Transformation Tuesday: Justin Bolkema

I started off my health and fitness journey when my parents signed me up for a strength and conditioning camp ran through our wellness center in town. I hated it. I was embarrassed, and all of the public school kids were there but none of my friends were. I complained to my parents a lot, but they always told me that if I signed up for something I could never quit, so I kept going.

Being a young boy filled with hormones, I made progress easily and started to notice the changes in my strength! Being a young boy filled with hormones, I started getting compliments from girls. I was sold.

The place I worked out at had older college kids that took me under their wing and kept me accountable. Once I got to high school my passion continued to grow, and playing multiple sports with dreams to play in college made a healthy habit quickly turn into what I would most definitely consider an addiction.

I say addiction, because it was an addiction. “physically and mentally dependent on a particular substance, and unable to stop it without incurring adverse effects.” If I missed a workout, I would go twice as long the next time. Team workouts in the morning, I would do sprints on my own after classes, get another workout in at night. The level of severity with how I handled it varied over the years, but continued all throughout my high school and college career.

I distinctly remember sitting in a bathroom at work contemplating throwing up. I felt so sick from a greasy burger I ate I could hardly take it. Fortunately, I never got to the point where I ever purged, but any remotely unhealthy substance that entered my body drove me absolutely crazy. I could feel it affecting my workout, felt sick, almost couldn’t function until I “worked it off”.

Fortunately the nutrition got better, but the workouts themselves didn’t. I had a “friend” who worked at a GNC and gave me huge discounts on all of the supplements. What started off as protein shakes, turned to pre-workout, turned to 4-5 different supplements at a time and throughout the day. Granted, many of these were all placebo pills with little to no biological effect, but my filter for what to take was based entirely on blogs online and quotes like, “it will make you feel jacked!”

Full disclaimer, I never have, or never will take steroids (artificial hormones to boost performance), but I did dabble in the world of pro-hormones (supplements that dramatically increase your body’s own natural production of hormones). It was safe and it was legal. It’s my own body making some extra testosterone. I feel like I can work out for hours, my maxes are going through the roof, my coaches are ecstatic; I look good shirtless, life is great….

Senior year of college, my previous 8 years of overtraining caught up to me. Overtraining is when you are exercising too often at too high of an intensity. It causes damage to the body, mind, and central nervous system. In order to protect itself, the body basically forces you to stop. My muscles had completely plateaued. I was getting sick often. My maxes in the weight room stopped going up. I was tired constantly.

On top of that, one of these supplements apparently increased my testosterone so much, that when my estrogen tried balance it out I developed fat deposits in my chest. It was then I had a choice. Do I take it to the next level with my supplement routine to fight past this plateau? Or do I finally listen to the research and the facts I had learned all throughout college. Being completely transparent, I can’t honestly tell you I know if I would have experimented with steroids if it weren’t for God putting that little bit of estrogen in my life to scare me away. Either way, it was then I decided to change my vocabulary and lifestyle from EXERCISE, to Training. Not random exercises, sweat, and starving myself, but planning all aspects of my life to reflect my goals in a safe and effective way.

This was by far my biggest transformation as it pertains to health and wellness, and has had a direct influence on how my personal coaching philosophy has developed. I’ve also experienced the mental and physical struggles that come with injury/surgery. As well as skipping meals during an internship to sneak in a 20 minute nap and destroying my metabolism, and other areas that needed to be “transformed” in my journey, but that’s what makes it a journey.

I recently read a quote that said, “You can’t have a testimony, until you have a test”. It’s important to understand that we all have a different journey, and we are all at a different place in that journey. You can’t compare situations or circumstances. What you are going through is likely difficult, but there is a great chance the person next to you has gone through or is going through a more difficult curve in their road to success. I’ve never had to struggle with being obese, so trying to compare my situations to it would be completely ignorant; however, I also wouldn’t wish my past addictive mentality on anyone. I don’t know what your personal struggles may be as it pertains to your health and wellness goals. What I do know, is that a true transformation isn’t possible without them.



author: Angela Bland