These girls with muscles may inspire more than the muscular men out there.Read article
A few months ago, 911 CrossFit owner and nationally recognized fitness expert Jim Sayih visited M&F H.Q. to discuss the 60 Day Revolution training program. Sayih served as an expert source for training and motivational advice in the program’s design. During the meeting of editors, trainers and experts in a conference room, Sayih shared a moving story about how he ran a 15K Battle Frog obstacle course race while pushing his 23-year-old quadriplegic son Michael in a wheelchair.
Prior to the race, Sayih’s peers thought they’d be stopping at 5K, but Sayih knew the plan all along.
“While I was recruiting people from my gym for the race, my wife was saying ‘I’ve supported you in all of your adventures but I think you’re biting off more than you chew. Why don’t you just do the 5K and be happy you’re taking your son to his first obstacle course race?’” Sayih says. “I said ‘Yes, dear’ but I knew that when I’d get there I’d do the 15K.”
As Sayih and his team of 12 people approached a fork in the road, one side the 5K route and the other side 15K route, the formation made a turn towards the 15K.
“What are doing? Are you crazy?” Mrs. Sayih exclaims on the course.
It was pouring rain and 50 degrees in Battle Park, Miami but Sayih would do anything to lift wheelchair-bound Michael over the walls and through the lakes to finish line.
When Michael was born, the placenta tore away from the uterus, thus eliminating his oxygen source. Without oxygen, Michael suffered brain damage to the midbrain, which controls motor movement.
“The doctor told me I can either institutionalize him or choose to endure this and change my life,” Sayih says. “I said, ‘I’m going to take this challenge because I know how resilient the human body is and how it adapts to any situation if stimulated.”
Since age one, Michael and his father did therapy to improve his movement and speech. Now, he talks on the phone with friends (his speech is slightly slurred) and is active outside his home.
Sayih, Michael and the team were exhilarated to finish the Battle Frog race but this wasn’t the father-son duo’s first rodeo.
“I’ll take him to triathlons where I attach a pole to my feet and pull him in an oversized jogging stroller then I’ll take the pole off and push him or swim with him attached to a raft (as seen above),” Sayih says. “He loves to be a part of it.”
Sayih’s role as an inspirer and coach was earned through decades of hard work in the gym and on the streets. As a kid, he got into martial arts, wrestling, football and track and field then joined the Air Force at age 17. Stationed in Japan, he started competing in powerlifting and strongman before moving on to Italy where he started bodybuilding.
“I won Mr. Italy in 1985 and 1986 and was featured in Muscle & Fitness Italy,” says Sayih.
After returning home from the armed forces, Sayih joined the Miami police department, where he would eventually retire as lieutenant. While a member of the police force, Sayih competed in the World Police and Fire Games, a CrossFit-like athletic competition.
“It’s the Olympics for law enforcement; eight events done consecutively in one day,” Sayih says. “It’s a 100-meter sprint, rope climb without feet, 200-meter obstacle course, AMRAP pullups and bench press, a 5K run, and shot-put.”
While a cop, Sayih attended graduate school and conducted research about the physical fitness of policemen and firemen. After four years traveling the country and assessing servicemen, he realized it was up to him to make a change.
“I noticed some of the guys and gals were not working out,” Sayih says. “I thought they might get motivated by an 8-week fitness challenge where I’d give them $1,000 bucks at the end.”
The challenge was a big hit so the next year Sayih made Shriners Children Hospital the beneficiaries. All registration proceeds have been going Shriners for the past 16 years. As the 911 Fitness Challenge went on, Sayih took things a step further.
“I was like ‘Wow, there are some big dudes here; they need some help,” Sayih says. “That’s when I created the 911 fitness certification program using the American College of Sports Medicine guidelines.”
Today, Sayih is the owner of 911 CrossFit in Cooper City, Florida and he trains using a blend of CrossFit and other disciplines.
“I’m trying to get fast and stronger so my workouts will include biking, running, kettlebell swings, farmer’s walks, prowler sprints, weighted vest monkey bar climbs, and rope climbs,” Sayih says. “My cardio in the gym is lifting weights fast with lighter weight”
Currently training for an adventure race this fall, Sayih is always looking for a new fitness challenge. If he weren’t so inclined to push his physical limits, he might not be alive.
“I’ve combatted against people who’ve wanted to kill me and the only thing that kept me from not dying was they got tired of kicking my ass,” Sayih says. “When they got tired, I was able to handcuff them and subdue them.”
While fighting to live may not be on the average agenda, anyone can use Sayih’s motivational advice. And although civilian life could be safe, you have to expect the unexpected.
“Fitness has to be a part of your life, just like brushing your teeth. Be able to do a few pullups at the very least. A pullup may save your life.”