Donovan Lewis had never, as in never, worked out. "Not one weight lifted," said the Dallas radio co-host with Norm Hitzges on The Ticket.
"I used to laugh at people who worked out," said Lewis, 46.
His jump-start to fitness unassumingly began four years ago. At a station event called Ticketstock, photographs of the on-air personalities were hanging from the ceiling. Recalls Lewis, "A stranger walked up to me, asked me was that me on the picture. She said, 'You're fat!' "
He's been in the public eye for years, so he tends to take most negative comments in stride. But this one stuck with him for several weeks. He asked Mike Sirois, his show's producer, what he was doing to get in shape. Going to the Alpha Project gym, Sirois told him. So Lewis went. He remembers that first class like it was yesterday.
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"The main thing we did was get on the exercise bike called the Airdyne," Lewis said. "That's the one with the big fan that works your arms at the same time. I had to jump off of that thing and sit outside. It was the first Monday in February and it was cold, but I was about to lose it. The instructor told me that he had never seen a black person turn gray. I was gray! He didn't think I was coming back after that."
But Lewis did go back and hasn't stopped. On a recent Wednesday after his and Hitzges' radio show, he's at the small, hard-core gym. His photograph hangs on the wall with other gym members, their position depending on how many points they've earned through eight workouts.
Each part of the HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workout is timed. Part of today's for instance, consists of Bulgarian squats, then rest; bench press, then rest. Many exercises are done to failure, meaning there's no way you can physically do another rep. Class continues with rounds of chest presses for 40 seconds, rest for 20; air jumps 40 seconds, rest for 20; reverse crunches, 40 seconds; rest for 20. A few seconds before the final set ends, Lewis stops. His mat is drenched with sweat.
Glenn leads the four classmates outside. It's time to push the sled, a heavy-duty piece of equipment that's obviously not gliding on snow.
"The sled is ridiculous," Donovan says when class finally ends. "The first time I pushed it, I had to lie on the bathroom floor because it was the coolest place in the gym."
But he kept coming back, kept adding healthy foods to his diet, kept gaining momentum. "I didn't want to give up," he says.
Typical week of workouts: Three times a week, usually Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I work out at the Alpha Project.
If I had just 20 minutes to work out, I would: Do some cardio and probably work on abs and arms. I could fit that all in 20 minutes, right?
What gets in the way of my exercise? Sleep and golf. I love both equally.
Proudest fitness moment: My goal when I first started was to get under 180 pounds. I started at 215. When I saw 179 on the scale, I pretty much went crazy!
Fitness goals: To add a little muscle while maintaining my weight between 185 and 190.
Fitness mentor: Rob Lord.
How being fit makes me feel – physically and mentally: I can remember when I first started, and for the first month or two I was sore all the time. Now I feel bad when I miss some time at the gym. It gives me a feeling of accomplishment, fulfillment and pride knowing how I was when I started to where I am now.
Three things you'll always find in my refrigerator: Protein drinks (Premier Protein chocolate is my favorite), frozen fruit for smoothies, and mustard. I put mustard on pretty much everything (except the smoothies).
Favorite healthy food: Salmon.
Favorite indulgence: Pizza and doughnuts.
What I should do more of, health-wise: Eat better more consistently, knowing nutrition is 80 percent of staying fit. I go through cycles.
What I should do less of: No matter how long you work out, your brain sometimes can talk your body out of doing something that will help you along your path. I should doubt myself less than I do. Going into a particular exercise thinking it's gonna suck will slow down the process.
What I'd tell people who want to follow my routine: I'd tell them that if I can do it and have success, then anyone can. I had zero experience in a gym. There was no way I would step into a gym by myself and have success. Tracy Glenn, owner of the Alpha Project, and all the trainers up there are dedicated and knowledgeable about everything they present. Everyone who has worked out up there has had success. It's fun and never dull. The classes are small, so you get special attention to correct your mistakes and get the most out of your workout. It puts you in a situation to succeed, and that's all you can ask for.
What my workout says about me: That I take pride in my health and my well-being. I never thought I would have the discipline to continue on a workout program like this, but everyone complimenting me about my progress and appearance is pretty cool. It's been a change in my lifestyle, so I can see myself continuing this for the foreseeable future ... and I couldn't be happier!