Spinning Into Control
~ By Mel Greenberg
The idea that we all have a story to tell is not new by any means. But just maybe, as the world around us seems to be spinning out of control – take a moment to read a story here. I’m grateful for the opportunity this column provides me and hopefully you, to catch a glimpse into the lives of friends, neighbors, strangers – fellow humans just trying their best to be their best every day.
When we have the opportunity to engage with someone we don’t know well, or reach out with compassion and interest in the lives of people we connect casually with every day, it serves to connect us in a more meaningful way. I sat down with Brian Duval recently as he shared his personal wellness journey. I recognized him from class, his bright energy and smile are a staple at (r)evolve, but as with so many people we encounter daily – I quickly discovered that I didn’t know him at all.
Brian is nearly a Tucson native, moving here from Chicago when he was four. He’s the divorced father of two, a Mountain View HS grad and produce manager at Basha’s. His infectious smile and positive attitude poured out as he began to tell me of his life-changing struggles and how exactly he ended up on stage at (r)evolve.
“Ha!” he laughed, “in 2016 I turned forty and my life turned upside down.” Brian’s ‘upside down’ consisted of learning that he’d been living with severe sleep apnea for most of his adult life, gaining nearly 200 pounds, suffering from extremely high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, watching his marriage of thirteen years come to an end, and wondering what the next years of his life would be like.
It started there – no sleep, no energy, and no excitement for any part of his life. “I’d had it! I was frustrated and I knew I had to find some answers. I participated in a sleep study that showed I stopped breathing over 110 times an hour.” Brian’s demeanor changed as he spoke – this had been a difficult time for him and it showed. “My orthodontist referred me to a specialist, Dr. Day in Phoenix. We broke my jaw to expand my airways. It was a long, painful and expensive process. My insurance didn’t cover it. But I had to do it, thank God my mom could help me. She paid for entire the procedure.”
Brian’s next months were filled with change. Immediately following the surgery, he dropped almost 80 pounds. He began to notice how much better he was feeling. “I remember waking up and realizing that I’d slept through a full night. I couldn’t remember when the last time was. I felt life a million bucks!” He laughed, shaking his head.
But just as his health issues were coming together, his marriage fell apart. I was struck by his candor and appreciation for his part in it all. “I was depressed, not sleeping for so long, no energy. I wasn’t present for anyone in my life and my wife checked out. I don’t blame her. It was a horrible loss, but we are friends now and I couldn’t be happier to see her living a good life.” Seriously, this is the genuinely beautiful heart that keeps showing up as we talk. I’d come here to interview Brian and I was moved beyond words by his spirit. I can’t help but feel profound respect for this man who has endured so many struggles and disappointments, yet clearly walks his talk, “You hold all the cards, but it’s up to you how you play them.”
The cards Brian held continued to bring him strength. Sheer determination kept him focused on the fact that he was now in charge of his well being. Not always easy. “I slowly started to gain back some of the weight. All of a sudden, 15 pounds back on me. I was pissed! I wasn’t going to live through all that, throw my mom’s generosity out the window and go back to the way it was before.” Brian recognized that while he’d lost the weight after his surgery, he hadn’t changed any of the lifestyle habits that had helped him reach nearly 400 pounds.
“I started walking an hour at a time and so slow at first.” He smiled as he continued, “My daughter and I hiked Tumamoc Hill. I couldn’t even make it to the top that first day, and it’s only a mile and a half! But, with her encouragement, we kept at it until it was so easy and something I really enjoyed.”
This seemingly simple exercise routine, combined with common sense changes in eating, began to show major results. “It was easy! I just kept making minor, consistent changes in my daily life. And WOW! I mean you know you’re that big, and I’m 6′ 5″, but you don’t see yourself like that. But when I held up my old clothes and looked in the mirror – it was like looking at a complete stranger.”
True to his spirited commitment to keep improving the quality of his life, Brian was ready for a more challenging workout experience. He discovered (r)evolve at the urging of his friend Adrianna, a nurse at Ideal Image. After seeing Instagram video clips, then meeting owners Susie and Tony and touring the studio he was ready to give it a try. “Traditional gyms never really worked for me, I always found an excuse not to stay with it. Mostly, I felt isolated. I really was looking for a place to connect and be with positive people.”
“With (r)evolve I have all of that and more. The first few rides really kicked my ass! But I was hooked. Now I ride four to five times a week.” Brian expressed a sentiment I see in most (r)evolvers. “I’ve found a community, my ride buddies. All of us are just trying to get better, to be better. We are all there supporting each other. It’s easy to leave the stress behind, get on the bike and ride and it’s fun!”
One of the major changes in Brian’s lifestyle has been to step out of his comfort zone. He’s added working out at a gym to build muscle. And he’s opened himself up to accept new challenges he might never have considered. “Susie asked me to ride on stage a few weeks ago – it was the biggest honor and what a rush! I was nervous, but I did it and it was the BEST feeling.”
Brian credits (r)evolve for helping him. “I really did get a chance to push the reset button. We are all human – our choices don’t always make sense to other people – but we are doing the best we can. I’m doing my best. I look at these past 3 years as an opportunity – for me to grow, to be a better person and to live a better life. I figure you only get one shot in life so I’m going for it! And I’m enjoying my life now more than I ever have. I don’t feel sorry for myself. I don’t look back and wish for a different outcome. I’m happier, stronger and better for everyone in my life because of what I’ve gone through. “(r)evolve has completely changed my life. It’s a good time – try it. It just might change your life too.”