Randy Abernathy is a 48 year old private business owner. In 2007 he was diagnosed with a tumor on his pituitary gland, causing him to weigh in at nearly 300 pounds. He was on the verge of diabetes, had high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Randy walked into CrossFit Folsom Lake in 2010 where he began learning Olympic lifting. Two years later Randy has lost over 75lbs and has gained 25lb of lean muscle. He continues to learn and is achieving two PRs a month. “My capacity, both physically and mentally has been significantly improved because I started lifting.” This is his story.
How did you realize that you had a tumor?
I had a microadenoma on the pituitary. It is a tiny little tumor on the pituitary gland. I was doing the hardcore corporate stuff for a while and I had not been to the gym and I wanted to get back into it. In the past I was always able to get my strength back after not lifting for a while. After a while I notice that I was packing on more fat and losing more muscle tone. I changed my diet and had done some different things and finally I went to the doctor and was like ‘hey what’s going on?’ By the time he had diagnosed it, I just had not realized how much fat I had picked up. I am a pretty big guy, about 6’4. I have always been pretty solid and all of a sudden it was a struggle to walk up two flights of stairs, or pick up anything. That combined with the results I was not getting in the gym made me go see the doctor. Luckily it is a benign tumor, but it’s one of these that just wrecks your hormonal balance. I was picking up weight around my waist in weird ways. It was a bizarre experience. I got stuck on some medication and that process took almost a year and a half before they finally said it was cleared. But by then I weighed 295lbs and about forty percent of that was fat.
What prompted you to walk into the gym?
After the tumor, I just had not had great experience at a regular gym. I was having a hard time getting any gains, and I just was not progressing at all. So I was looking for something a little bit different.
Now what are your goals in the gym?
First and foremost is health. I want to be able to physically do the stuff that I want to do. I have always been a pretty competitive guy. I wanted to get my body back to the position where if I wanted to hike 10 miles I could hike 10 miles or if I wanted to pick up a motorcycle and put it in the back of the truck then I can. I like Olympic lifting. It’s fun. It’s the one place I see results better. My big thing right now is that I am trying to get my technique down to the point where I can really start to make some increases in weight. My C&J is not bad. I basically do a power clean at this point. I have intermittent success with the depth of the catches. I am working a lot on mobility right now on my hamstrings and ankles to work on the depth that I need to do those lifts correctly. What I am not going to do is muscle them up. There is an inherent limitation when that is the technique that you use.
Had you ever done Olympic Style lifting before?
No, never. I probably did a C&J in high school playing football, but a good one…no. Never did a snatch.
Did you walk into it thinking you were going to be able to just muscle it up?
Initially that was how I approached it, but learned very quickly after I rolled over on my butt a couple of times trying to catch stuff that that wasn’t going to work. I’m working hard to kind of build the capabilities to get my body into the right spot. I can tell you now that when I started, my squat and cleans were almost entirely quad driven. I finally learned to lift with my butt and engage my trunk better so that I am getting more power out of it. For me right now it’s still as much about technique as it is anything. I was stupid in the beginning and tried to go too heavy and was incredibly unsuccessful. Finally my coaches told me that I am not allowed to do any more weight than this until you do it right. It is incredibly humbling experience, you know I am watching girls in the gym lift way more weight than I do on certain lifts because they have a full depth squat and I don’t. I kid with one of the women in my gym and tell her that my goal right now is for someone to tell me that I lift like a girl and then I say that’s ok and point to her.
Have you considered competing in any kind of events in the future?
If I look at what I am lifting right now, it is hard for me to say that is something that I could ever do. I would love to get to the point where I could. If I felt that I could be competitive then absolutely. But we will see. I had shoulder surgery last June. I tore a tendon out of my shoulder socket a while back and had to take 6 months off. The last four or five months I have been able to see some gains and my shoulder is back to where it was before, if not stronger. I have had some nice big jumps and I am just looking to continue that progression.
Are there any final comments you have?
I think the fitness industry has given the sport a bad rep. A lot of people were scared for a while to throw any weight over there head because someone told them they were going to get hurt. I know before I walked into the gym I did not do a full depth squat; I had not done a full depth squat in years. As soon as someone showed me how to do it the right way I realized that I was not going to blow my knees out, in fact I was going to make my knees a lot stronger; I was going to make my legs a lot stronger, my hips a lot stronger. I spent years with back pain that I do not have anymore. Once I got my body back, I noticed that I had my mind in a good place.