By Joe Whitcomb
For me, turning 40 hit me slow but hard, when the slow physical decline in health, diminishing returns of investment (time and money) in my workouts, and the age of optimal development passed me by — not to mention the psychological impact it has on a now middle-aged man just turned 48.
In my 20’s and mid 30’s I was a trained Air Force Para-rescuer, where a fit and conditioned body was required for the rigorous work demands. In my mid 30’s to 40’s, I transitioned my career to a relationship and couple psychologist and trauma specialist, which meant a lot of sedentary research and work. The long spiral downward began to chip away at a body and mind that was trained and conditioned to be at its peak.
Within 10 years my body was not responding to exercise the way it used to, just by going to the gym 3 days per week with little or no cardio. Over the last 5 years I had gone through a divorce, and developed a strained relationship with my 3 daughters due to my lack of energy and other physical maladies. I had gained 75 pounds (weighing in at 270 when I started Orangetheory Fitness in Santa Monica in March 2015). At this point my entire bio-system was non-responsive and shut down. After talking to my doctor and having a full panel of blood work done, I discovered that I was severely deficient in testosterone and vitamin D — with very high levels of estrogen, and the way my body was morphing, it looked like I was at risk of developing Cushing Syndrome (according to my doctor). Up until this point, pre-Orangetheory Fitness, I had also been treated for depression and anxiety brought on by sleep deprivation/sleep apnea because of the excessive fat and weight burdening and applying pressure to my neck and upper chest, and now hypertension/high blood pressure — something my older half brother died from 5 years prior at the young age of 55. I saw the same thing occurring in me.
As a psychologist, I work with ‘men in transition’ that are going through similar life challenges, ‘the heroes journey’, so I was interested in discovering a system that really worked — one that was based on hard science, and an evidence-based program with a high efficacy for real full body/cardio results. I needed help. I needed community support. I needed a tribe. I knew I couldn’t keep doing what I was doing, or in 10 years, I too, might end like my brother. Dead. But for me, I was already half-dead/half-alive.
My doctor placed me on a high protein/low carb diet and recommended ‘High Intensity Interval Training.’ I avoided cardio most of my middle age life because of knee damage: stress fractures from excessive running, and poundings from poor landings jumping from airplanes. From the years of military training and running and now sedentary work as a psychologist, hip damage and sacroiliac joint dysfunction had made movement and motion difficult. However, this half-dead/half-alive man was on a mission to find the best system that met my training, conditioning, health, and fitness needs.
By chance, I was walking out of yoga one day — and across the street I noticed a very attractive fitness center and walked in and talked to the owner, Jim, who had an infectious smile and showed me around. The center was 2 days away from opening. I told Jim, ‘I am a man on mission.’ I gave him my background story and what I was hoping to achieve, and I was convinced within minutes that I found my tribe. I found the cardio/bio-feedback and the Orangetheory formula to train my whole body to be exactly what I needed to keep me focused. I found the coaches to be warm, friendly, fun, and encouraging, yet have this ‘kick your ass’ challenging/growing edge I needed to re-boot my body back into shape… and they do it with a huge grin and smile. I fell in love with my Orangetheory Experience.
They had no fear to push and challenge me to my greatest ‘peak performance’ every time. The heart monitors also helped me know I could push myself further than I ever could. My father and brothers had several heart attacks at a young age, and although I was cleared with my doctor, I still feared pushing too hard when I started feeling dizzy or running short of breath. The coaches normalized what I was feeling so I could push harder out of what they call the Blue and Green Zones and into the Orange and Red Zones. Reducing my fears/anxiety around having a heart attack, by normalizing my felt experience with my body and the heart monitor feedback, changed up my entire workout. I feel amazing and can now actually keep up and push myself harder.
I have found my tribe and family in Orangetheory Fitness over the last 3 months, and what is more, I have lost 35 pounds, now weighing in at 235. I am more flexible, sleeping through the night as the sleep apnea symptoms have diminished, testosterone and estrogen levels are back to normal ranges, I lost a total of 12 inches, no longer have high blood pressure, and the other problems have disappeared. I feel and look amazing… with greater self assurance and confidence. I have introduced my 16-year-old daughter to the program, and she has now joined me on our father-daughter dates 1-2 times per week (see top photo!). Our relationship now is based on our health and fitness, and we encourage each other daily to eat and stay healthy.
Orangetheory offers real world, science/evidence-based fitness solutions to busy working professionals, and the most effective training hour, 4-5 days per week. Most important — I love my Orangetheory tribe.
Joe Whitcomb brings more than 20 years of relevant experience to his work as a relationship coach and therapist. With a focus on helping couples connect and communicate at deeper levels, Joe provides effective tools for putting the fun and excitement back into relationships using his proven multidisciplinary approach. Joe earned a B.S. in Psychology with an emphasis in Neuroscience from the University of Maryland College Park. He holds a M.A. in Clinical Psychology and Marriage and Family Therapy from Pepperdine University and a Doctoral Candidate in Psychology and Marriage and Family Therapy from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. Joe’s understanding of the complex nuances presented in modern relationships make him a respected expert on personal development and interpersonal relationships.
After helping more than 2,000 couples navigate their relationship challenges, Joe wanted to find a way to support even more people who want to experience the joy of authentic, loving relationships. His vision came alive when he created The Relationship Society, a progressive community designed to address the loss of social capital and relational connectedness in today’s society. As a safe space for successful individuals to find relationship strategies and resources, The Relationship Society is a premier collective of subject matter experts and thought leaders assisting members with their personal and relational growth.
A lifelong learner and lover of adventure, Joe enjoys spending time with his children and granddaughter, and also finds time for sky diving, dancing, and cycling.