It’s been well over a month since I’ve been in a gym and it’s strange. Growing up, I never thought “the gym” would be one of those things I couldn’t do without. It certainly makes me realize how much I appreciate it. Because if it wasn’t for Anytime Fitness…I’d probably still weigh 378lbs
By Rock Tennie
Date – May 4th, 2020
Let me take you back to the summer of 2007. Back then “Sexy Back” was getting played out on the radio and “High School Musical” was all the rage. I was coming up on my 21st birthday and weighed a whopping 378lbs. I was a glutton. I loved to eat. I lacked discipline. And my college job was a pizza delivery driver. So, I ate pizza almost every night and drank it all down with Dr Pepper.
To be honest…I thought I was living the dream! I wasn’t happy, but I didn’t think my dissatisfaction came from my lifestyle. I had friends and family throw subtle hints suggesting I lose weight, but I can’t remember anyone really having a “heart to heart” talk with me about it. Forgive me if you did and it just went through one ear and out the other.
I think everyone knew I was fat…but I carried myself well. I was 6’3, could boogie up and down stairs like it was nothing and honestly…I didn’t feel like being fat was a “health issue.” Meaning, I didn’t have troubles breathing, no heart palpitations, or my knees didn’t buckle.
Truly, when I was 378lbs the worst part about being me wasn’t that I was heavy or felt like I was on the verge of collapse…it was simply that I didn’t “look” the way I wanted to look. I had man-boobs and resorted to wearing this embarrassing oversize blue utility vest wherever I went just to conceal my body. I went to a film school where young, good-looking people from all over the country came to attend my school, because it was easy to get into. One of the major departments was “Fashion Design.”
So yeah…I was surrounded by beautiful people and felt like nobody wanted to be around me…because when I looked in the mirror, I wouldn’t want to be around me. These issues…I don’t want to compare it to PTSD, but it took years for me to get over it. Whenever someone called me handsome or good-looking, I assumed they were just being nice, the same way people overzealously applaud people with disabilities for accomplishing a simple task. I felt like everywhere I went, people were always staring at me…whether it was true or not.
Despite all of that…I still wasn’t compelled to make some major life changes. Aware in the slightest that I was overweight, I tried to take the easy route of taking diet pills. But I was so stupid and lazy. I’d take one of those Stacker 2 pills before eating a whole pizza thinking it’d counter the massive amount of calories I was taking in. It really is by the grace of God that I’m still alive after all that.
The catalyst that really opened my eyes, wasn’t a friend joking that I’d do well on “The Biggest Loser,” it wasn’t making everyone in class laugh when they saw a video of me dancing for a film project, it wasn’t those embarrassing late night trips to Walmart because they were the only stores still open with size 50 waist pants…lol…The wakeup call came when I got stuck trying to come out of my bedroom closet. There was a mirror in front of me and I saw myself. I stepped free from the closet and looked back at the closet doorway. My size and girth was that wide. Talk about a difficult pill to swallow…
DISCOVERING ANYTIME FITNESS:
It was then that I made up my mind to change my life. But how? I was embarrassed. I felt like a monster. The last couple of times I hit the gym was years earlier at the military base and it was usually packed, full of sculpted figures who looked like they belonged on the cover of Men’s Health. Even when I went, I wasn’t sure what to do, how long to do it, or if it was even working.
Then…one hot rainy night in the middle of 2007, I had just finished the closing shift around 1AM in a developing area of Oldsmar, Florida (Tampa Bay Area). As crossed the intersection after refueling, I spotted a business with their lights on. It was a gym. It was Anytime Fitness.
Ladies and gentlemen…I can’t tell you how much this moment really got my hopes up. The place was empty. But a sign said the gym was open 24 hours a day. It made me smile because I already knew. My main thought was this…“I can work out as hard as I want and no one will see how ugly I look!”
I know. That might make me sound shallow or superficial or having low self-esteem and you’d be right to assume all of that. It still didn’t change the fact that I was fat and I needed to lose weight. The way I describe it, is like a cocoon. The transformation from a fat sluggy caterpillar to a beautiful butterfly happens within the confines of a cocoon. This was what AnyTime Fitness would be to me.
The next day, I went in, talked to the manager and my hopes were confirmed. Anytime Fitness offered me a key-fob by which I could come to this gym any time of the day and work out for as long as I wanted. It was perfect. And while I was there signing up…I stepped on the scale for the first time since I graduated high school in 2005.
In spring of 2005, I weighed 270lbs the last time I stepped on a scale.
When I stepped on a scale for the first time since, in the summer of 2007, I weighed 378lbs
When I saw “378” on the scale…I was stunned, not saddened or dismayed. But I think I started laughing. For a 378-pounder, I was surprisingly spry. I was so close to 400 and didn’t even know it. Physically, I don’t think I felt any more different than from when I weighed 270lbs in 2005. But mentally, I just felt uglier, more disgusting.
Needless to say, I worked out that very night.
NO PAIN, NO GAIN:
I never had a trainer giving me pointers or directions in the beginning. To be honest, I’m not sure how well I would have done with that anyway. I wanted to go at my own pace. Nobody watching. Just me. Again, it really is by the grace of God to instill this relentless sense of determination in me.
And it really was determination. It wasn’t easy. And it took time to come to the painful realization that losing weight doesn’t happen overnight. It would take years before I even received a compliment about my transformation.
In the beginning…something popped the idea into my head that the key to losing weight was calories. Calories give us energy. But if you don’t use that energy by working out or burning it off with some activity, those calories turn to fat. The best exercises to burn calories are aerobic exercises, commonly known as Cardio. So, taking baby steps…I started with the easiest cardio exercise I could find. The stationary bike.
I remember. 45 minutes, five nights a week on the stationary bike. I went as hard as I could, working up a sweat for forty-five minutes. After that, I tried the usual resistant machines to try and build muscles where I wanted muscles, like the butterfly and some free weights. But I didn’t go overboard. I was usually too tired after the bike. And I think deep down, I was worried about hurting myself with the bench-press or squatting under the bar. I wouldn’t develop that confidence till later. In the beginning…baby steps.
When I said, “go at my own pace”…I meant it. I’m sure I could’ve lost weight a whole lot faster if I had someone there pushing me, urging me to increase my speed or try other machines. But I’m glad it was just me because eventually…I learned to push myself, by myself. And I think that was critical when it came to actually changing my lifestyle. I didn’t do it because of peer pressure, or I was afraid of letting someone like a trainer down. It was just me. That’s nothing against personal trainers. But I think this plays a big part as to why I was able to keep the weight off after losing it.
Because people, caught up with the body positivity movement, will tell me, “I want to work out, but not to lose weight. I just want to change my lifestyle…”
And I’d tell them, it was working out because I wanted to lose weight that prompted my lifestyle change. Not sure why that’s such a shame to admit. Anyone can get surgery or have a coach get them in shape for some special event. But if your heart’s not in it…if it’s not what you want to do because you friggin WANT IT!…Back then, I used to dream about looking the way I look right now. I wanted it. I had my motivation (it’s women). And I think that when you work your ass off to get results, remembering the pain, how long it took, the rest of your habits and lifestyle choices change because you now have something you want to protect and fight for. You earned those results. You won’t want to lose it.
I did the stationary bike for well over a year. That’s one year of sitting down on a bike and burning calories…but it wasn’t enough. I felt I had gotten too comfortable and needed to push myself. I can’t explain it. I think I just had to try it…By “it” I’m referring to that row of vacant treadmills that were stationed in front of the bikes. I had never been on one before.
It was 2008. I was nervous. I had twisted my kneecap dancing when I was 18 and the last thing I wanted to do was repeat another leg injury. But I tried the treadmill for the first time, sensible, at a low speed, flat level incline, and gripping the side hand bars for dear life.
And lo and behold…who would have ever thought you actually burn more calories on the treadmill than the bike. You’d think you’d burn more calories because you’re moving your legs faster on the pedals…but I guess because you have to carry your own weight on the treadmill…yep. Burned more calories. So treadmill it was…and man…I fell in love with the treadmill.
People sometimes give us crap for walking on treadmills. I’ve heard it say, “Why are you on a treadmill? Why are you paying money to do what anyone can do for free outside the gym?”
1) You control the pace. You can keep it steady or increase the speed and maintain that speed for a consistent workout. Especially if you’re starting off with the idea to get better as you go. When I first started the treadmill in 2008, I began with a speed of 3.0 with an even incline. By 2009, I was at a speed of 4.0 with a 3.5 incline. In 2012, I was at 4.8 at an incline of 7.0 (this was ridiculous). And now, I do a steady speed of 4.8 with jogging bursts every fifteen minutes at an incline of 6.5. Improvement’s the name of the game and it’s difficult to measure that just walking outside.
2) You control the time. In 2008, I walked on the treadmill for just 30 minutes. By 2009, I pushed myself to 45 minutes. By 2010 and to this day, I do an hour ever session.
“But Rock, you can time yourself when you’re outside.”
Yeah, but how would you account for stop signs and pedestrians? Or do you press pause every time you’re halted? Unless you go to some trail or park, right?
3) This is the most important reason. When you’re performing an exercise that’s steady and consistent in a safe environment with no interruptions, it allows your mind to escape. Yeah, walking the treadmill hurt in the beginning because my body wasn’t used to the stress. I got shin-splits for the first few days. And even after years of doing the treadmill, it usually ached from my body heating up during the first five to ten minutes, but once you got past those initial pains…it was nirvana.
With music blasting in my earbuds, my body would be in locomotion, but my mind would be off on some medieval battlefield leading a charge. Or I’d be the lead singer in my own boyband or rock group, impressing my current crush and all the hottest celebrities of the day. And more often than ought, a lot of the premises and plots for my screenplays and books were dreamt up in the heat of working out.
I loved it! Working out became a form of therapy for me. And by late 2009…I wasn’t so worried about looking ugly in the gym. I started coming earlier in the night. By the time I got off the treadmill, my hoodie would be drenched in sweat and I didn’t care who was looking…I didn’t care because I’d be in my own little world.
The transformation wasn’t just physical. They say you can’t judge a book by it’s cover, but I disagree. What’s on the inside shows on the outside. I was a glutton. It showed. I felt like an ugly monster with no self-esteem, it showed.
But when I really started working out so much that I couldn’t go a day without it, the discipline came. By 2010, I worked out not just to lose weight, but because I “wanted to”. I enjoyed it. I still loved to eat, but I loved working out more. I felt stronger. Powerful. But still…how I felt and how I looked wouldn’t match up until 2012.
In December 2009, I had managed to get down to 312lbs. So essentially, I had lost 66lbs in 2 years. Sounds awesome, right? Didn’t look awesome. My douchebag little brother came down to visit me that Christmas and upon seeing me after so long said, “I thought you said you lost weight!?”
In July of 2010, I had managed to get down to 278lbs. This major drop came from the realization that in order to lose weight properly, I couldn’t just work out alone. I had to watch what I eat. I didn’t take up some diet like only eating veggies or the Atkin’s Diet…I still ate what I want…just not so much of it. It’s called Portion Control. All stemming from this newly acquired discipline. I prepared smaller portions as opposed to the feasts I was eating every night. And then I’d resist the urge to eat more.
Then…After years of working out at Anytime Fitness since 2007…it was in August of 2012 at the age of 26 that I felt it was time to buy new clothes because my old clothes were worn out. Still comfortable, but just worn out. Hahaha! I went to JC Penney’s and looked for my usual 3XL shirts. But they were too big. I picked out my usual size 48 pants. But they were too big.
Then I picked out a blue plaid XL shirt and size 42 pants…
I took that picture, that exact moment when I realized…Mission Complete! I couldn’t believe it. My dream had come true. I looked exactly the way I believed I would look when I was 21 years old weighing 378lbs. At the age of 26 in 2012, I weighed 235 pounds.
Ladies and gents…it was an amazing feeling. The last time I wore size 42 pants was in the 8th grade. I looked and felt amazing! It was perfect timing because I was just starting off my career as an author and needed photos taken.
Like I said…I had something to protect. That feeling…how hard I worked to get where I was. I never want to get back to being overweight again. I’m in constant competition with myself and I love it!
If I looked like that in my mid-20s…I’m willing to bet Rock in his 30s can do better. To this day, I still do Anytime Fitness. I still get my therapy on with the treadmill. But I do so much more now. I run. Yes! I run! And oddly enough, I’m pretty fast for a big guy. And I have to give credit to the Clearwater Boxing Academy. At the age of 30, I signed up for Boxing Lessons for my New Year’s Resolution in 2017. I’ve been doing that regularly every week as well.
Now that we’re struck with the COVID-19 pandemic that has the gyms closed…you’d think that’d keep me sidelined at the risk of gaining weight. But like I said…working out changed my lifestyle. Hard work became my lifestyle. My new condo has a basketball court. While everyone else is hitting up the pools, I have the court to myself and you better believe I push myself to the limit every time. But still…that’s not enough.
I know the boxing gyms will open up any day now, and I don’t want to lose the edge, the skills I acquired through shadow boxing and hitting the bags. So…lol, I was doing P90X plyometrics, but between that and basketball, my knees were like, “nope!” But that’s alright. I found this Muay Thai training videos on Youtube and have been trying them. Yep. Those hit the spot. Not to mention, it has me doing these variety of push-ups that I couldn’t do before so…yeah. I can go on and on.
Bottom line…I miss the gym. I miss Anytime Fitness. If it wasn’t for them being open 24 hours a day, I’m not sure if I would’ve ever turned my life around.
No lie, this photo was taken from the Anytime Fitness in Downtown Clearwater, Florida. From, 2009-2019 it was where the majority of my transformation took place. I thank God for blessing me with the strength and determination to constantly improve. To never go back to the way I was. I’ll never forget.