Fitness Quest: The Benefits of Becoming A Fitness Fanatic

One of the blessings of constantly searching the internet for workout ideas, plans, diets, etc. is that you run across postings by interesting and often inspiring people (we’ll ignore the dull and uninspiring for now who seem to be much, much more prevalent). One person I found is Davy Barnes, a business owner by day and an aspiring fitness model/bodybuilder pretty much the rest of the time. He posted something a few weeks ago that I think sums up why so many first picked up a weight and become addicted to it. Though I imagine this is true of runners and pretty much any other dedicated athlete I chose a bodybuilder because I like to pretend I’m one whenever I’m lifting weights. He has, of course, given me permission to share this with you.

In his words…

“I remember when I used to consume toaster strudels, Mountain Dews, Chips, energy drinks, etc. every day. I was nothing bu skin and bones and couldn’t have been healthy. I hated that and finally one day I decided that was going to change. I have worked HARD for six years. A lot of people just see the results, but don’t see the endless hours at work, in the gym or in the kitchen…I don’t think a lot of people understand. To me Bodybuilding or Fitness is not only about your physique or how you look in the mirror, although that is a great reward; it is a way of developing a connection between your body and mind! It’s a way of building a stronger character and persona!

It must not be a selfish, self-centered activity but rather a tool to build confidence and strength to go through life. It can help motivate and lift those up around you who are maybe overweight, depressed, sad and looking to change to a healthier lifestyle. Many people confuse bodybuilding with only lifting weights, drinking protein shakes, juicing [steroids], flexing in photos or for girls but I look at it as a much broader experience! For me it is a continuous process of self-betterment in and outside the gym! Because of bodybuilding I am able to be more successful at other aspects of life; I am more disciplined, organized and focused at achieving my goals. I’m not lazy and I learned the most valuable principle-hard work always pays off!

Because of bodybuilding I can reach thousands of people all around the world to deliver my message, inspire and motivate to live a fuller, healthier and exciting life, to chase after goals and dreams and most importantly, be a witness to others. Even the Bible has verses stating to take care of our bodies and to eat healthy. Besides that, with all of the unhealthy food choices and diseases now days, it motivates me to eat even more clean every day! As hard as it is, I try not to be the guy who puts down anyone who may be unhealthy or overweight because, hey, at the end of the day we are all in this together!” 

Now, Davy is very good at what he has been doing and dedicated (see the picture I’ve included for evidence of this) and he’s gaining recognition and followers on social media and from what I can see, his message has remained unchanged. I like that.

He has chosen bodybuilding as his method of relating and dealing with the world and I think that anyone who looks to improve themselves could do much worse than begin a regular program of exercise – even if you choose not to build a Mr. Olympia worthy physique, you’ll end up stronger and healthier for the effort. I think this is true of any physical pursuit whether it be weight lifting, running, yoga, or whatever. As long as you focus, are patient, and stick with it you’ll develop not only your physical toughness but your mental toughness as well (presuming you avoid drugs, etc.).  You’ll be able to endure during difficult times, set goals, push your limits and continue long after others have given up.

And these are traits that can carry you through most any other part of your life as well, personal or professional.


Davy Barnes Progression

Starting upper left and then going clockwise, Davy Barnes in 2007 (when he first took up weights), 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015. Patience, perseverance, and hard work paid off for him. You can find more about him on Facebook @davybarnesbodybuilding (aka Davy Muscle) and Instagram @davyb2333


No Short Cuts

In one of the Facebook groups I participate in we’ve been discussing some different body weight exercises and different types of exercise equipment over the years and it occurs to me that we, as humans, are always looking for that “quick fix” to get healthy. We are always searching for the magic exercise or that one piece of equipment that will do the trick and finally let us reach our goals.

Don’t believe me? Just turn on the television early any given morning and you’ll find ads for “Total Gym” this, “Body Blast” that, “PX-99” or whatever number they are up to now. In the past i remember ab rollers, rockers, and slides. Thigh masters and belly busters, and more gimmicks and gadgets than I can remember!

And even for the more serious lifters there have been “gimmicks” and fads too. Remember the first Universal machine? Nautilus equipment (state of the art in the eighties)? What about Soloflex, Bowflex, and I don’t know what other flex? Bullworker? These were (and are) all variations of the same principle. Lift heavier weights (aka increase resistance) and you will get stronger. Whether it’s from lifting iron and lead or carbon rods and rubber bands resistance is the key.

Even with plain old body weight exercises we have fads: crossfit (which does include weights I believe), planking, aerobics, Zumba, dance aerobics, “yoba” (yoga and Zumba combined), etc.

Now, to be fair, I think that all these things probably did work to one degree or another. If the person who bought or tried them actually used them more than a few days. That’s the trick. It doesn’t matter so much what you do as long as you do it. The truth is that there is only one way to build a bigger (or smaller), better, and healthier you – you have to exercise more and eat less (or eat more if you’re bulking – but most of us don’t have a problem getting enough calories. Nutrients are another matter).

I’m actually a fan of a few of the items and workouts I’ve listed above (I enjoyed working out with Nautilus equipment and still use a variety of machines – especially when I don’t have a spotter). There’s nothing wrong in using something as long as you use it. But you need one other thing along with the device/gadget/gimmick/fad…patience.

And don’t get me started on supplements…


PS – I’ve posted a few pictures of my favorite workout fads below. I haven’t used them all, but know people who have!

Tricep Bar
Tricep Bar – I use one of these
Universal Machine
Universal Machine
Indian Club Training
Indian Clubs
Arm or Bicep Blaster

Profile in Crohn’s Courage: Peter K. Vaughan

Peter K Top Form 2011
Peter K Vaughan in his 2011, in what he considers his previous top shape. He plans to better this build!

Peter K out of hospital Jan 2012
Peter K Vaughan, just out of the hospital in January 2012. He weighs about 116 pounds here and still not his all time worst condition.

I have mentioned before that my case of Crohn’s is a mild one. Even though it doesn’t seem so to me late at night with my head over a toilet or when writhing on the floor of an airport waiting area, jaundiced and almost hoping for death to arrive (then realizing the awful truth – that it wasn’t coming. Yes, the pain can be that bad) others have had it much, much worse.

Over the years I have known and met others with Crohn’s who have been through much worse than I have and who have also accomplished much despite the illness. One of these people is a young man from Ireland (we met on – never in person) whose name is Peter K. Vaughan. Since I have first been in contact with Peter about five years ago his courage and perseverance has inspired me.  His Crohn’s is one of the worst cases I’ve heard of and it has effected his life in ways that I will never fully understand. His story, however, is also one of the most inspiring.

Like many of us, Peter had an early interest in bodybuilding and he first picked up weights when he found a set of dumbbells under the stairs in his uncle’s house. He immediately became hooked. However, life had other ideas and before he could start to realize his bodybuilding potential Peter was diagnosed with Crohn’s in 1998 at the age of 12.

Within just a couple years Crohn’s had attacked most of his digestive system, from mouth to anus, and he was in bad shape. His large intestine was removed, his small intestine was mostly removed and altered.  His kidneys came close to failure and blood loss was rampant. Plus, the joints in his knees and fingers locked up. So badly that at one point his fingers would curl up and his fingernails cut his own hands. He says that he had so many procedures over the years that he lost track of his operations and medications.

Things were so bad that by age 13 he was having thoughts of suicide. But then he made a different decision. He was not going to let his life be defined by Crohn’s he was going to fight and persevere!

And fight he had to do because Crohn’s was going to go the distance with him. Over the years he has had (in no particular order): ulcers, adhesions, blockages, cysts, fistulas, abscesses, strictures, kinks, tears, tags, pouchitis, and stomas. In addition to the crippling pain that Crohn’s would afflict him with he also suffered through thousands of needle punctures, IV therapies, blood transfusions, collapsed veins, feeding and draining tubes, osteopenia, cracked ribs and even a collapsed lung post surgery! He spent so much time in bed and his muscles atrophied so much that he had to learn to walk and run again. I’m not sure that I’ve even covered all the things that Peter had to endure.

But, somehow, he managed to finish school, and at 17 he was healthy enough to begin growing again eventually reaching a just above Irish average male adult height of 5’10” in his early twenties (many children with Crohn’s are “stunted” during puberty and Peter is shorter than his brothers who are all over six feet tall, but he is a little taller than his father. By the way, the latest figures I found online indicate that the current average male in Ireland is 5’9″ – but men born in the eighties as Peter was are closer to 5’8″) and in 2007 at the age of 20, tired of being known as the “skinny, sick kid” he started to lift weights to improve not only his under 120 pound body but his confidence.

The weights worked. In about two years he had built himself up to a healthy, and healthy looking, 160 pounds. He was able to pursue normal activities again, even traveling abroad. The gym, diet, and disease were no longer the center of his life and he was doing well until in 2010 the unthinkable happened. Crohn’s once again returned into Peter’s life.

He lost all the gains he made in the past several years and his weight plummeted back below 130 pounds. But the worst effect was the one on his mind and his attitude. As he said, “it ate into my mind. It took everything I had to not let it take hold over me all these years later.” In early 2011 a new treatment was tried and he began to recover. He knew what he needed to do: he went back to the gym and refocused on his nutrition. He recovered reaching new gains in size and strength. But Crohn’s was never far away and by the end of 2011 he was once again fading and his weight plummeted down to a frightening 114 pounds. Back to the hospital….and the cycle continued. Crohn’s would knock Peter down for another 15 months and but Peter just got back up again!

Today Peter is healthy again and eating – a lot. You have to eat the calories to put on the mass. He says that he no longer eats for taste, that it’s all about giving his body what it needs to heal and grow.

He now weighs a healthy 166 pounds, his heaviest ever, his strength continues to improve and, as he says, his biceps are back! He has also finished his college studies and his passion for fitness has led him to become personal trainer, with several certifications, and he has his own training company, PKV Personal Training (more information at:

His life has been difficult. His parents were twice told that he might not make it. He fears that more surgery is still in his future and just recently (January 2014) he was diagnosed as having Pineocytoma, a slow growing tumor of the pineal gland in the brain. It’s rate of growth is being monitored closely, of course, but he says “I’m fighting. I’ve seen enough around hospitals to know better. I’m still alive, and so long as I’m here I will do what I can to make the most of things. I’ve grown up fighting, you’d better believe I’m good at it!”

By now you may be wondering, where does a man who has gone through so much draw his inspiration? Well, remember when I told you about his thoughts of suicide at age 13? There’s more to that story. I’ll let Peter tell you in his own words:

“The suicide bit, that was an extremely difficult time, but there was one kid who in many ways, gave me everything I needed to never go there again and to this day I carry his picture. He was a child a lot younger than me at the time. I didn’t know what was wrong with him other than he was dying. He passed away in the bed next to mine one night, and his mother who had always been very nice to me, gave me his picture and asked me to remember him. From then on I never give out about what happens to me. I’m here, he’s not. What right do I have to be upset? He gives me strength to fight on day after day regardless how many times I fall down. He will never know how he has helped me shape my life into something better and I think of him and his mother regularly, even now 15 years on.”

Despite Crohn’s and new threats to his health I think that Peter’s future is bright and that he will achieve any goal he sets out to achieve.  And what does Peter want people to learn from his life? Again, I think he says it best:

“I want to inspire others with life illnesses, who go through years of fighting and refusing to step back and admit defeat. I will never beat my illness, I have it for life, but I will not be beaten by my illness, I will live my life my way.”

And you know what? I think he will.

Peter K Bicep Jan 2011
Peter’s happy that his biceps are back. Triceps, too!

Peter K body extremes
This picture shows the extremes his body has gone through. Note the unevenness of his abs from multiple surgeries.