As a young, eight-year-old boy, I can remember Christmas Eve, lying in bed and praying to God to just take me. Since I'm asthmatic, suffering an asthma attack and not being able to breathe is something I didn't want to live with.
My Struggle with Asthma
I was a skinny, pale kid with dark circles under my eyes and not a picture of health. The only relief from an asthma attack was a trip to the hospital and a shot of adrenaline. In the late 1950s, we didn't have inhalators or other medications for asthma. My only option was getting two weekly allergy shots.
As I went through my school years, several times, we were required to write a class paper about a topic of our choosing. I would always do my class paper on asthma to learn about the most recent research and studies on any new medication or prevention of this terrible condition.
Fast forward seven years to my first year in High School, I found myself as a starting linebacker and backup fullback for our football team. At 5 '11 and 150 pounds, I was getting beat up every Friday night.
As the quickest player on the team, and playing fullback, I had a 65-yard run and sprinted through the defense on my way for a touchdown when asthma took over, and then a defender was able to catch me just before the goal line. This event changed my life forever.
I Had to Do Something
When the football season ended, I was more determined than ever to find a solution to my getting pummeled every football game. I needed to get bigger and stronger. However, in those days, gyms and fitness centers were hard to find. The only gym in the area was fifteen miles away, called the Gentleman's Gym, which was a cross between a boxing and weight gym.
Starting a little intimidated by being in this gym with bodybuilders, I quickly found a way to build my lung capacity and gain weight. When track season came around that Spring, I was 185 pounds, and my body had totally transformed and ended the track season with several prs. Mission Accomplished…up to that point.
My focus on becoming bigger, stronger, and faster led me to contact Leo Stern, the top bodybuilding coach in America. Leo was the coach for Bill Pearl, the 5-time Mr. Universe.
Leo agreed to write training workouts to help improve my lung capacity along with full-body workouts. I paid him $20.00 every 6 weeks for my workout program. Today this would be the equivalent of $195.00. I did these workouts three times a week, and they were 3 hours long.
The following summer, I went to California, stayed with my Uncle, and trained in a gym that bodybuilders trained at. This was BEFORE Arnold Schwarzenegger's days of bodybuilding fame.
Turning Adversity Into Opportunity
For all the pain and misery that asthma brought into my life, asthma was becoming a blessing. The challenges presented to me at a young age turned into a never-ending drive to get healthier and a never-ending pursuit of advanced human performance.
Where did that yearning and curiosity take me from there? Well, it led to a Division I scholarship in collegiate football and the passion for competing - in everything.
I learned how to fly (airplanes) and also became a flight instructor. I raced Formula One outboards, tunnel boats, super stock class, and flat-bottom inboards. Yes, I liked speed, and the boats I raced were capable of speeds around 100 mph.
I can admit to a botched high-altitude takeoff where I had to land my plane in a grass field and flipped a race boat going 100 mph. After going through the bottom of the boat, I came away with a broken leg, and my plane had scratches. Unbelievable, isn't it?
It’s Time to Push the Limits
That tells you a little about my personality and my love for pushing the limits. My passion for strength training led me to open the first 3 Nautilus fitness centers in Arizona, from 1977 to 1982. Nautilus was state of the art in fitness equipment back then, and when college football teams came to Arizona for the Fiesta Bowl, they would use our gyms for training. I also opened the first aerobics studios in AZ, styled after the "Jane Fonda" craze.
One of my bigger goals was to become an Olympic bobsledder from the Arizona desert. This journey began at the Winter Olympic Games in 1976 in Innsbruck, Austria. While walking the bob run during the first run of the two-man competition, I stopped by one of the curves for a closer look. The man beside me spoke English on a 2-way radio, "Providence."
He was John Fell, head of the US Bobsled Federation. I told him I would like an opportunity for a tryout. With my background in Division I football, being a flight instructor, and driving race boats at over 100 mph, I might be a good fit.
John Fell said the International Bobsleigh Federation was going to conduct the first bobsled driver training school in Innsbruck in November. He sent me a list of the physical fitness tests I needed to complete and had them signed by a track coach. A few months later, I was one of four US athletes who were selected.
That was the good news. The bad news was that I had to pay for all my travel costs to Innsbruck, Austria.
My training in Innsbruck was great. The first two trips down the run were pure panic, and I crashed both times. I was approached by a Romanian Olympic bobsled driver who didn't speak English and wanted my American jeans.
So, we walked down the bobrun and he marked the ice to show me where to enter each curve and exit each curve for the full length of the run. At the end of the run, he got my jeans, and I got an old pair of warm-up pants. American jeans were priceless in Europe at that time, and I had just paid for my first bobsled lesson. Not a bad deal at all.
At the end of 10 days of training, we had a race of 32 teams. We finished second, and later that winter, after the North American Championships, I once again finished second and was named Rookie Driver of the Year. During my bobsled career, I was selected for two National US Teams.
After my first year of international competition, I learned that the start, the first 50 meters, was very important and the need for speed was crucial. I started to change the sport in the US by recruiting Olympic and All American Track & Field athletes; Herman Frazer, Lee Evans, John Lenstrohm, Charlie Wells, and decathletes Pete Moosbrugger and Mike Cox.
Our team was the first US Bobsled Team to include black athletes and opened the door for others like Herschel Walker. I barely missed the 1980 Olympics after a crash at the US Olympic trials that injured my 4-man team. That crash was on NBC National TV, later that night.
My bobsled career opened many opportunities for me. Jesse Owens, the greatest and most famous athlete in track and field history", was a blessing to my team. He helped us raise money for sleds and travel. Jesse had the German Olympic Committee help us with cars, housing, and the use and training time on German bob runs.
During this time, I was also the President of the Arizona AAU, and we were the first US bobsledders invited to train and compete in DDR, East Germany, along with 16 other national teams. This was the most difficult training run in the world at that time.
Putting My Health Front and Center
After my competition days were over, I was dealing with joint pain. Racking up multiple bobsled crashes, a bad race boat crash, and football injuries, may have had something to do with this. By studying about what I could do to live a longer, healthier life took greater focus, as did a way to relieve my own muscle and joint pain.
I attended conventions about nutrition, and one of the speakers was Lester Packer, Ph.D.. He is considered the father of free radical research. His passion was on oxidative stress, one of the leading causes of most degenerative diseases, and how antioxidants can help neutralize free radical damage. Dr. Ken Cooper, the man who started aerobic exercise, wrote a book called the "Antioxidant Revolution," which outlined an antioxidant prevention program. These experts inspired me to seek better health.
In the late 90s, I started to build premium, highly bioavailable nutrition products for the European medical community and called the company, Euronutrition. The medical conventions I would attend in Germany had doctors asking basic questions like, "What are Phytochemicals?" "What are Catechins?"
Dr. Michaela Doll, who was the head of nutrition at a major university in Germany, became very interested in how we were building our formulas and asked if she could write books on them. She did write several books about our products covering joint pain, antioxidants, inflammation, pH balance, and other topics and many became bestsellers.
The Birth of Xendurance
While researching the body's pH balance, my curiosity about reducing lactic acid came along. I was (and still am) a competitor at heart. If you can reduce inflammation in an athlete, that is a good thing. If you can increase their performance by buffering lactic acid and muscle damage safely and naturally, that is a game changer not only
for athletes but for all of us who want to live a long and healthy life. And that is what happened with Extreme Endurance.
With the help of Juergen Sessner, a clinician and trainer, who had done over 7,000 stress tests on athletes at that time, he became our third-party tester on our product, Extreme Endurance, for our US company Xendurance. The results of this first published clinical study showed an unbelievable reduction of lactic acid and a huge increase in aerobic threshold.
But we didn't stop there. Xendurance has done over thirteen clinical studies on Extreme Endurance since 2008 and has helped thousands of athletes in almost every sport reach the podium. The studies and usage of Extreme Endurance have also exposed many more wellness benefits of this fantastic formula. I genuinely wish I had it back when I was competing for improved human performance, health, and longevity.
The skinny kid with asthma who wanted to die on that Christmas Eve now realizes how priceless health is to fulfill one's life passions. Overall wellness and the drive to achieve this should be one of the most important missions we have and that is to "Fuel What Matters!"
“Adversity has the effect of eliciting talents, which in prosperous circumstances would have lain dormant.” - Horace