West Virginia man creates lifestyle fitness brand
By MATT WELCH
Oct. 21, 2017
MARTINSBURG, W.Va. (AP) — When Michael Seal lays down on a weight bench, stretches his muscles and prepares to rep whatever weight he's thrown on the bar that day, he closes his eyes and remembers a time when working out and eating right wasn't an integral part of his life.
Scenes from his days as an overweight teenager stream through his mind. Days when he feared his peers would tease him. Days when he wasn't comfortable trying out for a sport. Days he uses to fuel his fire for a healthier life.
Then he opens his eyes, pushes through his workout and soaks in the confidence he now has, more than 150 pounds lighter than during his senior year of high school.
"I strive to inspire people to become the better version of themselves in their day-to-day lives," said Seal, now a 23-year-old personal trainer at Gold's Gym. "I use my success to help people understand that it is in fact possible. That worrying about what others say is ultimately what will forever hold you back. Everyday is a constant battle, but you have to be up for the challenge."
Sure, he'd lost a substantial amount of weight and was feeling healthy, but it wasn't enough. He wanted to help others realize that they could do it, too. That's when he created his brand — and a lifestyle — called Abnormal Athletics.
"The overall plan with the company is to branch out to (own) a gym," Seal explained. "The aspirations are for only one spot, not a commercial chain, something that people come to and feel a connection with those around them."
In addition to the hopes of one day opening a gym, Seal has started a clothing line that he hopes to get off the ground soon.
It's all a product of his journey, he said.
Growing up, Seal was a self-proclaimed active kid. He enjoyed time outside with his friends and wasn't often glued to a gaming device or television.
But when his peers' bodies started changing, he realized he wasn't as seemingly naturally gifted athletically as some of his friends.
"I was never one to play sports. It wasn't until eighth grade that I figured out why," Seals recalled. "It wasn't because it didn't interest me, it was because I was afraid to fail and to see what people would think of me, a fear that most people in this day and age feel on a daily basis.
Growing up I've always been overweight. Fearing the teasing that I would receive from the other kids, I stayed in the shadows of the athletes."
Seal said that he let his weight overtake him, mentally and physically. He allowed it to control his thoughts, he said, triggering fears that kept him away from anything that could put him in a position to fail or to look less than "normal."
By his senior year of high school, Seals had grown from just over 200 pounds in eighth grade to 337 pounds, wearing a 3XL shirt and a size 48 in pants, he said. To him, he was at an "all-time low," and every day things were difficult to accomplish.
By then he'd become a father to a baby girl, Addyson Seal, and something clicked.
"Having a newborn at such a young age made things clear up for me," Seal said. "I had been living the wrong way for so long. I needed to change. I signed up for a membership at Total Fitness Gym, and set my sights on becoming the best version of myself."
The time he spent in the gym lifting and working out was nothing compared to the hours put into researching bodybuilding.com for workout techniques and diet plans that would best suit the type of lifestyle he felt he needed to pursue, he said.
Three months into the training, he had lost 50 pounds. But then he hit a wall.
"I moved my focus over to nutrition," he said. "I started to detail and design meal plans for specific body types on my days off from work. I focused on portion control and the weight began to plummet."
Seal eventually reached a weight loss total of 152 pounds. While some would consider that a success, Seal considered it just the pivotal point that led to the development of Abnormal Athletics.
The Abnormal brand, Seal said, comes as an inspiration to those who feel they weren't born naturally athletic. It's for those who have to work a little harder, he said.
"I believe the brand stands for more than just fitness but a way of life," he said. "That not everyone is the same. Some struggle more than others but that doesn't make the other person any better than you."
Seal enlisted the help of a few friends as not only workout partners but as brand ambassadors.
Along with Seal, Brandon Michael and Diego Pons are all aboard the abnormal train.
"I believe that we are alive to be active. We aren't here just to exist," Pons said. "Everyone thinks being active means hitting the gym every day and doing miserable workouts, but it doesn't have to be this way. Being a part of Abnormal means to not be like everyone else, to do what you love doing, being active in your own way, and most importantly, having fun."
Michael echoed the sentiment, adding that he resonated with Seal's story of having to outwork others to gain the results he wanted.
"Playing sports my whole life, I've always been very active. As life started to progress I realized how much smaller I was than other athletes and how much effort and work I was putting into training than so many others," he said. "I developed asthma, which I never let control me, but fitness was the outlet that helped me overcome what should have been prohibiting me from doing so much more.
"Being in shape and not letting my body control me, I was able to put mind over matter and become bigger than my problem," Michael added. "This made me want to be able to help others accomplish the same thing I went through and know they aren't alone and assure them that it was possible."
Seal said he believes his life is going in a better direction than it was when he was overweight. He said he no longer has to worry about not seeing his daughter grow up or not being able to feel comfortable in his own skin at the gym. What matters most though, he said, is his thought process doesn't begin and end with fear.
"I can't help but think about how many times I made an excuse back then. I think everyday, what could I have been? Where would I be now if I had started then?" Seal said. "But I've learned to look past all of that. I know that I can't change what was but I can change what will be. I now know that I have a better chance at seeing my family grow. I have a better chance at seeing my daughter graduate and have a family of her own. I feel blessed every day to be where I am. I'm proud of how far I have come."
Information from: The Journal, http://journal-news.net/