Powered By Soul Spotlight – Damon E. Johnson

My work group moved to a new office and it wasn’t pleasant. I had this big file cabinet that the movers just plopped down into the new office and it was too heavy for me to move it on my own.  In pops, Damon to save the day and move that big thing in one fell swoop. Being his next door office neighbor we had plenty of good times and plenty of laughs as he is a great teller of tales and jokes.  Did I mention that he is also a published poet? Yes he’s that, a father, husband and a Kappa (I’m surrounded by them I tell you) and a great friend.  Introducing Damon E. Johnson in his own words.

You are?

Damon Johnson, I’m 47 years old and was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia. I currently work as a Public Outreach Specialist however, my passion is poetry. My first book, Rhythm in My Blues was published in 2011. I am presently working on my second book and hope to have it published by January 2015.

Tell us about your fitness routine.

My fitness routine consists of working out 3 to 4 times a week at Planet Fitness in Stone Mountain using machine weights and riding the stationary bike. I also like walking a few miles in the evenings when the weather is cool.

Do you follow a particular nutrition plan?

As far as nutrition goes, I have a few food restrictions due to being a dialysis patient. I have to limit my dairy foods and liquids as well as cut back on fried foods. Lately I have been eating more salads, fruits and vegetables.

How long have you been following your fitness and nutrition program?

As an ex football player I have always been somewhat of an active person. However, I realized that over the last few years or so I had not been as active as I once was. So after putting it off for several months I decided last summer that I was going to finally get it together. That’s when I started making the necessary changes to my lifestyle.DJ1

Do you have a success story or testimonial you wish to share?

Since I changed my diet and exercise last summer I have lost over 100 pounds. I can’t tell you how great I feel and how much more active I have become. Life is Good!


What motivates you to maintain a healthy lifestyle?

Every time I look into my 9 year old daughter Sydney eyes I am motivated to stay on the healthy track. I need to make sure that I am around to watch her continue to grow into the beautiful young lady she is becoming.

Do you have a personal motto/philosophy you wish to share?

A motto I try to live by is… Good things come to those who wait. But only the things left behind by those who hustle…

Powered by Soul thanks Damon for sharing his successful health transformation with us and we wish him continued success is maintaining his lifestyle and in his artistry as a poet.

If you our someone you know would like to be featured in the spotlight, drop a line in the comments, Google+ or Twitter.

Photos: Damon E. Johnson

The Foot of Paranoia

Yoga was great. Yin Yoga to be exact which is crazy relaxing and rids your mind of all foolishness.  At home popcorn, beer and football were on tap for a different type of relaxation, which was also good.  I enjoyed it until I got sleepy and went to bed.  The call of nature came some time in the wee hours of the morning.  While exiting the bed I felt the sheet scrape my big toe and last time I checked, sheets don’t scrape.  At any rate in my sleepy haze I took a look at the toe and saw (as well as one can at 3:00 am) a cut. I wasn’t about to do anything about it though. 
In the morning I got a better look, a cut for sure maybe from some glass?? Who knew. I cleaned it, bandaged it and kept it moving to work, then to physical therapy.  20140829_153753Came home un-bandaged the toe to take another look.  It didn’t look scary just red from walking on it. I re-bandaged it and started a little cleaning when:
paranoia began to set in.
As I moved more I was FEELING that toe. I was advised to take no chances and off to Kaiser I went.
“Hi, my name is Michelle and I’m a paranoid diabetic.  I have a cut on my big toe and I’m worried about it.” The young lady checked me in and I had a seat. The waiting room filled up mostly with limping folks. I guess everyone twists, cuts and breaks stuff for the weekend. I was finally called back at 6:09 pm bad nerves, cut toe and all.
The doctor was cool with a cute sense of humor. He said it was just a cut but ordered an x-ray to make sure nothing was stuck in the toe (negative). I was dismissed with wound care instructions and some fashionable footwear.
I don’t mess around with my feet. They’re the only ones I’ve got. For a diabetic, wounds that don’t heal can end in amputation. That’s just a fact for us so I always err on the side of caution and watch my feet like a hawk and will continue to do so. So far so good, the toe is looking fine.
For all my diabetic readers and those who love us, please take care of your/our feet. Examine them yourself regularly, get a diabetic foot exam annually and if you ever see anything unusual, see your doctor immediately.
Until next time hopefully, see you at the gym.
By the way…
The physical therapist released me to ALL activities on Friday. But there’s this toe thing😕.
I’m thankful for my yoga practice. I have to do a sort of combination pigeon/tree pose to care for the toe 😁
Photos: MsThorns

Listen Up Hard Heads

I will be heading back to Kaiser for the 3rd time in as many weeks tomorrow.  Some of these trips could have been avoided.  A look at my behavior over the last year or so tells the story.

  • In the last year there’s been at least three times when physicians have said stop running , heal completely, then return at a slow pace. What I did? Stop running until I felt good and went right back to full steam ahead.
  • There have been at least two physicians that have said lose 10 pounds. I would lose 5 get some good labs and start eating whatever I wanted to again accompanied by wine of course.
  • Two times physicians have instructed me to perform stretching and strengthening exercises for the back, legs and feet. Again once the pain was gone I resumed my usual level of activity which involves pounding the treadmill and pavement and making the move from the Barbie weights to the big girl weights the prescribed exercises are filed away in a folder.
Back in the day my mom and all the old folks use to say “a hard head makes for a soft a**”. Well they were right, I have spasming butt cheek to prove it.

I can’t afford to be hard-headed anymore. I’m older, diabetic and in  perimenopause. I have learned, the hard way I suppose that the body will always tell you when something is wrong. Even though society says push through it, grind it out or at this one gym I used to go to, “go ahead and throw up” this is something I can no longer do. Listen, comply and modify is my new mantra. It’s what I have to do to maintain a decent quality of life as I age.  As of this writing I am forbidden to perform:

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I have stuck to what the doctors ordered, pending additional instructions from my visit tomorrow and follow up with sports medicine.

I know I’m not the only hard head out here. I’d love to hear your hard head stories, what made you stop being hard headed and the results of the change.  If you care to share please do so in the comments, on  Google+ or Twitter.

To all those who have read my lamentations and given suggestions on how to get better, thank you!

Photos: MsThorns

Powered By Soul Spotlight – Michael Wilson Jr.

Oh how I can go on and on about this guy. The Burpee Champ, the Big Tease Chef who tempts the internets with his food porn, the music connoisseur, the politically astute, the wry humorist and the boxing expert.  That’s just the stuff I know about.  He also happens to be the first person that I EVARRRRR “hungout” with in a Google+ Hangout. Introducing my “food husband” Michael Wilson in his own words.


Michael Wilson Jr., 38 creator and host of the Pound 4 Pound Boxing Reportpodcastblog and YouTube channel and regular contributor to Ringnews24.

Tell us about your fitness routine.

I workout at home 5-6 days a week primarily P90X and Neila Rey’s no equipment workouts. Once a week I practice yoga to maintain flexibility.


Do you follow a particular nutrition plan?

My diet is my weakness. I do drink 64 oz of water a day and try to eat as healthy as I can.  I eat salad 3 days a week and lots of fish and grilled chicken. My main weaknesses are Reese’s Pieces and Snicker bars.

How long have you been practicing your fitness and nutrition programs?

Around 2004-2005 I was heavy, around 250 pounds and my blood pressure was at dangerous levels. I started out by walking at a local park and lost 30 pounds which was cool but I wanted to tone up. Around 2008-2009 I saw the P90X program and started it and have built muscle on the program.

Do you have a success story or testimony you’d like to share?

I no longer take blood pressure medicine and now keep it in check through diet and exercise.

What motivates you to continue to maintain a healthy lifestyle?

There’s an aspect of fear on my part. I don’t want to go back to the days where I was 250 pounds and my blood pressure was at dangerous levels.  Now if I go 3-4 days without exercise I get restless and have to do something.

Do you have a personal motto or philosophy that you subscribe to?

Take care of all aspects of your health, physical, mental and spiritual to maintain balance in your life.  This works in a general sense and for me personally.

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Powered by Soul thanks the man of many talents, Michael Wilson for sharing his story with us.  Be sure to check him out all over the internet by clicking the links in the Vitals section.

If you or someone you know want to be featured in the Spotlight, drop a line in the comments, on Twitter or on Google+.

Photos: Michael Wilson collection

Head First

I wasn’t satisfied with my performance and wanted to get some additional skills. Having “passed” to the next level, I registered for the Adult 3-4 class at West Gwinnett Aquatic Center.

What was I thinking?

My class was YOUNG my instructor Caroline was YOUNG, a junior in high school.  My saving grace was another student in her late 50s which made for a class of two old folks and three youngsters. That was short-lived however, she dropped after the second week leaving me with some energetic teens and pre-teens.  My teacher, young as she was, was highly skilled, friendly and encouraging even though I failed miserably at the breast stroke and no one but me attempted rhythmic breathing right way.  I was ready to quit after every single class but continued to return in spite of my difficulties.  Class was going as well as could be expected until she laid the big one on us. One of the required skills was to dive head first into 12 feet of water.

Judgement day arrived, we marched to the 12 feet end and upon arrival I had a quiet panic attack.  Watching those kids go in I told young instructor straight up, “I’m not doing that.”  There was something going on in my head that I couldn’t shake. I jumped in feet first during that last round of classes and it was fun.  However jumping in head first had me petrified with my head filled with thoughts of all that could go wrong.  Scary as it was, I became determined to not be defeated by fear of an act that I hadn’t even attempted.


So I started the battle with fear by viewing some videos on the challenges of teaching adult swimmers.  One of them dealt specifically with diving which indicated it may be necessary to take a gradual approach to the diving.  During the next to last week I suggested this gradual approach to the instructor, she agreed and from a seated position I took my first head first dive which was more like a fall into the pool.

The last week came.  Next to last class we practiced flip turns (hysterical) and more of the strokes.  For the last class it was students choice and of course those children chose diving.  While the kids went in without hesitation. I took baby steps. 1)sit and fall in 2) kneel and fall in and 3) standing.

I was freaking petrified.  I asked a thousand questions, “what are my feet doing, what are my hands doing, do I push or jump, what about my head?”  Young instructor was unflinching in her encouragement and patience.  My brain finally stopped all of its foolishness and BAM I DOVE IN HEAD FIRST!  It was a non-event.  Who knew that you could go in that way and come right back up?  Of course I did it three more times just to make sure it wasnt a fluke and it wasn’t,  in fact it was real cool.

My mind had been playing tricks on me all along, tricking me into thinking that I didn’t have the skill to dive and that doing so would have adverse effects.  Both thoughts were false.  I’m glad that my brain stopped its ridiculousness so that I could do something that was fun and a bit of an achievement.

Vacation and work have kept me away from the pool for over a month now and I miss it.  As regularly scheduled programming has resumed, I’m heading back to the pool to practice and later this summer for more classes in order to keep the boogie man away and the belly at bay.

What about you? Do you have a boogie man that’s making you stay on the sidelines? Taking it head on is a big step. If you have done so and care to share your story, let me know in the comments.

Until next time I’ll see you at the pool, going in head first 🙂

Special thanks to Caroline Christie, one of Gwinnett’s finest swim instructors.



Photos: MsThorns

Powered by Soul Spotlight – Jeffrey Woods

I’ve known the King of Cardio for several years now.  I call him the King having witnessed him in action in cardio hip-hop class on a few occasions and he goes HARD.  Jeffrey is a diehard Falcons Fan, a supremely talented artist, a southern gentleman and guy whom I’m fortunate enough to call a friend.   Introducing Jeffrey Woods in his own words


My name is Jeffrey Woods, 56 from Atlanta Georgia. I’m a GIS Specialist.

Tell us about your fitness routine/program.

I attend cardio classes four days a week.  The other two days I’m walking, running or doing strength training.

Do you follow a particular nutrition plan?

I work hard at eating vegetables and drinking water, instead of going for non-nutritional foods.

How long have been active?

The past 10 years

Do you have a success story/testimony you’d like to share?

Since I have been active and working on developing a healthier body I’ve successfully run and completed the Peachtree Road Race (10k) for the past 11 years. I’ve lost weight and have had successful health reports from my doctor.  My blood pressure has lowered and my energy has improved.

What motivates you to stay active?

The good feeling I have after exercising, plus I enjoy it and want to maintain my good health.

Do you have a personal motto/philosophy that you live by?

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)

Powered by Soul thanks Jeffrey for sharing his story with us.  You can catch him at the 45th Peachtree Road Race here in Atlanta on July 4, 2014 if you dare :-).

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If you or someone you know would like to be featured in the Spotlight drop a note in the comments, on Google+ or Twitter.

Photo: Jeffrey Woods collection

Must Be the Music

20140220_215739Have you ever sprinted out of your house to get the gym in the morning (afternoon/evening) and left your headphones at home? I have and it was the absolute worst.  Having to listen to the piped in gym music, even when I know it, can be brutal. I prefer to have a choice of tunes to suit whatever it is that I’m doing and whatever it is that I’m feeling. My music selections usually go something like this:

Cardio days – Cardio is usually running on the treadmill unless I’m nursing some god-forsaken injury.  I listen to just about anything within my taste range which would include R&B, Hip-Hop, Jazz, Pop or Rock. Here are a few selections from Thursday’s cardio session:


Lift days – I lean toward something more uptempo/upbeat in any of the above genres in addition to some old-school House. I always pick uptempo stuff for lifting because of my love-hate relationship with pushing and pulling weight. Something uptempo or upbeat gets me through the drudgery.

One thing I do not do is wear headphones when running outside for two reasons: 1)safety – I don’t want anybody or anything creeping up on me; 2)I like to hear birds chirping, kids playing, stuff like that.

For sure there are some who can workout without a headset, I’m just not one of them.  Music for me is a little something extra – motivation, distraction and sometimes the only opportunity I get to listen to new music uninterrupted.

What about you? Do you listen to music when you workout? Why or why not? If you do, I’d love to hear what type of music pushes you through those sets, reps and miles.  Feel free to let me know in the comments, or in reply to this post on Twitter or Google+.

Until next time, see you at the gym, where I might be rocking Yasiin Bey (Mos Def) or John Coltrane, you never know.

Photo: MsThorns

Skip The Gym – Snowpocalypse Edition

Midwest, southeast, east coast, just about everywhere has been hammered with snow and ice bringing life to a virtual standstill (I’m in the Atlanta metro area, we’ve been closed since Tuesday).  While mother nature flexes her muscles, ours may get soft, being stuck at home with all the snacks and all the beer and my personal favorite — naps, to be taken at will.  Don’t let the snow/ice take you away from your program.  There’s plenty to do right in the comfort of your home like:

  • check out Youtube and workout with some of my favorites or discover some new ones for yourself
  • dust off that Insanity, P90x or Jane Fonda (;-)) video
  • pay a visit to your home gym
  • go out and PLAY with your kids/partner/dog in the snow

just to name a few.


Off time from work because of weather can be a good time.  Enjoy all of it, just make sure that you treat your body good too.

Until next time, see you when the ground is visible again.

Photo: MsThorns

The E Word

After a wonderful holiday season and clearance from the doctor I was back into the swing of things on the exercise front. I’d resumed the regular schedule, hitting the gym before work and was able to start running again on a limited basis without pain. It was good to be back, then my head busted up the party

Sinusitis in the dead of winter.


The doctor said it could be caused by a virus along with breathing dry indoor air. Rx this time? Meds and a cool mist humidifier, which I have yet to purchase. I’m feeling fine now but am having major difficulty getting my fanny back in exercise mode and you best believe I have ALL of the EXCUSES to not do so:

  • it’s too cold to be going out at 5:30 in the morning
  • I might hurt something else
  • don’t want to be bothered with people
  • gym cooties
  • don’t have a treadmill/elliptical/bike at home
  • lack of perfect shoes


Though these excuses are lame they are apparently enough to keep me from working out.  I was well enough to exercise on Monday. Today is FRIDAY and I have yet to lift any weight heavier than my purse, or run anywhere besides the bathroom. At the end of the day, it’s not really the illness that got me off my game, it’s the mind and the excuses it creates. The same mind that creates the excuses says I can also choose to get off the couch and get my butt in gear.  When that will happen, I do not know.

How about you? Are excuses winning and your fitness losing? I’d like to hear your excuses AND how you overcame them to get back on track.  Let me know in the comments, on Twitter or Google+.

Until next time, see you (hopefully soon) at the gym.


Skip the Gym – Fitness Blender


I blame and thank my dearest Wonder Woman for her lead.  I had been following her posts on her morning workout with kettlebells. They looked dangerous and intriguing, which means I had to try it.   She suggested I search Youtube to get an idea of how they’re used and to find a workout.

Turns out that there were tons of videos out there.  I ended up choosing a beginner’s kettlebell routine from Fitness Blender.   I got through my first KB session unscathed, my floor not so much but I really enjoyed the routine and have completed many others since. I return to Fitness Blender time and again for the following reasons:

  • The workout routines are filmed against a white background so that the viewer can see all the moves in plain view.  Also there are no distracting boob shots or butt shots, just the instructor(s) puttin in work.
  • The start of each routine provides a text outline of what it entails, so you can get your mind right from the beginning on what you’re about to do.
  • The routines are free of music, you get only the instructor(s) doing the workout with narration.  I don’t even miss the music.
  • There is a plethora of workouts to choose from. HIIT, cardio, kettlebell, weights etc all at different lengths and for different fitness levels. The 1-5 intensity scale,  caloric burn estimate and other descriptors clearly identify the level of difficulty.
  • No rah rah.  I’m not really here for all the “come on give me 5 more you can do ittttt” cheerleading.  A simple count down of reps or a timer suit me just fine, which is what Fitness Blender does.
  • It costs nothing, just the cost of whatever you’re paying for the internet.

and… last but not least… the instructors.

Fitness Blender consists of the husband and wife team of Daniel and Kelli.  Daniel performs the narration on the videos, Kelli, Daniel or both do the workouts. They’re both trained professionals who are experienced in the health and fitness industry. You can learn more about them and additional programs that are offered on their website.

Fitness Blender for me is THE best bang for the buck (or no bucks).  The variety of workouts available ensures that you won’t ever get bored, and the simplicity of their production allows you to focus on form instead of being distracted by everything else.  Next time you skip the gym give Fitness Blender a whirl.  You’ll be glad you did.

Until next time, see you at the virtual gym.