Joe Zimecki refused to let his ileostomy bag thwart his true sporting potential. Be inspired by his story.
I’ve done a lot of work within the fitness and supplement industry over the past 15 years. The athletes I trained would always ask why I didn’t compete. If I didn’t tell you, you’d never know I live with an ileostomy bag because I have no large intestine, which proves you shouldn’t let any obstacle deter your fitness goals.
My low point used to be going to the beach, pool or taking my shirt off to cut grass at home. Not because I was extremely overweight, but because I didn’t feel like answering questions about my ileostomy bag.
I was 31 and recently married when I had my surgery, which took a toll on me emotionally and physically. My turning point came on one vacation when I decided not to wear my shirt on the beach. Within 10 minutes of my shirt coming off, a little girl asked: “What’s that on your tummy?” I replied: “That’s what happens when you don’t eat your veggies.” For a split second, I seriously thought about putting my shirt back on but I didn’t – for the rest of the trip.
Time for a change
In December 2012, I started to research as to whether anyone had done a fitness show with an ileostomy. It had taken me nine years to take my shirt off at the beach, and after it I decided I wanted to get in the best shape of my life – aged 41 and with an ileostomy bag – to be judged on my physique.
My wife Rachele, and our girls Rayanna and Gia, knew if I dedicated myself to the process I’d be successful. Having faith and the support of family is critical when you’re about to take on something you’ve never done before. I’m a firm believer that you have to be dedicated and passionate about your goals.
The hardest challenge I faced, because of my ileostomy bag, was the timing and planning of food intake. Knowing your body and its limits plays a key role in having a successful outcome when it comes to fitness and nutrition, particularly when it came to eating to train my abs.
One of the keys to reaching your goals is setting them in small timeframes – weeks, not months. Take before and after photos and believe in what you do to change your life and others.
My future plans are to keep motivating people via inspirational speaking events, posting on social media (facebook.com/NGUFIT, NGU Fitness on YouTube, NGUFitness.com) and to never give up the fitness lifestyle. It is now a passion of mine and I’ll continue to help people reach their life and fitness goals.
Find inspirational transformation stories and more in every issue of TRAIN magazine.