Blood Pressure : From Obese to Bodybuilder

Karen Gardner, The Frederick News-Post, Md.

Brad Morris knew that losing weight would not be easy.

Yet he knew that it was a necessity if he were to regain good health.

Two years ago, Morris, 46, was told by his doctor that he was about two weeks away from a stroke if he didn't change his lifestyle.

His blood pressure had spiked to a very high level, and his weight had crept up to 269 pounds. At 5 feet 8 inches tall, Morris realized he had let his health go.

Now he weighs 154 pounds, and he lost the weight through motivation.

Morris, who lives in Frederick, is now competing in natural bodybuilding events.

Twenty years ago, he was pursuing personal training certification through the American Council of Exercise. But he and his wife were expecting their first child, and Morris decided he needed to focus on making a living. He put his personal training ambitions on hold and started a landscaping business.

He still has that landscaping business, but with his three children now ages 20, 15 and 11, he has a little more time to focus on fitness.

He also credits his faith for helping him make the changes he needed to lose weight and become more fit. He prayed, asking God to restore his health. In return, he promised to take care of himself.

"Growing up, I played football, and I was always interested in fitness," he said. He coached youth football for seven years, and played in an adult league. A few years ago, he gave up playing, and that was when the weight gain accelerated.

Morris had a few nagging injuries that made working out difficult. He had a torn Achilles tendon and a torn rotator cuff. He worked on healing the injuries and building up the muscles around the injured areas.

That was when he decided he needed to lose the extra weight he'd gained over the years.

He began to eat better, walk long distances and lift weights. At first, he would walk up to 15 miles at a time. Now he walks three miles a day, three days a week.

He also lifts weights, usually at Fitness First in Frederick. His routine takes him from cables to free weights to machines. He also does abdominal work nearly every day at home.

The biggest key to his weight loss, however, was his diet, he said. "I only put things in my body that it needs for exercising," he said. He is careful about the amount of protein and fat he eats. He also takes vitamins and takes whey protein to help his body rebuild muscle.

"I eat very clean," he said. "I drink water and protein drinks. I only drink black coffee, and I do not drink sodas. I never did drink sodas."

He ate too many sugars and enriched food products, as well as too much fast-food. He eats many more fruits and vegetables than he used to. "A lot of people don't give a diet a chance, but if you do it long enough, it works," he said.

Exercise is another key to weight loss. Morris credits much of his motivation to natural bodybuilding. This requires him to do weightlifting without performance enhancements, including steroids and blood doping. Morris competes for the United States Bodybuilding Federation, which performs drug and polygraph tests on competitors.

He started out competing as a lightweight, but as he's built up his muscles, he has moved into the middleweight category.

Morris competes in shows in the Mid-Atlantic states, and would like to sponsor a show in Frederick.

When he began losing weight, he spent as much as 20 hours a week in the gym. Now he spends three days a week in the gym, for about 45 minutes each session, working different muscles. As a contest gets closer, he will spend more time in the gym.

Morris hopes to finish the personal training certification process he began more than 20 years ago by next year, and then work with others on natural bodybuilding.

"It is a family-oriented sport," he said. "My children come to every show. My wife (Tammy) is my coach. She's a hair stylist, and she makes sure I look good. I've turned this into a family thing."

Now he'd like to get the word out to others that natural bodybuilding, along with good eating habits, will help restore health to people who have put on weight. His blood pressure has dropped from high levels to normal levels. Morris also suffered from sleep apnea, but no longer does.

Natural bodybuilding leads to a healthy lifestyle, said Frederick-based personal trainer Kip Jawish, who runs In-Fit Studio. Bodybuilders who use performance enhancing drugs push their bodies well beyond what they are naturally capable of, causing serious physical health consequences years after they are consumed. These drugs also have a negative effect on the user's mental health, he added.

In addition, natural bodybuilders look better, he said. "They're not the freaky looking muscular types," he said. Natural bodybuilding is a more holistic, all-around lifestyle.

(c)2012 The Frederick News-Post (Frederick, Md.)

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