My Health and Fitness Journey: Part II

Last week, I left off at volunteering for my second deployment to Iraq which was in 2006

I was living off of fast food, gas station food to be specific, and alcohol. Lots of alcohol. What did this do to me?

Dreams Put on Hold

Besides embarrassingly splitting my pants and needing to go up a size, I did not qualify for Airborne school.

My unit was an Airborne unit and I didn’t qualify.

One of the requirements is to be able to run five miles in less than 40 minutes. It was roughly then that I knew things needed to change.


As training picked up for my 2nd deployment in 2006, some of the guys in my unit were having trouble passing the PT test. I started to lead conditioning to help them, and myself, prepare us for combat. We would wake up early every day to train.

While I was exercising more, my nutrition didn’t improve. Actually it might have gotten worse.

I was in my early 20s and surrounded by other like minded people. No one of us was a good influence on each other.

We went out every opportunity we had. When we knew we didn’t have training the next day, we took full advantage of it. There was a bar in Fayetteville that had $2 well drinks.

I can remember two fisting drinks for hours on end.

2nd Deployment

Once back in Iraq things changed. The biggest change obviously was no alcohol. It’s against general orders and our mission tempo was so high, that even if we had access to it, drinking was too risky.

The other big change was that my assistant team leader also enjoyed lifting so we started a pretty strict regimen of eating healthy meals and only having dessert once a week.

Within six months I was starting to be as strong as ever and I even could see some abdominal definition. That was motivating.

Then I got wounded by an IED in December 2006 and wasn’t able to do anything for several months.

Released from Active Duty

I was flown back to Ft. Bragg to have surgery April 2007 and was assigned to a medical hold company. My only responsibility was to report to formation in the morning.

Needless to say, my alcohol consumption skyrocketed and I ate more often than not.

I would make it to a gym about once a week, whenever a friend of mine could drive me there. Only being able to do upper body exercises, I struggled with motivation. I used this down time to study for my personal training certification. I was released from active duty in and got a job as a personal trainer at Life Time Fitness.

personal trainer

Personal Trainer

Becoming a personal trainer motivated me to look the part. I figured I’d have better luck with sales if I LOOKED like a personal trainer.

As I began fueling myself for my long days at work plus my workouts, my diet started to include things like lean ground turkey, vegetables, protein shakes and meal replacements. While it wasn’t perfect, it was the best nutrition I had outside of my deployment.

I was making progress. From not being able to lift with my lower body – to barely being able to do a leg extension with 35 pounds – to having a 485 pound deadlift and over 400 pound squat. Things were looking good.


I had a group of friends that liked to go out on the weekends and so did I. So while I was working out 5 days a week and running 10-20 miles a week, I was still going out, drinking, eating fast food, and occasionally having to tell clients to do as I say, not as I do. If it weren’t for the fact I was in my mid 20s and being so active, I would have looked a lot worse than I did.

There was a demon hiding in my closet. And he wasn’t all that hidden.

I was called up to my 3rd and final deployment to Iraq in January 2009.

My drinking steadily increased.

Knowing what I know now, it was because of uncontrolled, undiagnosed PTSD.

The stress of being in charge of a detachment, dealing with personal issues at home, and knowing that the eyes of my chain of command were on me, was almost too much to handle. In early 2009, I left for Iraq once last time.

Next week I’ll talk about how my nutrition philosophy changed over the years during and post deployment and how alcohol almost cost me my future.

Coach Jason

PS. I just hope you learn from this, no matter what you’re going through, no matter what life throws at you,
you can make the smallest changes that will lead to big things down the road.

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