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The creator of INSANITY trusts and believes in your transformation.
Shaun T is emphatic: “I’m your biggest fan.” That’s the one thing he wishes people knew about him.
What most people do know is that he’s the creator of the wildly popular INSANITY and T25 workout DVD series. The programs have earned Shaun T a reputation not only for demanding workouts that have transformed many bodies but also for life-changing motivation that has earned millions of fans. He keeps you going even when you think you can’t hold your plank a second longer: “I say, ‘You’re right there.’ I don’t say, ‘You better not give up.’ I want you to dig deeper.”
That’s because Shaun T sees transformation as building strength for the challenges you’ll face in the future. His new book “T Is for Transformation” (Rodale Books, 2017) is about “looking deep within yourself to ask, ‘How do I actually keep this transformation going? What’s going to help push me along [so that] when I get to the end of this particular journey, I have the power to start the next part of my life?’”
As long as you have the potential to change, he doesn’t care where you are on your fitness journey, and that’s why he’s your biggest fan.
Your team is inside you
The fitness icon could have written a successful book—or two or three—about fitness or nutrition. “[Instead], I wanted to write a book about what enhances the journey, what enhances the sustainability [of your fitness],” he explains. “When people are going through a transformation, sometimes they put so much pressure on themselves or on a number that they forget everything that’s surrounding it. And everything that’s surrounding it is everything that’s happening in life.”
It might seem surprising that someone whose success is built on legions of fans would zero in on the importance of building your strength—for yourself. But Shaun T learned that truth from his own transformation, escaping childhood sexual abuse, succeeding on the high-school track, struggling with weight and identity in college, and finally achieving new heights as a performer and fitness phenomenon.
In the process of transformation, he wants you to accept every part of your life, including the person you were—not just the person you want to become. He compares the journey to the baton relay in track and field: “If you’re in the first leg [of the race], you’re running. [The “you” who is] that second leg is trying to motivate and pull you through to the next exchange. Let the person who you want to become pull you through.”
As you reach your goal, he urges you to look back and recognize that the person you were—that first runner handing over the baton—gave you the motivation to move forward. “Just because you lose 30 pounds doesn’t mean you have to forget about the person that was 30 pounds heavier because that’s the person who gave you the power,” Shaun T says.
Seven superpowers can transform you
In “T Is for Transformation,” he identifies seven “superpowers” from his own experience that you can use to transform your own life. Shaun T believes we give up on our fitness dreams because we focus on a number on the scale. He says the first rule is to do what you want to do. “I tell people all the time, ‘You don’t need to do my workouts. INSANITY could be the most popular thing on the planet, but if it doesn’t resonate with you, don’t do it. If walking for 15 minutes a day is going to give you power to wake up and do it again, do that,’” he says.
He also wants you to embrace the voices inside that encourage—and those that doubt. Embracing the struggle for what it is, he says, ultimately builds confidence.
But what about the mixed messages that tell you to push yourself as hard as you can and also listen to your body? Shaun T invokes one of the superpowers: Be selfish. Why? “Nobody’s going to get the results for you but you. Nobody can lift the weight, do the push-up or the squat,” he says. “Someone can put the spoon in your mouth, but you have to swallow and be committed to whatever you’re eating. When you feel good about yourself, confidence takes over.”
He recognizes that appearance can contribute to self-confidence, but he says it can only be sustained with self-love. “When the time comes that your biceps don’t look the way that they do today, you can still be confident with who you are. And you still know that the person next to you is going to love you for who you are.”
That relates to another superpower: Go bananas. Shaun T doesn’t mean eat more of them. “Be as you as you can possibly be,” he says. “Anything that’s different about you, anything that’s unique about you, be that to the 10th degree. Go absolutely bananas, because when you are you to the fullest extent, you learn more about yourself and you’re able to push past new boundaries.”
It’s not so surprising, then, that when people stop him on the street and ask to see his abs (yes, they really do that), he politely declines. With a smile, he says, “My abs don’t do anything for you. My abs are for me!”
Focus on what happens after the “after”
About those before-and-after pictures from Shaun T’s fans: He admires them, but he doesn’t place a lot of stock in them. “They’re just snapshots of your life,” he says. “What were you thinking when you took the after picture? Did you snap the picture and smile just to say, ‘I lost 60 pounds,’ but you’re still not internally happy about who you are?”
That’s what inspired him to write “T Is for Transformation.” He explains, “The book is going to make you feel a little bit uncomfortable. It’s going to make you think about the relationship you have with your mother or the self-sabotage that you do every single day. But once you go through the steps to success, you’re going to begin to live.”
Shaun T has been through struggles and has learned to embrace challenges, so “T Is for Transformation” doesn’t preach. “I was molested for four years as a kid,” he says. “I had to move out of my house, and I devised a plan to do it at 14 years old. Coming out as a gay man. Getting married to [husband Scott Blokker]. … I’ve been through it. And the reason why I’m your biggest fan is because I know that you can do it, [too]. I’m not talking about achieving the goal. What I do know is that you can begin. You can [handle] the process. You possess the power of commitment.”
For those of us who are struggling, he says, “Great. We can celebrate that, too. If you gained 30 pounds back, I’m still going to be your biggest fan. I’m going to be here to motivate you every step of the way, and I’m going to help you trust and believe in who you are.”
Photo credit: Tom Casey, box24studio.com
Grooming: Katie Nash, katienashbeauty.com