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I've always loved sports, and as a young boy, I found it thrilling to be part of a team, working toward a common goal. I played baseball, football and basketball. I also studied Shotokan Karate and enjoyed the individual effort the sport required. Karate instilled in me a discipline that I continue in my adult life. It required a great deal of focus, control, coordination, confidence and self-discipline. These qualities have proved invaluable in my lifelong quest to achieve a fit, symmetrical physique through weight training and adherence to a strict diet.

I was a skinny kid. But, fortunately for me, my dad was into weight training, having started when he was young, even though weight training was almost unheard of back then. My dad outlined my first workout routine (which I still have). It was very basic, but I followed it closely, working out in the garage on my dad's weight set. My training has evolved so much since then, but I'm grateful for that first routine and that early, valuable guidance

I became an avid reader of Muscle & Fitness and Flex magazines. Those journals introduced me to other ways of training and to the importance of diet and nutrition. I was inspired and wanted to learn more. My two good friends and high school buddies had also become hugely interested in fitness, so we started a high school fitness club. I think I knew then that health and fitness would largely remain a constant in my life

One of my first jobs as a teenager was at Renaissance Health & Fitness Center, where I was inspired even more and became dedicated to body building. I didn’t have much of a social life back then. All I wanted to do was train, which lead me to begin entering body-building competitions. My first was at the gym where I worked. It was the Mr. Renaissance contest. I was 15 years old, and I’m quite sure I came in last place.

Even so, my commitment never wavered, and over the next few years my hard worked paid off. I went on to place high and win several other contests, qualifying for the national stage. In 1997, I was second runner-up in the Teenage Nationals.

As the years passed, I pursued other interest, opening several businesses—many of which were not successful, but I was persistent and gained a tremendous amount of experience. Sadly, exercise and nutrition began to take a backseat. My entrepreneurial quest had me traveling quite a bit from my hometown, Houma, La., and across southeast Louisiana, as well as to Houston, Los Angeles and Atlanta. I excelled financially, but I had lost focus on my health and had let myself go. At one point, I was unfit and in terrible shape: 236 pounds with high blood pressure.

It didn't help my situation that life threw me an even bigger curveball and I landed in a federal correctional facility. For better or for worse, though, that was the turning point.

While there, I dedicated myself to getting back into shape and in the process discovered an aptitude for teaching others. It was a good feeling to coach numerous guys with serious injuries and help them find an exercise routine that worked within their physical limitations. Under such circumstances, I was forced to think outside of the box to develop a flexible routine that worked within the constraints of the environment. With no real gym, but plenty of time to exercise, I created nontraditional, energetic muscle-building and fat-burning workouts. They were much different than the workouts I had done in the past, yet they produced incredible results.

Today, at 48, I’m in the best shape of my life and feel better than I ever have. I’m based in Houma once again, and, coincidentally, training at the very same gym where I first established my roots in the fitness community.