Eric: Before and After

Fat Kid to Fitness Coach

My parents divorced when I was 6 years old. My mom and I moved away from my dad, so even though I was being raised by a strong and caring woman I didn’t have a consistent male figure in my life.

My mother got a job as a secretary, making about $13k a year. I was mostly a latchkey kid because my mom couldn’t afford continuous daycare. I would get home from school a couple of hours before my mom got home from work, and I would eat multiple salad dressing sandwiches (I know, gross) to subdue my sadness and fear. Needless to say, I gained a lot of weight.

My mom encouraged me to pursue sports so I would have some “normal” boy activities and maybe make some friends, because that was a struggle too. Not to mention she probably wanted me to drop a couple pounds, although she never told me that.

If I was assigned a position it was always a “safe” position I wouldn’t screw up, like right field, or ninth batter, but mostly I was a bench warmer. I struck out every time I ever made it up to bat. I got picked last on every team in gym and no one ever passed me the ball. My worst memories as a child were playing sports. My ineptitude also made me a constant target for bullying. My uniforms never fit either to add insult to injury. I was that kid.

A few years later my step-father came into my life. He was a Notre Dame grad and a big lover of sports. The first time he took me out to toss a football he went back into the house and cried to my mom, but he didn’t give up on me. He kept encouraging me in athletics because he knew it would do me some good.

I kept my foot in some sports in middle school, and by high school I actually had a few positive experiences because I hit a big growth spurt. When you’re taller than everyone else for a year or two, the playing field levels out a bit. Size can sometimes make up for lack of talent. That kept me going a bit, but I was never a stand out. In eighth grade I lost every match in wrestling except for the times I won by forfeit because there was no one else in my weight class.

My weight fluctuated a lot after high school. I worked in restaurants, which meant I ate restaurant food all the time. I was a heavy smoker and partier as well. At my heaviest I was 70lbs overweight.

My wife tells a story about shortly after we got married. I was playing a rec volleyball game with some people from her company… and let’s just say I didn’t get invited back. If there had been smartphones and social media back then and someone had recorded that game, it would have been a viral video.

I became sedentary for the next few years as I was a stay at home father of two, and an aspiring artist. I suffered from sitting disease, anxiety and a neurotic overactive mind. My struggles with smoking and eating continued as well. Simply put, I felt like shit most of the time and I didn’t like myself.

I decided enough was enough. I decided to go check out some martial arts classes. Not only did I need some focus and exercise, but I thought it would be effective for building self-confidence and learning how to defend myself. However, my purest joy came from the philosophical and spiritual teachings embodied in the martial arts.

I started with tai chi, which was a very slow moving type of solo practice. It wasn’t really a calorie burner, but it taught me how to relax. Most of all, it went at a speed where I was able to learn better coordination and precision. I finally began to believe that if I was shown how to do things in a learning environment, I could actually be somewhat athletic.

I kicked it up a notch and started training in other arts including Brazilian jiu-jitsu. This was a tipping point and an accelerator to my physical development. Every class I was wrestling men (and women) who were significantly smaller than me, but were mopping the floor with me. It had nothing to do with natural athleticism though. They had simply learned how to use their bodies better!

Soon after I began learning martial arts I turned my focus to yoga. It was a nice compliment to the body forging and punishment I was getting in my martial arts practice. My yoga teacher was very anatomical and patient. It was the perfect environment for me to learn effectively.

By then I was completely hooked on mind-body work. I had lived in my body for 30 years and was just beginning to feel like I was getting to know it. On top of that, it was making me feel better and perform better in every aspect of my life.

The unexpected outcome: I became a fitness trainer and coach. I am in love with my work and my business. I love to make people feel and perform better in their everyday as well by showing them practical physical and mental skills that were shown to me.

What makes me a different coach is that I had to “learn” fitness. I work hard to explain things better so I can help others maximize their time and efforts. As a coach, I will never tell you to just “grip it and rip it”. There is focus, purpose and technique behind every exercise you do at Seva fitness.

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About the Author : Eric Romanak


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