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Fortunate Son

The owner of Jabs Gym Birmingham tells us how to kickstart a healthy New Year.

Willie Fortune has a phrase he likes to use — “We make life champions before ring champions.”

Known as Fortune 500, or Fortune, in the boxing world, the professional middleweight three-time Detroit Golden Glove champion with 10 knockouts under his belt has fought on HBO, Showtime and more. And 10 years ago, he added entrepreneur to his long list of titles.

Fortune, 40, is the founder and owner of Jabs Gym Birmingham (and co-founder of Jabs Gym Eastern Market). The award-winning state-of-the-art training facility, recently expanded by more than 2,000-square-feet, is based on boxing fitness as overall fitness and health. Providing group fitness classes, boxing classes, and personal training (in person and on Zoom), Jabs was one of the first gyms to pivot to outdoor boxing rings when Covid closed gyms down. In addition to offering cardio kickboxing and boxing techniques round-by-round, Fortune created a one-of-a-kind fitness program called BOYO that incorporates boxing-style yoga, “a yin-yang pairing that is a workout for your mind and body,” he says. 

BOYO and Jabs encompass Fortune’s overall philosophy in life. He believes that the core values of boxing apply to everyday life — you don’t have to be a professional fighter or want to compete to learn core values to learn self-esteem, to learn hard work and good ethics, which he works to teach to Metro Detroit’s youth as a mentor. He also counts James Franco, Royce da 5’9, Paige Mobley and more as clients, and has partnered with Under Armour, Lululemon, and Athleta.

To kick the New Year off on a healthy foot, we asked this mind/body pro for his top suggestions for health and fitness. Above all, he says, “Self-care is key to succeeding in anything you do. The more you take care of you, the better we can take care of each other.”

Fortune’s Top Health Tips

1. Mental Health — take time for yourself! Self-reflection and self-meditation are key. Take steps toward a healthier you by practicing affirmations, meditation, and small movements.

2. Making Time — yes, we all have busy lives, and sometimes adding to it can be challenging. But there are ways to add without overwhelming yourself. Remember that we are creatures of habit, and the more conscious we become, the more active we can be. Instead of elevators, use stairs. While at the computer, set a specific exercise to a few specific words — each time you see the work, do that exercise. An eight-hour day can get you 100 reps. 

3. Food Choices — I don’t believe in the word diet. The mindset and the word make you feel restricted, and there is something about restrictions that simply makes us want it more. So instead of dieting, let’s educate ourselves on better choices and portions. Lots of times, we overeat due to rushing (which brings us back to tip #2). Slowing down, chewing properly and drinking water before meals helps to prevent overeating. Write a checklist of items to have daily — four items from your basic food group list. A veggie, a fruit and a protein. Choose baked, grilled or broiled over fried foods. 

4. Find a Gym or Studio — today, there are so many workout options. Find a workout that you enjoy so much you look forward to doing it. If you're self-motivated, you can use machines and free weights. If you love energy and watching motivated people, try group workout training studios or workouts based on competition. Remember, it's about you. For me, it was boxing, for some, it's yoga. For others, it's CrossFit. Each has its benefits. Never be afraid to try. 

5. Virtual Workouts — for those who may not be comfortable going to a gym, you can still workout from home. Gyms and trainers have converted to online training and classes. This is a great way to get started in the convenience of your own home. 

6. A Workout Buddy — find a friend, bring your spouse or even make it a family activity. It’s always great to have someone keep you accountable. It’s why so many people use personal trainers, but that’s not always financially feasible. So finding a workout buddy adds motivation and teamwork. 

7. Bonus Tip —  trust in your ability to do! Things don't happen overnight, but you'll get where you want to be if you apply these tips. It takes 21 days to develop a habit. Let's make you, yours! 

Fortune’s Favorite Workout Moves

1. Jumping rope. It's a full-body workout that doesn't cost much and can be done almost anywhere. I love this because it helps with hand-eye coordination, stamina, and timing. If you don't have a jump rope, you can do jumping Jacks, power walking, or a simple step up. Use a timer — try 2 minutes on 20-second rest. 

2. Push-ups and plank jacks. Combining these moves targets building the chest, shoulders and core. When mixing workout moves, you'll find a maximum advantage in completing sets and targeting more areas in a short time. Do one push-up, one plank Jack. If you need to, you may use your knees with the push-up. Complete as push-ups as you can; once you reach your max, hold a plank as long as you can. 

3. Standing toe touches with a squat jump. Combining these moves is a great way to strengthen the core and hip flexors. Squat jumps will help with explosiveness, while the squat hold isolates the legs. Do 10-15 reps, then hold your squat for 20-30 seconds.

4. Walk, jog or sprint in place. Using a timer, start walking in place for 30 seconds, jog for 30 seconds, and sprint for 30 seconds. Walking in place is a great way to get your cardio in without a treadmill or elliptical. 

5. The 7,7,7 bicep curl. A series of 21 repetitions of a full movement of a joint, is good for building the biceps by working the small and large muscle groups. 

6. Tricep dips. Do four sets of 10 reps to shape the back arms.

7. Plank Rows. Complete four sets.

8. 3-point sit-ups. This targets the upper, mid, and lower abs and helps the core feel tighter and stronger. 

9. Walkouts into shoulder taps. Build up the shoulders and back muscles with this functional, bodyweight movement. Do five sets of 8-10 reps.

10. Kickbacks or leg curls. These keep the heart rate up and act as a great substitute for the jump rope as it's lighter on the knees.

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