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Death and Back – A Personal Journey

Maximizing Your Life Potential

Brian K. Theiss

The science behind how I was able to achieve sustained and life-changing results is difficult to describe in non-technical terms because it actually works on the cellular level, directly affecting shifts in several energy systems.

In lay language, it changes the actual physiology of the body to switch energy systems and muscle fiber types – teaching them to be most efficient by burning fat for fuel. By forcing oxygen into the slow and fast-twitching muscle fibers, it manipulates the RNA, and literally change the message that it sends to the DNA, producing more mitochondria in muscle cells (which burn fat).

The proof is in the practice…

I discovered this breakthrough science at an early age… the hard way…

I almost died when I was eight.

I had to learn how to build my body just to survive. In my late teens, I had a second life challenge – a catastrophic accident, and underwent four surgeries, followed by years of not knowing if I could get out of bed or walk each day. Once again, I was forced to rebuild my life with a totally innovative exercise program I designed for myself, with the guidance of my guardian angel, a neurosurgeon.

How it All Began….

Brian with his mom and brother

At the tender age of eight, as I laid in a hospital bed, curled in a huddled mass, I didn’t think I was going to make it. My body had become my prison. I was arched backward, mouth open wide, gasping for as much air as my little lungs could draw in. I heard the faint sound of my mother’s voice, “Brian, it’s OK to let go.” I was unsure what she meant, but if she was telling me it was OK to die, I was not ready. Death?! I didn’t understand. I wanted to ride my bike with my brothers. I had no time for death! But for many years, the likelihood of death was part of my everyday life. With asthma, allergies, a weak immune system, and two compromised lungs, I spent my first eight years learning how to fight for life. Yet, it was this struggle, ending in triumph, which has allowed me to save many more lives than my own.

I first realized how sick I was when it dawned on me how many syringes my grandmother was filling with my asthma medication (which she bought by the case). I had witnessed the process of her filling the syringe to the right level a thousand times. However, on this day, she missed the mark, and the medicine ran down the needle, and the caustic medication burned her hand badly. As she dropped both medication and syringe, she yelled at the top of her lungs, “ #[email protected]#%!.” I couldn’t believe my ears – how did my devout grandmother even know such sinful words? In excruciating pain, she plunged her hand into water in the nearby sink. Grandma was so severely burned that it took a trip to the doctor and many months for those burns to heal. She still bears the scars to this day. This is the state of modern medicine – we are injected with medicines, chemotherapies, and other toxic substances, whose only hope is to kill the disease before they kill us. 

My fragile health prevented even outdoor play. My grandparents would remove the sofa from the front window, and I would stride back and forth while my brothers and neighborhood kids would run on the front lawn. In the beginning, this isolation was horrible, but as time passed I made peace with my limitations. 

My daily injections were the easy part of being sick. The real challenge was learning how to keep breathing when my lungs and chest muscles seized up. It was like being tortured, a prisoner of war in my own body! It was like the old Chuck Norris movies, when POW’s were thrust under water, then pulled up just before drowning, and then thrust back under, after only one breath of air. This is exactly what it feels like surviving life-threatening asthma and pneumonia. I will spare you multiple details, but I came near death three times before the age of 13. The doctors fully prepared my family, telling them that it would take a miracle for me to reach the ripe old age of 13. Today, looking back, I can say that the years have treated me good, and I see how those early life challenges forged in me a dynamic determination, which later served me well in my practice. I often tell aging clients…

“Remember, the most important investment in your retirement portfolio is your health, not your wealth!” 

Brian
Brian at age 12

Having struggled through these early years, both my brain and body had paid a steep price. At 13, I looked like a 9 year-old, and I had a high-pitched girlish voice to match! Even into my thirties strangers on the phone often called me “ma’am”! God, I hated that! So much for my macho male ego! I didn’t know which was more fragile — my body, mind, or voice. I was on track for a lousy attitude, continuing illness, and for premature illness, aging, and death, at age 13! 

Each morning getting out of bed was a struggle, not only physically, but also from an emotional standpoint – I felt I had to go through each day hiding my limitations from my classmates. This made a daunting and draining event. I still can recall the morning bell, as all the “normal” kids headed to class one way, and I had to turn in the opposite direction — toward a “special education” classroom. Every morning, I said to myself, “I don’t belong here,” but I did.

At home, I faced a different pressure. An exceptionally brilliant family, all of whom were highly successful, surrounded me. Every day, every cell in my body told me that I needed a drastic change in order to have a chance at having a meaningful life. My goal then was to live to the age of thirty! It’s ironic — because today my goal is to live to 130!

Every challenging day, from the moment I rolled out of bed in the morning until the time I fell back into it at night, moving forward was the only thought that possessed me. Weighing 130 pounds, at five feet and five inches tall, I was a little booger – because the only part of me that had any size was my extended Buddha-belly. It was so cute, round, and hard as hell. Yet, no matter how discouraging it all seemed, I pushed myself harder and harder to get out and do things. I spent hours roaming the malls (always with a fresh “I-V” of Coke and fist full of candy) subconsciously looking for something or someone to tell me how to turn my health and life around. I felt so frustrated. But things were about to change. 

The Transformation…

My transformation started the summer before ninth grade, encouraged by my number one supporter, my grandmother Mary, and my beloved Auntie Irene. My auntie bought me a fitness magazine – and to this day the book cover is still burned in my long- term memory: Arnold Schwarzenegger and Rachel McLish with their perfect bodies bulging in their muscle shirts and shorts. The cover, as Jim Carey would say, was “Smokin’”.

Autographed photo from Arnold Schwarzenegger to Brian

In that book, Arnold Schwarzenegger suggested as a start ten push-ups for a beginner’s training program. Was he joking… ten push-ups… for me? So, I glanced at the woman’s program, and it suggested – again ten push-ups – but with both knees bent and on the floor. I tried, but couldn’t do even one of these. I couldn’t believe it! Neither was I was able to do one dip, pull-up, or even a single military sit-up. I was not only sick and stupid, but I was a weakling! 

The fitness article suggested getting a physical exam, so I made an appointment with a doctor. But he assured me, based on my medical status since birth, and with so many near-fatal bouts with asthma and pneumonia, that embarking on a fitness program would be detrimental to my health. I was crestfallen. I dropped my head, and in my faint voice replied, “Yes sir”. Yet, later that afternoon, after a deep soul-searching, I determined to start ANYWAY! I heard an inner voice calling me forward, and I knew that if I didn’t take this chance, my life would be short and miserable! I could truly feel this. Whatever was prompting it, I knew that I had to start THAT DAY – and I had to educate myself on the mastery of a very committed discipline. So out all my bad habits went — and I mean EVERYTHING. No more Cokes, candy, fast food, watching cartoons for hours, and most importantly, no more excuses, no more letting others take control of my life. 

The first day of my new health and fitness program I was so excited that I even enjoyed school that day. When the last bell rang, I made a mad dash to Auntie Irene’s to start my workout – the first day of the rest of my healthy life! I can still see my aunt, holding out her arms, waiting for me to arrive. I saw the excitement in her eyes. It was if she, too, sensed that my little life was about to change. 

The day when I did my first real push-up, something inside me clicked, and after that, the results started to come fast. I followed my increasingly strenuous daily routine for months. Not only did I feel better mentally and physically, I started to feel STRONG. For the first time in years, my immune system started to work for me instead of against me. My bouts of asthma and allergies began to subside.

I felt alive for the first time in my life.

As I purchased more and more gym equipment, my dear auntie ran out of room in her house. I was now eyeing a Sears’ complete home gym set, but out of money, I had to persuade my grandmother to purchase the set for me. Fortunately, she knew what I knew – that it was my lifeline to a normal, healthy life. 

There was still one more obstacle to overcome — where were we going to put this huge set? Without hesitation, my grandmother said we could clear out Uncle Ben’s room. But the one thing one never wanted to do was upset Uncle Ben — and I knew that I was about to upset him – big time! I was so nervous the next day that I dreaded coming home from school to face my beer-drinking, Harley-driving uncle. When he entered his room, I heard him yell at the top of his lungs…

“Where’s all my stuff, and whose junk is this in my room?”

Uncle Ben

Then, ominously, he said, “Where’s Brian?” I started to shake and almost thought I’d pass out. My grandmother came in and simply said, “Brian needs your room so he can become healthy. You’ll need move your furniture back to your own house.” As Ben looked down at me, his full beard covering his big beer belly, he told my grandmother, “Leave my stuff in the garage since the kid won’t use this junk after two weeks, and then I’ll throw it out and put my stuff back.” He stormed out, and I felt a huge relief to hear him jump-kick his Harley and roar down the driveway.

My New Life of Health…

Uncle Ben was wrong, of course. In just a few months, I was even more into my program and my new life of health, so I took the next step – of signing up at the local gym. Because of my youth and medical history, the gym would not allow me to become a member without my grandmother co- signing for me. When we went to sign up, I almost panicked. The first person we met was Gilbert, an incredible mountain of a man, a professional bodybuilder and power lifter who seemed the size of the gym. He was so huge that when I sat down to fill out some forms, I couldn’t even see around him. But Gilbert seemed to like me. He even said I could help him manage the gym after my workouts each day. For my help, he said he’d work with me as a personal coach and get me to the point where all the girls would want to date me! To a skinny, sickly weakling, his words were magical. If there was a heaven, I had found it! 

Brian, Middle Linebacker

After years of discipline and dedication, I was training every day two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening, all with the guidance of  Gilbert, plus lots of home study about health. I was on a mission to live a real life and to be, at last, normal. Never once did I deviate from my workout, study, and diet. In fact, by the time I graduated from high school, my powerful physical engine had to be stoked to the tune of 8000 calories a day. Each and every day my beloved grandmother cooked me three Cornish hens, opened three to four cans of tuna, and cooked tons of vegetables. Soon I was beyond a healthy human being…

I was becoming a beast! 

The gym was my place of worship and served as an extended family. By the time I was in the 12th grade, my weight was up to 210 pounds, at 8% body fat. The kid who couldn’t do one knee push-up could now do 1000 push-ups, 75 lat pull-ups, and 70 biceps pull-ups. I was bench-pressing 405 pounds, squatting and dead-lifting 590, and my clean and jerks were 285 pounds – all drug and steroid free. Pound for pound, I was the strongest kid in the country and very proud of it! Although today I no longer train hard, I am still very strong from these early years of training smart and heavy, thanks to Gilbert. Oh, and Gilbert was correct – it was a challenge to keep all the girls away! 

From Student to Teacher…

I now began coaching others who wanted to work on their bodies. After graduating from high school, I moved to Santa Barbara to live with my parents and begin college. Although my physique looked great, my brain still needed a major overhaul — so I poured all I learned from my physical training into my studies. I never worked so hard in my life, but I was learning. I remember the thrill I got out of tutoring other students in chemistry and anatomy. I discovered that my real passion was how the body worked.

So began my seventh heaven!

I had never been so optimistic about the future. There was a popular song with the lyrics…

“The future’s so bright I gotta’ wear ‘shades’.”

Patrick Lee Mac Donald

I was so confident that I truly felt I would walk around humming the song for the rest of my life. Then it happened — the event that took me in one instant from heaven into hell. 

From Heaven into Hell…

I started my workout that day, like I had done thousands of days before, with five minutes on the treadmill and some easy sets of squats to warm up the muscles, ligaments, and tendons. I was completing my final warm up set and began racking the weights. Without any warning, the squat rack suddenly collapsed on top of me, driving me to the floor, rupturing several discs in my lower back. 

Without going into gory details, I will tell you this – it took several surgeries and seven years to learn how to walk, use the toilet, and do the simplest tasks. I never knew how embarrassing it is to have someone lift you off the toilet and clean your butt after a bowel movement. I spent seven mind-bending years, not knowing which days I was going to be able to walk and which days I’d be confined to bed.

Brian with neurosurgeon Dr. Thomas Jones – “my guardian angel”

Finally, I rehabbed myself out of my walker and cane. Yes, I rehabbed myself with the guidance, love, and support of my guardian angel, Dr. Thomas Jones! By now, I knew exactly how the body worked, and I had coached hundreds of personal clients. Who knew better than me? Whenever I did go to traditional physical therapy, the program always fell short – and most of the time I was teaching them, rather than getting helped by them.

Rebuilding My Life… and Others’…

The next step was to rebuild my whole life, so I started studying the newspaper. I needed to develop a business that could use my education in the health and fitness field. I also need flexible hours and a program that I could build slowly, due to my physical limitations. In the paper I came across an ad for a personal training business. I called the phone number and asked if I could come down and interview the doctor whose company ran the ad. The receptionist was not quite sure what to tell me, so she put me on hold. Dr. Sal Arria granted my request, and I was driven to his office to find out more about his organization. I loved what I heard, but I knew this was going to be a challenge since very little was known about the emerging field of physical fitness. 

Dr. Sal Arria presenting Brian award

I went to every gym, training facility, medical rehab program, and weight loss clinic that I could find, spending untold hours and sums of money over the next one and a half years doing my business research. I was shocked and extremely disappointed to find that most programs did little or nothing to improve the health and quality of people’s lives in a scientific way. I thus came to realize that I would not only have to serve people, I would first have to educate them. 

Once I had completed my business plan, I launched my first in-home personal-training business. The chosen name was “American Built Bodies.” We built a full commercial gym in our home. We had so much equipment that we had to live in only our bedroom and kitchen. The rest of the house was a commercial gym, except for the downstairs room (my office) where I made 250 cold-calls per week. By the time we moved our business out of the house two years later, I was working with clients from 5am to 10pm, one every hour, seven days per week. Thanks to my training, I only needed about five hours of sleep each night.

Brian with Lou Ferrigno, actor, author, “Mr. Universe”

Today I am very proud of all I have been able to accomplish. I started and ran one of the most successful in-home, personal-training businesses in the world. From a kid who decided to do anything to get a hold on his health, to a youth re-building a broken back, to an adult who has given the gift of health and strength to thousands, my life is a joyous daily adventure.

To say that I am a satisfied man would be an understatement. 

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