Managing One’s Life and Bucket list through Physical Fitness

Michael Cronin

Michael Cronin

300 pounds, high school, girls, high blood pressure… These are the things that made me change from the sedentary, video gaming, junk food eating kid to who I am now. Who I should be and who I strive to continue to be. I was 300 pounds in high school and on the fast track to diabetes, heart disease and diagnosed high blood pressure. My doctor told me that I needed a change and my social life, mood, and physical limits confirmed it. I wanted to be a professional firefighter, but being diagnosed with high blood pressure would eliminate me from any type of hiring process I may go through to get on the job.

In addition to that, any physical test I would have to perform, I would surely fail. I was in the worst shape of my life, never again. Tim Ferris, Author of the 4-Hour Body calls it a Hirajoku Moment, the moment you need a change, an action, and you commit without looking back or reverting back, a life changing event. This was mine.

I went through a phase after high school and into college. I refer to this as my bulking years, and what I mean by this is that I did little to no cardio and only lifted weights, heavy weights, and took lots of supplements to make me big. The blood pressure didn’t drop very far when I changed my diet and began lifting weights with no cardiovascular fitness. My weight dropped from 300 pounds to 240 pounds, which is awesome in most people’s eyes but I was still unhealthy. My blood pressure was low enough, my cardiovascular fitness high enough and my strength good enough to take and do well on firefighter exams all over the Eastern seaboard.

I finally found my department in 2008, West Point, NY. Hysterically enough, I was born here, at the United States Military Academy and knew many of the men and women who worked there. I got on the job as a career firefighter at 217 pounds, lean and muscular, running occasionally with distances of 1-3 miles. Then I settled right back into it, I found the problem, I found the firehouse and the food we create. If anyone knows firefighters, they are amazing cooks. The meals are the most researched, planned and exciting part of the day. The moment when they can sit down, feel relaxed, take their stresses out on food, or just enjoy a conversation with 4-15 brothers who are doing everything in their power to make you and everyone else laugh at that exact moment. Then I gained 33 pounds, bringing me back to 240. I read the scale and it terrified me, not again, back to 225 I went and stayed for a long time.

The department was trying to be progressive and send firefighters to a fitness certification class for firefighters. The course was expensive, far away and long. Funding for a course like this was appropriated many times over to other needs. So, one of my Lieutenants, knowing me a fitness fanatic in the department who my peers always looked to for advice and support asked my interest in becoming a Personal Trainer. I decided to enroll at a local college, pay for it myself, and was given leave by my fire department to attend on the days I would be working. The official West Point FD Personal Trainer and the work didn’t stop at just becoming certified in that.

I then decided to begin training and racing in triathlons, first Sprint and now this year my first Ironman. I raced a 13 mile Tough Mudder Obstacle Course in November of 2010, competed in many other fitness events, became a Spinning Instructor, a Polar and Zensah Sponsored Athlete and a Firefighter-Fit Instructor. All this because I finally understood, grasped and practiced the art of physical fitness and mental health. Physiological and Psychological health go hand in hand as I now know.

I currently work 72 hours a week as a firefighter, part time as a personal trainer, Firefighter-Fit Instructor, bootcamp instructor, land navigation/orienteering instructor, and a Leadership Development Instructor for top CEO’s all over the world. I train anywhere from 1-6 hours a day currently with swimming, running, cycling or weight training. I am able to do this because of physical fitness and how it changed my life. I assist others now through my own experiences in their hirajoku moment, teach firefighters to eat right and stay fit, and constantly adapt my life to it all. It hasn’t been easy at all, but I can honestly say I am more energized and driven to do it all, and to take even more work on. I always make sure my recovery is just as important as my workout.

My Zensah Compression Sleeves, nutrient intake and my sleep are all vital to performance in my daily life and the races I train for. I hope people who read this are as inspired by what I have done and continue to do as I am with the people I encounter every day.