Premier Staff Highlight: Jacob Garbark

Premier Staff Highlight: Jacob Garbark

by Juliana Rodriguez | date April 27, 2020
Jacob before and after fitness journey

You may recall Bob Garbark’s incredible medical journey from teenage cancer survivor to heart transplant recipient. Through those tumultuous years battling with heart problems, his son, Jacob Garbark, struggled to battle his own demons. This is Jacob’s heartwarming story of sacrifice, unwavering familial bonds, and unexpected triumph.

Much like Bob, Jacob was always an active youth, playing baseball and soccer, exercising regularly. When Jacob was a freshman in high school, his father had an accident mowing the lawn, falling and injuring his shoulder, which, as we know, resulted in open heart surgery. A few years later, he ended up on the transplant list for a new heart. That accident turned everything upside down for Jacob. He ended up graduating high school early so that he could help support his family – traveling to Gainseville regularly to see Bob, emotionally supporting his mother and sister – all while attempting to handle the fact that his dad might not make it.

Through all the heart surgeries and all of the uncertainty, Jacob became depressed. He gave up a normal life as a high school teenager, years he will never get back. He alienated himself, began eating a lot, and stopped playing the sports he used to play. At some point, Jacob took up online gaming and actually turned pro. For a while, he was ranked #7 world-wide in his field. While this triumph was exciting, it didn’t help his mental or physical health. In fact, the sedentary lifestyle of gaming played a large role in his weight gain.

For 2 whole years, Jacob didn’t really have social interactions with anyone outside of his family. He admits that the isolation began because he had more pertinent family responsibilities that trumped hanging with friends, however, it persisted out of embarrassment. He didn’t feel comfortable resurfacing on the social scene as heavy as he was. In those years of trying his best to be there for his family, Jacob was spiraling into a dark place of fear and self despair.

Watching his father go through countless surgeries and experience problem after problem put Jacob in a constant state of fear for a long time. In 2018, Jacob started feeling some chest pain. At 22 years old, this was extremely concerning, especially considering his dad’s heart problems. He knew that he never wanted to be that afraid again, and he definitely was not going to let his family go through any more medical drama if he could help it. So, he decided to do something about his health.

It started with walking for one hour every day, sometimes even twice a day. He also changed his diet and began eating only healthy foods. Eventually, walking turned into running, and within about 8 months, Jacob went from 220lbs to 150lbs from diet and cardio alone.

In October of 2019, he started exercising at Premier Health & Fitness Center. He now exercises 1-2 hours a day, 5-6 days a week, often with his dad, Bob Garbark. Since quarantine, Jacob says that they both do workouts at home together using their body weight along with some dumbbells, kettlebells, and bands. By adding weight training and other exercise beyond cardio to his routine, Jacob gained about 15-20 pounds of muscle. He says he now fluctuates between 165 and 170 pounds.

Jacob and Bob Garbark exercising together

While it may seem like Jacob was dealt a pretty rough hand, he does not ever blame his physical and mental health issues on his family. In fact, he attributes much of his current success to them, claiming that his parents enthusiastically supported him while he took the time to work on himself and become the young man that he is today. Jacob also clearly has a great admiration for his dad, saying that he felt inspired to become healthy after watching his dad’s determination to not only survive, but to continue to work out.

Today, Jacob works at Premier Health & Fitness Center with his dad as a monitor, and is currently studying to become a personal trainer. He knows how difficult it can be to make healthy changes, and now wants to help people realize their potential and guide them through their own fitness journey. Jacob says he truly wanted this change for himself, which gave him the discipline he needed to succeed. He claims that he is in a much better place now, not only in his physical health, but mentally as well. When asked what advice he would give to others trying to make a change for the better, he said “Just start! Do it and don’t let yourself get out of check.”

Jacob and two friends, Kaydi (center), and Emily (right)


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