Like so many personal trainers, Pat Carroll spends a lot of time telling people that exercise and healthy eating will give you important, real-life benefits— you’ll feel better, move better, and have more energy. Pat is a striking example of the results of a lifetime of working out and eating clean, so he makes a strong case to lead a healthy life.

It’s a good thing he practices what he preaches. The importance of fitness was made crystal clear to Pat after he was seriously injured and his life was in limbo— and the muscle he built over the years saved his life.

Pat was riding his motorcycle with friends in Flagstaff, Arizona when he was in a bad accident and his bike went down. Pat doesn’t remember anything about the accident, but witnesses said that Pat “curled up tight like a stuntman” as he hit the pavement. Other witnesses told him that after his bike— which was traveling at 65 mph— hit the ground, he “rolled down the road like a ball” for about 300 feet and hit a mile marker pole along the highway; the impact stopped him from rolling into a nearby ravine.

He was rushed to the hospital, where doctors put him in a medically induced coma, “with about 15 tubes in me,” Pat said. His family was called to his bedside. “They all thought I was going to check out,” Pat said. Even his late 92-year-old mother made the trip from New York to Arizona, and when she saw her son, she called in a priest.

Pat was banged up pretty badly. Although he was not wearing a helmet during the accident, he did not suffer any head trauma or brain damage. And there were no broken bones. Pat’s impact with the road sign took a chunk of flesh out of his arm, and doctors grafted skin from his thigh to repair the damage. He had a deep gash in the left side of his head that went to his skull, and doctors removed his ruptured spleen. Doctors told Pat that being in such great shape saved his life.

“The doctors said that had I not worked out consistently, I would have been finished,” Pat said. “They told me that someone who was not as healthy would have been toast the minute they hit the pavement. My body saved me.”

“This is why I believe so much in fitness,” Pat continued. “It pays to be in shape. Not only do you look good, but it could safe your life.”

Pat said that what doctors told him reinforces what he’s been telling people for 30 years. “Exercise is the only Fountain of Youth. A lifetime of commitment will give you a lifetime of well-being. If you take care of your body, it will take care of you.”

Pat has been taking care of his body for a long time, and he’s always been active and fit. He ran track in high school, later competed as an all-natural bodybuilder, and has been lifting weights for 30 years. “I have a strong mental attitude about being in shape and I love fitness.”

Pat’s discipline, focus and drive helped him during his bodybuilding days, when he was an officer for the Suffolk County Police Department in New York and had to juggle his training and diet around graveyard shifts. And it helped him get back into shape after the motorcycle accident. The minute he was revived from his coma, Pat wanted “out” of the hospital and wanted to get back to the gym.

When he was released from the hospital, Pat said he was “a shell of my former self… think and weak. It was pathetic.” He went back into the gym about a month after the accident with help of his daughter Nicole, who is the Director of training and Certification for CrossFit. “In the beginning I did practically no weight. She helped whip my butt back into shape.”

Two months after the accident, Pat was back in the gym, training clients and teaching his high-intensity, group exercise class— with push-ups, squats, and lunges. “They were shocked to see me back so soon. In the beginning, I couldn’t keep up with anyone, but I did what I could and gradually built up my exercise capacity.”

Pat credits his family with being so supportive, and helping his recuperation. His son and daughter stayed with him after he was released from the hospital. As Pat recalls, “They really stepped up to the plate.”

“I definitely feel different about life now,” Pat said. “I have a different perspective. I enjoy my life and don’t take anything for granted. I’m a changed man … sometimes you have to lose something to realize what’s really important in life. You have to stop and smell the flowers and enjoy life. It can be taken away at any time. Like the Tim McGraw song, Live Like You Were Dying.”

 

Pat Carroll was almost 50 and competing as an all-natural bodybuilder when this photo was taken. Photo by Sean Kahlil.