What does becoming a champion entail? It’s a methodical, ongoing trek toward a goal. It’s a pushing forward, regardless. It’s upward and outward, every day, showing up, and breaking boundaries.
To be honest, it was his turquoise shoes I noticed first. Then, it was his superhuman pull-ups.
One day about a year ago, maybe longer, one guy at the gym did these massive pull-ups I’d never seen with my own eyes in person. He was using the regular squat/pull-up rack in the gym, minding his own business, but with a forty-five pound weight chained to his waist. After a couple reps of those, he went and added to the pull-ups, where he extended his arms down, above the top of the metal rack, shoving his body closer to the sky. That move is known as a muscle-up.
I blinked several times after I saw this the first time, wondering if anyone else at the gym noticed it, but around me the treadmills continued to buzz and the lifters by the weight racks studied the ground by their sneakers. (They were not turquoise.)
Another day, I took to the treadmills in my warm-up and, across the room, this bar lined with multiple forty-five-pound discs begins raising off the ground, the black steel bar itself beginning to bend in the middle. I counted I think eight of those discs plus some smaller ones. I don’t math, but then saw who was owning that bar. And nobody else in the gym even glanced up. He continued deadlifting that grimacing bar, but those hands stayed steady.
I just had to find out what motivated this guy to get up, show up, and lift up. What do you tell yourself when you’re lifting hundreds of pounds? How do you continue to shove against the grain of the earth when all it’s doing is trying to knock you down?
I think I asked him, “How much weight was that?” and he simply shrugged, non-committal, with a, “That was only four-fifty” or something to that effect. What. And then I have no idea what came out of my mouth because math… and I’m intimidated by most humans, especially ones who can lift four times my weight with a shrug. But then he said, essentially, “How you handle the gym demonstrates how you handle life.”
And I knew that my friends and readers needed to hear his story and perspective.
Need some motivation? Go find Travis Cadenhead on Facebook and Instagram at CadenheadKinetix. He’s a personal coach who offers online nutrition and fitness programming. Travis has worked with the elderly, special needs kids, the average gym goer, and pro athletes.
If you’re intimidated about those first few hesitant steps to bettering your life and wellness, then take a moment to rush forward. Success and victory aren’t as far away as they seem.
Here are just a *few* of his recent resume triumphs:
2014—Texas Raw bench press record of 402lbs at 198lb bodyweight. (U.S. Powerlifting Association)
2015—Pig Iron Classic Powerlifting meet. 1st place in weight class and best overall lifter.
2015—Bend the Bar (USPA) Powerlifting meet.
1st place in weight class and best overall lifter.
Qualified to compete at IPL world powerlifting meet.
2015—Unleash the Beast (MSA) Powerlifting meet.
1st place in weight class and best overall lifter.
Qualified to compete at IPL world powerlifting meet.
2016—Clash of the Barbarians (USPA) powerlifting meet.
1st place in weight class, best overall lifter, and a top 30 total pounds in the Nation and Top 4 in Texas.
Includes raw lifts of a 705 lb squat, 440 lb bench press, and 672 lb deadlift. 1819 lb total.
Qualified to compete at IPL world powerlifting meet.
Has your jaw hit the floor yet? I know! How does someone become a champion like this, and stay hungry yet humble? I think it has to do with the shoes. And probably also the commitment to persevere.
1) How did you get into Powerlifting/lifting heavy?
I started lifting during Junior High School for athletics although I didn't take it seriously until I was a senior in high school. It was an outlet for me; I could let out all the energy and aggression I had in the weight room versus somewhere else. I’m confident I would not be where I am today if I had not found weightlifting. I am an adrenaline junkie (fast cars/bikes or whatever to get a thrill) and quickly got addicted to the adrenaline factor of heavy lifting. It may seem crazy to a lot of people, but I love the mentality of "100% effort, give it all you got, get it or die trying." I believe the attitude I, and many others, have developed in the weight room transfers to other aspects in life also.
2) What motivates you to keep lifting heavy? When you’re at the bar, and the weights feel like they are too much, what do you do mentally or physically to continue working?
I always strive to be the best athlete I can be. I hype myself up by trying to do more reps or weight than before. I don't want to be normal and never wanted to be. If a thought comes into my head that I cannot do something, I remember the last time I had that thought, kept trying and accomplished the goal. Fear is not something God created us to have, so I bring that to the table when I am training.
3) What approach do you take to fitness and nutrition and mindset?
Fitness is very important not just physically for me but mentally. It’s been a part of my life for over a decade and I would be lost without it. I do set schedules for specific exercises/training depending on my goal at that time. I train to be a well-rounded athlete. I am always thinking about what I need to do to get better; that includes weightlifting, calisthenics, gymnastic movements, running, jumping, agility, conditioning, and martial arts.
What we put in our bodies is everything. I believe a lot of the diseases nowadays is from the Western type diet most Americans eat. Instead of eating foods with anti-inflammatories and plenty of micronutrients, the American diet is loaded with sugar and unhealthy fats which cause inflammation in the arteries, have insufficient micronutrients, vitamins/minerals, and cause diseases like diabetes and heart disease, etc. I believe eating foods loaded with anti-inflammatories, antioxidants, micronutrients, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals, along with exercise, will help prevent and reverse a lot of these diseases.
4) What is your strategy for setting goals? Do you set specific numbers and work toward them or how do you decide what your results will be?
I like to set extreme goals. I am either all in or not at all; I have no in between. When I have a goal that is very extreme and hard to achieve, that is what drives and motivates me to keep moving forward.
5) For the regular person who’s afraid of stepping inside the gym, what’s one piece of advice you’d offer?
Don't be intimidated. Not everyone wants to be extreme in the gym or a competitive athlete. Everyone has different goals and levels of fitness. Starting a consistent fitness regimen is, in my opinion, one of the best decisions you can make in your life. It is never too late to start. As you get older fitness training will help you keep your muscular structure, it will make everyday functional activities more manageable, and you will be able to do more desirable activities (hiking, biking, playing with kids, etc..).
6) What is one piece of advice you’d give your teen self?
I would tell myself to learn more about functional training rather than just getting bigger. Bodybuilding like most young men want, without functional training in their routine is not practical. You will look the part but will probably lose athleticism.
7) What is one thing you’d like to leave as your legacy?
I want people to remember me as a Godly man. I want to help people live a more positive life physically, mentally and spiritually.
8) What kind of personal training do you offer, and to whom?
I offer online nutrition and fitness programming. I have worked with the elderly, special needs kids, the average gym goer, and pro athletes. I desire to work with anyone who wants to live a healthier more functional lifestyle, to athletes who wish to increase their athletic performance.
How you act in the gym demonstrates how you act outside the gym. I wasn’t raised in the gym and didn’t start loving the place until I was a mother of two littles and lost my connection to the outside world, and gained a lot of baggage in the process. What about you? Are you ready to feel better inside and out?
By pushing the limits, by digging in harder every time, the reps get easier, the reps simultaneously get harder, and also get more enjoyable. The reps equal results. You want to be the champion? Want to move freely, to do the good work you need to do? Hang in there. Don’t give up. Put in the reps to do your work, and continue pressing on regardless of outcomes, regardless of conflict, regardless of the weather or how you feel about them. If you’re hitting a wall, try aiming for a new one. Reps equal progress. The progress may be slow but all progress counts every single time.
How much do you want it?
Go get it.
And go check out Travis' Insta for inspiration and making new strides toward your tomorrow.
Connect with Travis online:
Facebook: Travis Cadenhead-CadenheadKinetix
Kristin Hernandez may be considered a first-year teacher, but she’s spent years preparing for such a time as this. Nominated for the 2018 Texas Teacher of the Year award by her superiors, this teacher has a colorful story of hope and courage. She not only instructs her students in using their numbers and letters, she lives as an example of defying the odds and overcoming obstacles with some elbow grease and a hearty spirit. Kids need more than numbers and letters; they need examples of grit.
Hernandez attended Howard Payne University as a full-time student while working multiple jobs to pay her own way, and support herself through four years of fees, tuition, bills, groceries, and rent. Crushing tunes in the music labs and studying within the education department’s paneled walls by day, she spent her nights cleaning with a janitorial company, volunteering at church, studying, and other miscellaneous tasks to earn the occasional dollar here or there. Nights were short, days were long, but her intrepid nature commanded the years. In 2015, she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in General Studies with a Music Minor.
Immediately after graduation she applied to East Elementary, where she was hired as a Computer Lab Aid. While the position offered the opportunity to connect with teachers and students inside the walls of the school, the full-time hours provided part-time salary. Regardless of the restrictions this placed on her, Hernandez maintained a positive environment within her computer lab, assisting in multiple tasks and projects in addition to her required duties, all with colorful posters on the lab walls reminding her students of all their possibilities. She began the process of testing for state mandated certifications. The following year she moved into the classroom as a Third Grade Teacher’s Assistant, where she worked one-on-one with students, particularly when the teacher required maternity leave in the second half of the year. In her third year at East Elementary, in a buzz of gumption and gusto, Hernandez finally finished the state-mandated certifications and was hired for the shiny position of Third Grade Teacher. Ever since, she’s been filling the role like a champion.
Anybody who stumbles across Hernandez receives an authentic, heartfelt hello, and focused attention. “I teach for them,” Hernandez said. “I teach because I get to watch them discover things and grow. Some of them need all the love I have, some of them need the knowledge, and some of them just need the structure.” Students, current and previous, run up to her whenever and wherever, and offer a genuine hug. “They make me feel alive, and I end up loving every single one of them as they walk into my room.”
She not only offers honest, straight-forward instruction but unique, applicable tools for her students. “It’s so satisfying to see them years later, to see them grow into their own talents, and still remember I was a huge part of their lives for that one year. I get to receive the love back that has been poured into them. I get to see some special moments parents don’t, and that is so valuable to me. I get to see them overcome their biggest struggles, to watch them choose to be kind instead of mean, to watch them laugh, to watch them gather new perspectives on life, to decide who they want to be that day. I teach so they know all of those things they may or may not get at home, and enjoy it with them. The group of people I love grows every year, and it’s more rewarding than anything else.”
Even amidst the required mounds of roll calls, testing, paperwork and form-filing, she finds time to encourage her students. She shows them to pursue their education and how to tenaciously tackle life’s challenges. She lives it every day right before their eyes. And that’s some of the best education possible.
Want to make a difference in someone’s day? Vote right now for the 2018 Texas Teacher of the Year. One simple click provides a vote. Here’s your opportunity to support a hard-working teacher who truly deserves this award. Simply click here and select the dot beside Kristin Hernandez – Brownwood East Elementary.
The black and silver sequins on her shirt reflected the stage lights. A sparkly bracelet on her ankle flashed a jaunty twinkle, a hint of what was to come. The recorded piano thrummed alive in the background and Christian Faith began to sing the Martina McBride country hit song Anyway. Christian balanced in the wheelchair, buckled in snugly, never once flinching or holding back a breath. Her confident smile allowed only one message to be relayed that evening at the Texans Got Talent contest:
You can pour your soul out singing
A song you believe in
That tomorrow they'll forget you ever sang.
Sing it anyway.
Yeah, sing it anyway
(Martina McBride, Anyway)
You know what’s pretty amazing about miracles? They often happen right in front of your eyes and you might not even realize they’re happening. You know what’s important about recognizing miracles? They remind of all the good, all the light, in this life.
A small water bubble welled up in the corner of my eye. Her words continued to echo around the auditorium. Christian’s heart and talent brought down the house.
She has an amazing story to tell and allowed me to send her a few questions to share with you.
Read along and meet one amazing spirit who reminds us that no matter the outcome, no matter the challenge, no matter what if… do it anyway.
Do you have a particular name for what makes you physically so unique? Have you been able to find a community of others who offer support?
The medical term for my condition is called Amelia. Basically I was born without all of my limbs not including my small leg. I do have a friend who happens to be quite similar to me but with little difference. Her name is Niki Browder. She’s 36, and we have a lot in common.
What does your typical day look like?
My typical day I guess you could say is just like anyone else’s except for the simple fact that I might need to work a little harder to achieve daily activities like primping and others like feeding myself. I do everything with my foot. Just like others I’ve adapted to life in my way. I’ve created a unique lifestyle.
What has been one of the biggest challenges you've faced?
You would think that I’ve come against some huge challenges in my life, but honestly I don’t think that I could ever tell you of a time where I’ve absolutely dealt with something huge that I couldn’t handle it. Everything I’ve ever desired to do in life I’ve accomplished with Faith and a strong mindset. My family has always been so supportive as well, and they’ve helped me accomplish so much in my 22 years.
How long have you been training vocally?
I’ve been singing since I was 2 years old. When I was younger I used to watch my grandfather sing. My whole family is musically proficient, so it wasn’t that hard to pick up on. I did however take vocal lessons from the ages 6 to 11, so I guess you could say I’ve had some experience.
Are you doing anything currently to pursue singing or another career?
I am pursuing a career in the music industry. I’ve taken some online courses with Berklee College of Music, but unfortunately I wasn’t financially capable to finish my studies with the school due to my grandfather becoming ill. My family has to pay for occasional medical bills, and other sorts of needs he has. I do however look forward to furthering my career in any way that I can.
Have you written any of your own songs or are you more of a cover artist?
I’m a Singer/Songwriter, so I have written some of my own songs. A few of my originals are called Forever Reign, Oh Holy King, Stop Sign, Can’t Change Me, Falling in Love, Daddy Owns a 12 Gauge, The Middle, Mama’s Little Girl, Daddy Hold Me, Mama Said, Done Deal, and so many more.
Have you participated in many talent competitions? What type of musical gigs are you currently finding?
I hope this doesn’t appear too boastful, but I have won so many talent competitions in my life that I have lost count. The biggest competition I have ever won was at 17 years old in Stamford, Connecticut. It was called Talent America, and I was competing with people from all over the U.S. and parts of Africa. I brought home the 1st place win, and it was one of the greatest thrills in my life. I was scouted by all kinds of agencies at that time, but felt as if I was still a little young to start my career officially. I had offers to move to Nashville and New York, but felt that I wasn’t fully matured enough at that specific time to take on a huge task in my life such as the one I’m pursuing although now I feel that I’m highly capable of doing so. I do get paying gigs at weddings, restaurants, charity events, etc.
Do you have a favorite song or artist?
I love music so much that I would have to say I don’t have a favorite song or artist, because I’m open to each song I’m exposed to as an artist. I like all kinds of music, but my favorite genres would have to be Christian, Country, Bluegrass, Pop, and R&B.
Why is singing so important to you?
Singing is so important to me, because from the time I was a little girl it has been the easiest way to express myself, and I think it has become an essential part of who I am as a person. I’ve been singing all of my life.
What is the hardest thing about singing/performing?
The hardest part about performing is knowing at first that everyone is not always gonna be open to me, because I’m different, but once I open my mouth and sing then everyone becomes enlightened to me as a person.
Do you have a verse or quote serving as a reminder for what you hope to accomplish?
I look to all of God’s word to find hope, but Luke 1:45 is one of my personal favorites. It says “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill His promises to her!” I know that God has a purpose for my life, and I’m trusting in Him to continue molding me into who I’m supposed to be.
If you could say that you have one thing in particular you'd like to leave as a legacy, what would it be?
I want my known legacy to be the woman who served as proof that with Faith you can do absolutely anything you set your mind to, and I hope everyone will know me as the woman who set the perfect example of how EVERYONE is special in their own way. We are all masterpieces of The Most High God!
If you could go back in time and give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?
If I could go back in time and give one piece of advice to the younger me it would be, “Never doubt yourself, because you are so strong!”
Listen to some of Christian's performance at Texans Got Talent 2018:
What are you waiting for?
Waiting. The waiting game. The waitlist. The weight gain. Ha ha.
Being a writer is like being a lego door piece. You think you’ll be part of constructing a house or some sort of car. Instead, you have to be flexible. You have to be willing to end up in pieces, as part of any sort of building, or even closed in by other bricks. You’ll be used in a manner you never imagined. When I sit down to work on writing a book, I have to consider all of the other aspects – promotions, advertisements, and ways I can convince people that my words are worth paying for. Super fun. (Translation: Super bummer.) Just because I like constructing stories doesn’t necessarily mean I like to harangue people about buying them. So I’m waiting for one person to like how my cover looks and fancy my blurb, and then another, and then another.
I’m waiting for the people who need my story to find it.
Several of my friends are waiting to adopt or to get pregnant. If you have a child you’d like to be rid of, I know a girl. Hit me up. Winky face. The waiting for a child holds countless expectations and preparations and crushed heartbeats. Waiting for a child to arrive brings out the worst in a person, and ultimately the best. Waiting for the people who need us gives us time to become the people who need them, in more ways than we ever know. That person you’re waiting for will challenge you and maybe drive you to your limits. Take this time to store up knowledge, aptitude, and perseverance. You’ll need it.
How’s that job market looking? Enjoying the grind? Is your boss awesome? Do you want a boss? Do you want to be your own boss? Are you also binge-watching Netflix and hoping for some more employable skills to come your way? I getcha. Heartbreaking is the journey through Indeed.com.
Just because you’re waiting doesn’t mean you’re holding still. The term ‘waiting’ insinuates a lacking. Lacking what you want, unable to fulfill, incapable of movement. But let’s change that. Waiting needs to be constructive. Waiting is the training period.
Just because you’re waiting doesn’t mean you’re useless. Just because you’re waiting doesn’t mean you’ve got no purpose. Just because you’re waiting doesn’t mean you’re faulty.
While you wait, take time to rest.
While you wait, take time to hustle.
While you wait, take time to clean up. Clean up your house, clean up those projects you’ve been avoiding, clean up your spirit. Clean up your game. Clean up your focus. What do you really want? Will you be ready when the waiting ends?
While you wait, strengthen. Go to the gym. Go for a run. Go for a walk -- every single day.
While you wait, enjoy the scenery.
While you wait, take time to dance.
While you wait, jam out to some awesome music.
While you wait, act in gratitude.
On Monday, I sat at my computer and had nothing to do. I didn’t have a class to teach, a project to work on, no deadlines, no due dates, no nothing. N.O.T.H.I.N.G.
Some ‘nothing’s are good. Some ‘nothing’s are bad.
I DON’T DO LAZY WELL. DOES ANYONE DO LAZY WELL?
I’m a task-oriented, obsessive compulsive, driven, crazy kid at heart. My first job at a dry cleaner’s illustrated the importance of Always Doing Something, because there’s always something to do. Don’t let Joe see you sitting around! Find something to do!
And I’ve been given the gift of having a hearty work ethic. It’s in my genes. My people were at the Alamo, folks. We were settlers and foragers and builders.
Turn and burn, people. Move it, move it!
There’s always something to do. There’s always something to work on. There’s always something to improve.
But on Monday morning, I had nothing to offer and no spirit to shove onward. I think I experienced all the seven stages of grief on Monday as I sat at my computer. I binge-watched a Hallmark show on Netflix, ate a lot of chocolate and key lime pie, and … I colored. One of my fabulous sisters gave me a coloring book and this fancy set of colored pencils for my Christmas gift, and honestly I thought it was a neat thing but didn’t know I’d use it because I’ve been so incredibly busy and I keep myself busy. I like busy! I like bustle! I like it, honestly, because if I stop moving then I have a hard time starting back up. Starting back up is a whole new monster in itself, yes?
While I colored, I yelled inside. I was mad at myself for my lacking, mad at Everyone Else for having what I wanted, mad at the faceless masses on social media who seem to accomplish things I'm not, mad at my pencil sharpener for being dull. Mad at the coffee for being bitter, mad at the writers of the show script for being so blasé, mad at myself for having chosen WRITING ABOVE ALL USELESS THINGS to do for my vocation! I felt useless. I felt pointless. I felt like, at my core, I lacked essentiality.
“I got a homesick heart but a long ways left to go
I've been doing my part but I ain't got much to show…
These days are tough, these days are long
Sometimes it's hard, you carry on
But I hear a voice singing and I know it's true
I got dreams that keep me up in the dead of night
Telling me I wasn't made for the simple life
There's a light I see, but it's far in the distance
I'm asking you to show me some forgiveness
It's all for you in my pursuit of happiness
Singing, oh, happiness.”
NeedToBreathe penned these inspiring lyrics and I listened to the song several times yesterday. Oh, that we may show more gratitude for these waiting periods. Maybe you want to move on, move out, move up, move laterally, move in, move less, or move more. This life is a package of unconditional realities and unmanageable circumstances.
You’re doing a good job.
Among these unmanageable circumstances, we’ve got a box of Legos full of parts. Big, long ones, short singles, flat skinnies, and the awkward three-prong. Some of us sit in the box waiting much longer than we expect or hope. Maybe you expected to wait. Maybe you didn’t. Maybe you’re a red three-prong, and the Maker needs a red three-prong, and he picks the red three-prong across the box. Of course you’re fully qualified to fulfill that red three-prong role. But now’s the time to enjoy the lego box. You’re not broken. You just need to hang out until the next three-prong slot comes along.
I don’t know all that you’re going through. I feel like you want more, or less, and maybe can’t get where you want to be just yet. That’s hard, yo. This morning as I prepared for Day Three of having no To Do List, I cleaned up my kitchen, which led to laundry, which led to cleaning the living room, which led to more dishes and then dishes usually leads to blogging somehow. I don’t have any new words for you to hear, but there’s a big heart behind the ones I do have.
The heart is where all these matters twist and shout. Underneath the waiting, there’s a heart wrestling with something deeper. Waiting can be great, honestly. You get to chill out, there’s a sofa, and lots of television to watch and books to read. We all say there’s never enough time, so in the waiting, we get to fill our time how we like. But in the waiting, those ribbons of heartbreak tangle and snarl even the most patient of us. Maybe you feel as if you’ve done something wrong. Maybe you feel afraid. Maybe you feel unprepared or bored or restless or exhausted. Oh, you know you feel exhausted.
Here’s an idea. Whatever you are feeling, act in the opposite. Are you lonely? Go find a friend. Text. Call. Hug. Feeling tired? Go for a walk. Feeling afraid? Go do something thrilling. Feeling broken? Seek the one who has made you whole.
“There’s a sweet, sweet Spirit in this place.
And I know that it’s the Spirit of the Lord.
There are sweet expressions on each face.
And I know that it’s the presence of the Lord.
Sweet Holy Spirit. Sweet Heavenly Dove.
You’re right here with us, filling us with your love.
And for these blessings
We lift our hearts in praise.
Without a doubt we’ll know
That we have been revived
When we shall leave this place.”
~ Doris May Akers ~
In this waiting period, you and I, we aren’t alone. Don’t give up. Be a Lego door. Be your proud three-pronged self. Be useful in ways you’ve never imagined. Don’t just fill time to fill time. Fill your time with unconventional joy.
The people who need you are waiting, too. Live now in gratitude of all you do have, and the people who need you where you are, as you are, right now. Celebrate. Defy despair.
And while you wait, be your best self possible. Bust out the fun music and dance around the living room, waving your arms like the awkward three-prong you are. Cause you’re pretty amazing. You’re the best awkward three-prong I know.
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