Success Story: Jeff Botkin’s New Lease on Life
Jeff Botkin had a very sobering New Year’s Eve in 2017. He stepped on the scale to see a number he had never witnessed before between his feet: 260.
He was “demoralized and disgusted,” he said. Jeff had been a very good athlete who competed in multiple sports and who always considered himself fit and healthy. As an Airman in the U.S. Air Force in the early 1980s, he was required to maintain a certain level of fitness and body weight, which he achieved with minimal effort. But after 35 years as an Information Technology professional, he fit the classic stereotype of a middle-aged man who had become sedentary and unfit over course of many years with a growing list of medications to combat high blood pressure, cholesterol, hypothyroidism, and ever-increasing blood sugar levels. “I sit on my ass working all day,” said Jeff. “I use my brain and not my body.”
He decided that this New Year would be different. Jeff wanted to change and so he decided to choose the StrongPath. A few years ago, his wife had purchased a Bowflex TreadClimber. And he was determined that 2018 would be the year he turned that climber from another piece of furniture into a life-changer. He began a two-mile per day rigorous workout on what he calls “a brutally sadistic machine.” Having known Fred Bartlit, author and founder of StrongPath, for many years, and having listened to him prod, not push, Jeff into a healthier lifestyle, he decided to add a motivational element while climbing—listening to Fred’s book Choosing the StrongPath.
“In full disclosure, I would never usually pick up a book on fitness health or aging, but I really admire and respect Fred so I listened to the audio while I was working out,” said Jeff. As he read, he realized this book was about him, the guy who was on the frail trail to declining health, disease, sarcopenia, and in all likelihood a premature death. Listening to the book brought Jeff face to face with the reality of his own mortality.
By February, Jeff had lost 12 pounds. The same day of his annual check-up where he saw his blood work numbers heading in the right direction, he had his first weight lifting session with a trainer, Tyler. Since that day Jeff has been working out with Tyler three times a week, strength training to failure, as Fred had always told him to do. “I’m in the gym every morning at 6 a.m., hammering away,” he said.
His strength training routine has paid off in more ways than one. “My energy level is kind of through the roof,” he said. “When I’m really working out, I come home and take a shower, eat some protein, and within an hour I feel like I want to go back to the gym. I have so much energy, it’s like euphoria.” And he remembers Fred talking about this in his book. “The first time it happened I was really freaked out.”
This euphoria may very well be from the endorphins the body manufactures during intense exercise. These neurotransmitters produced in the brain’s hypothalamus and pituitary gland are structurally similar to the drug morphine, but are naturally created. Endorphins are related to the reward center of the brain, ironically connected to feelings of pleasure we experience during activities such as eating, drinking, and sexual activity. “I’m ready to go and do,” he said.
His psychological mood and mental health is better, too, he said. “I feel less stressed—I was stressing over my inability to get control over my health and manage it properly. Plus, I was not happy with my appearance.” Now he’s getting compliments from friends and co-workers. His golf buddies will say, “Oh, you’ve lost some weight,” which boosts Jeff’s self-esteem. He has felt a huge improvement in his mental state, including an increased ability to focus better at work.
As Jeff digested the data in Fred’s book, it reminded him of paternal predecessors, and thought about how much his Dad missed out on. He was determined to be different.
Jeff’s paternal grandfather Charles Botkin, who lived to be 92 in what Jeff called, “a state of absolute fitness,” inspired Jeff. He was a faithful walker who rode a stationary bike every day; by 1997 his grandfather had racked up 10,000 miles on his bike. Jeff also remembers his own father remarking that his grandfather was wasting his time. But Charles was fit and healthy right up until he passed, according to Jeff. His elevated fitness enabled him to recover from a serious bout with pneumonia when he was ninety years old. In stark contrast, Jeff’s father died at the early age of 67.
Jeff’s kids are happy that he is healthier, too. The best benefit is Jeff’s overall outlook on the rest of his life. Now he sees it as having true quality. “I have four grandchildren I adore and want to be around to watch grow up,” he said. Plus “it costs a lot of money to be sick. Who knows what ‘s going to happen, but I’m lowering my risk of the killers — heart disease and diabetes.” He repeats what Fred wrote in his book, we’ve all been conditioned to think this is what life is, we get old, get frail and die. Jeff doesn’t believe it anymore. “That’s just bullshit. It only happens if you allow it to happen.”
Jeff has lost 25 pounds and is continuing on the StrongPath, saying there is more work ahead of him, but he is clear and determined to succeed. “I’m grateful that my life ahead can be the best it has ever been,” he said. “It’s never too late to start.”