From Sickness, To Success

My journey from chronic illness to living a thriving life.

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Hi, my name is Sam and this is my story of overcoming chronic illness and why I started my own personal training business, High Fitness.

By sharing my story I hope to help you and others walk away feeling more educated and empowered to start living your own healthiest, most thriving life yet.

If you have any questions or would like to get in touch, please don't hesitate to reach out. I'm always happy to help.

You can watch, listen or read my story below. I hope there's something in there that you can take away and apply to your own life.

Lessons Learned

Here is a brief overview of the most crucial lessons I have learned throughout my journey:

Health is wealth

Without your health, you have nothing. This isn't an exaggeration. Trust me as someone who has had their health taken away. Having a functional body and mind is the foundation for everything else in your life. Without it, you will struggle to achieve anything else. So make sure you take care of yourself first and foremost.

Control the controllables

There are many things in life that are out of our control. For me it was my chronic illness, I felt out of control of my health. Feeling out of control is horrible and can be scary and overwhelming. It's enough to stop anyone in their tracks. It's important to focus on the things that are in your control. For me, it was my diet and exercise. I focused on these things to take back ownership of my health and well-being. This helped me feel more in control of my life and gave me the confidence to start making other positive changes.

Progress, not perfection

Perfection is only achieved by doing things imperfectly. A child doesn't learn to walk by walking perfectly. They learn to walk by trying and failing, standing up and falling, over and over again, learning a little more each time. The same goes for everything else in life. You have to be willing to fail and learn from your mistakes. This is the only way to progress.

Consistency is key

As humans, we are creatures of habit. We absorb what we do repeatedly, optimising our bodies and minds to perform these tasks more efficiently over time. Even small actions done regularly will create more lasting change than big actions done infrequently. This is why it's so important to create habits and routines that you can stick to.

Enjoy the journey

The destination of our journey is often far away. It's important to enjoy the journey and not just focus on the destination. Find ways to enjoy what you're doing. It may not be the "perfect" way to do it, but as we said before, progress over perfection. This will lead to more consistency and ultimately will help you reach your destination faster while enjoying the process.

Flirt with failure

Similar to our point about progress over perfection. You have to be willing to fail. Failure is a part of life. It's how we learn and grow. If you're not flirting with failing or failing semi-regularly, how will you ever know your limits? How will you ever know what you're capable of? If you can overcome the stigma of failure being a bad thing, learn to embrace it, and even encourage it, you will be able to achieve things you never thought possible.

Watch My Story

Listen to My Story

Read My Story

2007 - My Diagnosis

When I was younger I was active and loved sports. You could find me playing basketball, football, or hooning around on a go-kart.

Everything changed when I was 16 years old, although it wasn't obvious at first. You could easily mistake my symptoms for those of a typical teenager.

Sick days every other day, constantly exhausted, no concentration, failing subjects I'd once excelled at, and athletically stunted.

After school one day I was taking a routine pee after my bike home. I was shocked and horrified to see a large red lump of what looked like blood coming out. Shaking with fear and panic I tried to explain to my Mum what had happened. I was rushed to the Doctors where I found out there was something seriously sinister happening to my body.

I was diagnosed with a chronic kidney illness, thrown on immediate medication, and informed that I would be looking at kidney failure in my 40s or 50s. The devastation was immense, my whole world was thrown off axis in a matter of seconds.

Unfortunately, this was just the beginning of a vicious downward spiral.

2010 - My Kidney Failure

Boom! Out of nowhere and without any warning my kidneys rapidly deteriorated, seemingly overnight. We were not prepared for this! What a cruel twist of fate, I was still coming to grips with the fact my kidneys would fail when I'd be 40 of 50, they're now going to fail in a matter of weeks, WHAT, WHY?! Dialysis became the only option.

More bad news came, none of my immediate family were suitable donors for me!

This was the darkest, most challenging time of my life. I was a zombie of my former self. I had no energy, no control, completely dependent on those caring for me. The dialysis wasn't taking well to my body. Each day I fell deeper into depression and walked closer to death's door.

I would be stuck inside almost all day, a lot of my time was spent watching YouTube videos. I remember stumbling across videos of people doing amazing moves with their bodies which I soon came to learn was a type of exercise called Calisthenics.

I was so envious! They were like superheroes to me, using their impressive physiques and strength to perform gravity-defying moves that were surely not possible.

I dreamed of being like them, I wanted to do a muscle up, a handstand, or anything half as cool as what my role models were doing.
Realistically the idea of this happening felt impossible! My muscle tissue had disappeared and atrophied away to nothing. All that was left was skin, bone, and some fat tissue. I was a 50kg malnourished shell of myself.

I can't emphasise how weak I had become, The most basic exercises like a single knee push-up were impossible. Even walking around the block (700m) of my home was an extremely nauseating and exhausting exercise.

2011 - My Kidney Transplant

My Mum had just gotten off the phone, emotional with tears in her eyes. More bad news? She had just been told by my uncle Ross that he would be willing to donate one of his kidneys to me. I was in shock, I couldn't believe it.

Ross was living on the other side of the planet in the United Kingdom at the time. Without hesitation or second thought, Ross uplifted his life in the UK and selflessly moved all the way back to New Zealand, just to donate one of his kidneys. I don't think there are words to describe how I feel about what Ross did for me. The emotions are still so heavy, it waters my eyes writing about it even now. I am eternally grateful. I would not be here today if he hadn't helped me.

We underwent months of testing to ensure Ross was a suitable donor for me. The results came back, he was a match!

The day of my kidney transplant surgery finally arrived. I was a bundle of nerves, overwhelmed by anxiety, trembling with fear to the point of vomiting out of sheer nervousness. What if this was the end? What if I never woke up from the operation? It was at that moment that I came to the realization that whatever lay ahead was beyond my control. If this was to be the final chapter of my story, then so be it. I was prepared to embrace my fate, I had no regrets.

One of the most heart-wrenching moments during that time remains vivid in my memory. It was the moment I was being transported on my bed from my room to the surgery ward. My mother walked alongside me as far as the hospital staff would allow her. Throughout the chaos that had unfolded, she had been a constant presence by my side, sacrificing her time, effort, and energy to ensure my well-being. As she faded into the distance I glanced into her eyes, I could sense her pain, fear, worry, and sadness. The weight of helplessness hung heavy upon her. Gradually, her figure faded into the distance as I was wheeled down the long hallway towards the operating room. With each passing second, the realization dawned upon me that I was utterly alone.

A gas mask was placed over my face, I was told to count backwards from 10. I got to 7 and was gone.

Upon awakening from surgery, it became abundantly clear that something had changed. An immediate surge of energy coursed through me, unfamiliar yet captivating, radiating warmth and strength. I felt alive!

Herein lay a new problem, a good problem you could say. I was bursting at the seams with energy. My mind was ready to jump mountains, however, my body was beaten up and broken from the numerous surgeries and the months of crippling sickness. There wasn't a kg of muscle on me, to even walk was a struggle.

There was a feeling of entrapment, my mind was stuck in an unresponsive vessel. How I looked and moved was not reflective of my energy or intentions. I could feel my body's potential. A feeling of being capable of much much more.

This is where my drive for becoming the best version of myself was born. The old status quo was no longer acceptable. I was going to become the healthiest me I could be! Time to create change!

2012 - My Training

Despite seeking answers from various sources, including specialists, gym trainers, and online resources, I found it challenging to obtain a clear and definitive answer on how to achieve my healthiest self. The concept of "being healthy" appeared to be subjective, leading to conflicting advice. Frustrated by this, I took it upon myself to take control of the situation and embarked on a personal journey to unravel the truth and discover what it truly meant to be healthy.

I started training spending time and money on becoming “healthy” and working towards being stronger/fitter.

I managed to progress little by little, adding muscle and strength. The process was lengthy and difficult, it felt like I was starting from below ground zero.

I worked with multiple Personal Trainers and Nutritionists, which helped me to achieve mild success with my physical fitness, but I still couldn't do a pull-up, muscle up, handstand, or any other cool calisthenics skills, and I certainly didn't feel like the healthiest version of myself yet.

The more I trained the more it felt like all the information I was being given kept contradicting itself. There was a sense of two steps forward and one step back.

There had to be a more simple approach. Something that was missing. Something not easily found on the internet. I had to find out for myself.

2016 - My Career

I dedicated myself to the study and practice of becoming a fitness professional, providing guidance and support to others on their training journeys.

Along the way, I had the privilege of working alongside top-rated gyms and fitness professionals across New Zealand, gaining invaluable knowledge and insights from these experiences. I have also been very lucky to partner with prominent businesses such as LuluLemon and

Motivated by my own struggles and obstacles, I was driven to prevent others from enduring similar frustrations on their fitness journeys. My ultimate goal is to help others build their own versions of a thriving body, in a more streamlined and impactful manner.

To accomplish this, I established my own personal training business, High Fitness.

2023 - My Thriving Life

I am thrilled to announce that through my personal learning endeavours and the assistance of others, I have accomplished goals that seemed utterly impossible during my illness. I can now do handstands, muscle-ups, pistol squats, and various other challenging skills and movements that once appeared insurmountable during the lowest point of my journey.

I have also discovered my own definition of what it means to be my healthiest self, and I can confidently say that I am living it. My health metrics include the following:

  • Physical well-being - Moving functionally within any limitations, while also being able to engage in physical activities that bring me joy and fulfillment.
  • Nutrition - Consuming foods that provide nourishment and fuel to my body, while consciously avoiding foods that drain my energy and potentially cause discomfort or irritation.
  • Mental well-being - Prioritizing stress management techniques, fostering social connections, and engaging in fulfilling work or activities that contribute to my overall happiness and contentment.
  • Recovery - Recognizing the importance of quality sleep and dedicating sufficient time for my body and mind to rest, repair, and grow.

My journey has shown me firsthand the challenges and setbacks that can arise when striving to achieve health and wellness goals. From battling self-doubt and lack of motivation to overcoming physical limitations and internal pressures, I have experienced the highs and lows of the transformation process.

I now get to spend my days sharing my knowledge and guiding others towards their own health and fitness goals. This work is not only fulfilling but also incredibly rewarding. I'm continuously learning and discovering new innovative strategies to assist both my clients and myself to overcome frustrating obstacles.

So here I am today, healthier, stronger, and happier than I have ever been. I feel very grateful and fortunate to be in this position, living a thriving life and doing what I love.


There are so many amazing people that have helped me along this journey. You know who you are, please know that I appreciate and love you all so much. Thank you for helping me achieve my goals and become the man I am today.

Thanks to you too for taking the time to read about my journey.

If you have any questions or if there's anything you would like to discuss, please feel free to message me anytime, I'm always willing to help.

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