Windy City Pulse

This is #WindyCityLivin

George's story is such an inspiration and proves that it's not what happens to you, but how you react that matters. After inheriting a terrible disease, George found his way out of depression through exercise and nutrition. On top of that, he's just a great person to be around. Congrats, George—February is yours!

Member since: Jan 2019

Windy City February 2020 Athlete of the Month

“Clear eyes. Full hearts. Can’t lose.”
– Friday Night Lights

I’m from about 20 miles outside of Chicago in the small suburb of Itasca. I grew up playing sports, but I was never as talented of an athlete as I wanted to be. I was always the kid on the team with the most heart and the loudest cheers from the sideline. I’ve always been way more gifted in the arts, specifically the performing kind. Therefore, after sophomore year of high school, I only played sports intramurally or for fun and focused solely on theatre and underage partying.

After high school I attended Illinois State University. Three months after graduation, I moved to the city to become an actor. Soon after that I got my dream job with Catharsis Productions and have been with them ever since. I am now the manager of my department. We do interpersonal violence prevention training (mainly sexual assault prevention trainings) for colleges, the military, and we are now breaking into the corporate market. I am proud af of what I do and the people I work with. It is an extremely rewarding job.

In 2010, I met the love of my life and we have now been married for 5 years. We have a dog named Denzel Washington and I love him so damn much.

My very close friend, Mark Sefferino found Windy City and for years would try and get me to join. When I was finally ready to fix my shit, I very hesitantly walked through those doors, or should say… I was buzzed in the door.

I found out when I was in 7th grade that my dad had MS, but he was diagnosed way before then. As I got more mature, I started to truly understand the effects the disease had on not only him physically, but every aspect of my family. This shit takes a toll and it’s awful. My father is a strong man (or a stubborn man… depending on how you want to look at it) and never wanted to really talk about it or even acknowledge it. However, knowing he was battling this disease for so long made all the seemingly customary times he played catch with me, shot hoops with me, or ran the chains at my football games, all the more meaningful and special.

In June 2016, I was diagnosed with MS. All the years of watching my father battle MS couldn’t prepare me for the moment I was told I now have it. The doctors told me treatments could only do so much and I would need to make some big ass lifestyle changes. I was told I needed to start taking my nutrition extremely seriously and I needed to lose weight. I was also instructed that exercise is immensely important if I wanted to have the best future possible with this disease.

Well, I slipped into a severe depression and pretty much did the opposite of what the doctors told me to do. My confidence and self-worth were swirling around in the toilet and for the first time in my life I was in a constant state of anger and negativity. Every single meal, I was binge eating and became the heaviest I have ever been.

In December 2018, my wife insisted I see a nutritionist and made an appointment for me. The first blood test proved the damage I had done to my body and I now had more than just MS to worry about. Everything was elevated in all the bad ways.

I truly hit rock bottom and I went home from that appointment and cried. I knew I needed to do something. I had lost control and needed to take it back if I wanted any semblance of hope.

The next day I took my first Level 1 class with Coach Taylor at WCSC. It was brutal. Days after, I was still more sore than I’d ever been. It was painful to even sit or get up from the toilet. I walked into work and a coworker asked if I got into a car accident because of the way I was walking. But…for the first time in a long time, I felt good. I loved that hurt. It wasn’t hurt from my MS symptoms or from what I ate, how much I drank, or a lack of sleep. It was hurt from waking my body up and pushing myself harder than ever before and I didn’t want it to go away… so I kept going to CrossFit.

Look, before WCSC, I have never EVER been able to commit to any type of fitness routine in my life. I legit hated working out. I always envied the people who made fitness a part of their lives, but that never motivated me to do anything about it. Since joining Windy City a year ago, I have been consistently going to CrossFit 3 times a week and when I’m traveling, I’m doing 100 burpees/100 grasshoppers/100 air squats in my hotel rooms. I am now down 50 pounds and in the best shape of my life. Most importantly, I have my confidence back. I am happier than I ever have been since the diagnosis. My marriage is stronger. My friendships are stronger.

For the first time in a long ass time… I am in control. My recent blood test reflects all the progress I have made. All the scary elevated shit has leveled out. I am healthy. Even with MS… I AM HEALTHY.

I owe so much of that to Coach Taylor, Coach Esther, Coach Eloise, Coach PJ, Coach Bradley and everyone at WCSC. Every time I walk into the gym, I feel supported. There were WODs where I wanted to give up, but they never let me. Because of them, I know I always have to finish strong. They all played a huge part in changing my life for the better and I’m truly grateful.

What does living BIG mean to you?

Not living in constant fear of the shit you can’t control. Getting up after you fall. Striving to always be an ally to marginalized voices. Having the courage to fight the good fight and inspiring people to make this a better world for all.

What adventures, events, trips, races do you have planned?

I am about to embark on one of lives greatest adventures… fatherhood. My wife is pregnant and our first child is due in June.

What are your goals:

  • Fitness: My goal is to just keep on keeping on. I never thought I would last this long and I don’t see myself stopping. I know my life is about to get super hectic once my baby is born, but if I can help it, I never want to go a week without going to WCSC.
  • Professionally: To be the best leader I can be.

What is one thing that most people don’t know about you?

If you follow me on the social media, you know this about me, but I am a proud member of a movie club… Team SLIT. We are like a book club but way more badass. We see a ton of movies together, either in the theaters or in one of our homes and we always have each others’ backs, so if you mess with one of us, you mess with all of us. #TeamSLIT.

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