“How I came to CNY”

by David Cruz

Today I want to talk about what brought me to Syracuse New York. First of all, I want to talk a little bit about myself and my background. My name is David Cruz. I am a personal trainer, group instructor, strength and conditioning coach & said instructor. I’ve been part of the fitness industry for almost 13 years now and it’s my absolute love and passion to be a part of people’s lives and their journey as well as being in charge of their health and fitness goals.

I had to word it like that because one of my strengths is working with individuals and helping to create change from the inside out. I do this under the umbrella of health of statements and exercise but it has to be a lot more deeper than that for us to reach or come close to the goals that we have set before us.

So what brought me to Syracuse New York..? Before I get into that, I’m going to talk about my very first client. The person who I consider my very first client is one of the most strongest, stubborn, beautiful, unbelievably dedicated individuals I’ve been blessed to have work with. Her name was Carmen. I’m going to give you the short version of her background.

Carmen was born in Puerto Rico where she was raised by her aunt Chére. She bounced back-and-forth to Manhattan (Spanish Harlem) New York City to visit her dad who had moved out of Puerto Rico for work. She grew up on what I considered a normal Puerto Rican diet which consist of rice, beans, chicken, some vegetables and so on. If you’ve ever eaten in a Puerto Ricans’ home or have been to Puerto Rico, you know what I’m talking about a standardized carb, grease filled diet, high in sodium most of the time, not what would be considered in nowadays as 100% healthy.

On top of that she had a body type that was very similar to mine which is: Endomorph: Big, high body fat, often pear-shaped, with a high tendency to store body fat. So between the genes that she was dealt with and poor diet, she was always on the heavier side as was I, growing up. So fast forward into her teenage years, she picked up smoking cigarettes along with just the lifestyle that comes with being a teenager into her college years. You can just imagine that as she got older, things gotten slightly worse. She attended Columbia University in New York City for business before moving back to Puerto Rico, getting married and having kids; 4 boys to be exact.

Things with her husband did not work out. She ended up leaving him and moving back to New York City, the Bronx to be exact. So now a single mother raising 4 boys full of this testosterone, you can see how the stress levels on top of everything else could have risen. Around this time in her life she had packed on a few more pounds due to stress and lifestyle and before anybody knew, she found herself getting sicker and sicker as time went on. At first no one ever thought anything of it. She became incredibly fatigued and in a lot of pain on her lower back, neck, shoulders and fingers. With that came a more sedentary lifestyle which put her on bed rest for a good majority of the time and also led to more weight gain, before we knew it she was close to the 300 pound. Even though it happen little by little but no one really Noticed it as much until she was having hard time breathing and sleeping. She was developing sleep apnea along with diabetes.

To her and everyone around her it just seem like it was just a weight issue. Lose the weight, get the energy back so on and so forth and problem solve right? Wrong!. In order for her to get up in be active, she would’ve needed more energy and it just seem like she was hit with a really nasty spell or something. It got to the point where it hurt for her to even get up and use the bathroom. No one had any clue what was going on. At first it seemed like it was a motivational issue. Even considered being lazy at times, not even considering that there could be a bigger issue lying underneath it all.

OK, let’s fast-forward a little bit. At this time in her life, she still a single mother, taking care of at this time 3-boys before the fourth one came along, and living in Bronx New York City. Her three boys starting to run wild and be a bit out of control with no positive male role model available to correct this behavior. The boys began adapting to their not-so positive environment. She was not going to let the streets of New York City raise her children, so she decided to pack up and move away to start a new life. She had a really good friend of hers who always spoke of this beautiful state that she would vacation to. I’m talking about the state of Maine. Her friend finally talked her into going up there for a short mini vacation to check it out and Carmen completely fell in love with it. The lifestyle was something that she felt would not only benefit her but also benefit her boys as well- and get them away from the streets of New York City. So she packed up her family, she moved and new beginnings begin.

I wish that at this point I could tell you that they lived happily ever after. Unfortunately, that was not the case. Carmen moving out of state did not solve her health issues and on top of that her boys by this time were full-blown teenagers with the New York City mentality living in the suburbs running absolutely wild. You could imagine how on top of her health issues her lifestyle coming to halt in the stresses that life gives you as a single parent just added to her situation. Having countless doctor visits to try to see what was the underlining issue on top of just being overweight. The doctors never gave her a straight answer- at first they told her it was a thyroid issue, then that was cleared, then they just landed on the easy target of that “you’re just to over weight”, you have to lose weight and all your Heath problems will disappear.

So little by little she started chipping away at it, just being more active by going for small walks, moving around a lot more and just tackling her day-to-day activities. Although she always complained of being extremely exhausted even though she feels that she was barely walking as much as she used to and being in excruciating pain throughout her body. When she began to be more active and she felt like she was in more pain, she expressed this to her doctors and they gave her pain medication and bed rest. She always had a funny feeling that they never really knew what was going on. They just saw the obvious and kept it at that. Slowly but surely, she began to develop a hole like ulcer in her left leg. It was really weird, I don’t remember exactly when we first noticed it, it started off looking like a rash and it spread like wild fire eventually getting from the size of a dime to the size of a half dollar and becoming about a half inch thick full-blown “deep hole” which caught an incredible infection.

She took this to the doctors and they gave her antibiotics, more and more and more pain medication and told her to wrap it up so 90% of the time it was always wrapped with some sort of ointment on it which in my opinion only made it worse. They blamed the lack of healing to her diabetes, and while all of this is going, all of the attention is on her leg and the fear of amputation if the infection continues to spread – her weight continue to rise and rise. In the mist of all the confusion and the worry about her leg, she ended up going for a normal physical and was informed that her weight had escalated till almost 500 pounds. At that massive weight along with sleep apnea and all her other physical conditions, she had no choice but to get a tracheotomy. This was an incredibly difficult time in her and her family’s life. No one around us ever had anything like that, to get a hole in your throat – we just didn’t see how that would help, it seem like it was worse. I can see now that tracheotomy because of her massive weight actually saved her life in the way or allowed her to continue to fight.

Now with that new procedure in her throat, her leg being out of commission and adding a respirator to the mix which did her breathing for her at night, it just seems like Carmen was ready to throw in the towel. But I’m here to tell you that she was not about to quit… She continued to get up every morning and just sit up and do something; whether it’s to kick her legs, stretched her arms or just move anyway she could. By this time she was living in her one bedroom apartment where her kids frequently visited her, they live right by each other less than five minutes apart so everybody continued chipping in and helping out with meals in anyway they could, anyway they knew how to.

Finally around this time I was graduating Personal Training School in Boston and going into the fitness field professionally, so I took her on. Although I knew Carmen- in order for me to take her on professionally I had to literally separate the two, so when I’m working with her as her Trainer, I am just that! It’s all serious, I am in charge of her fitness, her health, her nutrition and anything that comes along with that and any other relationship that we have had take the back burner during that time. I was fresh out of school, I was hungry and it was contagious. Finally I got her excited and she just listened to everything that I had to say. She really practiced every advice that I gave her and she was ready to move forward. Although we had many obstacles, we were ready to move on and conquer this. Instead of going over there sporadically or just as pleasure, I ended up setting up a specific appointments for when I would be over there to work out, that’s it. Then we would get her, me already and so on and so forth this had a great impact the first year.

Slowly but shortly the weight was coming off and more importantly she just seemed more alive and more vibrant. She was moving more and being involved in all aspects of life, the way it should be. Unfortunately while all this is going on she was still wheelchair-bound because her leg the infection continue to get worse we didn’t know what it was, no one did – not even the doctors. We had got a call one day where they had the miracle fix it was called Maggot therapy where they would insert maggots in her wound (leg) and monitor her and the maggots were supposed to eat the infection. She agreed/ we all did. This seemed very effective at first like everything did, but although the infection on top of her leg was being eaten underneath it didn’t seem to be getting any better. The hole was not shrinking and she continued to just be in excruciating pain, (even with all the pain meds). But we continue with our plans, we continue to workout, she continued to chip away at her weight, some days were better than others, sometimes her energy just decreased and was extremely low so we did what we could. After that first year it seemed like energy was really coming to a crash no one really knew what it was, we were on a good streak the weight was coming down, she was more alive and present but although it didn’t stop it, it definitely slow down some. I noticed this and I just didn’t know what to do.

All of the sudden a disaster disguised as a miracle in my opinion struck! Something in her building where she was living, a pipe of some sort had burst. Because she was on the first floor ended up flooding her apartment she was forced to move out for a few weeks they said. They gave her the option for a hotel or they asked if there was anywhere else that she could go, I spoke to my fiancé Dessa and immediately jumped on the opportunity to bring her in my home where I would have 24 hour complete care of her.  Now mind you at this time, I was working as a personal trainer and group instructor at a big box Fitness facility called World Gym. So my idea was that now I can take care of her before work, go to work and then come out and take care of her after- not just make attempts to go and catch her at the perfect time I would be in charge completely of her lifestyle. To be honest with you, I just wanted to be more involved. I didn’t know what the issue was. I’ve always felt like if you just move, break a sweat and have a vision, you work for it-then you will get it! it’s that simple… unfortunately I was very naïve to think that for everyone it’s that easy.

For more information on: David Cruz c/o Golds Gym Dewitt or check out his YouTube channel: David Cruz | Workout Instagram: cruztraining Facebook or call at (207) 409-5555