Health

How I Got This Body: He Lost a Foot Off His Waist by Working Out With Personal Trainers. When He Went Into Cardiac Arrest, They Saved His Life.

Mike Frenchick and his trainer, Sahar Khosrowshahi. All photographs courtesy of Mike Frenchick.

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Who: Mike Frenchick, 57, a Pentagon contractor 
Lives: Gainesville
Height: 6’0″
Pounds lost: 55 pounds
How long it took: It took about eight-to-nine months, and I’ve kept it off for three-and-a-half years now.

Frenchick before he started training.

Turning point: I was in the Army for 24 years. When I got out, I was tired of doing big group workouts, so I quit working out. I was using whatever excuse I could find at the time. I went up to 245 pounds and my golf clothes were all shrinking and my swing had changed dramatically. I didn’t feel full of energy.

I belonged to One Life Fitness in Gainesville for two years before I started using it. The night I signed up for personal training, I’d gone to the gym and used the elliptical for 14 minutes and said, ‘Okay, that’s enough.’ I was waiting for my wife to get out of yoga class, and Kayla Hargaden, my first trainer, started talking to me. On the way home, I emailed Kayla back and said I wanted to do three sessions a week for three months to see if I liked it or not.

Frenchick eventually lost 55 pounds and a foot off his waist.

Exercise: I worked out with Kayla three days a week and worked out on my own the other four days a week. I was doing full-body workouts with her and some aerobic stuff. The way I looked at it, I was wasting her time and my time if I wasn’t in the best shape for my sessions. In the first five months, I lost 42 pounds and took six inches off my waist. I was down to 199 pounds, the least I’d weighed in 13 years, and that’s including being in the Army for 11 of those.

After a year with Kayla, I switched over to my current trainer Sahar Khosrowshahi, and she took it to the next level. Now I do explosive training. That was like graduate school after doing the initial training. I did one-on-one for a year, then did small group training. I lost another 13 pounds and felt skinny. After the total transformation, I lost about a foot around my waist.

Frenchick with Khosrowshahi and his wife Patty at the gym.

Diet: I didn’t really go on a funky diet. I just reduced the quantities I ate. The way I viewed it, if I went on a diet, I’d crave food. I’d heard people would binge and lose progress, so I just saw the discipline in how much I ate as the most important part.

How it saved his life: On October 11 of last year, I was in cardiac arrest for 14 minutes at the gym. I’d done about a half-hour session of exercise, then did a cycle class. After class, I ran about three miles to loosen up my muscles. After I’d gone about two miles, two trainers, Colleen Rock and Bridget Taylor, said they saw me lying behind the treadmill facedown. They started doing CPR and then used the defibrillator. The doctors put me in an induced coma for five days to protect my vital organs, then did quadruple bypass surgery.

After surgery, I had absolutely no pain. My doctors asked what my pain level was that morning after surgery, one to 20, and it was zero. The nurses tried to show me how to get out of bed, and right away, I went to the edge of the bed, and it was easy to use my abs to pop up. The surgeon and cardiologist said my physical condition was that of an athlete age 25-to-35. That’s why I was alive and had a quick recovery.

Recovery is normally two-to-three months for a patient. A week after surgery, I was walking five miles a day. Three weeks later, it was 10 miles a day. At 11 weeks, I started playing golf, and at 12 weeks, I started small-group training. I came back stronger and faster than I was before my cardiac arrest.

Frenchick in the hospital post-cardiac arrest.
Eleven weeks post-surgery, Frenchick was back to playing golf.

How he feels now: I didn’t have the energy at 245 pounds. Now, I’m full of energy. I recover faster than I ever did before from my workouts. All the parts of my body are working more efficiently. I gained 15 yards per club on my golf game.

But the biggest feeling I have is gratitude for the trainers that helped me be here today and enjoy life. The doctor told me that if I still weighed 245 [at the time of cardiac arrest], I’d be dead. Just being alive is the ultimate benefit I’ve received by being in shape. That’s something you can’t put a price tag on. No words could ever capture how my family and I feel about that.

To those who want to make a change: Just do it. Find a trainer and learn how to train. Coming back like I did, that’s due to the motivation and the energy I get when I work out with my trainer Sahar.

This interview has been edited and condensed. 

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Associate Editor

Mimi Montgomery joined Washingtonian in 2018. She previously was the editorial assistant at Walter Magazine in Raleigh, North Carolina, and freelanced for PoPVille and DCist. Originally from North Carolina, she now lives in Adams Morgan.