Transformation start: Really started when I was diagnosed with diabetes at 19. I was weak and small, but I wanted to be a bodybuilder.
Milestone: Over the course of a year, I put on about 20lbs and started to look like I lifted and people began noticing my results.
Milestone: Getting up into the 170’s. I had people messaging me to be their coach, so I decided to change my major from political science to exercise science and built a training business.
Milestone: I began powerlifting at 24 and have won my weight class in 4-5 meets so far totaling 1450lbs at 181.
Transformation End: Now I am very lean while also actively competing in powerlifting and recently broke 4 RPS state records for powerlifting– I believe the only adaptive diabetic athlete to do so!
What was the driving force that made you decide you wanted to start your fitness journey?
Being born with only two fingers on my left hand and a shorter left arm was a huge driving factor. I was told by doctors I wouldn’t really be able to use my left arm but I was too stubborn to listen.
I’ve always competed with myself and tried to overcome every limitation put in my way. My entire outlook on life can be summed up with the phrase, “Limitations are self-imposed”.
What was your lifestyle like prior to your change?
I played drums and got into breakdancing actually. I adapted to the way I was born– for drums, I wore a glove and slid a stick through an empty finger hole.
But once I went to college, I got into drinking, drugs, and I lost myself.
At 19, I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and that was the best thing that could’ve happened to me.
Most transformations create a support group for the transformer. Who were your biggest supporters and how did they help?
My family always told me I could do it, but ultimately it came down to my own decision to succeed. People can cheer you on, but you have to do the work in the end.
For every supporter, there is likely a hater. Did you have any haters? How did you deal with their presence? Have you turned any of your haters into fans?
Plenty. I’ve been bullied for being born different. I was told I couldn’t build muscle because of my limitation and there’s no way I’d be able to get really strong.
I’ll never forget when one guy who called me bird chest in high school, years later, asked me for advice on how to build a better chest.
Are there any other before and after stats you’d like to share with us?
I couldn’t deadlift at all because of the way I was born with two fingers on my left hand and a shorter left arm. Now I deadlift 615lbs at 181 and am an elite level powerlifter.
I hold my bachelor’s degree in exercise science and am going back to school for a masters in nutrition. I run a training business, just released an ebook called the Art of Losing Body Fat, and have a few more in the works.
I also do motivational speaking and life coaching, and am speaking at the American Diabetes Association Camp in July. I also work with a nonprofit called I AM ADAPTIVE aiding adaptive athletes and representing the limitless abilities of all people.I am on their international compete team.
I just launched a gym clothing line as well called Rated R Apparel, so I guess you can say I’m somewhat of an entrepreneur.
I have built a majority of my business off my social media (Instagram @chrisruden 22k followers and YouTube.com/ChrisRuden over 100k views on recent video) but this wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for being diagnosed with diabetes and making this fitness transformation.
I could still be drinking and using drugs if it weren’t for a decision to help other people and overcome the seemingly impossible tasks put in front of me. Anything is possible IF you decide it is possible.
What was your weight training approach and split during your transformation?
I’ve always believed in higher frequency/volume training– especially after studying under Mike Zourdos at FAU.
I made my own hybrid of a DUP/Linear program hitting each muscle twice a week with a rotating rep set scheme– usually 5×8 and 4×10
What motivational tools did you use to stay on track in the gym?
I love watching motivational videos on YouTube and listening to speeches and now, ironically, I am a motivational speaker myself. I refuse settle in life and fear stagnation.
I want to say later in life that I did it, not that I wish I did it. That fuels me daily.
Please list 3 things you learned about exercise, weight training and/or cardio during your transformation that helped you succeed:
You need to be patient. Rome wasn’t built in a day. It takes time.
The best program in the world is the one that you can adhere to and also gives you results.
Don’t have training ADD– commit to your plan and see it through so you can get the most reward out of it.
What’s a workout that has worked best for you:
My go to for an awesome chest pump looks something like this:
1. Incline Hammer Strength Press
2. Single Arm Tbar Press
3. Single Arm Cable Press Acrosss the Body
4. Hammer Strength Shoulder Press
5. Seated DB Shoulder Raise
As far as a split goes:
How are you currently training, and has your training changed since the completion of your transformation?
Currently, I am following my own strength based program where I squat and deadlift 2x a week still utilizing DUP, but one day is just at 50% 5×2 to avoid injury when training for heavier loads.
I deload every 3-5 weeks depending on intensity. I’ve learned to listen to my body and stick to the plan as opposed to when I first started training and redlined it all the time.
Your body needs to rest to grow!
TRANSFORMATION DIET & NUTRITION
What was your diet/nutrition approach during your transformation?
High protein diet has been the focal point. I am diabetic, so I watch carbs but I don’t fear them like people (and most diabetics like myself) have a tendency to do.
I personally have performed well on 40% carbs 30% protein 30% fat most of the time.
Were there any diet/nutrition mistakes you made that you learned from?
Yes. I listened to everyone say something different and never picked a philosophy in the beginning which really frustrated me and stalled progress.
Pick your plan and stick to it.
What are 3 things you learned about diet & nutrition during your transformation that helped you succeed?
You don’t need to race home for your protein shake to hit a fake “anabolic window”.
You can diet flexibly–successfully– without being miserable given that you know your energy needs.
Being diabetic requires me to use insulin when eating carbs which actually has helped me build muscle.
Can you provide us with a sample daily eating plan:
Kale, spinach, greek yogurt, fruit, chia seeds, ice, and one packet stevia in the morning and double scoop protein shake with water.
2 serving frosted mini wheats with 1 cup fairlife milk.
6oz chicken with 1 cup cauliflower and 1 sweet potato with 1 tbsp brown sugar.
6oz ground turkey with siricha with 1 cup spaghetti squash, 1 sweet potato, and 1.5 scoop protein shake.
4oz breaded chicken (pan fried) with 3-4 tbsp grapeseed oil and raw broccoli.
3 cups popcorn for night time snack.
Did you allow yourself cheat meals?
my diet was flexible, so I can cheat all the time given I didn’t go above my maintenance calories.
ADVICE FOR OTHERS
What are your best 3 tips for someone looking to make their own transformation?
1) Don’t lie to yourself or make excuses. Yes, it is hard but so what. You have to do it anyways or it won’t get done. If you mess up, own it. Take responsibility. It is no one else’s fault but your own if you don’t get where you want to be. You have the power to decide.
2) Set a huge goal for a specific date and tell everyone you know what you are doing. Blast it on social media. It will be your source of accountability and motivation that you are working towards a real, specific goal.
3) Let nothing stop you. Limitations are self-imposed– only you can stop you. Don’t settle for something you don’t want when you have every ability to get everything you want. Stuff happens, things will go wrong, but what separates us from animals is our ability to control our reactions.
How do you stay motivated? What advice would you give to someone who’s having trouble staying on track?
I stay motivated by seeing my goals every day and seeing progress, progress in myself and in my online clients. I make a decision to be motivated because I control my thoughts and actions.
To me, trouble staying on track means you haven’t found your WHY– your main driving factor for accomplishing a goal. It’s sometimes hard to find because it’s usually tied to a deep emotion like lack of self-confidence, fear, doubt etc.
For me, my why was I want to do this to build confidence in my self-image. Find your why and you will never fall off again.
YOUR LIFE NOW
What is your life like now that you’ve made a transformation?
I am on track to becoming a pro powerlifter and love the thrill of accomplishing new goals. I plan on breaking a few more records in powerlifting, trying strongman, leaning out even more, and attempting to get on a magazine cover.
I’m addicted to progress and the grind. I know what I am capable of after accomplishing the biggest problem– overcoming myself.
What motivates you currently to keep improving yourself?
My goals motivate me. I set new ones all the time and am fueled by progress.
I want to inspire people to do the same. I manage my diabetes and overcome my hardships for myself but especially to set an example for others.
Anything else you would like to share?
I am not gifted in any sense– I am “disabled” (adaptive), diabetic, and wasn’t born into a rich family. I wasn’t naturally a world class lifter or given Greek god aesthetics.
I hustled. Hard.
No matter what adversity you may face or how hard the road ahead may seem, go after it. Time passes no matter what. Two years from now, you will say, “I wish I started two years ago” or “I’m so glad I started two years ago”.
Don’t waste time being afraid of things that could go wrong. Focus on what you can control–the now– and make your body and mindset into something to be proud of!
How can people contact you?