06.17.2015

I Spent The Morning With Fitness Guru Shaun T

I Spent The Morning With Fitness Guru Shaun T

by Michael P. Coleman

"Nothing is forever unless you let it be forever, and you fail to take control over the path youre walking down."   -Shaun T

If youve ever channel surfed in the wee hours of the night, you know the face and the abs of fitness guru Shaun T.  Both are works of art, and just the sight of the latter on a recent Mens Health cover has prompted me to just say noto fast food hamburgers for the last five months. 

From Hip Hop Abs to his new Insanity Max 30, Shaun T has been a late night TV fixture for close to a decade.  Hes the talent and inspiration behind TVs most popular infomercials for each of the last seven years. 

Shauns personal story starts in New Jersey, with not much more than a dream of becoming a professional dancer.  He took a trip to Los Angeles and auditioned a lot, but wound up returning to the east coast without a job.  Weeks later, he got a call that literally changed his life, and led to a career as a background dancer and physical trainer that ultimately led him to informercial stardom. 

Shaun T can remember a time, just a few years ago, when his bank account routinely had a negative balance.  Today, by following his passion, keeping focused, and not giving up until he achieved his goals, its estimated than Shaun Ts net worth is approximately $10 million.  In addition to his fitness products, Shaun T is hitting the road this year with his Shaunterventionsessions.  Hes also writing a fitness book that he hopes to release in early 2016. 

In preparing to meet Shaun T, I was very curious to see whether the person would align with the persona.  In his case, what you see on TV is ABSolutely what you get.  I found him to be smart, funny, warm, engaging, thoughtful and incredibly motivational.  After talking with Shaun T, I was more than ready to get my blood pressure under control, to just say No!to those vices that arent helping me slim down this summer, and to purge everything else in my life thats standing between me and my goals.  I cant imagine what its like to be in his orbit on a regular basis.

This interview has been edited.  

Youve talked about being in a relationship that wasnt good for you, and deciding to move to LA when your former partner didnt support a dream of yours that was coming to fruition.  Can you share what it was about that juncture that made you say enough is enough?

I used to run track and field, and I was a hurdler.  One of the things my coaches taught me was to never skip a hurdle, and never let a hurdle stop me from continuing my race.  And that really resonated with me in that particular relationship.  Were all on our our individual life journey and I dont feel like anyone should have control over what you want to do with your life.  I didnt want to have to look back in 20 years and say What if I had ended this relationship and gone on to pursue a dream?”  I wouldnt know what was possible if I had let that particular hurdle stop me.   And so, it just all came to a head.  This person was telling me Youll never be a professional dancer.”  In my head, I can deal with a lot of craziness, but when you tell me Im not going to do something, Im like No, this is not going down like that.” 

Some people just cant muster the strength to make a change like that.  Have you always had that type of resolve? 

I think Ive always had a drive to always be better.  As a kid, I had a bike and a stopwatch, and I would ride my bike around the block.  Each time around the block, the goal was to be faster and faster than I had done the previous time.  Obviously, at some point I hit a plateau, because you can only go so fast, but I was still always trying to get past that plateau.  So yes, even as a kid it was there.  My first year of basketball, during the entire season, I scored four points!  [Laughs]  The second year, I started and scored 26 points per game!  Internally and mentally, its unacceptable for anyone to not try as hard as they can to be better.  Theres always a next time. 

A lot of people get a call like the one you got with the offer to come to LA, and they let fear or insecurity or uncertainty talk them out of taking a chance.  Was there any part of you in that moment that thought I cant do this

That kind of thing never enters my brain simply because if you dont try, youll never know. I decided to go out to LA with a goal, and for me, the intention of trying to achieve that goal is much more important than whether I achieved the goal or not.  If youre trying very hard to achieve something positive in your life, youre going to learn lessons along the way even if that road leads you down another road.  When I moved to LA, my only goal was to be a professional dancer, but that got cut short because a producer at Beachbody came to me and asked me to do fitness videos.  I always wanted to do a fitness video, but didnt think it would become what its become.  While I feel that my professional dance career was cut short, I am now in a place that fulfills me more than I ever thought would be possible because Im able to help hundreds of thousands of people feel better about themselves. 

You had a two hour meeting with Beachbody, and walked out with your first contract.  Did you see that as a moment in time when you had to get it done, or do you think that the stars just kind of aligned for you and you were in the right place at the right time?  

A lot of people have said You were so lucky.”  I guess a little bit of luck had to do with that, but it also annoys me when people say that I was lucky, because I took so many chances to get where I got.  I took the chances and I made decisions to go down roads that were tough enough for me to actually get to where I got.  I have spent my last dollars and went into the negative on my bank account to take classes so that I could work as hard as I could to keep up with the competition.  Also, my mindset walking into that audition was I have nothing to lose.”  It doesnt even cross my mind that Im not going to be the best I can be in any situation.

Youve said a key part of your success was the decision to eliminate the negative influence in your life and go after your dreams.  There are people in situations -- careers, relationships -- that arent working for them, but theyre afraid to eliminate the things that arent serving them anymore.  What advice would you give them?

Nothing is forever unless you let it be forever and you fail to take control over the path youre walking down.  I remember living in LA and driving in the worst traffic.  Everyone tries to get into the far left lane because its thought to be the fastest lane.  Some people stay there just because they think its the fastest lane but two lanes over, they could actually be going much faster.  Dont be afraid to change lanes in your life.  If youre in a relationship thats holding you back, you need to change lanes.  If youre in a job thats holding you back or youre not being fulfilled, what is the point in waking up every day and not living as the best possible you?  I know that a lot of people say finances are in the way or they have kids, but I will stand strong by the words Im about to say:  peace of mind and happiness are so much more fulfilling than money.  When you can wake up every day and feel amazing about yourself, even on the bad days, thats the journey you have to follow. 

You sound like a preacher, and I know your grandfather was a pastor.  Im curious about what faith he followed, and what role faith has in the way you look at life and the way you tackle goals. 

He was a Christian.  It was a non-denominational kind of Baptist-ist church.  I remember going to church and being like OMG I dont want to be here.  I dont know what youre talking about. Im a kid.  I just want to go out and play.  Sundays my day off from school and I dont want to spend it here.”  But later in life, what I realize is the passion behind what that man was saying.  It is beyond incredible how he had the driving motivation to get up every day and inspire his congregation.  My grandfather believed the things he said, whether people believed in the Muslim faith or Buddism or whatever, he just believed that what he was saying was true, and he lived by those words.  What Ive taken from him is I only say the things I believe in, and I dont have pointless conversations. 

Many people have given up trying to be healthy and have convinced themselves that obesity or hypertension or whatever is genetic and cant be changed.  What would you say to the person who has talked themselves out of a healthier life? 

That person has to completely switch that thought around and start thinking the opposite.  I tell someone in a workout or in any situation in their life, you have to tell yourself that you can do it, even in the moment when you literally have nothing left in the tank.  The other day, a guy told me he really wanted to start working out but didnt know how to start.  I told him to get down on the floor right then and do five push ups.  He looked at me like I was crazy, but I told him that if he did that, he could then say he worked out today.  And then tomorrow, he could do six push ups.  Its all about where you start now and setting a goal and taking incremental steps each day.  Five pushups today will be 15 pushups in two weeks.  Human behavior dictates that once you start to do something and you see that you CAN get through it and it does work, youll realize you can be successful.  You have to tell yourself that you CAN do it, because the minute you tell yourself you cant, thats the minute youll fall on your face and wont be able to get back up. 

Im sold!  Talk to me about Insanity Max :30.  

Some programs, including some of mine, are designed with your only goal being 60 or 90 days away. I wanted to create a workout program that gave you something to go after and achieve every day.  With my new program, you push yourself to your max, and you reach for incremental increases each subsequent week.  It constantly progresses.  Every day, you have a goal to achieve.  The amazing thing is there are no weights and no equipment other than your own mind being in control of your body.  If you can tell yourself I can do this, youll always be able to go one second further. 

Youve hit the road in 2015.  Tell me about Shauntervention.

People work out at home with my products, but I also like to be hands-on.  Shaunterventionis a workout, but its also a face-to-face motivational session to get people in the mindset of getting a little better every day.   Maybe I need to get over to Sacramento!

Let's make that happen!   There are a lot of fitness books out there everyone and their mama has written one.  I hope youre working on yours!  

Yes, I am!  Were hoping to have it out early in 2016, but were working diligently to get it out as soon as possible. 

Order Shaun T’s new Insanity Max :30 at shauntfitness.com.

 

Michael P. Coleman is a Sacramento-based freelance writer who used to eat 2-3 fast food burgers a week, and has not had one since meeting Shaun T in February, 2015!  Connect with Michael at michaelpcoleman.com, via email at mikelsmindseye@me.com, or on Twitter:  @ColemanMichaelP