Kevin Brooks is a father, an Air Force veteran, a process operator and industrial emergency response Incident Commander. After leaving the military and returning to a chemical plant, over time his health began to slide. Poor diet and lack of exercise took its toll, and just before his 40th birthday he decided he’d had enough and began a quest for health.
I had the pleasure of interviewing him, and let’s see what he had to say.
What happened to make you want to take the steps to improve your health?
Answer: I work in a chemical plant, and one night the guys were having a push-up contest. I hadn’t done a push-up since I was in the Air-Force 8 years prior. Even in the military I wasn’t very strong and I never worked out. I could run, but I never went into the gym. I didn’t get involved in that contest obviously. So when I got home I did as many as I could, just to see. I think I managed around 17 or 18. I was mortified. It occurred to me that I was about to turn 40, I weighed 230 pounds and had two small kids. I decided then and there that I had to change. I was lucky, really, because I worked with several younger guys that worked out regularly and helped me get started.
What was the main goal you wanted to achieve?
Answer: Initially, I just wanted to lose weight and improve my health in general. Mostly I wanted to lose weight. I wanted to be less than 200 pounds and that was my focus for the first couple of months. As I started seeing changes (which I’ll talk about later, my goals changed. Once I lost the weight, and got close to my goal weight I was seeing muscle development and that triggered a desire to see how far I could take it.
How did you determine what the best eating plan was to meet your goal?
Answer: Well first of all, clearly I was eating all wrong. I didn’t exactly know what I was going to start eating. but I certainly knew what I needed to STOP eating. Basically I was doing everything wrong, which I think the majority of people walking around are doing as well. I asked people that I knew ate well and took care of themselves, and of course a great deal of common sense, and I started ordering supplements on line.
I immediately noticed that there were tips for all kinds of things on those sites. So basically I cut out all candy and ice cream and all the sugary garbage, as well as fried foods, and certainly fast food of any kind, and started eating lots of veggies and chicken and fish. Honestly I’ve always hated broccoli and spinach and most greens, but I learned to like most of it, mainly because I knew that they were so beneficial to me. But really it comes down to using common sense and eventually learning what you like and learning to appreciate food for the benefits.
How did you determine what the best movement plan was to meet your goal?
Answer: Since my initial goal was simply to lose weight, and since I really didn’t know where to start in the gym, I started working out with my friends from work. I watched what they were doing and tried to do the same. I wasn’t even close to being strong like they were, but I wasn’t trying to get big or muscular or anything like that.
Again, it was about losing weight. I thought for a while that cardio was probably what I should be doing starting out, but after a few weeks at the gym I started liking it. But I will say that you have to change up your routine. You’ll plateau otherwise. I change my goals routinely and that keeps me motivated. For a few months I’ll focus on muscle growth, and then I’ll switch it up to trimming fat and trying for a six pack. then I’ll work on maxing out deadlifts/bench/squat for a little while. Whatever will keep things fresh for you and it will naturally change up your workout routines.
Did you seek any outside assistance for either the eating plan or movement plan?
Answer: Like I mentioned prior, I watched what my friends were doing and I asked questions, but honestly I didn’t ask enough. I think a crucial piece of advice to anyone that is starting to lift weights for the first time, especially around my age, is to ask someone who knows, to make certain that you are utilizing the proper technique. I learned this the hard way. Several times actually from different movements.
There’s a feeling among people that are in poor shape that it will be embarrassing to go into a gym, and especially when you don’t know what you are doing and so many people won’t go because of that. I learned that by and large, people in a gym, working out, are more than happy to help you. Nobody is judging, and most of the time they’ll gladly help you get a machine set up the right way and even watch you if you want to make sure you’re not about to hurt yourself.
How do you fit your movement plan into your busy life?
Answer: To put it simply, I didn’t create excuses. I work shift work and I work a lot of overtime and I have small kids, so there’s a lot happening in my life. But I made sure I worked out before work every day. Even if it was only for half an hour or forty five minutes. It was very difficult at first because when I worked day shift that meant waking up at three in the morning. But eventually it becomes a habit. It doesn’t seem that way for a while, because it’s new and it’s hard, but like I keep saying, you have to avoid excuses. You have to keep grinding. It’s interesting because believe it or not, eventually you love the grind.
What is the most important change that you experienced because of the changes that you made?
Answer: I feel better. Obviously physically because I’m physically in better shape, but emotionally and spiritually as well, which are important, if not more. I have worked very hard to get where I am and I’m proud of what I’ve done so far and it’s been one of the most important and best decisions I’ve made, to get fit and stay that way.
Can you describe your typical days, including your work out and the types of food you are eating?
Answer: Well, I work shift work, like I mentioned before, so if I am working days, I wake up around three and eat something really light just so I have something in my stomach, like simple whole grain toast, and I take my pre-work out and go. I will work out for an hour to two hours, depending on what I’m doing and much time I have. When I get to work I’ll eat a real breakfast, usually two bowls of cereal, and have my protein and drink lots of water throughout the day. I keep it simple with what I east, so chicken, brown rice, spinach, fish, basically veggies and chicken and the typical things we know we should be eating. I honestly don’t think it’s very difficult to eat right.
We all know that if we eat fast food and cookies all the time we will become overweight and stay that way. Having said that, I will absolutely eat cookies! And ice cream! I think for people that work out and do it competitively, then by all means stick to as strict diet where you count macros and all that. But for the rest of us it’s not necessary. Eat what you already know is good for you and make sure to have healthy snacks and don’t be afraid to eat cake sometimes.
How would you recommend other middle-aged people address wanting health in midlife?
Answer: I think that you have to make the decision to get healthy or not, and if you decide to do it then you have to stick to it. I learned that it takes quite a bit of time before you start seeing and feeling results. Even if you jump straight in the way I did, it can take weeks before you finally have that “hell yeah” moment where you see something starting to happen. That time, the time it takes to get to that first big moment, is why people quit.
It’s frustrating and you start to think that maybe this just isn’t going to happen for you. Or worse yet, you realize quickly that it’s far from easy and that you’re tired and sore, and so within a few days you’re done. There’s a reason gyms make big money in January every year! After the “New Year’s resolution” crowds thin out it’s just the regulars left for the rest of the eleven months of the year.
My best advice is to do it, avoid excuses at all costs and don’t let yourself quit. It’s an amazing feeling when you look in the mirror and you see it, and you know for sure that you’re doing it, and it’s at that point that you reach an important milestone. This is when you know that you’re going to keep at it. It makes you WANT to eat the right way, WANT to wake up early and get in the gym, WANT to put in work with the weights.
And honestly you should do cool things for yourself, like get some new gym clothes, because in reality you will need them anyway. Make up your mind that you’re going to get off your butt and DO NOT allow for any excuses, and stick with it. Get to the “hell yeah” moment for yourself, keeping in mind it will take time and when you get to that point, I promise you’ll be in for the long haul!
How do you ensure that these plans are sustainable?
Answer: the only guarantee in sustainability is within you. The tools are there, in abundance, from health food stores, to online meal preps to countless gyms and equipment. It’s all there. I needed inspiration quite a bit for the first year or two into this. And I found that on Instagram. There are tons of people with fitness pages, like yours, and I would open it up and see what people were doing and most of the time that was all I needed. Just a reminder of what I was doing and why.
We all get into a rut. But only you can make your plan sustainable. It’s really very simple. Eat right and put in the work in the gym. There’s no magic formula and there’s no easy way to do it. No “muscle in a bottle”. The exercise equipment you see for sale on the infomercials that make it all look easy, those things work. All do them do. They all work very well at doing what they are designed to do. But it’s not easy. It takes hard work and sweat and dedication. That’s why elliptical machines and treadmills become clothes hangers. Sustainability is all about your mindset and the strength of your dedication.
As you can see Kevin is able to include his lifestyle changes in a way that makes even the dedicated say WOW!
Take away #1
Reach out to those around you for inspiration, at work, on line or at the gym!
Take away #2
Programs add equipment work…but YOU need to do the HARD WORK!
Take away #3
NEVER MAKE EXCUSES….and you will reach your “Hell Yeah” moment!
Kevin, thank you so much for your time and transparency! Watch out for some guest blogs by this veteran! He has agreed to share some of his plans!
If you need help deciding on an exercise plan, or an eating plan that fits your life. I can assist you.
In my book, I describe programs that work for middle aged people.
You can go to my website to learn more, and purchase the book one the BUY BOOK NOW button (look at the top right corner if you are on a desk top, or on the bottom on a mobile device)
Or click BUY BOOK NOW