One night, I came home from work and was talking to my wife in the kitchen. She looked away to stir dinner and when she looked back I was gone—I had fallen and hit my head on the baseboard.
It wasn’t an isolated incident. Two days later I passed out into a trashcan at work and ended up spending three days in the hospital. I had a blood glucose level of more than 400 mg/dL and a diagnosis of diabetes.
In my early years, I had eaten healthy food whenever possible, taken vitamins, and gone to the gym. I had always been involved in sports, acting as both player and coach. But from 2005 until 2008, my job and family obligations prevented me from keeping up with my physical training. I ate poorly, came home from work and fell asleep on the couch. I was always hungry, my vision was blurry and I felt terrible.
I realized I had nobody to blame but myself for becoming overweight. Yes, the diabetes was probably genetic and not my fault, but I was embarrassed that I had quit training. I knew I had to get back to the gym and change my lifestyle.
I’ve belonged to Greg Long’s Gym in Pennsylvania for over 30 years. That gym has become my physical and emotional lifeline. On my first day back to the gym, there was Greg Long, a previous Mr. Universe and my close friend, smiling and saying hi to me. He gave me back my leather training belt and said he knew I’d be back one day. Greg’s brother, Dennis, gave me a hug. Later, three guys I hadn’t seen for several years told me how great it was to see me. I knew I had come home and it felt damn good.
The next few weeks were difficult, but worthwhile. I had many talks with Greg and Dennis about dieting and training. I was sore all the time, but their smiles and support helped me turn the tables on my out-of-shape body and diabetes. My sugar began to stabilize.
It was a long road back, one that took several years, but it was worth every minute of sweat and toil. When I started back to weight training I had a 34 inch waist and my A1C score was 9.5. Now after four years back at the gym, my waist is 32 inches, and my A1C score is 6.3.
Not every gym is like Greg Long’s, but you can find support at many gyms. Use word-of-mouth and ask athletic friends where they train and why they chose that gym. Look at the members—are they working out or just socializing? Is the staff knowledgeable and friendly? What’s your gut reaction when you walk in the door? All of these are valid questions you have to ask yourself to determine if a training environment is right for you.
A gym should feel like home, albeit a home that makes you work hard to stay healthy.