here; this blogging thing is all new to me too. You’re welcome! I greatly appreciate you checking out my stuff as well, and I look forward to more stuff from you too!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re welcome. Thank you so much for the support, the encouraging words, and for reading my story!
      I’m glad you found it inspiring. That’s exactly what I was going for with the post so that’s good to hear! 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  4. What an inspiring post I’m glad you had the courage to post it! ☺️ As someone also with a lower back injury I can relate to feeling like it might never fully heal and I might not be able to do some sports I love again. But hoping I can push through one day and was great reading about how you have!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When something like that happens, it’s so hard to overcome mentally. Depression sets in on the idle minds. I was definitely an idle mind when I hurt my back. I got through it and was stronger than ever before. I took the neck injury as a sign that I must shift my focus a bit and be smarter going forward. You can overcome it, I’m sure of it. Just make sure you have patience, listen to your body, and you’ll overcome it. Thanks for reading, and I’m glad it inspired you. 🥰

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s oh so true. Things all happen for a reason. You’re welcome! It was such a life altering time period for me as I think about it almost daily. I am definitely in a better place now physically and mentally, so it was definitely the right path for me. Thank you so much for the encouragement!🤗

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Aww! Thanks, Ana. I figured many can relate to the adversity. That feeling of wanting to hide, it’s just easier to do that. It took a little while to realize that just because it’s the easier way doesn’t mean it’s the right path. Glad you enjoyed the post. Thank you so much for the support! 🥰

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Travis, this is a great story! I’m glad you decided to share it because I’m sure many athletes need to hear it for a lot of different reasons, one being that mentality of “suffer through the injury” probably needs to ends. Kudos to you returning to a body you feel proud of.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed my post! That’s exactly why I decided to share it. The quality of life for a person should be of the utmost importance. Even if one can play through an injury, it isn’t without future ramifications. To this day, I still feel the negligence of my decisions. The aches and pains will be with me for the rest of my life and will undoubtedly serve as a reminder.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you for sharing such a personal piece. Very inspiring and you should be so damn proud of yourself. Having your body turn against you and making you feel “weak” is something I know all too well. It is normal for us to initially “give up and hide”. Trying to understand the “why”. But… you got up. You looked at your obstacles and owned them. You may have been sent down a path that didn’t make sense at first, but I think that is right where you are supposed to be. God always has a plan even when we are blind to it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re welcome. It was out of character for me to share such a thing. I’m an introvert but felt it was a good message to convey, so I just went for it. Thank you for reading and your kind words. It was such a tribulation to go through. I remember thinking I have to change my life, and I have to stop feeling sorry for myself. Then after a while, I said, “I have to stop saying and start doing.” It finally clicked. The endorphins from exercising, that unbelievable feeling of self-pride was all sitting dormant and finally started to reawaken. Well said! It’s oh so true…God always has a plan for us!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The hard pieces to write are the ones that need written. It was well written and many will connect to your story. Sometimes we need time and need to hit that point where we finally feel ready to take that step and push through. You did that. Truly amazing what we can overcome when everything is trying to tug us down. You conquered it.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Wise words, well said again. Our innate ability to overcome adversities, if we decide to face them, is truly remarkable. I appreciate you saying I conquered it. It was such a fantastic feeling to see myself transforming not only physically but mentally as well. I’m grateful for the experience, I was meant to go through it for a reason. I have to say, it was a fun transformation to go through when I got back into the gym. I was traditionally a powerlifter and started transforming to a leaner look when I got injured. I finally got to tackle that life goal as well! 😁 Thanks again for all of your support! I appreciate your insight very much!

        Liked by 1 person

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