Marco leads the training department at Outlive, and reviews the articles for accuracy.
Michelle is the overseer on course and program design for optimal student success, and also does all the illustrations.
Jared leads the Outlive project and simplifies academic research reviews into an easy-to-understand format.
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The Story Behind Outlive
Tall, dangerously underweight, and shy
When Marco was in high school, he was 6'4 tall and only weighed 150 pounds (193cm / 68kg). His BMI put him in the underweight category, meaning that he was dangerously underweight, putting his health at risk.
Being this thin, lanky, and skinny and under-muscled is often known as the "ectomorph" body type.
Aside from being underweight, Marco was desperately trying to become more confident, especially around girls.
He bought Arnold Schwarzenegger's The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding. He spent all of his free time training and trying to learn how to build the masculine body he wanted.
But instead of getting a bigger, stronger and more energetic body... his efforts were rewarded with chronic pain in his knees and shoulders, poor hunchbacked posture, and feeling beat down.
Gaining 63+ pounds while earning an honours degree in Health Sciences (B. HSc)
However, these setbacks only sparked Marco's passion.
Marco pursued an Honours Bachelor degree in Health Sciences at the University of Ottawa. He was taking courses like cell biology, chemistry, human anatomy, nutrition and health, and reversing posture-movement-injuries.
It was at this time that Marco radically bulked up, adding 63 pounds of lean mass to his long, lean, ectomorph frame.
During his studies, he was also helping to train college-athletes on the OttawaU's Gee-Gee's football team.
After he earned his degree, that's when Marco began taking personal clients at a sports and athletic training centre, many of them professional and Olympic athletes.
He also began training busy professionals of a variety of body types (ectomorphs, mesomorphs, and endomorphs.)
Marco loved helping his clients rehab their injuries, restoring their posture for better movement and mobility, and getting them more power through building muscle.
It was during this time that Marco and I (Jared) met through a joint friend—Shane Duquette. But first, let's back up and take a look at why we got in touch with Marco.
"The worst case of tendonitis I've ever seen." –Jared's physiotherapist
As I grew up, I didn't get bigger, stronger and faster like my peers. I just got longer and skinnier. In high school, I was 6'0 tall—taller than most of the guys. But I only weighed 130 pounds which put me in the same dangerously underweight BMI category as Marco. I was 30 pounds lighter than the average guy for my height.
One day my skinny friend (even lankier than I was), suggested that he and I hit the gym to bulk up.
As we hit the gym, I lost 10 pounds over the month and now weighed 120 pounds.
I quit going to the gym believing I was genetically at odds with having a strong and fit body. I picked up a hobby of running a game review website. Between managing the team, playing video games, and writing, I began to sit for nearly all waking hours. All this while consuming a steady stream of the Three-C's: Coke, cookies, and chips.
Eventually, my poor diet, lack of exercise, and an extreme amount of time working hard on the computer culminated to make my body reach a breaking point.
Before I turned 18, I had been diagnosed with chronic tendonitis in my right arm by my doctor. My forearm was incredibly weak, and there was a constant burning pain that never went away. The doctor prescribed me nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (naproxen), and physiotherapy.
After many months of traditional types of therapy not working, I was open to trying anything to fix it. Ultrasound therapy, electrotherapy, and even acupuncture (I was truly desperate.)
Nothing gave me any relief, so I wore a wrist brace that helped to numb the pain.
Eventually, it was too painful to use my right arm anymore, so I became ambidextrous and started using my left-hand. It wasn't long until my left-arm got chronic tendonitis.
The physiotherapist said that she had never seen anyone with tendonitis in both arms, let alone someone who was only 18 years old.
Lean to Mean: "experiment" that flipped my life upside-down
In September, I joined the design program at York University. It was there that I met my future wife (Michelle) and my future business partner, Shane Duquette.
Shane and I became good friends and roommates. And after four years of studying, as we graduated, we decided to launch a design business.
My secret fear was not if I could compete in our industry, I was hardworking and had the skills.
But I was afraid of if I'd be able to physically do the work.
I needing to take numerous breaks because of my chronic tendonitis. And the drugs I had been taking for over 4 years now was periodically giving me nosebleeds.
As we were planning out what our work day would look like, Shane suggested an experiment to do after work.
He suggested that we both try and gain weight to fix our skinniness.
Shane was fairly skinny, 6'2 and 150 pounds. Just like Marco and I, he used to be dangerously underweight, just like I still was.
But unlike me, Shane had already successfully gained 20 pounds himself working out in his parent's basement during the summer breaks.
Honestly, I was already wary of working out since I had lost 10 pounds with my first experience. But I admitted that it was possible that eating better might help my tendonitis.
The plan was fairly simple. For one month, starting on the first day of May, we'd:
- lift weights three times a week
- eat 3,200 calories daily
Even though it was simple, we knew it'd be hard to stick to the plan.
Neither of us was already working out, and it was an obscene amount of calories for two skinny guys with skinny stomachs.
So, Shane and I used the Ulysses contract, something we read about from behavioural economics professor Dan Ariely.
Basically, when you're full of energy, you pre-commit yourself to what you want to do and set consequences for not following through.
We decided that each missed workout would cost us $10, each meal with even a bite left a food cost $5, to be paid to a communal jar.
I gained 22 pounds in one month
Shockingly, our experiment worked.
Even though we were working start-up hours, that month I gained 22 pounds, and Shane gained 12 pounds.
Both of us needed to go buy new clothes a size larger.
I had way more energy, and I felt the strongest I've ever felt in my life. And my body no longer looked like it belonged to a 65-year-old with a young man's haircut.
We didn't even need the Ulysses contract anymore. The payoff was more than enough for us to freely choose to keep working out. (We both became hooked and have both continued to lift for the past ten years.)
We decided to keep doing what we were doing for June, July, and August. As we continued, Shane began to blog about the results and lessons we'd learned, while sharing our progress on some forums.
While the insults were hurled about Shane's jean shorts, along with false accusations of us taking steroids, we started getting messages from other skinny guys identifying with our pain and asking us to help them with their own transformation.
A joint friend who had seen our results told Shane he should reach out to Marco as he's since gained 63 pounds and could help get to the next level.
Putting to death the five-year hell: curing chronic tendonitis
Marco filled our role as the strength and fitness mentor. So naturally, when I first got to meet Marco in person, I asked him if he could help with my tendonitis.
Marco told me that my problem was really easy to fix.
All you had to do was use a technique that was familiar to athlete's who needed to get back to top performance fast.
He then took my forearms, and using a smooth metal tool he began to scrape my forearms to break up the scar tissue and bring blood flow to the area (called Graston.)
Within a few weeks of doing the Graston technique, my forearms were pain-free. My five-year hell, crippled with chronic pain, fears of being unreliable, and the reliance on prescription drugs to allow me to work—was over.
It is hard for me to state how much solving this pain changed my life. Aside from the daily pain, and how it kept me up at night, I thought it was going to rule my life and affect my ability to be a good business partner, and my ability to provide for my family.
This whole process was life-changing for me. After four months of training and eating properly, I had gained over 30 pounds, added almost 5 inches to my shoulder circumference (38.75″ to 43.5″), and over 3 inches to my thighs. Plus, I was now pain-free and was able to focus on work.
Shane gained over 20 pounds, and his shoulder circumference went from 43.5″ to 48.25″.
To this day I am beyond grateful that Shane reached into my digital world and pulled me out into the real world. I have no idea what compelled him, but I couldn't have felt happier with what we'd achieved.
We wanted to help others who felt stuck to feel great too
All three of us have felt how becoming strong, eating properly, and becoming healthier had radically improved our lives. Becoming confident instead of feeling insecure. Being strong instead of being weak. Having mental clarity and decisiveness instead of always procrastinating and feeling foggy. Standing tall like an athlete, rather than being rounded-over like an old man.
We wanted to help as many other people as we could and give them a shortcut we never had. They wouldn't need to invest of tens of thousands of dollars into degree's, get certified, or do internships. They could stop with the late-night Googling, they could kill the doubt of wondering if they were cursed genetically, and they wouldn't need to just give up out of feeling overwhelmed, while staying in the status-quo in which they were suffering.
That's when Marco, Shane and I co-founded Bony to Beastly in 2011.
A complete system for skinny guys, ectomorphs, and hardgainers to rapidly gain weight. It was one of the first of it's kind. Michelle (my wife) and Shane drew all of the illustrations, helping to make sense of the complexities of building muscle.
It was such a massive success, and the guys were getting incredible results. It wasn't long before we started getting dozens of emails asking where the female version was. There was literally no other skinny woman weight-gain program that existed (as far as we could find), so we knew we had to help out.
After researching and testing our female weight-gain program from the ground up, we launched Bony to Bombshell in 2012, a program relentlessly focused on helping women gain weight. It was so weird and unheard of that people's mouths would drop when we told them what we do work. "Wait, you help people gain weight?"
At the time of writing this, our programs have helped over 10,000 members and nearly 4 million readers through our free content.
A new "healthy" perspective on exercise and nutrition
One day, my family realized that my dad was having memory problems. At the hospital, a brain scan revealed he had the most aggressive form of brain cancer.
It was devastating to me to watch my dad face death—even in faith. And while it doesn't seem like personal health is related to this type of brain cancer (seems to be environment related), my dad wasn't in a healthy enough position to do any radio- or chemotherapy treatment.
The steroids he was prescribed that reduced brain swelling so he could think more clearly in his final days with us simultaneously caused muscle-wasting.
Going through this difficult chapter in my life changed me. It gave me a bigger view of life.
It made me strive to become more present with my relationships while I'm here. But it also motivated me to become healthier.
While I know that we'll all die, no matter what we eat or how much we exercise, it impacts the life we're able to live.
Our strength and health doesn't give our lives meaning, but it can give us the means to live our lives more fully while we're here.
Aside from the obvious benefits of getting stronger, fitter, and healthier, our physical health ties into our allowing us to execute our personal missions in life.
Working out can give you a clear mind, make you a better leader that makes better decisions, and help to develop a sacrificial spirit by learning discipline, grit, and patience. You'll be more likely to do what you know is right, and less likely to be annoying yourself by doing things you don't want to do.
The exciting part isn't just a better body.
It's who you'll become as you develop that body.
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