Focus on the Whole Team: “It’s Never Too Late!”

June 27th, 2017 | by Walt Whitfield
Focus on the Whole Team: “It’s Never Too Late!”
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never too late

Sports sometimes gets the best of us. Competitors experience losing and heartbreak. There are times when one lacks focus or commitment. There are moments of self-doubt. In comparison, so does life. But sports and life also parallel each other in that “It’s Never too Late!” to mount a comeback.  And Neal Bendesky, aka 199 Guy, is living proof that the game is not over till the clock hits 0:00.

Neal ‘s start in college athletics came as an equipment manager at the University of Cincinnati during his time as an undergraduate. After stints with the USFL’s New Jersey Generals and Houston Gamblers, he found himself back at Cincinnati where he pioneered packaging of sports seasons.  As he continued to climb the administration ladder, he moved to Coral Cables, Florida at the University of Miami.  He was there from 1989 to 1992. While there, the Hurricanes football team won two NCAA national championships. Additionally, he was a co-founder of the National Association of Collegiate Marketing Administrators (NACMA). So, it’s safe to say Neal has lived his adult life entrenched in the world of college athletics.

As with other industries, college athletics has a demanding schedule under dynamic conditions. Sporting events, travel, long weekends, and required donor socials litter the calendar. These events are enjoyable with appetizing food and drinks. For those like Neal who didn’t understand wellness and nutrition, the industry creates a lifestyle not conducive to healthy living.  He said, “I lived an unbalance life and had 1 foot in the grave.” If the unhealthy lifestyle wasn’t enough Neal became the victim of identity theft. He felt personally ruined and left South Beach.

In 2015, in Chandler Arizona, Neal had his “aha moment.” A three-year-old kid approached him and asked: “Are you Santa Clause?” He realized then that his many collegiate athletic accomplishments came at the cost of his professional appearance and health. He wanted to change. He began to draw inspiration from the movie Crazy Heart’s character Bad Blake played by Jeff Bridges. Bad Blake was 57. Neal was 57. Bad Blake struggled with alcohol addiction. Neal struggled with binge eating. Bad Blake came out of the haze of addiction by writing a song. Neal created a health plan to pull himself out of his unhealthy habits. As if the parallels weren’t enough, Bad Blake’s song performance was in Phoenix. Well, Neal found himself living in Phoenix.

His plan began by committing to exercise 3 times a week. He did this while a physical therapist supervised. Next, he started calorie counting using a phone app. He initially lost 66 pounds between October 2015 and January 2016. He started taking supplements. He continues carb cycles under supervision and eats organic whole foods. He lost over 200 pounds to date and became Orange Theory’s world’s biggest loser. He rejuvenated his life, but not without setbacks. In August, he had a heart attack due to a pre-existing condition. Two stents and 9 days later he was back on his journey.

Today, his passion is helping others conquer their health challenges. He started the 199 Guy Lifestyle. The 199 signifies his weight loss. Lifestyle stands for L-Learn, I-Inspire, F-Focus, E-Energy, S-Staying power, T-Trust the process, Y-You, L-Love doing it, E-Exercise and Eat right. His initiative’s goal is to share his story with athletic teams and department members in the hopes they draw from his experiences and began their health journey. He believes “attitude is like a flat tire, if you don’t fix it you won’t get very far!”  

Walt Whitfield About Walt Whitfield
Walter Whitfield is an employee wellness consultant and founder of Lavoro Workplace Wellness where he helps businesses improve their workplace through employee wellness strategies. He has worked with corporations like Chevron, BP, and Seadrill. Walter is a former college athlete for Louisiana’s Ragin Cajuns where he competed in cross country and track, winning Sunbelt conference titles in the 3k Steeplechase and 5k. He is married, has 3 kids, and loves all things New Orleans Saints and Louisiana’s Ragin Cajuns.

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