Jeff & Roxie M.

IAM 2024
Coach Aryan
August 27, 2021
Athlete Photo

When did you start at Behemoth and how did you find us?

***Jeff's answers will be in blue***
March 2023. My sister-in-law had visited a few years ago and was insistent on us visiting for a consultation. When I informed her of closer gyms, she was insistent that I would be making a mistake and that I needed to at least stop by. After checking reviews online, I decided to go in for a visit. It's worth the drive!

***Roxanne's answers will be in red***
In March 2023, I was in touch with my younger sister about how distraught I was trying to just get up and out of my chair after all my health problems. She and her husband have been big into crossfit for years. They even built a proper crossfit gym in their barn. They saw the Barto brothers at competitions first and more recently on lifestyle videos. Yet, when she did a guest visit to Behemoth, she knew this gym was different, special and perhaps a place for me. She was clear that I couldn’t and didn’t want to do crossfit. Upon her suggestion and some internet research, I had a video conference with them and made an appointment for an in-person assessment. It was for a Monday. The previous Saturday morning, I woke upon suffering a GERD aspiration. By noon I could barely breathe and couldn’t walk to the car. I was put into ICU for sepsis and respiratory failure. Somehow, I contacted the gym and canceled it. At the time, I thought I might die and didn’t really care. Yet, by sheer will or by Devine Intervention, I rescheduled it for May 2023 and hobbled into Behemoth to meet my coach, Aryan.

Can you speak a bit more on your journey? What problems did you have before starting that you no longer believe you have?

For five years, my wife suffered from poor health, and I recently had been diagnosed and treated for stage 3 colon cancer. Being overweight, all of my life and having a son that would possibly need my care throughout his life, I had realized that I no longer had the luxury of time and procrastination. I decided I needed to make drastic changes for me, my wife, and my son. The situation I was in with my health was a huge motivator. I have been overweight all of my life and at 53 years-old, was now weighing almost 380 pounds. I knew I needed more than what my knowledge and discipline could provide, and I had to do something different. Most of us have heard the saying that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing but expecting different results. I knew the same old diet every Monday and “I will exercise tomorrow” was no longer adequate. I thought about how in my career I relied on the experts to get done what I did not know how to do. Why was I treating my health differently? Eight months later I've lost 90 lbs, have gained a tremendous amount of energy, my knees and ankles no longer ache, and I can now perform most activities that most people my age can perform. For the first time in my life, my health goals are no longer just to get in better shape, but to be in better shape and health than most men my age.

I no longer cared if I died or not. Now, I want to LIVE! I was 60 yo when I started at Behemoth. I still have a lot of physical problems that are now manageable. Before, though, I was in so much physical and mental anguish that living each day was just a task to be completed, an obligation to my living son and husband to stay alive. Five years ago, my oldest son and I found my younger son in his room unresponsive. He had passed away in the night from a silent heart disease (Long QT Interval). My son and I did CPR on him until EMS arrived. The whole experience that day added another dimension of PTSD to my psyche. I was then diagnosed with a genetic immune deficiency, meaning my body has never made sufficient antibodies to provide natural immunity and in declining rates as I aged. This disorder affected many of my body systems, especially my respiratory and gastrointestinal systems. I was recovering from an abdominal surgery as well and this trauma started a domino effect of years of declining health, deconditioning and mental anguish. Within this 5-year time frame, I suffered from multiple abdominal surgeries, septic shocks, lung diseases, liver failure of unknown origin, and multiple fractures in my face, shoulder, foot and collar bone and most from frequent falls. I endured many PT/OT sessions that were so limited due to insurance. I had deconditioned so much that I was dependent on my husband for most of my activities of daily living, including meals, bathing, dressing, transportation and toileting. I was using a cane, walker and sometimes a wheelchair. My knees were so painful. I knew I had to do something to be able to start doing anything physical where I could at least perform the basic functions of self-care and mobility. Otherwise, I would eventually die in my recliner. In October and November of 2022, I had both knees replaced. Recovery was long and difficult. Even though my knees were getting better, and I was subsequently recovering from respiratory failure. I just didn’t have the knowledge or skills to therapy myself. I didn’t know where to start and knew I needed help. In that same year my husband, my rock and caretaker, was diagnosed with and treated for colon cancer. As you can imagine, I was scared and weak, in mental pain, suffering from PTSD and depression. I just couldn’t see much hope of a future. I felt old and decrepit. It seemed like my life was doomed to failure after failure. Regardless, I kept my first appointment with Aryan on a whim and a prayer. All my life I had been able to self-motivate and self-direct fitness programs at gyms and alone with much success. Maybe a personal trainer could get me started? The person I met that day would prove to be no ordinary personal trainer! I feel like my old self before my son died, when I had purpose.

Who is your professional coach? Can you speak a bit on your experiences with them? What do you enjoy most about your relationship with them?

My professional coach is Aja. In my mind I had built a pre-fabricated story that working out had to equate to pain. Aja took the time to listen to me and I found I was sharing information that I didn't even know about myself. Aja is my health professor, teaching and instructing me to find what works and to take action. He allows me to experiment, to find out what does and does not work for me. If something does not work for me, we talk about it, change it, then move forward. I feel like I am gaining an education in my health that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

The Behemoth team matched me with Aryan. It has proven to be perfect. Like I said, he is like no personal trainer I knew about. Above all else, he is so patient and knowledgeable. He has led me in baby steps from nearly no muscle or cardio fitness to where I am today in only 8 months. Believe me. I have become more motivated myself but only because he guided me. He monitors how I’m feeling and can judge my ability and adjust accordingly. He insists that I tell him about any discomfort I might have following his instruction. He has a way of figuring out how to change a movement, so I don’t injure myself and keep moving. He is very good a demonstrating an exercise and correcting my movement when it’s wrong. When I get it right, it’s such a cool feeling! He amazes me with his knowledge of exercise every day. He always greets me with a smile. He’s enthusiastic. It’s like he’s never in a bad mood! I get a lot of high fives and fist bumps. He seems to know when to push so I get better. Then, he cheers me on.

We pride ourselves on the education and mentorship we provide to our members to help them build self-sufficiency in their health and fitness routine, what has been the most valuable aspect of working with your coach?

I feel confident in not knowing the answers. I now know that as long as there is action and steps in the right direction,I will eventually achieve my goals. My mind always associated progress with my weight. I no longer worry about the scales as I have full confidence that as long as I stay with the journey, I will reach and maintain my goals. My health is no longer a destination but a way of life.

He has coached me from a place where I was probably 20 years older health wise to normal fitness for a 60yo. Along the way, I told him about things I wanted to achieve that I was struggling with in my life. He has always helped me do it. My first goal was to be able to get up off the floor without assistance. Time after time I’ve come to him asking for help with things like balance, better movement in my injured right shoulder, how to adapt to moving with my disabled right foot, how not to aggravate my lower back. He works my goals into the routine and helps me with at home exercise routines and advice.

What are some of your biggest physical, mental or emotional wins since starting?

Physical – Crossing my legs, tying my shoes without strain, kneeling, and squatting to achieve daily tasks. I also am more productive at work, feel much more rested throughout my day, and complete more tasks around my home. I can now dance with my wife like we did 30 years ago. Mental – Understanding that my health is not a race to the finish line but just a new way of living. Emotional – internalizing that sitting around, resting, and eating will never feel as good as feeling good feels.

I feel like he has helped me get my life back and the will to live it. I was starting out with knees I could stand and walk on but not much else. During my time there I have managed to injure my hobbled right foot on my own time. Also, I was starting out with lower back pain from a sheered pin in my lumbar fusion. I’ve learned how to move about my daily life safely when doing chores. My reflexes have improved. He taught me how NOT to fall. I only use a chair for showering for safety and use no other aids in my daily life. I haven’t passed out or fallen except for once pulling backwards on a stubborn weed that suddenly gave way. I can finally dance with my husband again! Dancing is how we met and fell in love. It’s a huge part of our life story.

What are some behavioral wins you’ve adjusted, implemented or gained since starting?

I no longer eat out of boredom, I enjoy moving, I enjoy and crave a good workout. I used to be all or nothing, “if it wasn't perfect, there was no need in doing it”. I no longer strive for perfection, if I miss a workout, I go for a walk, watch and do yoga in my living room, or find some way of getting a workout in.

My husband says on those gym days, I’m in a really good mood at home. Honestly, I had often dreaded going to the gym. I look forward to every day that I’m scheduled with my Coach. He’s encouraged me to eat healthy so that it’s my new lifestyle and not a diet. I’m 5’7” and weighed 195lbs. I’m already 50lbs lighter but I’ve lost a total of 75 lbs. since my heaviest weight! I workout at least 3 times a week, perform tasks for my family every day, and find that there isn’t much I can’t do. I feel independent, no longer needing my family to care for me. I went on the advice of my coach and have changed the shoes I wear to “barefoot” style. The coaches encourage all their patrons to workout barefoot. I simply cannot do that yet due to my severely misshapen right foot. However, my new shoes are close. I have discovered the utility in their approach with great benefit. All my life, I had been wearing the wrong shoes to exercise! At home, I wear my new shoes on very active days and avoid any style of shoe that is not as close to barefoot as possible. This past weekend, I climbed stairs with my husband for 40 minutes as a weekend workout.

Do you believe that Behemoth has been fundamentally different than any other gym experience you’ve ever had? If so, can you share how you believe we’re different?

I never would have imagined a gym could be as much as Behemoth Gym. I joke that the name should be the Behemoth University as I have learned so much about living life in a way that I thought was not possible. In my professional life I abide by not reinventing the wheel. I have invested 20 plus years into my career including books, work experience, educational classes etc. My coach has invested his life into his health and wellness career as well and shares his knowledge and experience with me through our weekly coaching sessions.

I’ve only ever experienced the typical unisex, commercial gym. The layout is exercise equipment on one side, free weights on the other and group fitness classes and maybe a heated pool with saunas. Most provide personal trainer services. I had an evaluation with a young, fit trainer 4 years ago. During it he had me lift a kettle bell with my right hand from my side to 90 degrees. I tore an abdominal hernia that had to be repaired surgically because my intestine kept slipping out of it. I decided I was probably done with personal training. They cater to the sensibilities providing dressing rooms with showers and all the bathroom amenities. Water fountains, towels, cold drink machines, nurseries and juice bars are the usual comforts. My most recent gym experience was at a place that has multiple pools and a splash pad for kids, including recreational water slides. It also has a snack bar, coffee bar, plush seating area with a TV and alcoholic drink bar. Still, I heard so many people complain about the services. It always felt impersonable and that you were on your own to build a fitness routine. I gravitated to the group fitness classes. At least there was an instructor! Behemoth, on the other hand, is no fills. It’s one large space with well thought out design to accommodate group classes and personal training. Its clean and safe. It's all about the business of giving an immersive workout experience where you are watched over, guided and encouraged. They provide motivational music as requested and basic bathrooms with one changing area. Based on my previous experience with the personal trainer, I was very dubious about it this time. Aryan won me over. Since I was referred by my sister, the crossfitter, (whom I love very much), I really wasn’t certain if this was the right fit for me. I believed I might be walking into something I really couldn’t handle. What I found is that it wasn’t crossfit, it was “getfit” and we will help you. You won’t find a bunch of bodybuilding, extreme workout sessions focusing on your PB. Although, folks are encouraged to be their best wherever they are at. To my surprise, many of them are just regular people in various stages of fitness. Most are older and starting from the beginning or over. You cannot just walk in and join. A group of coaches evaluates you and decides IF and where you can start. It’s a must at Behemoth. Your personal health and safety are number one.

Think about the person in your exact position before you began here, what is advice you would give them to make the leap?

I am of the opinion that God has to grab us every once in a while and shake off the chains of our preconceived biases that we carry. Our health is an investment, not an expense. We will readily invest our time, money, and energy into things that do not give us much in return. Investing in your health is an investment but with measurably greater returns. If you don't have your health, then what do you have?

JUST TRY IT! Consider yourself blessed to have this gym. If you are facing life- threatening conditions and feel like you can barely walk due to extended illnesses, what have you got to lose? For sure, your life shortly. What is your life worth? It’s invaluable. Make the investment to save it. Trust their process and follow their advice, especially in the beginning when you aren’t sure about what they exactly have determined that you need.

Behemoth Mad Lib

1. What do you do for work?

***Jeff is in Blue***
I manage a team in medical sales and consulting specialists. I work with disabled people in providing assistive technology that allows them to achieve more independence throughout their daily life.

***Roxanne is in Red***
I am the CEO of the McDaniel household. I had to retire from my professional career as a clinical microbiologist. Obviously, someone with a deficient immune system shouldn’t work with infectious agents and avoid personal contact with the ill, commonly present in crowds. Now I have the privilege of finally working on keeping my home and taking care of my family. I get to work on my fitness and health like never before. I also set my own schedule mostly, except for doctor visits.

2. Do you have family? Spouse/partner? Kids? What do you love and enjoy most about them?

I have a wife and 2 children, my youngest of my 2 boys (Garrett) is with God, we lost him 5 years ago. I love our shared values, our love for each other and our family, and the knowledge that there is nothing I wouldn't do for them.

I have a husband of 30 years and birthed 2 sons. Both of my sons inherited a potentially lethal heart arrythmia from their father. Both were diagnosed with Aspergers (high-functioning autism) at an early age. My oldest is 29yo, living at home and going to a professional medical college. My youngest is 21yo forever in heaven, having passed from a lethal heart arrythmia episode. All the struggles and heartbreak aside, I believe my kids taught me invaluable lessons about patience and persistence driven by pure love. The same love our Father in Heaven has for us, never failing. My husband has practiced the same for us unselfishly. I so respect and admire him. It hasn’t been easy for us and expect that won’t change. However, we are a family that hasn’t been broken. We live very close to and regularly see Jeff’s extended family. We’re like a clan. Although I have only 1 sister, I have a huge extended family on both of parent’s sides, many cousins I grew up with as best friends forever.

3. What do you do for work? What do you enjoy most about it?

Im a very compassionate and sympathetic person. Helping others is my passion.

I truly enjoy being a homemaker now. I enjoy all my family’s company and how they celebrate everything and everyone!

4. Something you should know about me is?

My fitness was so poor that the little things in life were difficult. I love the fact that I can jump out of my chair without difficulty. Walking up a flight of stairs or simply bending down to pick something off of the floor is no longer even a thought.

I am woefully uncoordinated. I’m ungraceful. I didn’t play team sports, really no hand-eye coordination or agility. I’m sure Aryan is astonished by it. However, I can dance. I guess I need music! I excelled at academics and drama. I discovered in my mid-30s that I could do reasonably well in solo activities, like personal exercise, doing a half-tri and 100-mile bike ride.

5. My favorite active thing that my fitness has afforded me is?

My fitness was so poor that the little things in life were difficult. I love the fact that I can jump out of my chair without difficulty. Walking up a flight of stairs or simply bending down to pick something off of the floor is no longer even a thought.


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