The world of fitness is chalked full of inspirational stories and our ever growing profiles section is no exception. From cancer survivors to adult on set exercisers, to incredible life changes; these five people have faced incredible odds and persevered to achieve their fitness goals.
Johnny Olsen is a former junior Olympian who has been a competitive bodybuilder since the late 1970s. His most recent victory was in July 2016 at the Master’s Division.
In January 2014, Johnny was diagnosed with cancer but still trained right up until two days before his surgery. He only took six weeks after his surgery before resuming his training; not at the same intensity, but still at a high level.
Johnny’s #1 fitness tip
“Been saying this for 30 years. If you want to be successful in the gym, the body part you have to work the most is the mind. You have to put your full intensity and focus into each specific exercise you are working on at the time. When you are doing a lat pulldown, for example, your mind should be telling the body that the arms are just an extension to the lats.”
If you were to run into Vinson Smith today, you would be meeting a High School Football Coach, who clearly practices what he preaches in terms of fitness for his team. With 225 pounds on his 6’1” frame, it is almost unfathomable to imagine the laid back and outgoing southerner once tipped the scales at over 500 pounds.
In his late teens, Vinson underwent what he called extreme weight gain, describing himself as an emotional eater. “I eat when I’m happy, I eat when I’m sad, I eat when I’m angry.”
Vinson’s an inspiration because he went after what he wanted the most and he got it. Call it the American dream, call it a can do attitude, but for him, it was really just that he didn’t want to be big anymore…and he isn’t.
Vinson’s #1 fitness tip
“Nutrition is 90% of the entire process. I still have an appetite of a 500-pound person and it takes a lot to keep on track, but once you get a hold of that aspect, you are good to go.”
VALERIE PARKES BACKUNOWICZ
Valerie didn’t get into fitness at a young age, which is what makes her fitness journey so inspirational. It wasn’t until she was in her mid-fifties that she decided to start living a more fit life. After attempting to get into better shape by joining a women’s only gym, that turned out to be too little actual fitness. She then tried Zumba, which led to an injury. Finally, at the age of 64, she found Crossfit.
She dove into it head first and found a form of fitness that she fell in love with. She has progressed and gotten herself into incredible shape at the age of 68.
Valerie’s #1 fitness Tip
From Valerie’s own personal journey, you can learn that you should never be afraid to attempt a new form of fitness and do not give up trying because there are a few set backs. Finding what works for you may require a lot of trial and error, but you will find something that will motivate you to create a healthier you every day. Valerie also teaches us that you are never too old to succeed in your fitness goals!
Peter is an avid runner and a triathlete who has been pursuing fitness since he was in his mid-twenties. Peter has done a lot in the world of fitness, from racing dragon boats to practicing yoga. So what makes his story that much more inspirational? Peter lost his sight as a teenager.
He’s able to compete in triathlons with the help of the Tandem Project, a group that pairs people with a guide to help them in their physical endeavors. In training, Peter utilizes whatever he has at his disposal to make it easier to accomplish his goals. In a rural setting, he will use GPS on his phone and a stick that allows him to navigate where the side of the road is. When swimming, he will jump in a lake and keep the music playing on the shore so that he knows where he is and how to get back to the dock.
Peter’s constant physical engagement leads anyone who meets him to question their own commitment to fitness and make their excuses seem, well, pretty lame!
Peter’s #1 fitness tip
Peter’s #1 fitness tip is all about balance. Balancing workouts with nutrition in order to help with overall fitness as well as injury prevention, which is very important at the moment.
“The workout part is easy as I find I just need to push myself. The nutrition part is more difficult, mainly learning how to balance healthy eating with the food I enjoy the most. For example, avoiding lots of chicken and beef because for me, that leads to a lot of weight gain. That means more reliance on plant-based nutrition.”
Greg is the living embodiment of inspiration, having overcome a litany of personal setbacks and continuing not only to push himself forward but to dedicate his life to helping others overcome their setbacks and move forward with their lives.
The renowned motivational speaker and author of 3 Points of Contact, a 12.5 step strategy that can be applied to any challenge of life, has spent time being homeless, in the military and in the cancer ward. He overcame all of these challenges before becoming a marathon runner and embarking on his career as a public speaker
Greg’s #1 fitness tip
A point that Greg makes in his book, which should hit almost anyone like a ton of bricks when you stop and think about it, is that you are always “entering in the middle of, or leaving some kind of storm.”
One way or another, we can all apply that to our daily lives and daily workouts.
There are five people who fought against all odds and a terrible hardship to achieve things that a lot of people believe they cannot. Let’s not just acknowlege that their stories are inspirational, let’s actually be inspired by them and go out and achieve our own goals!