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Twister… Industry Icon in the Fight of His Life

By Todd Durkin, MA, CSCS

I need to share a remarkable story of a fitness professional in the fight of his life. He is someone I have long admired. Someone I have shared the stage with many times. One of the best presenters I have ever heard. A wildly successful entrepreneur who has earned more accolades in his storied strength and conditioning career than most can dream.

Peter Twist is one of the most successful trainers and performance coaches of ALL-TIME.  His business, Twist Sport Conditioning, is a world-class training & performance facility in Vancouver, Canada, with franchises in the US and Canada.

For eleven years, Pete was an NHL strength coach. And since then, has devoted his life to helping kids and adults become their very best. His passion and energy are infectious, his intelligence is incredible, and his spirit is unbreakable. As a matter of fact, Pete may be in the best shape of any forty-seven year old I know, male or female. With the fitness and conditioning of an elite pro athlete, he looks like he can still suit up and play. And dominate!

But life took a strange turn earlier this year. Out of nowhere, Pete was diagnosed with Stage 4 Nasopharyngeal cancer (head/neck) that had spread throughout his lymph system. He was asymptomatic when he first went to the doctor in January 2011 (just about a year ago), and has been through hell and back since then, fighting one heckuva fight to force this thing into remission. He would tell you himself that this has been tougher than any fight he has ever faced in his long and successful hockey career.

I recently had dinner with Pete at his home in Vancouver. It gave us some quiet time to sit and talk. About fitness. About our industry. And about life. What a conversation it was.

I asked Pete if I could share his story, it truly is inspirational, because not many people know of his battle. As a matter of fact, for four of the hardest months earlier this year, only six people even knew Pete was sick. More know now, but the chance to share Pete’s story here with you is a chance to share some of the most IMPACTFUL words I have ever heard from another person. There are “deep lessons” from Pete’s journey, and I share them with his blessing and his hope that they might empower others in a similar battle for their health or other challenge in their lives.

****

One of the interesting things about Pete’s story is that there were no detectable signs or symptoms when he was diagnosed. He acted on his own intuition that something was wrong and asked to be tested. At first, doctors resisted because “he had nothing wrong.”  His physical appearance, strong vitals, and healthy lifestyle, said (on the surface) that nothing “appeared wrong.”

When the truth of the situation was revealed, doctors found a tumor the size of a baseball located about 2 mm from the brain stem. A thorough diagnosis placed the chance of survival for three-years at 25%.

What followed was brutal. Two months of chemotherapy and radiation at the highest intensity one can receive. When I asked what that felt like, Pete described it as “severe burning of my mouth, face, and neck from the inside out.” Taking in nutrients was next to impossible; requiring “thirty minutes under layered pain-killers to get down a glass of vanilla protein drink.” Knowing Pete, he was probably yelling like a gladiator to get it down and get it done.

I learned that the effects of head and neck radiation continue to accumulate for five to seven weeks post-treatment. That means the side-effects get worse and worse even after treatments stop. Pete said this was one of the most frustrating parts of the entire experience.

From Pete: “My objective was to keep as much strength and physical mass as possible and to do little things HOURLY to deal with symptoms and set myself up to have a little higher starting point when I could manage to start ramping back up. A one percent difference was worth fighting for relentlessly.”

****

We talked about life lessons and as always, his words were deep and introspective.

  • QUARTERBACK YOUR OWN HEALTH AND OWN THE PROCESS” Doctors: oncologists, nutritionists, naturopaths, chiropractors, you name it – all come from different backgrounds, academic paradigms, and philosophies. Many of them do tremendous work, but are often overwhelmingly busy in their day-to-day and guided by the ‘system.’ It is critical that YOU determine what is right for YOU and take charge at each step. Quarterback your health and quarterback the team you assemble for any acute challenge in life.
  • FOLLOW YOUR GUT, FOLLOW YOUR INTUITION. “If you’re strong and healthy, you won’t get looked at the same or as thoroughly by your doctors.  They make assumptions based on fitness, appearance, symptoms, and positive energy. Insist they look deeper.”

Pete went in because of a premonition, a gut-call that something “wasn’t right.”  He really had to press to get the right team together and get the tests done to eventually be diagnosed and then treated because he looked healthy. Had he waited until symptoms appeared, the results may have been….

  • BE PROACTIVE. How you feel, your physicality, your health metrics, your blood work, and lack of symptoms do not necessarily mean you’re A-OK at the cellular level. Pete did crazy research on cancer, and believes, “We all have cancer five to seven times in a lifetime. Most we naturally eradicate from our systems… some we do not.”
  • DON’T PLAY THE VICTIM CARD. It took a tremendous amount of grit and determination for Pete to get this far in the fight. He doesn’t like “wearing the cancer hat.” When going to the hospital for chemotherapy and radiation, he would drive his car “straight to the top” of the roof of the cancer center and park. He did not want to park where it said “PATIENT” painted on the wall. He would enter the parking garage with inspirational music cranked (AC/DC or POD if I know him!) and later would say, “Is that all you got? Give me your best shot!”  After each radiation and chemo treatment, he would attempt to exercise right away, sometimes right in the parking garage. Literally.
  • HEAL FROM WITHIN. Look beyond traditional nutrition guidelines and organic foods and invest in a deeper understanding of all the variables affecting cellular health.
  • WE DON’T “RISE TO THE OCCASION”; WE “SINK TO THE LEVEL OF OUR TRAINING.” This is a message for trainers: Make sure you are ready for a battle and that your clients are too—one day everyone will face an immense challenge. I like what Pete says, “You can’t be your best when your best is needed and you aren’t in peak condition.” He adds, “I believe survival is in part determined by a will to live, a will to love, and a willpower to do the hard things well every minute during challenge, pain, and suffering. Become very passionate about LIFE and engage in activities in a way that grows WILL and WILLPOWER.”

WOW. Don’t wait until there’s a problem to start training like an animal and begin living TODAY like it’s your last day on earth. Powerful words.

  • BREAK ALL THE RULES. “You must be willing to change YOUR rules: to adopt healthful strategies that give you an edge, to step up and break from the traditional medical model, to return to action.”  Pete is an example that we are capable of more than we might be told. Fight to give EVERY effort any moment to build your physiology and physicality. Work at YOUR pace – not the pace of the average sick person. Not the pace expected by the disease model. Be willing to do everything it takes to get back to where you were. Act on your personal pride, conviction, and your will to live “FULL ON” for yourself and all those around you.

Pete’s words really stuck with me. He is an incredible man and truly inspirational. He ended his story with this (and I will paraphrase): Growth comes from challenges and of these, there are very few that will force you to draw upon absolutely one hundred percent  of every single element of your being. One hundred percent of every personal resource within you. When one of these challenges presents itself, it will be an amazing opportunity. After the anger and fear have ripped through you, after you face your sadness and concern for loved ones, be sure to see the amazing opportunity you’ve been given. The battle will become a set of scars you carry with quiet pride and deeper gratitude for the chapters ahead of you. The personal growth is strong and real. Don’t be bound up or held back from the beating you’ll take. Springboard from it and let it ignite every single day for the rest of your life.

****

My evening with Pete ended with some “HEALING FROM WITHIN.” Pete’s diet for this past year has been mostly raw vegetables and a concoction of organic foods, supplements, and powerful antioxidants to fortify his system. So when he asked me if I would like one of his “desserts,” I willingly obliged. It was here I was introduced to what I now call “Twister’s 27-Ingredient Jungle Juice.” This “shake” has so many things in it I can’t remember them all. Three times a day for almost a year: cabbage, broccoli, spinach, raspberries, blueberries, cranberry juice, greens mix, fish oils, and many other “goodies” in it. Sounds disgusting, huh? Pete said, “You think this tastes horrible? Try cancer and then tell me if you like it.” Despite not knowing all that’s in it or if there are really twenty-seven ingredients, by the end, it tasted real good! For me, that night, sharing Twister’s 27-Ingredient Jungle Juice was a spiritual moment.

****

Pete is now almost one-year post diagnosis. He powers UP mountains running and laughs rambunctiously as he races down; he lifts hard and heavy again in his Twist Sport Conditioning Center and does wind sprints like he did when he was competing. He’s teaching again and back in the trenches making a difference. But most of all, he’s enjoying life and is as vibrant and FULL OF LIFE as I’ve ever seen him.

Pete recently developed a CREED for himself, his team, and all the clients they touch.  Think to this as your life motto: “Life is short…LIVE EVERYDAY.  Today I will GIVE everything I have, what I keep inside I will lose forever.”

Thank you Pete Twist for the man you are. The trainer you are. And the friend you are. I hope your story IMPACTS thousands of people to live their BEST LIFE EVERYDAY just as you do. Thanks brother!

**Note: Connect with Pete on Facebook: http://facebook.com/peter.twist13

Todd Durkin, MA, CSCS, is an internationally recognized performance coach, personal trainer and massage therapist who motivates, educates and inspires people worldwide.  He is the owner of Fitness Quest 10 in San Diego, CA, where his wonderful team of 35 focuses on personal training, massage therapy, Pilates, yoga, sports performance training and nutrition to help transform the bodies, minds and spirits of a broad clientele.  Todd trains dozens of NFL and MLB athletes. He is the head of the Under Armour Performance Training Council, serves on the Gatorade G-Fit Team, and is a featured presenter on the Perform Better educational circuit.  He is a two-time Trainer of the Year (IDEA & ACE).  Additionally, Todd provides motivational talks and programs to companies and conferences worldwide.

Men’s Health recently named his gym, Fitness Quest 10, one of the Top 10 Gyms in the US.  Todd has appeared on 60 Minutes, ESPN, NFL Network and has been featured in Sports Illustrated, USA Today, Business Week, Prevention, ESPN the Magazine, Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, Men’s Journal, Stack Magazine, Self, Shape, Fitness, the NY Times and Washington Post.  Todd has authored 35 DVDs on strength and conditioning, functional fitness, massage/bodywork and business/personal growth.

His new book, The IMPACT! Body Plan, debuted in September 2010 and is a 10 Week program designed to create world-class fitness and life performance.  You can sign up for Todd’s FREE award-winning Ezine newsletter, the TD TIMES, at www.FitnessQuest10.com or www.ToddDurkin.com.

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR EZINE OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb above with it.  If you would like a Word Document of the article sent to you, please email us at durkin@fitnessquest10.com to let us know and we will be glad to supply it to you.

Metabolic Primer Part 1 of 3 If You Can Measure It, You Can Manage It

By Pat Jak, BS, CPT, USAC II, USAC Power Based Training Coach

Tell me if this is you: you get frustrated when you hit a plateau?  Do you feel like you are working as hard as possible and yet don’t see any changes. This is often when I hear the following phrases:

  • My metabolism is out of control.
  • My metabolism makes my body want certain foods.
  • I’m getting old so my metabolism is slowing down.
  • I downloaded this app that tells me my metabolic rate.
  • Today I plan on getting a great metabolic workout.

Unfortunately, these phrases are a little misguided and further perpetuated thanks to news articles, morning talk shows, and other media blitzes that hit us daily. To make matters worse, we are told things like “If you’re trying to lose weight, don’t weigh yourself too often.” Or we are told, “good diets are effortless and we don’t have to count calories.” Um, excuse me but if I never weigh myself how do I know if I’ve lost weight? Also, if I’m not measuring how much I’m eating, how do I know I am sticking to my plan?

Diet and exercise changes require a high level of managing because you are trying to force change. And the best way to manage a process is to regularly measure progress. While I understand what people mean when they throw out these phrases, there are better ways we can empower ourselves and make positive changes to our health and fitness. And it comes from understanding a few key things about metabolism and measuring it to manage it.

Try not to get hung up in those over used phrases mentioned earlier because:

  • Metabolism is trainable. It CAN be changed. With exercise, healthy diet, and good lifestyle habits, you can maximize your metabolism!
  • Your metabolism doesn’t want certain foods. It just wants real, quality food. So FEED IT!
  • Metabolism does NOT slow down when we age. In reality, there is only a 2% loss every decade. We simply move LESS when we age. Move more and your metabolism increases no matter how old you are!
  • There is NOT an app for that! When you calculate your metabolic rate estimated by your age, height, weight, and gender, you can have a 1,000-calorie margin of error!
  • ALL workouts are metabolic! When you workout, you impact your metabolism.

Okay, I’ll spare you the detailed exercise physiology, but I do want to share a few key points to help shed some light on the confusion we face with our own metabolisms and how to overcome them to help build a leaner, healthier, happier you.

What is Metabolism?

Our metabolism is a collection of biochemical processes that combine nutrients with oxygen to release energy. This release of energy helps us grow, reproduce, maintain basic life processes, and respond to our environment. Metabolism is as individual as a fingerprint and is based on genetics, lifestyle, training, and nutrition.

Our metabolism will change. This is important because we use our fuel (food) differently when we are exercising and when we are at rest. Normally measured in calories, food and metabolism is simply a measurement of energy. In other words, some foods provide more energy than others and some activities burn more energy than others do. This does NOT mean you can eat whatever you want as long as “calories in” balance “calories out.” It also means you CANNOT exercise however you want and burn calories equally. Quality and type of food matters. Likewise, quality and type of workout is important to consider.

Is This What They Mean By Metabolic Rate?

Absolutely! And you actually have two basic metabolic rates that are most meaningful to your health and fitness goals, your Resting Metabolic Rate and your Active Metabolic Rate.

Your Resting Metabolic Rate

This is the amount of calories you use on a daily basis to maintain basic life functions including brain activity, liver function, lung function, and tissue growth and repair. It actually represents 60-75% of your total daily energy expenditure. The basics do apply. Eat more than your daily requirement and your body will store energy (gain weight). Eat below your daily requirement and your body will reduce it’s energy stores (lose weight).

It is important to note that if you are too aggressive with your daily calculations and fall below the very base resting metabolic number, you will negatively impact your body. This often occurs with crash diets, starvation diets, and insane Hollywood cleanses. But it can also occur when we “get too busy to eat,” skip meals, or only eat tiny portions.

Why should too little food matter? Remember that your resting metabolism is responsible for brain activity, lung function, and liver function. If you don’t feed these organs and allow them to do their thing, you will create catastrophic effects in your body and actually increase the aging process and risk for debilitating disease.

Your Active Metabolic Rate

This is your capacity for work during activities such as exercise. It can be shown through a correlation of three key markers. Among these are your AEROBIC Threshold. Representing the point when you utilize fat as a primary fuel source, Aerobic Threshold is the number you find on a new car’s sticker that shows best MPG.

Another marker is your ANAEROBIC Threshold, which is the point when you lose the ability to utilize oxygen and fat to create energy. Another way to look at it is your “redline.” You will be able to rev your engine at this level of intensity, but probably not for very long.

Finally, the number everyone likes to use to compare ability is your VO2max. While high-level athletes often rely on VO2max to determine competition readiness, it is important to everyone because it represents potential.

How Do I Know What My Metabolic Numbers Are?

There is only one true way. Get tested. If we are all individuals and our metabolisms reflect our individual characteristics and activities, wouldn’t you want to know your numbers? If simple little calculators can be off by 1,000 calories, wouldn’t you want to know your EXACT numbers?

Everyone has a benefit if they are tested regularly.

  • You can establish a baseline or snapshot of you right now.
  • You can identify your individual needs and what you want to achieve.
  • You can create a customized, periodized training plan to be better able to achieve your goals.
  • You can track progress and see how your metabolism changes over time.

A Case Study

Just to give an idea how important it is to test your metabolism, consider the following data from my own test taken last month.

  • Resting Metabolic Rate was ESTIMATED anywhere from 2,730-3,037 calories per day while the ACTUAL was 2,574.
  • VO2max was ESTIMATED at 36.6 mL/kg/min, while the ACTUAL was 67.5.
  • Threshold heart rate was ESTIMATED at 155 beats per minute while the ACTUAL was 160.

Why does this difference matter? If I had relied upon calculators to estimate the numbers that are most meaningful in my exercise and daily calorie intake, I would be spinning my wheels. The estimated versus actual numbers leads to a half-pound to a full pound difference per week. In 12-weeks of training, this is a 6-12 pound difference under or over my goal!

The exercise estimations lead to incorrect training levels and false estimations on how many calories I burn at different levels of intensities. In the same 12-weeks of training, this can lead to a difference of another 2 to 3 pounds. Why would I want to estimate and take the chance of gaining 8-14 pounds in 12 weeks?

Measuring versus estimation is ALWAYS more accurate. And when it comes to your metabolism, never assume. Never estimate. If you want to get on top of your health, fitness, and nutrition, know your numbers. And the best way to know your numbers is to test them. Because if you can measure it, you can manage it!

This is a three part series all about metabolism, how to test it, how to train it, and how to fuel it. Come back next time for Metabolic Primer 2: Using Cardio Training to Effectively Boost Your Metabolism Or…

What You Thought You Knew About Cardio Was Probably Wrong

About Pat Jak

For nearly a decade, Pat Jak has worked with performance athletes, teams, and fitness conscious individuals from all walks of life. With one-on-one consultation and customized training plans, he coaches and trains cyclists, multi-sport, and endurance athletes including beginners, juniors, seniors, and masters, several of whom are World, National and State champions and medallists. His workouts have been featured in Bicycling Magazine and he is currently Director of Metabolic Testing at Fitness Quest 10, Team Coach for the Swami’s Pro Development Team, Head Coach of the UCSD Cycling Team, and Coach for the Challenged Athletes Foundation Million Dollar Challenge.

To learn more, or to schedule your metabolic test, contact Fitness Quest 10.