Vinnie - May 2017
Sit back and take a moment to read every, single word of this month's Featured Fit Dad's story.
Vinnie is a father of three, a husband, a CrossFit enthusiast, and a fitness consultant selling fitness equipment. And after you read his backstory, I guarantee you'll appreciate life just a little more.
Almost a decade ago, Vinnie was literally run over while out on a jog with a friend, and he was left clinging to life while his friend lost his. The fact that he can move at all is a miracle, let alone the fact that he's performing CrossFit workouts and doing leg day twice a week. Quick aside: What's your excuse for skipping leg day again?
This is one of the most inspiring stories I've come across, as Vinnie's perseverance through hard times and his positive outlook on life make me want to be a better man in every sense of the phrase.
Here is Vinnie's absolutely incredible story:
When did you first get into fitness?
As far back as I can remember I was always into fitness. I remember me and my brother getting our first set of Weider weights with a shaky bench press and buying M&F fitness mags and just trying to bench as much as we could; not knowing a thing... we were probably 13 (LOL).
I remember having endless energy as a kid and always wanting to be involved in some sport or another. I played little league and soccer for years before getting into junior high. I played football, wrestling and lacrosse in middle school and high school. I worked out a little bit in high school but really got into it after high school and joined my first gym when I was 18. I mostly weight lifted through my early 20s while taking up whatever sport or hobby interested me at the time and while putting myself through college, working three jobs and living on my own!
In my early 20s I got into motocross, which I had always been passionate about my whole life but never had the funds to support the hobby. Then in my mid-20s, I got into Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) and trained for about three years with Matt Serra's team out of Huntington, NY. After that I switched over to Muy Thai and boxing at Ray Longo's academy in Garden City because I felt like I had gone as far as I wanted to with BJJ and the constant movement and fitness level required to pursue standup was something that really peaked my curiosity.
I trained there consistently for the last three years of my 20s and was in the best shape of my life. As I got closer to 30 I decided to taper off the weight lifting and started progressing my workouts towards a more functional style of fitness. The "bulk" was no longer appealing to me and one thing I had learned through training at Ray's was that it wasn't conducive to pursuing any real avenue of fitness that I wanted for myself. I wanted to achieve a great physique but more than that I wanted to be able to move on my feet, be active, and never get tired. Before I even had a family I had told people that I would rather have the energy to play with my kids all day long than bench 300 pounds; it's just about individual priorities I guess.
When I was 31, I went for a spur-of-the-moment jog with a friend for a six-mile loop around Huntington Village that I will never forget. We had about a half-mile left when we were run over from behind by a kid driving a Dodge Durango; and he was high. I was thrown 40 feet and sustained life-threatening injuries; my friend died at the scene.
When I woke up in the street I couldn't move and I couldn't figure out why. When I finally realized that I was jogging and I must've been hit I started to do a limb check and survey my damage. That was when I realized that my right leg was broken mid-thigh. It was laying on my chest and my sneaker was resting on my shoulder. It took 25 staples to close my head, I fractured my neck, my shoulder, my sternum, I broke my femur, and L3, L4. I had a collapsed lung, a torn aorta and lost 40 percent of my kidney function from the impact.
Once they got me into the ER and found out that my aorta was torn they rushed me to Mt. Sinai Hospital in NYC where I received surgery with a stent to repair the leak. I was in the ICU for 10 days; my bed, after that, for another 30. My doctor told me that if I wasn't in such good shape that I would definitely have been dead. I was in the hospital three days before they even realized I had a collapsed lung.
I went from being in the best shape of my life to the worst shape of my life in one night. I remember losing 18 pounds of muscle in the first month from the inactivity and atrophy; it was unbelievable.
As soon as I could start physical therapy I was determined to work as hard as I could to get myself better and erase all signs of the accident. I remember my first day of physical therapy during my eval, and the physical therapist had me lay on my left side and lift my right leg. To my stunned face it didn't even flinch; but he already knew that because they had cut through my hip muscle to insert the rod through my femur when they were putting me back together again.
I remember saying 'How soon until I can run again?' and he just looked at me shaking his head and said, 'Six months - at best.' I remember looking right at him and saying "f#&k that, I'm going to do it in three.' And I did.
The summer before the accident, I had met my wife and we had become very close friends. We had not started dating yet because she was still in college and we were both seeing other people. A few years later, as soon as she graduated (literally the week she came home), I knew that would be my moment. I put all my cards on the table and I told her that she had to break up with the guy she was dating in college and I didn't want to see anyone else except her. It worked.
We started dating and we were engaged within six months. My wife was also always into fitness and we picked up CrossFit together and trained together for a few years until schedules got too busy with kiddies to train together. Now my workouts are early and her's are later in the evening, but she still does CrossFit and teaches Zumba, too.
What activities do you do to keep fit and active?
Now I workout five days a week, as hard as I can, and mix it up nicely between strength, functional fitness, complex Olympic lifting exercises and metcons. Wednesdays are dedicated sprint days. Leg days are Monday and Fridays - because they always used to be my Achilles heel and I was determined to make them my strong point and my foundation. Twelve months of twice a week helped me shatter PR's.
What is your favorite fitness memory or achievement?
My favorite fitness achievement? This is it. My life right now - and I don't mean that in a conceited way. I don't think I am in the best shape of my life or the strongest I ever was. But I have achieved and maintained a level of fitness that allows me to pursue my passion to its fullest: being a Dad.
It allows me to play non-stop with these three monkeys all day long and not feel intimidated in the least about taking all three out by myself at any given time.
I have friends that look at me and say 'I don't know how you do it,' implying dealing with three kids, and I just smile and tell them it's awesome. I'm too nice to say 'I don't know how you do it (while pointing to their stomach, referencing the 40+ pounds they've put on since high school).
What is your favorite workout?
My favorite workouts were always CrossFit-style. When I first started CrossFit I remember a seven-minute workout putting me on my butt and leaving me on my back gasping for air while making my first pain-angel on the rubber floor. But the more conditioned I got the more I loved pushing myself, and my limits, during these intense workouts.
There are a lot of positive effects that come from the diversity of CrossFit workouts. Training different energy systems creates a more well-rounded athlete and provokes your body to react differently to the training.
I was fortunate enough to train with coaches who were full-time CrossFitters and Games competitors and not part-timers just moonlighting CrossFit. They wrote solid programming with strength workouts backed up to metcons to challenge your athletic performance. The benefits of that kind of constant training include improved aerobic capacity, increased work durability and a better ability to recover.
They also got me started on a Paleo diet and that was when I really started paying better attention to my nutrition and where my food was coming from.
In what ways do you hope to influence your children through fitness?
I want my kids to be able to look back and say 'Wow, my Dad was so interactive with us. He never stopped, he never took a break, he always carried us, played with us, was always there.'
That is what I want for my kids. I want to be able to give them exposure to all kinds of sports and activities with the knowledge that they can do anything they want as long as they keep themselves healthy. And I want to show them how to lead healthy lifestyles. You can't be a role model without being a role model.
What words of encouragement would you have for other dads out there who want to be healthy and fit?
If you don't make the time for yourself no one is going to make it for you. I make the time for my family because it's a priority to me. I am there at almost every breakfast and every dinner because it's a priority to me. I'm also at the gym five times a week because being strong and fit and healthy is important to me and it helps me be the best dad I can be and the best husband I can be. I make sure that my wife can get to the gym when she wants to go because that's important to her so she can be the best mom and wife she wants to be.
I've had people ask me 'How do you stay motivated?' and my answer is 'How don't you stay motivated?'
To take a line from Gary Vee, 'You already won the lottery being alive on this earth; and you're not excited? You're going to wake up one day and be 90.'
Every day matters, every breath matters. Before you go to bed every night thank God for everything in your life including your family and each individual. Then mentally prep your mind for how you're going to attack the next day. Not just work; every minute of it including breakfast with your kids and getting them ready for school. Then wake up and execute.
The key with your kids is patience. The key with life is to keep smiling. Tell your kids and your wife, every day, that you love them. Give huge hugs and kiss them too much. Be nice to everyone. Strive for efficiency in everything you do. Time is the most valuable commodity in the world; don't waste it. But if you have to waste it then waste it with your kids; waste it with your wife.
The one thing that bothers me about bringing up kids right now is how many people I bump into on a daily basis that are rude. When I take my kids out I make them say hi to everyone and treat everyone nice. I want to teach my kids that being rude is not normal.
To be that role model for them I have to have the appearance of an unbreakable endless strength and endurance that never fades; same goes for my smile.