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Interview With Captain Ahab Errol Hannigan

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Errol is living proof that it's never too late. After a battle with a leg infection, and the loss of his leg, Errol ascended from the ashes like a phoenix.
Errol Hannigan

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NameErrol Hannigan

It's never too late to turn your life around. Errol Hannigan is living proof of this. After a battle with a leg infection, and the subsequent amputation of his left leg, Errol ascended from the ashes like a phoenix. In early 2007, he started to train. Three years later, Errol "Captain Ahab" Hannigan is buff, mentally tough, and a true inspiration in the purest sense to anyone who feels like hope has escaped them.

Muscle & Strength: Errol, you made an amazing physique transformation...tell me about your life before the change, and what inspired you to make a change?

Errol Hannigan Captain AhabErrol Hannigan: In September of 1994, at the age of 46, I underwent what was supposed to be “simple day surgery,” which was an arthroscopic scoping procedure of my left knee. Not long after the surgery I contracted an undiagnosed infection (the surgeon missed it) and soon found myself in the emergency ward of the hospital, delirious and writhing in pain. They rushed me into emergency surgery where I underwent another surgical procedure to “clean” out the knee.

After the operation and with a left knee swollen to the size of volleyball (I kid you not), the doctor told me that the infection had actually turned into Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) or what is commonly referred to as a “super bug”. The doctor drew a line across my upper left thigh and said that if the redness from the spreading infection reached that line they would have no choice but to amputate. I remained in hospital for another 27 days on different kinds of intravenous antibiotics as they fought and finally turned back the the spreading infection.

After they had pronounced me clear of the infection I was released from the hospital but needed a number of follow up tests on my knee to determine the amount of damage that was caused by the infection. I was informed that there was so much damage done to the knee that an artificial knee replacement was the only option.  Approximately twelve months after the initial simple day surgery, I returned and underwent knee replacement surgery, which they told me would solve all the problems left over from the damage caused by the infection.

To make what is a very long story a bit shorter, the knee replacement did not solve the problems and for one reason or another I had to endure another 12 more surgeries, including 6 more partial or total knee replacements over the course of the next 11 years because as they finally found out the infection was not dead and kept repeatedly reappearing.

In August of 2004 the infection once again reappeared, only this time it was even more aggressive and I was told on a Tuesday that I had a choice, amputate my leg at about mid-thigh by Thursday, or it would be too late and I would die. This was an extremely difficult period for me, but I was told to look on the bright side, as the one thing the amputation would do was finally put an end once and for all to all my present as well as future pain.

Immediately following the amputation of my leg I found myself the victim of horrendous and unrelenting phantom pain, the likes of which I could never have imagined. There were times when I would find myself on the floor curled up in a fetal position, rocking back and forth in agony because the pain felt like my left leg was being broken over and over again repeatedly without a moments relief. I was referred to the medical pain specialists at a pain clinic and they attempted every procedure they knew to relieve the anguish; all to no avail. Only after they had me ingesting the enormous dosage of 2400 mg’s of morphine per day was I able to get periods of relief that allowed me to function somewhat normally, though I was never able to receive the benefit of any euphoric effects. The doctors say this happens because as they describe it, my pain is “eating the drug.” The doctors said that the dosage of morphine I was consuming was easily enough to sedate or even terminate 8 to 10 men, as the average dose for a normal individual would be about 200 mgs per day.

After losing my leg I was completely devastated, and saw myself as being so much less than the man I was before, which was a very active man who enjoyed playing sports and especially riding the custom Harley Davidson motorcycles I designed and built. I entered into a deep, dark and severe depression and combined with the seemingly unending phantom pain, I lost all enjoyment of life. I would stay in bed for days at a time, not eating, just staring at the ceiling when I wasn’t sleeping and I would not even acknowledge the existence of friends or family. I stayed this way until one day when as I see it “I just seemed to break”.

I loaded my pistol, placed it in my mouth to see where the splatter would go and then taped plastic garbage bags to the walls and draped them over the furniture in my downstairs den so that after I shot myself, I would not leave too much of a mess to be cleaned up. I set the pistol on a small table then went upstairs and with tears running down my cheeks, told my wife that I needed to end my suffering and for her to say it was OK for me to leave her.

Errol Hannigan Pull Ups

After over two years of undergoing numerous tests, my wife Judi had recently been diagnosed with Lupus and Fibromyalgia. When I asked her to allow me to take my life, she amazingly seemed to be very calm, but as I found out all during our conversation she felt panic rising inside of her as she tried to give me a reason to live and look forward to the future with hope, even though she knew and had seen, how much pain I was in and how bleak I thought my future looked at that moment, especially considering that the doctors said there was nothing more medically they could do to relieve my pain.

She very calmly told me that she needed me more now than ever to live and to help her fight her disease. She finally decided to fight dirty and challenge me. She said the strong man she married would never quit, never give up and she had never seen that man back down from a fight. She then played her ace in the hole; seeing as I had found the Lord and been baptized not that long ago, she told me that the Lord frowns on suicide and that there would not be a place in Heaven for me if I took my own life. That was the clinching point, I stood up and told her that I would do my best to fight through this and look after her no matter how much pain there was to come.  We went down stairs together and I unloaded his gun, took away all the plastic and I have never spoken of taking my life again.

After that I started eating a lot of unhealthy food and as I see it, self-medicating with up to three bottles of wine every evening and as a result started to and ended up gaining a lot of weight. Admittedly, I was in the worst physical shape if not also mental shape of my life.

After doing a lot of research my wife found out that she needed to exercise to keep the ravages of Lupus at bay and so she asked me to go to the gym with her. At first I was not the least bit interested but my wife was determined and eventually persuaded me to join the gym and even take the Canadian Body for Life Challenge in 2007. The Canadian Body for Life Challenge is a 12-week exercise, cardio and nutrition program whereby you document and submit your “before” pictures and after following their program for three months, document and submit your “after” pictures along with a short essay to show and say how much of a difference fitness has made in your life. I said that I didn’t believe that it would do me much good but I decided to go to support my wife. I was still incredibly depressed, along with having wicked phantom pain and didn’t see anything positive happening in my future. I started out by following the nutrition program set out by the Body for Life guidelines even before I started going to the gym and exercising as best I could, even though I had zero faith that anything good would come from the program.

Something amazing happened shortly after I started lifting weights, for some as yet unexplainable reason my phantom pain, which I had yet to have a single moment of relief from, disappeared. I couldn’t believe it and thought that it must some kind of phenomenon or fluke and would never happen again but each and every time I lift weights the phantom pain goes away. To this day my phantom pain stops and stays away for at least 1 ½ to 2 hours after I leave the gym before coming back, which ends up giving me a total of 2½ to 3 hours relief. This only happens when I lifts weights once per day and though I have tried lifting again the same day but nothing happens then and the pain stays. It doesn’t go away when I do cardio either but this has allowed me to cut back on my morphine dosage from 2400 mgs to 1600 mgs. My doctors can’t explain why this happens but I couldn’t care less if I get a medical explanation, as long as I keep getting the relief.

Errol Hannigan Leg PressAfter about a month of working out I started seeing small changes in my body and after seeing those few changes I started to believe that this program could make a difference. I pushed myself harder and even though I had to fight through painful cardio (because of blisters from my artificial leg rubbing my stump, leaving it raw and bleeding) I just kept challenging and pushing myself. The changes at the end of the 12 weeks were enormous as I had lost more than 50 pounds and went from over 36% body fat to about 12% and I also saw new muscle growth, which at my age made me extremely happy.

By fighting through my depression combined with eating nutritiously and going to the gym I was able to get into the best physical condition of my life, and by doing this I was able to find respite and have now stopped self-medicating and drinking to escape from my previously untouchable pain. I believe the Lord works in mysterious ways and after I was able to get such great results with the Body for Life Challenge along with relief from my pain, I now no longer feel broken, and the depression, (even though it still rears it’s ugly head and tries to overcome me from time to time) is gone from my everyday life. I say with all sincerity that it’s as though I have been “born again with fitness” and have never felt better or been more excited or focused on life and have renewed my relationship with the church and God.

After my wife submitting my “before” and “after” pictures and essay to the 2007 Canadian Body for Life Challenge, I was informed in late December that I was judged 10th overall in Canada for the best body transformation. I don’t usually tell people about it, but I am extremely proud to have accomplished this feat and especially against the thousands of able-bodied competitors who entered. I hope that this will inspire and/or motivate, not only other amputees and handicapped folks, but also people over forty the belief they need to start working out and to get fit.

I enjoy working out so much that I have gone on to become a certified personal trainer so I can assist others in their quest for fitness and a better and healthier lifestyle. I am very excited about the future and jokingly say I would love to be a fitness evangelist touring the country and preaching the benefits of fitness to anyone who will (and to some who won’t) listen.

Muscle & Strength: Amazing story Errol. So many people want to make changes, and usually every Monday they start again. Today will be the day that I change. What have you learned about lasting determination and change? And how does someone find the determination to finally turn their lives around?

Errol Hannigan: I have listened to a lot of people say that they are going to start next week or as you say on Monday but very few take to opportunity to start right now.

It’s like saying that you want to quit smoking but are going to wait until you finish the pack you already have opened. In truth you are not very committed and in reality you will not get very good results.

I believe that people already have every characteristic necessary for success if they would just recognize, develop and use them. If a person believes they can they are half way there.

Most people do not lack strength, they just lack will, especially when it comes to eating right and exercising, there is no I'll start tomorrow. Tomorrow is a disease. People should not wait until everything is just right. The conditions or time will never be perfect. There will always be challenges, obstacles and less than optimal conditions. So why put it off? I believe that anyone wanting to lose weight and get into better shape should get started now. With each step a person takes, they will get stronger and stronger, more and more self-confident and become more and more successful.

I understand that sometimes we feel so worn down by the spirit-breaking, daily grind that we lack the energy and hope needed to reach our goals. Getting into better shape can also make demands on us. In and of itself, it can trigger anxiety, conflict and even intense resistance, while satisfying and overcoming those demands once we give in and enjoy the journey. As far as lasting determination goes what keeps so many people back is simply the unwillingness to pay the price, to make the exertion, the effort to sacrifice their ease and comfort to achieve their goals. We as a society are too used to instant this and immediate, same day that and if it doesn’t come in a pill or a bottle we don’t want it. Most of us have become too lazy to get up from in front of the TV and go and do what is necessary. North America’s obesity level both with adults as well as with children proves this out.

Desire to me is the springboard for motivation, but it's really the determination and commitment to the pursuit of the goal that will enable a person to attain the success they are after. One question that I am often asked that causes me the most difficulty is when people ask, “Where do I get the motivation to continue on?” I usually answer that in my mind, there is only one motivation, and that is desire. No reasons or principle contain it or stand against it. When you know what you want, and you want it badly enough, you'll find a way to get it.

Errol Hannigan Before and After

I totally understand how motivation can go up and down but I tell people not to worry if things seem difficult at times. Those feelings will only be temporary. The important thing is not to give in or give up. You need to master any and all negative thoughts. The person that says, I wish someone would come by and motivate me is actually setting themselves up for disappointment and failure because what happens if that someone doesn’t show up? I believe that you’ve got to have a better plan for your life. Relying on just willpower will not work. Willpower equals short-term success. Long-term success requires planning, discipline and finding ways to motivate yourself every day. The ability to discipline yourself and delay gratification in the short term, to enjoy greater rewards in the long term, is the prerequisite for success.

Almost every worthwhile accomplishment, big or little, has its stages of drudgery and triumph; there is a beginning, a struggle and then if you are determined, victory. The best motivating though is self-motivating. Motivation takes work. Motivation takes goal setting too. From day to day what motivates a person may change but each morning, they should think about their goals and re-commit to them. I have found success by choosing and setting small goals. That way by setting smaller goals along with a target end goal, I am able to experience success much more quickly and much more often and that way my motivation and energy level was able to remain high.

True motivation comes from within and from the willingness to see your goal achieved. When your goal matters enough to you I believe you will find a way to accomplish what at first you may have thought impossible. If you do set a goal, you are more able to recognize things that will help you achieve it, than if you don't set a goal but no matter how carefully you plan your goals they will never be more that mere pipe dreams unless you pursue them with desire.

One of the things that a large number of people talk to me about is their lack of support by their spouse, family and/or friends. I was blessed to have my wife as my workout partner and she made sure that once I became committed to getting fit that I never was allowed to slack off, but she was also my biggest fan making sure to tell me of all the wonderful changes that she saw happening. I tell people to avoid negative people at all costs. They are the greatest destroyers of self confidence and self-esteem. Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great people make you feel that you, too, can become great.

I believe that anyone can give up, it's probably the easiest thing in the world to do, but to pushing on when everyone else wants you to give up, that to me is true strength. One fantastic thing about being motivated and determined to exercise that many people don’t know, especially those who don’t work out, is that nothing lifts you out of a bad mood better than a good workout. It never fails. In my mind exercise is nothing short of a miracle. Never once have I ever left the gym wishing that I hadn’t gone. Something interesting about exercise too, it's so hard when you have to, and so easy when you want to. When you are forced nothing could be harder but when you want to do it, it is so gratifying.

Two sayings that I use when talking to people about staying motivated and determined are... “I'm not telling you that it is going to be easy, but I am telling you that it is going to be worth it.” And... “At first so many of your dreams may seem impossible, then they may just seem improbable, and then, through your determination and hard work, they will soon become inevitable.”

Errol Hannigan Senior BodybuilderMuscle & Strength: Errol, most of the information on the Internet for bodybuilding eating and lifting is aimed at the 20-somethings. Can you tell us your training and eating secrets. What has allowed you to lean up and build muscle entering your 60's? Do you eat a standard bodybuilding-style diet? And what does your training look like?

Errol Hannigan: I agree with you about most of the training information on the Internet being for the 20-somethings, and I also found as I continued looking for fitness information most of the training articles in the magazines on the book shelves are actually aimed more for those who use steroids.

I did a lot of research and found that there is little if any applicable fitness information out there for the us baby boomers, which I am one and so I decided to figure it out for myself. What I found that works the best for me was to take a three-pronged approach. Those three prongs are; nutrition, weightlifting and cardio and in that order.

I found what helped my body best was eating 5 to 6 small, high protein, slow digesting, low glycemic carbs and good healthy fat meals per day, spread about 3 hours apart so that I could be successful in losing bodyfat/weight and also in building new lean muscle.

This doesn’t mean that you have to sit down at the table and eat a meal. You simply have to take in the proper amount of nutrients. I think nutrition wise and where many people fail is in remembering to plan ahead. If you’re going to be at work, in meetings or running errands all day, you should make a couple of protein shakes to take with you before you go or put a scoop or two of your favorite protein powder in a shaker bottle and then you can just add water when you’re ready to drink. Thus way you will be less likely to reach for something like a donut or candy bar that will sabotage your fitness program.

As far as weightlifting goes I consider it almost as important as a person’s nutrition program. I believe that to be successful a person should lift progressively heavier weights 3 to 4 times a week for a at least a minimum of 12 weeks. Resistance training is the most important activity for reshaping a person’s body, I call it "shape-shifting". Not only does it tone your body but it plays a very important role in promoting fat loss because of the metabolic properties of muscle tissue. I don't believe you should lift weights more than 4 times per week because your body needs lots of time to process and heal what you have done to it in the gym and if you do not give it enough time to repair itself you could find yourself not seeing much if any in the way of results. Your muscles only repair themselves and process much of what you do at the gym when you are sleeping, which is why rest and a good night's sleep are always stressed so much.

Last but definitely not least comes cardio. I do cardio at least 3 times a week for a minimum of 20 minutes per session. I also try using various machines and mostly use HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) as it burns the most bodyfat.

I have actually been amazed by the fact that at my age which is now 61, I am putting on new, lean muscle. I always read and heard that old people shrink but no one ever told me that if you worked out you could actually reverse this process and still be growing. Don’t get me wrong here, I have no illusions that I am going to be a geriatric Arnold Schwarzenegger, but not one article or book I researched told me that I could grow and get into the best shape of my life. That continues to be the reason why I still eat well and exercise regularly because I have no idea where this cold or will lead and I am very interested in finding out.

I try to make sure to eat a minimum of 5 to 6 small meals per day. I don’t count macros as many people do but rather rely on portion size and control to keep me in the right range. What I do as far as portions is to take a regular diner plate and mentally divide it in half and then in half again so that my dinner plate is in four quarters. When it comes time to load my plate for my meal I think of my protein source as taking up one quarter of the plate, or it can be approximately the size of the palm of my hand. This works well because a larger person will have a larger palm and a smaller person will have a smaller palm, so no matter what your size you will get the right amount of protein.

When it comes time to put my carbs on I use another quarter of the plate or I also think about my carbs being about the size of a tennis ball. I like to imagine my portion of brown rice for example as a tennis ball and that way I never take too much or get too little. After that you are left with about half plate, which can be filled with as many and as much salad type veggies as you feel like eating. This way I always stay within my protein, carb and vegetable guidelines.

An example of what I would eat in a normal day would be:

Breakfast: 1/2 cup of slow cooked or quick cooked (never Instant) oatmeal with some blueberries (fresh or frozen) and a scoop of Beverly International’s vanilla Ultimate Muscle Protein powder mixed together. I will have an omelette made of 1/4 cup of egg whites mixed with 1 whole egg and 1 piece of 100% whole wheat bread with a tablespoon of no sugar added peanut butter and of course 1 or 2 cups of black coffee. At this time I take 4 Beverly International’s Ultra 40 Beef Liver concentrate tablets.

If by chance I am really rushed and have early morning clients I have been known to drink my breakfast, which I have in the form of a shake. I put a 1/4 cup of egg whites along with 1/2 cup uncooked oatmeal and 1 scoop of Beverly International’s vanilla Ultimate Muscle Protein powder into the blender. Then I put in about 1/2 cup of blueberries and add milk to reach the 2 1/2 cup mark and then blend away. After about 2 minutes or so I am able to drink my breakfast and get a great start to my hurried morning. At this time I take 4 Beverly International’s Ultra 40 Beef Liver concentrate tablets.

About 3 hours later I have a protein shake made with Beverly International’s chocolate Ultimate Muscle Protein powder and a handful of almonds, walnuts, pecans or pistachios as my morning snack and 4 Beverly International’s Ultra 40 Beef Liver concentrate tablets.

I try to work out around 10:00 to 11:30 in the morning and immediately after my workout I have a Beverly International’s chocolate Muscle Provider drink and 4 Beverly International’s Ultra 40 Beef Liver concentrate tablets.

Errol and Judi Hannigan

Lunch will happen about 3 hours later and I will usually have a turkey sandwich made on 100% whole wheat bread using skinless, turkey breast with fresh cranberry sauce and olive oil Hellmann's mayonnaise. With the sandwich I will have an apple and a piece of cheese and/or maybe a carrot and 4 Beverly International’s Ultra 40 Beef Liver concentrate tablets.

Approximately three hours later I have my mid-afternoon snack which is a protein shake made with Beverly International’s chocolate Ultimate Muscle Protein powder and a handful of almonds, walnuts, pecans or pistachios and 4 Beverly International’s Ultra 40 Beef Liver concentrate tablets.

Supper can consist of fresh tuna or salmon or free range skinless chicken breast or once per week a nice steak for a protein source. I enjoy a small yam or sweet potato or even brown rice or quinoa as a carb and a veggie or a salad made with seasonal vegetables.

I make sure to have an evening snack and I have a few great choices. I alternate between things like low fat cottage cheese mixed with fresh blueberries or strawberries or low fat/no fat yogurt mixed with fresh berries or chocolate or vanilla protein pudding made from Beverly International’s Ultimate Muscle Protein powder. To make this pudding all you do is add a little less water than you use for a protein shake and let it sit in the fridge for a half hour and it makes the best tasting pudding you could imagine especially when topped with some not fat Cool Whip.

I am incredibly lucky as my wife is putting together a healthy recipe cook book and she tries out a lot of recipes on me and when it comes to snacks she has found some amazing ones, such as Chocolate Protein Fudge made from only Beverly International’s Ultimate Muscle Protein powder and liquid and another great one are here Chocolate Brownies made from only Beverly International’s Ultimate Muscle Protein powder and liquid and a microwave.

As for my workouts...I try to workout no more than 4 days per week so as to give my old body time to heal.

I workout Monday,Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, and here is my routine.

4 Day Workout

Week One

Chest and Triceps
Chest and Triceps
Exercise Sets Reps
Bench Press (Heavier weight with each set) 4 10, 8, 6, 4-6
Incline Dumbbell Bench Press 3 6 to 8
Dumbbell Flyes 3 8 to 12
Dumbbell Pullovers (Straight elbow) 3 8 to 12
Close Grip Bench Press (Heavier weight with each set) 4 10, 8, 6, 4-6
Tricep Pushdowns 3 6 to 12
Dips 3 6 to 12
Back and Abs
Back and Abs
Exercise Sets Reps
Wide Grip Chin Up 4 Up to 12
Deadlifts 3 10
Bent Over Rows or T-Bar Rows 4 10, 8, 6, 4-6
Reverse Grip Lat Pull Down or Dumbbell Rows 3 8 to 12
Straight Arm Pullovers 3 8 to 12
Legs and Calves
Legs and Calves
Exercise Sets Reps
Single Leg Squats 5 10, 10, 8, 6, 4-6
Leg Press or Hack Squat 4 10 to 16
Leg Extension 3 12 to 15
Leg Curl 3 10 to 12
Stiff Leg Deadlift 3 10 to 12
Standing Calf Raise (Weighted) 5 10 to 12
Standing Calf Raise (No weight) 5 25 to 50
Abs, Shoulders and Biceps
Abs, Shoulders and Biceps
Exercise Sets Reps
Military Press 4 10, 8, 6, 4-6
Seated Dumbbell or Machine Laterals 3 8 to 12
Dumbbell or Reverse Pec Dec Laterals 3 8 to 12
EZ Bar Curls 4 10, 8, 6, 4-6
Seated Incline Dumbbell Curls 4 10, 8, 6, 4-6
Preacher Curls 2 8 to 12

Week Two

Triceps and Chest
Triceps and Chest
Exercise Sets Reps
Close Grip Bench Press 4 10, 8, 6, 4-6
Tricep Pushdowns 3 6 to 12
Dips 3 6 to 12
Bench Press 4 10, 8, 6, 4-6
Incline Dumbbell Bench Press 3 6 to 8
Dumbbell Flyes 3 8 to 12
Dumbbell Pullovers (Bent elbow) 3 8 to 12
Back and Abs
Back and Abs
Exercise Sets Reps
Wide Grip Chin Up 4 Up to 12
Deadlift 3 10
Bent Over Rows or T-Bar Rows 4 10, 8, 6, 4-6
Reverse Grip Lat Pull Down or Dumbbell Rows 3 8 to 12
Straight Arm Pullovers 3 10 to 12
Legs and Calves
Legs and Calves
Exercise Sets Reps
Squats 5 10, 10, 8, 6, 4-6
Leg Press or Hack Squat 4 10 to 16
Leg Extension 3 12 to 15
Leg Curl 3 10 to 12
Stiff Leg Deadlift 3 10 to 12
Standing Calf Raise (Weighted) 5 10 to 12
Standing Calf Raise (No weight) 5 25 to 50
Abs, Shoulders and Biceps
Abs, Shoulders and Biceps
Exercise Sets Reps
EZ Bar Curls 4 10, 8, 6, 4-6
Seated Incline Dumbbell Curls 4 10, 8, 6, 4-6
Preacher Curl 2 8 to 12
Military Press 4 10, 8, 6, 4-6
Seated Dumbbell or Machine Laterals 3 8 to 12
Dumbbell or Reverse Pec Dec Laterals 3 8 to 12

Errol and Judi Hannigan Beyond 50Muscle & Strength: I read that your wife has also made a great transformation...Can you tell us a bit about her transformation, and what it means to you to have someone in your life that is just as dedicated?

Errol Hannigan: As my wife Judi told me she was tired of feeling exhausted and sluggish and especially tired of looking at her ever-expanding muffin top.

In 2002 she began experiencing major flu-like symptoms, which had her bounced from doctor to doctor, specialist to specialist with them telling her that she had everything under the sun from the flu to Lupus, to it was all in her head and she was even told that she was making it up. In 2004 they finally and definitively diagnosed her with Lupus and Fibromyalgia. It was an enormous blow as she had always been active and here she was barely able to get out of bed, had extremely painful joints and muscles, migraine type headaches and severe exhaustion, and was sleeping for up to 12 hours at night and at least another 5 to 6 hours during the day and she never once was able to feel rested. She was told that exercise would help but at that point going to the gym was the furthest thing from her mind, especially when you think about what she had been going through with my numerous surgeries, a life threatening infection and finally my leg having to be amputated.

She actually became quite sedentary, depressed and so indulged in food (think bucket size Blizzards from Dairy Queen and daily orders of take out food).

In October of 2006 she decided to get a membership at the local gym but didn’t even set foot into it until January of ’07. She decided that she had had enough of being overweight and was going to try the Body for Life program. She said that I could join her if I wanted but she was determined she was going to do something. Luckily, after much discussion I said that I would try it also.

The first few weeks of the Body for Life Challenge were definitely a “challenge” for her. Just getting up and going to the gym to workout was overwhelming; walking up a set of stairs produced so much pain (think of the feeling of lactic acid build-up) that she would have to stop half way until the pain subsided. Following a workout she had to have a mandatory nap that could last up to 3 hours. In fact the mental and physical process of getting to the gym is a strain each and every day but the feeling of satisfaction, accomplishment and boost out of her spirit during and after a workout session she says has been worth every bit of the struggle.

After following the Body for Life program for 12 weeks she found that she had gone form a size 12/14 to a 4/6 and had completely “shape-shifted” her entire body into one that I thought was competition worthy.

I am so thankful to have had my wife Judi as my training partner. She is not only dedicated to her own workouts but also to seeing me get the best out of mine. She knows me so well that anytime I was in danger of dogging it she would transform into a drill sergeant and tell me “to get off of my butt and put some more weight on that bar.”

Without her as my training partner I don’t know if I would have made the progress that I did make.

Not only was she dedicated and inspirational in the gym but also at home. She was always tweaking recipes to make them healthier or experimenting with the protein powders we get from Beverly International to see what she could use it in to make all our snacks and meals higher in protein and great tasting.

I feel incredibly honored when people compliment me on my body transformation or on being an inspiration to them, but to be totally honest what Judi has gone through and still goes through not only at the gym but many times even just to get to the gym humbles me beyond words. She inspires me to push myself and not to let pain stop me from achieving my goal just as she has not let her pain stop her form achieving her goals. She truly is my hero.

Judi HanniganMuscle & Strength: Now that you have achieved what so many others are after - a great physique - what drives you? What motivates you to keep hitting the gym, and what are your goals for the upcoming year and beyond?

Errol Hannigan: Honestly what drives me Steve is my desire to help others get into better shape. My goal is to be able to make a positive impact in helping people overcome this epidemic of obesity that is threatening our population.

I enjoy keeping my own body in good shape but in truth it is actually my main credential when it comes to my own Personal Fitness and Healthy Lifestyle Consulting business. I don’t believe that my personal training certificate and nutritional training are enough to keep new clients coming and old ones form leaving. I truly believe that if I wasn’t in good shape, especially at 61 years of age I wouldn’t have been successful as a personal trainer. Why would someone, anyone for that matter want to hire me to get them into better shape and adjust their nutritional intake if I wasn’t in good shape myself?

I hate it when I see an out of shape personal trainer and they are doing the old “do as I say not do as I do” thing, when it comes to getting people into better shape. Sure they may have the best training in the world but why aren’t they using that training to help themselves? I like my clients to know that I was once fat and that I went through the same difficulties of losing bodyfat, exercising and getting my lazy butt to the gym when all I really wanted to do was stay in bed that they will be going through. I want them to know that I realize how hard they are working and when I say “good job” I want them to know I mean it and not just paying lip service to them.

As for my goals for this year and beyond, my wife and I are in the process of shooting a raw film to be edited down to make a DVD called Faith and Fitness - The First Step. We are also putting together an ebook that will accompany the DVD.

I hope that you don’t mind me telling you a bit about how the whole Faith & Fitness - The First Step DVD and E-Book thing got started.

It all came about after my wife and I completed our body transformations and our church asked us to put on a fitness course to go along with the regular Bible study courses that the church was offering, but this would be for people who wanted to learn more about healthy living and who were thinking about losing weight and getting into better shape but didn't know what to do or even where to begin.

What we put together was a 5 week course called Faith & Fitness...The Next Step, and each week we would hold one session for 5 weeks.

The first night we were expecting maybe 20 people but it ended up that the room was packed to overflowing. The second week we were given the biggest room the church had and once again it proved to be too small and people had to be turned away. So after the first 5 week course we were again asked to put on a second one, and amazingly the exact same thing happened and sadly people had to be turned away again.

Along the way a Christian newspaper did an article on my wife and I and each of our journey’s and we then started receiving emails and phone calls from all over asking us to come and put on our course. In fact we were totally shocked and completely in awe after being contacted by a church in Virginia that wanted us to come down and put on our course. The shocking awe inspiring part was that this particular church was over 3000 miles away from where we live in Canada.

About that time some people from our church came to us with the idea of us putting our entire course on a DVD along with an accompanying E-Book so that any church, group or even individual could and would be able to access it without us having to be there in person. So that idea was presented to our church’s Board of Elders who blessed us by unanimously agreeing to it and also made us part of their non-profit foundation. This helped us incredibly because now anyone who chooses to donate funds to help our project will be able to receive a tax deductible receipt for their income tax. Since then we have again been blessed to have received a number of donations and we are now able to begin the filming of the DVD.

I will be putting a lot of inspirational and motivational segments into the DVD from not only my and my wife’s lives, but also a number of other people who will be in it so that everyone who views it can see that with the proper information and their own determination they too can transform their bodies.

I am so incredibly excited to be doing this and am looking forward to being able to assist  people who are desperately seeking to lose weight and get into better shape but just don't know what to do or where to start.

Sorry to babble on so much but I get so darned excited about doing this that I tend to get carried away.

If my dream could come true it would see my wife and I travelling North America in our truck and 5th wheel trailer and stopping anywhere and everywhere, from small towns to big cities and working to help people get into better shape. I would love to travel around teaching and preaching how easy it really is to go from fat to fit and use not only my wife and I, but so many others that have also had body transformations as fantastic examples and inspirations of what can happen when you change the way you eat and by exercising.

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Comments (9)

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RJ Perkins
Posted Tue, 06/08/2010 - 21:01

This falls nothing short of being a phenom of a story truly heart warming and inspirational!

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Errol Hannigan
Posted Thu, 06/10/2010 - 17:46

I thank you for taking the time to write and to say the things you did.
I am incredibly honored to have you say that to me and you are much too kind.
My goal in life, along with my wife, is helping people who wish to lose weight and get into better shape know and believe that they can.
Stay strong, focused and determined and may God bless.

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Dorothy Justice
Posted Wed, 06/09/2010 - 12:48

What a great and inspiring transformation story! As a Boomer, myself and an ICU nurse I feel I can understand the challenges
you have faced and overcome. Your story moved me to tears, but also gave me hope for our generation and myself. I may send a patient or two to the sight to read your inspiring account. Thank you for sharing your transformations. I struggle every day to keep on working out and find that the transformation stories help me walk through that gym door. Once I'm in I'm good to go! Today, you guys got me past that "oh, maybe I'll wait and go tommorrow" syndrome. You are both awe inspiring people.

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Errol Hannigan
Posted Thu, 06/10/2010 - 17:42

Hi Dorothy:
I am both honored as well as humbled by your words. I thank you for taking the time to read my story and then write and to say the things you did. My main objective in life is to try and get as many people as possible to embrace fitness and achieve or even surpass their fitness goals and/or dreams.
As an ICU nurse I have enormous respect for you and your fellow nurses as I have seen firsthand how hard you work and what your untiring devotion to your patients does for them.
If you ever think that I can be of any assistance to anyone, handicapped or otherwise please do not hesitate to send them to me or to give me an email at enhannigan@hotmail.com as i would be honored to do whatever I could to help them in their journey.
Stay strong, focused and determined and may God bless.

Remember:
While God did not promise you a day without pain, laughter without sorrow or sun without rain.
He did although promise you strength for the day, comfort for your tears and a light for your way.

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Dan in Philly
Posted Wed, 06/23/2010 - 14:41

WOW! God uses cracked and broken people to prove His strength! What an inspirational story, Errol! Thank you for sharing!

God bless,
Dan

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steve howe
Posted Mon, 06/28/2010 - 15:07

Errol- You're story is nothing short of phenomenal and inspirational! Especially with your age factored in. As the Bible says. " If God is with us who can be against us"! I'm 53 and after deciding to start playing hockey( with everyone from 22-55) again I decided to start working out about 8 mnths ago. Plus, losing my job and my marriage started to get to me and as you say, working out definitely helps keep things positive when you are down. True, there's not much info for us "old guys" but I look at all information from all sources. Thanks for yours, you're awesome dude!

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Steve Williams
Posted Sat, 11/13/2010 - 23:16

Wow. That is awesome Errol. I started in the gym myself two years back and have done one comp but want to do others. I am 52 and also a christian. I have been wrestling with the idea of not challenging myself to grow more but just focus on being lean and accept my size. That was until I read your article. You have shown me that we can continue to improve and grow and to be honest I love the challenge of pushing myself in the gym. Others have told me that I will not get much bigger and a trainer told me the other day to forget the comps as my legs are no good. As far as I am concerned, just gettting to the comp is a victory in itself. Thanks again for the inspiration and God bless....Steve (New Zealand)

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Marcus
Posted Sat, 05/07/2011 - 04:42

What determination! I have nothing else to say but pure determination and perseverance. Unbelievably moving and inspirational.

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perry
Posted Fri, 08/24/2012 - 07:43

Wow just read you story , i am inspired at 46 to carry on . I have training to gain muscke and lose fat for 5 years . muscle gain is easy , i dont seem to lose weight . I do runnng 5 times a week for 45 minutes and 45 minutes of weights in the eveinings . please help .

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