Hello. My name is Aaron Kubetz. I am personal trainer/fitness coach based in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. My journey to this point has been a long one full of obstacles, and self-doubt.
My passion for fitness, or maybe I should say my “introduction to fitness,” began at an early age. My mom was very health conscious, so I was blessed to have healthy food available growing up. However, from a young age, I was like most kids and liked my junk food as well. I had no interest in sports, spending my time instead involved in art and reading. Fortunately, my mom made my siblings and I walk a mile every morning before breakfast and we frequently went on weekend hiking adventures. Although my dad was the sports enthusiast, it was, again, my mother who got me involved in the sports of soccer and martial arts.
It wasn’t until the age of 11 when I suffered for about a year from Anorexia that I began to exercise on my own. After recovering from the disorder, I still struggled, but found healthy ways to stay fit rather than starving myself.
RUNNING & INJURIES
At first, my fitness routine mainly consisted of running and a lot of sit ups, since that was my background with martial arts. I actually became quite good at running. Initially, my parents limited my running to 3 miles, 3 days/week, concerned that I would stunt my growth. However, when I turned 16 they lifted the restriction, and I was soon up to running 10 miles, 5 days/week. This stint was short-lived as I didn’t have an official training schedule and over-trained myself. From what I now know, my problems were due to inadequate nutrition and ever-increasing mileage without “de-loading”. After a few months of lay off, I was back at it again. Then I suffered another set-back, a lower back injury. This time I turned to biking to maintain my fitness level and picked up books from the library on to how to heal my back.
WEIGHT LIFTING AND IBS
Once winter came, I was forced to turn to lifting weights, which at first felt very awkward. I learned the basics from my dad who had been a a competitive powerlifter in the Marine Corps. He had a couple of weights laying around the house that I could use. When I was seventeen, I bought a power rack and 300 lbs of used weights for a bargain price of $300. This is when my training began in earnest. I made some big gains right off. However, my improvement stalled after about a year and I was unable to put on any more weight. I decided to try using some whey protein. Simply adding this into my diet helped me gain another 10 lbs, but I still didn’t know anything about proper dieting for building muscle mass. I just figured eat more protein. This worked well for a while given my previous high carb diet.
At around this time, I ran into other problems; I developed serious digestive issues. This may have been due to low water consumption and low vegetable/high protein intake. I went to a doctor who labeled it “irritable bowel syndrome” and was unable to provide me with a path to get better.
COLLEGE AND ADULTHOOD
While still suffering from digestive problems, I graduated from high school. Previous to graduation, I had I wanted to pursue an active job with hopes of being a personal trainer, or working in construction. I definitely did not want a desk job. I had always struggled with focusing and sitting in school. Fortunately, I was homeschooled which allowed me the flexibility to learn diet and exercise strategies to improve my concentration (rather than being prescribed drugs like Ritalin). I learned that exercise and healthy eating can do wonders for your brain! As I was still struggling with digestive problems following graduation, I decided to pursue a career in HVAC – it seemed like a practical route.
COLLEGE AND SELF HELP
I couldn’t work out very much due to nausea, constipation and cramping, so I devoted all my energies to my studies. Within a few months, I began to feel better and so I began to work out again. Things were going pretty well for a while, but then my stomach issues came back with a vengeance. I tried various different diets, and even went Vegan for a while. The vegan diet actually made me feel great initially, until I began craving meat. (Note: I don’t have anything against being vegan. I think that it is probably a pretty viable diet. Some of the world’s top ultramarathon runners adhere to this style of eating and it provides more nutrition than the traditional American diet.) Unfortunately, I had not done much research on veganism before I tried it. I guess you could say I was more of a “grainatarian”. I just remembered that, when I had felt the best, my day-to-day diet had contained very moderate amounts of meat. My experimentation with Veganism was an attempt to re-create that period in my life.
Well, as I said before, I began craving meat, and, instead of listening to my body, I stubbornly stuck with the diet. It was during this period that I dropped from my high school weight of 170 lbs down to 145 lbs (at 6’1″). This was due, in part, to muscle wasting. Also contributing to my weight loss was a night near the end of my time in college where I vomited 15 times for an unknown reason.
It was around this time, that I borrowed a book from my mom which indicated that a person should separate their meals into the following: 1) mostly carbohydrate with moderate amounts of protein earlier in the day and 2) mostly protein and fat with vegetables later in the day, for optimal digestive function. According to the author, eating high amounts of protein, fat and carbohydrate together negatively impacts your digestion since the body uses different pathways to digest these different nutrients. At this time, I was still didn’t have any conception of calories and, although my mom was a health nut, I didn’t know much about nutrition other than the food guide pyramid. However, the book’s philosophy made sense to me and I was willing to try anything that might help my problems. During this part of my life, I hated reading and studying, so I also failed to read the book in its entirety. As a result, I didn’t realize it was also a strategy geared towards losing weight. I ended up losing more weight because eating more vegetables and eliminating many of the starchy staples from my diet decreased my appetite, leading to a reduction in my total calorie intake. In combination with my ambitious exercise regimen, I became very depleted. During this period, I would wake up periodically in the middle of the night because it felt like someone was hitting my shins with a baseball bat. My body ultimately adapted, but I continued to suffer from ill health and nagging lower leg injuries.
GRADUATION AND MY FIRST “BIG BOY” JOB
Well, I ended up graduating with honors at the top of my class and was hired by Trane Company (now American Standard) to work as a Lab Technician in their Research and Development Department in La Crosse, WI. It is here where my journey officially began.
MORE SELF HELP AND BODYBUILDING
Like I said earlier, I was quite wasted away, having lost over 30 lbs from an already lean frame, further resulting in problems with my knees and lower legs. I knew I needed to gain some weight, so I began eating anything and everything including junk food which I previously would have shunned. I soon realized, however, that junk food wasn’t just bad from the standpoint of high calories and lack of nutrients, but that it also exacerbated my stomach problems and brain fog. I realized then and there that I needed to stop being lazy and get serious about my health. So, I started going down to the public library to read books and search the internet for information on health and nutrition, especially building muscle.
I decided that, since bodybuilders were the best at putting on large amounts of quality muscle, I would study their methods. Although I had no intention of becoming a bodybuilder, I figured that their methods could definitely help me regain the muscle I had lost through the course of my illness. I learned a lot about macronutrients and micronutrients, as well as how to portion your meals. I began preparing small, balanced meals and eating 5-6 times a day instead of eating large, infrequent meals. This helped me to not overload my stomach and helped a great deal with giving me more consistent energy levels throughout the day. It also helped to reduce my brain fog a bit. However, this way of eating, was very cumbersome. I was creative though and thought of ways to make portable “pancakes” with the correct macronutrient breakdown for my needs, comprised of rice, lentils, eggs and, sometimes, vegetables that I could package in zip lock bags and store in the pockets of my coveralls to eat in case I wasn’t able to take a break at the proper interval. Even though this diet helped out a lot, it didn’t fix my digestive problems and I still had trouble with brain fog and staying focused.
And so it was that after one year on the job, my employer let me go. This was a very low point in my life. I was stoic in front of the management at the meeting, but I can still remember the drive home, a beautiful sunny spring day when I broke down, and began crying. Not knowing what else to do, I moved back home to Eau Claire to live with my parents until I could figure out my next move. I had and still have a great relationship with my parents, but having to move back home made me feel like less than a man. I knew I needed to find another job and keep forging ahead no matter what. After a month or two, I was able to find a job working for Sears in their service department, traveling all over Western Wisconsin fixing Sears issued appliances (microwaves, ranges, dishwashers, A.C. units, furnaces, wash machines dryers and more). I had a solid understanding of heating and air conditioning units, from my schooling, but the rest was completely new which created a major learning curve. This, compounded with the short-staffed department, hour or more drive time to the job sites and my physical ailment, made it hard for me to keep up with my daily job quota and so I lost this job as well. At this point, I was feeling like an EPIC failure and the outlook of my life, from where I stood, looked quite bleak,
PICKING MYSELF UP
BUT I picked myself up and applied at Festival Foods, a local grocery store. My thinking was that I had been successful at this kind of work before, and so I would take this job to support myself while I figured out what in the world I was going to do with my life. The first job I had at Festival was a job in the produce department packaging fruit and vegetable trays. We started at 6:00 AM and worked till 1:00 PM. I am not AT ALL a morning person, but it was nice to be done with work early. However, even in this job, I encountered obstacles. For example, my boss didn’t seem to like me very much, and seemed to push me harder than others to increase my performance. I’m still not sure if this was real or perceived, but I felt that I was always either not fast enough, or the displays didn’t look good enough, even though I would come in on my days off, and see the work not done, or done at a lower level of quality as mine. Also, nobody understood why I had to take my breaks on time. Many of my coworkers, would not eat during their shift and then would binge on junk food afterwards. Things came to a head, when my boss gave me a final ultimatum that I needed to be up to speed and quality standards or be removed from the department.
“EYE OF THE TIGER”
This is when I decided that having a job was more important than eating the perfect diet at the right times. I made a rule to myself that, unless I had achieved the deadline of having the vegetable wall completed by the 9:00 AM deadline, I would not take a break, no matter how hungry I was. This worked sometimes, but I was not able to consistently meet the department deadline. So, my boss had me moved to the front end, to push the carts in from the lot. This was a real wake-up call. I thought to myself. “It is ‘do or die time’. If I can’t keep a job at a grocery store, what job can I hold down? The buck stops here!” Now, this particular grocery store is a very popular and busy store, and we had no cart pushing machine. It was strictly manual labor. I did some calculations using charts estimating calorie expenditure for various activities and estimated that, at the 180 lb weight I was at the time, I would have to consume close to 6,000 calories/day to maintain my weight. I knew I would never be able to do that, especially since, I was only allowed to take breaks when the cart lobby was full. This meant, on busy days when the customers were taking the carts as fast or faster than I could bring them in, I was not getting a break until my shift was almost over. Considering my stomach issues, I knew I wouldn’t be able to consume that much food even if I spread it out over several small meals. This was out of the question for the reason stated above and also the fact that consuming rice, chicken and veggies while doing hard manual labor is a recipe for stomach upset, cramps, nausea and brain fog. I knew that I had to keep my job no matter what, so I decided that I would not take a break until I was hungry enough to eat plain protein like tuna out of the can, or an unflavored whey protein shake that I kept in the cart runner closet. My thinking here was that, since protein is the last nutrient the body will use as fuel, if I was hungry enough to eat it without anything else added, I had truly burned through all of my reserve, and, hopefully, would maintain the muscles I had even in the face of insufficient calories, similar to when a bodybuilder diets down for competition. This brings me now to the next stage of my story.
At around this time, I went to watch my brother and sister compete in a local road race called the “Buck Shot Run.” I had run this race before, but was sitting this one out due to the nausea, cramping and bloating I would now get when running. At the race, there were various businesses, and clubs. One business, was a chiropractic office called “Apex Chiropractic” run by Dr. Aaron Arfstrom. It was affiliated with “Maximized Living” and he offered to do a massage, give me an adjustment and also do an informal screening. I don’t remember exactly what all was discussed in that initial meeting, but it prompted me to visit his office. During subsequent meetings, I learned that too much grain and sugar can cause inflammation in the body resulting in weight gain, brain fog, low energy levels, constipation etc. This intrigued me because I pretty much had all of those symptoms with the exception of weight gain. I definitely wanted to fix these issues, so I continued going to his office. There, I learned things such as the importance of vegetables in your diet, the optimal ratio of omega 3’s to omega 6’s (essential fats) and why excess sugar and carbohydrate are the culprits for atherosclerosis, high blood pressure and other cardiovascular diseases rather than dietary cholesterol or even saturated fat, as was once believed. Up to this point, I had generally avoided fat, because I believed that you didn’t need much of it. After talking to Dr. Aaron, I learned that fat is actually your brain’s preferred fuel source.
DEVELOPMENT OF TRAINING PHILOSOPHY
Armed with this new information, I set out to devise a new dietary strategy to give me the energy to complete my daily activities and also keep my brain focused so that I could return to school while working a full-time job. Years prior to this point in my life, when I was first studying bodybuilding and nutrition, I had come across a book called “the Warrior Diet” by Ori Hoffmechler, a former member of the Israeli Special Forces. His dietary strategy was essentially a variation of the intermittent fasting that is so popular today. He stated that, by restricting your food intake during the day, you increase your levels of anabolic hormones and your body’s utilization of available protein so as to be able to maintain his lean muscle mass at 170 lbs on a relatively small amount of protein (roughly 70 grams of protein). This was far different than the traditional bodybuilding diet, which called for 1 gram of protein per pound of lean bodyweight or more. He also asserted that fasting during your waking hours works in concert with your sympathetic nervous system, i.e. your “fight/ flight” response system, unlike most popular diets which have you frequently transitioning into “Rest and Digest Mode”, regulated by your parasympathetic nervous system. This was exactly what I needed, with my very busy schedule and work environment, so I adopted a diet that was a cross between the “Warrior Diet” and the Paleo diet, with a few tweaks to fit my unique needs. At first, I felt very hungry and a little depressed, but once my body adapted, the results were astounding. I felt a sense of peace and mental clarity, as well as boundless energy and, occasionally, an almost euphoric state of mind.
Since then, due to changes in daily routine and work environment, I have tweaked certain portions of the diet and workout routine, and have found that it works well whether you are a student, professional, or day laborer, with slight modifications for each. It is my real-life experiences and the application of theoretical knowledge that have prompted me to share these experiences with the world and continue to expand my knowledge to help other people change their lives, just as the men and women I have met in my journey have changed mine. It is my purpose to use my knowledge and experience to help assist you along your own unique path towards optimal health and vitality so that you may have the energy to become all you were meant to be and share your unique gifts and talents with the world to enrich the lives of those you come in contact with.
Train to be better equipped for life!