Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Survival of the Fittest

How working out saved David Lee Nall's life--in more ways than one

Reportedly Men's Fitness, some people just try to survive their workouts, while other people survive because of them. David Lee Nall, of Austin, Texas, is in the latter group: He credits exercise for not only giving his life joy and direction but also helping him sustain it.

A skinny kid growing up, Nall didn't have many friends or a constructive pastime. "I was also dyslexic" he says, "and I got D's and F's in high school." Smoking pot and getting into fights caused the cops to visit Nall at home more than once, and he found no outlet in sports. Osgood-Schlatter disease, a rare genetic disorder characterized by pain in the joints associated with growing too quickly, prevented him from almost any physical activity. "I went from 5′6″ to 6′1″ almost overnight" says Nall of his teenage development. "My knees ached for days whenever I tried to run, but my doctor told me I could lift weights."

Unlike the pounding and jerky motions that running and other sports would subject him to, weight training was easy on his knees and could even improve them by strengthening the muscles around the joint. Psyched to have found an activity he could take part in, Nall threw himself headlong into lifting.

"I got up to 222 pounds at 6′3″," says Nall, and he competed successfully as a 'bodybuilder in regional shows. "And I started to care about learning. Dyslexia had made me hate reading, but I read my first book when I found Arnold Schwarzenegger's Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding. I just kept reading it until I could comprehend the words."

Upon graduation in 1994, Nall was spending almost all his time in the gym. At 18, he took a job cleaning up his local Bally's club. A few years later, he married and earned a reputation as a brilliant club manager, ultimately overseeing several gyms in the South and Midwest. However, he was growing tired of the politics involved in operating a successful gym and, seeking a more lucrative occupation to support his wife and newborn baby, ended up buying in to a franchise office-cleaning service.

Though no stranger to long hours, Nall started logging 90-hour weeks running his new operation. He stopped working out, and protein shakes gave way to sodas with every meal--and cake and cookie dough weren't far behind. Nall swelled to an unsightly 245 pounds and 25% body fat.

But the ultimate impetus for change came with Nall's discovery of a lump on the side of his belly. Though a surgeon told him it was a benign tumor, he warned Nall that he could have more. "That was my wake-up call" says Nall. "I was only 27. My son was 4, and I wanted to see him grow up."

In December 2004, Nall learned of a local natural bodybuilding competition and made it his goal to compete again. He started eating smaller, superhigh-protein meals throughout the day. (The rest of his diet was moderate in carbs and low in fat.) In the gym, he'd train heavy one week and light the next, forcing his muscles to keep adapting.

In six months, Nall was down nearly 50 pounds. His waist had returned to a svelte 32, and he had a dean bill of health from his doctor. By May 2006, he was ready to compete, and he took second place at the contest, weighing 186 pounds. Saved a second time, Nall, now 30, knows he'll never again lose his fit habits. "Months later, I'm at 4.1% body fat--even better than I was in the contest!"

Maintaining his incredible appearance has even gotten Nall noticed by several fitness-modeling agencies, and he hopes to appear in an upcoming ad campaign. But he also knows it's not all about him. "My son works out with me. He's 6 now, and I got him a mini exercise bike and bench with foam weights on it" Nall is even training people again, all the while still growing his business. "Everything in my life changed when I started working out. I only hope that my transformation can inspire other people to have the same experience."

Stick With It
How soon will you see results? Depends how long you've been training.

We all know it can take weeks before you see any measurable progress from your workouts. But if you give up beforehand, you won't see any progress. That said, if your program is on track, here's about how long it will take to yield good gains.

Almost immediately. Your nervous system learns to recruit more muscle fibers every time you repeat an exercise, so strength gains should come regularly (especially if you're a beginner or coming back from a layoff).

If you're relatively new to lifting, six to eight weeks. Once your nervous system has recruited all the fibers it can, the fibers themselves enlarge, creating bulk.

A month. The body can shed water weight in just minutes, but to lose fat safely without losing muscle is usually a pound-per-week process. Depending on how much you're trying to lose, four weeks should give you noticeable--and maintainable--results.

By Sean Hyson

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