A lot of superheroes in comic books have overcome physical ailments. They often use those ailments to their advantage. I believe that’s what makes them super! Bill Walker is a superhero in real life. A few years back, he was informed that he had a tumor in his foot. He underwent surgery to remove the tumor. As a result of the tumor, the doctors had to remove a portion of that foot and he is now a partial amputee. Following the surgery, Bill’s weight maxed out at 305 lbs. At that moment, he became determined to get up and do something about it. In the course of two years, Bill worked to lose over 120 lbs.
Bill was gracious enough to share insight on his story of determination, discipline and faith.
You’ve overcome a major physical obstacle and turned it into such an inspiring story. What’s been the driving force behind your efforts?
Lots and lots of prayer and philosophy. I am a big proponent of self determination. I view human beings as heroic figures that can surmount any task despite what circumstances may be in their way. Spiritually, I believe that God, from our birth, has endowed our nature with a type of superhuman fortitude, resolve and strength to go out and get what it is that we are after. Like he, we are all creators. Therefore you have the ability to create your life as you see fit as long as you put the work in. The individual mind is the most powerful force on this planet. There are virtually limitless stories of people who have raised themselves from nothing and became great individuals. I’ve also been of student of self development, reading books such as “Think and Grow Rich”, “Psycho-Cybernetics”, and many others. I think all this mental training had prepared me to take on such an event. Plus, the world is full of people who overcome some type of adversity everyday. I’ve never been one to succumb to weakness. I believe that you gravely offend yourself when you mope around life not exuding your inner strength. I also have this love for being alive. In the grand scheme of things, I’m glad that I live in a society where I could actually recover and not have to had dealt with cancer. I’m an American in the 21st century. I wasn’t born under a despot or in a place where an amputation would be a literal death sentence. It’s not perfect, but I’m alive! And to be alive means to me to utilize your utmost potential everyday.
After your surgery, you were left with a disability that would permanently change your life. Did you ever think that you were capable of accomplishing so much physically?
Absolutely! I knew I’d be in shape. It was just a matter of when and what was I going to have to do to get there. I always saw it in my mind before I completed the task. One of the things that really helped me was that the man who designed my leg brace, also had a partial foot amputation. He would still play soccer, run and do all kinds of stuff. It gave me a lot of extra encouragement, because ultimately as prepared as I was and I as optimistic and cheerful I normally am, it’s a big thing. You’re reminded of it everyday. A apart of you is basically dead, and you have to deal with it and keep on living. I really just wanted to get it over with. After the big surgery, I’d lie in my hospital bed or in my room reading a book or just in deep thought, and I’d go “I can’t wait to heal so I get out and do such in such.” I had a nostalgia for the future, and I still do.
Even after all that had happened, I never considered myself disabled. Different, well yes but not disabled. I knew that I’d be faced with different kinds of challenges, but I saw them as just that: challenges. I didn’t expect anything to be easy. Despite the difficulties and though there is a constant reminder, I actually sometimes forget I wear a leg brace.
What’s your average daily workout regimen?
My training ultimately is about giving it 110% intensity. My goals are to not just be strong, but to be a complete athlete, having super high endurance, balance, explosiveness, speed, and a great core. I would ask myself, “What would Captain America or Wolverine do in real life?” What would Jame Bond do? Seriously, I imagine what fictional characters, football players and other athletes would do. I’d also think about what certain actors did for certain roles and go from there.
One of the best things you can do is research and ask questions. Ask, research, implement, rinse and repeat. The day I joined my gym, “No Excuse Workout”, I returned that evening for the boxing class they had. The trainer at the time taught other circuit classes. I’d frequent his classes and we all worked like animals. People of all ages were there. This instilled the workout ethic that I was looking for and now possess. After he left, other instructors came in. Both great individuals. I also worked out with individuals whom either matched my athletic goals or my work ethic. Also one of the instructors taught me about creating body weight routines in certain orders or would give me ideas or goals to shoot for based off their own performance and my performance skyrocketed. Now I lift weights with him, and once again everything has skyrocketed. What we do now is known by his term “Supreme Ideology.”
The lesson in that is to find people who are going where you are going or are already there and talk to them. Talk to the staff members. You’ll notice people who are in the trenches have no problem trading or giving advice, or tips to those who are already working hard. It’s kind of like the adage, “God helps those who help themselves.”
Specifically, I workout six days a week. Three of those days I lift weights, not counting weighted ab work or calf work. I do cardio six out of those six workout days. Everything is high intensity. We do super sets and other rapidly changing rep schemes. You can say some of the workout schemes are Crossfit-inspired. I don’t usecCardio machines. I take circuit classes (which comprise of body weight exercises and much more), and boxing for my cardio. I’m a big fan of bodyweight exercises.
Things like burpees, combined with Pull Ups, acrobatic looking stuff. Sometimes I’ll go online and look for stuff, repeat it, put a twist on it or just dream up stiff in my head. If you’ve ever watched the commercial for “Insanity”, then that’s the best way I can describe what type of cardio I do. It’s awesome, challenging and very rewarding. I’m also a big fan of Yoga. It was Yoga that taught me how to do burpees. It’s also fun and great for burning calories and building your core and balance.
Again everything I do involves intensity. Don’t go in there already making excuses for yourself. Become the animal, a gladiator! If you go in there with your box of excuses, then I must say you’ve already failed. Unless you have a doctor’s warning or you’re that much mentally scarred from an injury, then you can do just about any exercise in there. Go in there ready to deposit some heavy sweat equity! Your goal should be to look like you just jumped in the ocean. You’re not just working out, you’re training! Don’t be afraid of the “MAN” exercises (for both men and women!). Deadlifts, squats, cleans (My personal favorite exercise), bench dumbbell presses, and everything else. Learn the riddle of steel! Tote that iron! Get up under that weight, and lift safe and lift hard! You don’t have to use the heaviest weight in the world but challenge yourself! Pull ups, push ups, dips, do it all. Time wise, it’s less about how much time in the gym or how many sets of how many reps and more about intensity (that magic word) within that time. Personally I judge my shirt. If my shirt is clear or if I’m taking heavy breaths (not painful breaths), then my workout was on point. Find ways to motivate yourself, when you find your “why”, the how, what when and where will be much simpler.
You’ve also changed your diet. What’s been your most drastic dietary change?
I guess you can say everything. I use to eat a Steak Bagel every Friday after my haircut. I’d eat Digourno pizzas once or twice a week thinking that I was getting a deal on some pizza. For those who work downtown, it’s so easy to eat unhealthy and not know it. You’ll even tell yourself that it’s ok because “you’re not doing it everyday.” Now I can say I haven’t eaten a burger from McDonald’s in over two years! I once went in McDonald’s everyday just for the free coffee they had that week!
Before I started working out, I changed my diet. Also, once you see how quickly you can damage your results, it’s not hard to make the tough decisions. Overall, I enjoy eating healthy. I don’t have anything against fast food, junk food, doughnuts, etc., but everything in moderation. Just make sure you don’t “moderate” everyday! You’ll notice that eating healthy tastes really good and you won’t miss too much of that other food.
During the transformation, the difficult items were bread and cereal. I lost over 70 lbs within 12 months, while still eating cereal. I just wanted to max out my results. So, I cut it out and later cut out bread, except on occasions such as summer holiday cookouts. It was easy once I actually did it, because I prepared my mind a long time ago.
A good strategy is to prepare your mind in advance. So, when you have to eliminate foods for a certain period of time, it turns out ok. One of my favorite items is peanut butter and sometimes I’ll cut it out to experiment or to quickly burn off fats. When you have a specific goal in mind, you’ll do whatever you have to do to obtain it. Overall, nutrition is the most important thing. Once you master this, everything else will come into place. You’ll make mistakes. I still fall every now and then, but it’s ok. What’s important is that you pick yourself up. Don’t give up because of a temporary setback. The best inventions were made because the inventor tried one more time! In addition, when you eat clean a lot, and workout a lot it won’t be a problem. You’ll have earned that meal.
Were there ever moments when you lost hope and thought that your amputation would impede on your quality of life
I never lost hope. But I did and sometimes still do experience moments of frustration. I’d see people living, moving on with their lives and they’d be doing stuff in their career or business. Maybe they’d be traveling or just came back from some cool place, and here I’d be living at home feeling like I was fighting a formless, shapeless, fog of an enemy whose goal was for me to be stagnant and depressed. However it’s the determination inside me that fights back. There are times when I wake up with extreme physical pain because my foot has been inactive for sleeping and the first thing I feel when I land on the ground is pain or sometimes it’ll just hurt for no reason at all. There are times when I can’t even enjoy a trip inside the grocery story or the library without some type of pain or I’ll often walk to the gym fighting some type of pain every step of the way. Some days are great, some are painful, but that’s life.
Overall, I’m just thankful to be alive, which is one of the reasons I’ll never say I’m hopeless. There was a time where I use to crawl up the steps in my house because I wanted to use the computer. I didn’t want the computer to be moved downstairs, I wanted the joy of having to get to the top of the mountain so to speak. I wanted to look straight in the eye of that thing I was fighting and let it know it wasn’t going to push me around. It was a type of rehab. Spiderman, or Captain America would climb up those steps! James Bond would climb! Bill Walker was going to get up those steps!
I remember when I was talking to my prosthetic designer and we were going over designs for my leg brace. I wanted something cool. I turned the page and it was a page of one of my favorite super heroes, Spider Man. He was scaling down a building. I became elated. Spiderman is known for having spectacular agility, superhuman strength and has quick wit in the face of overwhelming obstacles. He deals with all types of problems while still saving the city, if not the world. I’ve always admired heroes because they represent the very best within the individual, triumphing against overwhelming odds. I told myself I will jump, climb, and do all the things I want to do like Spiderman. If you were in my gym, and didn’t know me by name and asked about “The man with the leg brace”, I can guarantee that you’d get a very positive response.
Has it impeded on my quality of life, yes it has greatly. I had to just about relearn how to walk, and I have to constantly work at it. I’ve lost time, missed out on events and things that I would love to have done. However I won’t lose hope. Hopeless is to lose confidence and trust in myself. To lose that is to lose everything and to no longer live. Plus I’m stronger, tougher (in all aspects), and feel incredible. Sometimes I watch something like Indiana Jones and I go, “Man I think I do that!”
Any inspirational reads lately?
I just finished rereading Atlas Shrugged, and also The Legend of Drizzt Book 10, by R.A. Salvatore. The first to me is the most important novel ever written. It’s a philosophical novel. I believe everyone must have a personal philosophy on which they base their actions, values and ethics. It’s also inspiring and motivates you to continually strive to be your best and trust yourself. The Second is an adventure story. I love stories like this because they constantly inspire me to live an adventurous life. It taps into that part of you that you possessed since childhood. The notion of man as an adventurer and explorer, the part of you that wants to conquer and shape his world. The one that goes through challenges, but has a resolve to succeed within any adversity. You may not slay a dragon but you can start that business or project. You can travel the world. That is your adventure.
I’m constantly re-reading books. I even take notes. Sometimes, I’ll refer to a particular passage within a book. Aside from the books I’ve named, I recommend anything from Dan Kennedy and Robert Ringer. Frank Bettger’s “How I raised myself from failure to success in selling” and “How to Win Friends and Influence people” are good as well. All of these authors in a way, have been my unofficial teachers and mentors. I’m also a big fan of audio books. Silas, I want to really and I mean really stress “this reading thing.” If you don’t read, your brain won’t grow. You’ll miss out on so much raw input and material that contributes to your growth and development. Reading, was a HUGE part of my recovery, and it still is. You are never bored if you’ve got a book somewhere. I had to read about nutrition and fitness as much as I had to read to strengthen my soul and brain. During my recovery from the amputation alone, which was surgery number 5 out of , I would often read scriptures with the two hour period it’d take me to get out of bed. I’ve read about 70 % of the new testament alone within a few months. Also “24” by Nicholas Dennen is a great story about how the author overcame a Traumatic Brain Injury.
Are there any quotes or words that you live by?
I’m probably a living book of quotes but here are a few…
“The World is mine to shape in the image of my highest values and never to be given up to a lesser standard, no matter how long or how hard the struggle.”
– Dagny Taggart – from Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
“Within you right now is the power to do things you never dreamed possible. This power becomes available to you just as soon as you can change your beliefs.”
– The Late Great Dr. Maxwell Maltz –
“The Strongest Muscle is Courage!”-Myself –
“There is always a way, if the desire be coupled with courage.”
from “Conan” by author Robert E. Howard.
“Imperfect results from clarity are still far superior to random results.” –
-Dan S. Kennedy.
“For me life is continuously being hungry. The meaning of life is not simply to exist, to survive, but to move ahead, to go up, to achieve, to conquer.
– Arnold Schwarzenegger –
“The Best is yet to come.” – (I think everyone has said that) –
What’s next for Bill Walker?
I’m continuing to be the best in all aspects of my life. A lot of individuals tell me that I should be a trainer. I will consider that. I also want to get back into finance. I have a lot of goals and ideas, but I’ll speak on them when I do them. I’ll definitely keep you posted.
And I want to say, thanks for the time to speak on this. I rarely speak in depth of my surgery/recovery. I hope that many will like it and become inspired. I’d also like to say thanks to family and friends and those that came through to the hospital, called, sent prayers and/or sent support to my mother. Also, thanks to the hospital staff, my prosthetic staff, the great doctors. Also, thanks to everyone that I’ve talked to about fitness from my gym friends, to people online, everywhere else. Lastly, I’d like to thank the wonderful ladies at Lakeside Therapy aka “Bill’s Angels” (smile).