Interview: Byron makes big changes in a year

Byron at 255 before the RRL

Byron at 255 before the RRL

TR: Hey Byron!  Congratulations on your 1 year anniversary at the RRL.  
I have loved getting to know you over the last year, but for those who might not know you...Introduce yourself…( Job, family, #kids, ages, background in sports…)   Can you describe where you were in your life, your physical condition (weight, energy level, blood work, cardio shape) how you felt one year ago?

BW:  This is my fifth year living in Chattanooga, and I moved down here from Virginia to teach physics at Baylor School.  I am, 29 and married to my wonderful wife (and great supporter of the last year of early RRL workouts), and we have an 8 month old son, John Henry David. We live on Baylor's campus, as I am also a dorm parent.

A year and a half ago, I decided to start working out, mainly cardio, and some body weight workouts.  However, I had hit a plateau, and was not making a lot of progress.  I weighed 255 lbs., had trouble sleeping, and my energy was crashing at the end of the class day.

TR: That is a very similar situation to so many people in the United States right now.  People get focused on their job and forget about their physical health.  What was the motivation to make a significant change in your life?

BW:  I was motivated to change my life and my health for my future children and my family.  I was finding myself worried about my health, and I could see myself getting heavier and heavier.  At my heaviest, I weight 268 pounds in the summer of 2014, and it was then that I started to turn around my diet and my level of activity.

TR: Having children or considering having children in the near future is certainly a major motivating factor to improving your health.  I know that was the primary reason that I regained my athletic life after a layoff to focus entirely on my job.  When I realized that I would be responsible for another life, it lit a fire.  When that fire starts, there are lots of things you could do to make a change, but you chose to check out, perhaps the far end of the scale.  How did you hear about the RRL?

BW:  Mike Drew!  One evening he told me about his workouts, and while it shocked me what he was describing you all were doing, I thought, "I want to be able to do that!"  Mike challenged me to join him the next morning, offering to drive.  I took him up on it, and was a crazy workout day.

TR: That is awesome.  Mike is a great role model.  He gives it everything he has and has also made some significant improvements in his strength and conditioning.  I often hear guys talking about their first day at the RRL.  I would imagine that it could be a little intimidating by all outward appearance, but exactly the opposite once you are a part of it.  What was it like for you?  Do you remember what we did?   How did you feel?  What did you think?

BW:  When I got into Mike's car to drive over, Mike said, "well, you picked a good day."  Mike showed me the board, and explained where the warm-up was listed and the spot for the day's workout.  There I read, "Young."  I remember doing the "warm up" and thinking, "Woah, this is what I do to 'work out,' and there's more?"

Young was a challenge.  I ended up doing 2 rounds of Young, and it was painful the whole way.  Also, that was the first day I did a burpee...

(Young is a workout that we do on a beautiful gradual hill that is about 1/2 Mile long.  We do 5 burpees at the bottom of the hill and 5 burpees at the top and we repeat this 5 times for time)

That day at Baylor, I had more energy all day than I had had in a long time.  I was fired up!  Now, don't get me wrong, I was also in pain!  I do not think I made it to the RRL the next day.

TR: That is quite a change from doing nothing or very little to Young x 5!  Good job.  I am sure you were sore. met a whole new group of guys willing to get up at 5 am and get after it.  What made you come back?

BW:  I thought the RRL was crazy.  But I was also attracted to the challenge.  I wanted to get stronger, and I wanted to push myself, and that's what happened on that hill.

TR: You have become extremely consistent in attendance.  How did you do it and what is your schedule like now?

BW:  At first, I was pretty inconsistent.  However, I found that the more I came, the better I felt.  I found myself growing stronger and stronger, and no doubt does this motivate me.  But, in addition, the RRL community is a motivating one.  When you miss a day, you not only miss out on getting stronger, but you also miss out on sharing that workout with the great men at the RRL.  They challenge you to grow, they help you learn how to work, and we have a great time.  

In all seriousness, whether it is Kevin running with me on my first 5k, or Matt Greenwell helping me pace my first 5 miler, or any guy motivating me with a kind word, the men at RRL build each other up.  I am grateful for all of them.

In the last couple of months, I have landed on coming Monday through Thursday.  I would come on Friday, but I am usually up until 12:30 or later because I have dorm duty on Thursday nights.

TR: Making big changes in your physical activity is one thing.  Over the last year, how has your diet changed?  How do you eat today?

Weight on the decline but still eating the cheese

Weight on the decline but still eating the cheese

BW:  I eat more vegetables and fruit.  I eat less bread, consume less sugar, eat far less fried food, and I have tried to be more mindful of how much cheese I eat, but really, I still eat a lot of cheese...I like cheese.

Anyways, In general, I am more mindful of what I am eating, making some changes.  But I do not feel like I have drastically changed my diet.

TR: Just looking at you, it is obvious that you have transformed in one year.  How much weight have you actually lost?  What results have you had inLifting, Running, Skills, etc…?

BW:  I now weigh about 240, having lost over 25 pounds.  However, I have lost a lot more than 25 pounds of fat.  I know I am getting more fit when all of my pants are too big.

While I do not know all my numbers, a year ago, I scaled every weightlifting workout we did 50-70% Rx.  I am now doing a lot of our workouts Rx, which is a lot of fun.  It has taken a long time to build up to it, but it feels great!

Before coming to the RRL, I had not run a mile on actual pavement in about five years.  Today, February 6th, I ran over seven miles on Stringer's Ridge (the longest run I have made to date).

TR: Man...that is incredible.  Great work!  Those are significant improvements.  Making big changes and getting better is alot of fun.  Is that your favorite thing about the last year or is there something else that you really like about the RRL and what we do here?

BW:  The community and the challenge are my favorite parts without question.

TR: What is your least favorite thing?

BW:  We don't play enough Coldplay during our workouts...

TR: Ha!  That is hilarious.  (Everyone at the RRL knows that I really don't like Coldplay on the workout playlist) It seems that everyone has at least 1 skill (bear crawls, cleans, handstand pushups, double unders, etc…) that they are pretty good at or even the best of the group.  What would you consider your best skill?  Is it picking the workout music?

BW:  I get low and dominate those squats!  I can kill some wall balls...

TR: You definitely can!  Rest assured...there will always be plenty of squats and wall balls.  We have done so many different things and types of workouts in the last yearCan you tell me what workout sticks out as the most challenging to you over the last year?

BW:  I am remembering a slog of burpees and thrusters...over and over and tough.

1 year later, Byron is a stud

1 year later, Byron is a stud

TR: Do you have an absolute favorite workout that we have done? 

BW:  My favorite is has a special place in my heart!

TR:  Ah...Young.  That is a good one on its it was your first with us.  How about a least favorite? 

BW:  I don't have one.

TR: Really...I take that as a challenge...just wait til Monday.  Do you track your workouts?

BW:  I track my runs, but not my numbers for our other that you mention it, I am going to start!

(We use  You can search Toms Garage/RRL and see the workouts and results daily.  You can also join the gym by sending me a request)

TR: Tracking is an excelent way to stay motivated by seeing your exact progress to this point.  Also, you can easily point out places where your training is not working based on your results.  Maybe you are going too hard, maybe you need rest.  Generally, your results speak volumes on the effectiveness of the training.  I really like to track everything because I can quickly see if I have done a workout before and I can have a target time or weight to strive for.  It makes it more fun for me.  Tracking is also a great way to set goals.  You can see your progress and forecast what an achievable goal might be and what a far reaching goal would be. Speaking of goals,,, What are your goals for 2016?

BW:  My goals this year:
Be able to do pull-ups unassisted,
Run in a race (and maybe more after that)
Get down to 230 pounds.

TR: You will be able to accomplish all of those, and I will help.  Here is a way you can help other people.  There are lots of people who find themselves in a very similar situation to where you were last year.  What advice might you give them?

BW:  You can do it!  It will be tough, but totally worth it!  The expense of time it takes to workout is paid back many fold by all the energy you gain!  All areas of your life will improve!  You will sleep better, you won't lose your breath when walking up steps, you will feel smarter, you will pick up your kids without worry of not being able to!

TR:  Thanks so much Byron!  Great work!  So glad to have you in the RRL.