Natit Sopa was diagnosed with a brain aneurysm that nearly killed him. It was a blessing in disguise as he revamped his whole approach to training and diet.
TRAIN: Tell us about your injury.
I had a brain aneurysm while I was riding my cruiser. The paramedics rushed me to hospital where I spent a month in ICU and transferred to a rehab. There, I spent a year learning how to talk walk and live normal again while waiting for my appointment for my surgery to put piece of my skull back.
How did exercise factor into your recovery?
While in the hospital, I would get up every morning using the hospital bed to pull myself up because my left side was paralyzed. When I was discharged I started taking spin classes because I wasn’t allowed to lift anything more than 5lb, so that the pressure didn’t build up in my head.
This helped me get ready for the surgery. I eventually had two surgeries back to back because, after the first one, I wasn’t able to eat. I was pulled back into the operating room to put a VP shunt in, which is a drain that goes from my brain to my stomach to relieve the pressure.
How did you balance exercise with your current work schedule?
I’m a chef at a Japanese restaurant and I’m not usually off ’till 11pm. When I get home it’s almost midnight. That’s when I eat. If I wake up at 5am, I can be in boxing class at 6am to burn it off and, after class, I go to work at 10am until 2pm. I’d have a break then hit the gym again to burn off the alcohol I’d drink with customers at work. This meant my body didn’t get any break and I thought exercise would cancel out anything bad, but it didn’t.
How have things changed now?
Now, a year later, I live a normal life back riding to work full time, and I weigh 20lb lighter than when I graduated High school 16 years ago. I accredit this to doing plenty of decline push-ups, dips, TRX exercises and pull-ups – something I could never do before the accident.
What motivated to turn your approach to fitness around?
After sitting in a rehab room watching everyone posting pictures made me think I better do something to get out of there. I’m too young to spend all day laying in bed while everyone else is having fun. What got me back on track was people thinking I’m handicapped now. That’s what has motivated me to get better and prove them wrong.
Before: Height: 5ft 9in, weight: 240lb
After: Height: 5ft 9in, weight: 179lb