TEANECK, N.J. — Pain is what Teaneck fitness trainer Mike Leggett says shaped his body.
It started emotionally when he was 20 with the pain of feeling lost, mostly. That became the pain of sore muscles and the brutal impact of hard work.
Broken bones. Damaged knees. Torn rotators.
But Leggett knew his body had the ability to heal itself and that if he could overcome the pain — inside and out — he'd be stronger on the other side.
"I’m a survivor," said Leggett, 31, a personal trainer at UFC in Edgewater and Underground Fitness in Tenafly.
"Self-healing is a hard thing to do but if you believe, then you can do it."
Leggett recently started running boot camps at Votee Park in Teaneck, every Sunday morning at 9 a.m. It's not easy, but he says it's worth it.
His athletic journey began when he was 7 years old, just after he earned his black belt in Taekwondo.
He continued playing basketball and baseball through high school and worked a variety jobs simply to the pay the bills.
"I was a stagehand for the Izod Center," said Leggett, now a self-employed life coach and fitness model. "I was a UPS employee loading trucks.
"I couldn't find myself. I couldn't find myself doing these things — it was horrible. I decided to never stop working out from that point.
"I was going to push-up and pull-up myself until this day — and never stopped."
Scroll through Leggett's Instagram page where he's amounted 13,000 followers and watch as he executes a steady stream of burpees and lateral jumps over a tennis court net.
He stands in the sun, curls and shrugs 90 pounds in a parking lot — effortlessly.
Leggett stands on his hands without any assistance and slowly touches his chest to the ground.
The secret to his athletic success?
Water, sweat and a whole lot of determination.
"I read that water and sleep could heal your body, so I drank a gallon every day and made sure to get at least eight or nine hours of rest after good training."
"Drinking water and sweating are how you survive forever, so I trained myself in pain until my body adjusted to the mobility it should have.
"It adjusted with every injury I would have."
He's hoping he can help inspire others to heal themselves.
"I just felt like people were doing wrong to their body and not making it work properly," said Leggett on his reasoning for becoming a trainer.
"I love working with people and making them better."
But, Leggett said, no one can put in the work but you.
"I train myself, but I teach people," Leggett said.
"You won't get change when you sit around and stay the same. Your body can preserve itself and stay fresh forever. It's undiscovered, and I'll be the one to put it out there.
"I love to give them what I feel I gave myself. No one gave that to me."
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