By Grant Vance | Photos by Danny Alexander
No relation to Green Arrow’s alter ego Oliver Queen, Corey Queen has proven himself to be a hero of many sorts. His history of fighting an unhealthy lifestyle reigns over the past seven years. And although he isn’t exactly the protector of a crime-ridden city, he’s proven to be a hero to family, friends and – most importantly – himself.
Now a personal trainer for Bluegrass Phoenix Personal Training and Nutrition, a company he started, Queen is set on mentoring anyone who chooses to embark with him on his heroic journey. Throwing a BANG! at weight loss here, a POW! at fitness there, Queen sees no end in sight for his war on the tyranny of lackadaisical health practices.
With great health, comes great responsibility, he might tell you – he’s completed 42 different races and fitness competitions over the course of those seven years, after all. Recently competing in a Spartan Challenge, Queen is not one to shy away from a long, challenging race. It wasn’t always that easy for him, however; whether it’s a radioactive spider, tragic memory or crashed alien space-ship, every hero has an origin.
From the clutches of childhood abuse, mental health issues and a now fateful health scare, Queen is no different.
The year is 2010. Corey Queen is casually going through his day, carrying on a discussion at work. He begins to tell a story about his wife, Damary, when something particularly strange happens.
“I’m telling this story about my wife, and I could see her in my head, but I couldn’t remember her name. This went on 90 seconds, which doesn’t sound like long, but when you’re married… it is,” Queen said. “So I jokingly posted on Facebook (about it). … Twenty minutes later, my wife called me and asked when I was going to the doctor… then if I had checked my Facebook after the post. I found about 20 comments of (friends warning me) this is the first sign of a stroke.”
After some slight resistance, Queen followed through with the wishes for a doctoral visit, not realizing how fatal a slight-though-significant memory lapse can truly be. First, he was directed to get a CAT-scan, which tested negative for a stroke.
It may not have aligned with the original scare, but it wasn’t all good news.
“The doctor asked if I had been sleeping well. I said no. I’m an adult survivor of child abuse. … If I made anything below a B, I would wake up to a backpack of books (being thrown at his head),” Queen said. “So, I grew up to be a light sleeper, because I never knew when it was coming.”
Despite the circumstance, the doctor recommended a sleep study. The results calculated a halt in breathing nine times within a 90-minute span of sleep, with 90 percent blockage another five.
“So (the doctor) said, ‘We’re going to have to get you a CPAP machine,’” Queen said. “But then (the doctor) said, ‘So here’s the thing: Most people I tell to come see me in six months. Looking at you, you won’t live three. You’ve got to lose weight, you’ve got to get active. I’ve had this conversation with 20 people this week and 19 probably walked out and went to McDonalds. … Are you comfortable having (your kids) call another man ‘Dad,’ because you won’t be around.
“I left that doctors appointment shook.”
Meanwhile… a Heroic Training Montage
Queen took the doctors orders to heart, calling his wife immediately and beginning research on what his best strategy would be. Fitness can be hard to keep on its own accords, and soaring back into the game will almost always include a lousy jump or two before flight is achievable.
“I immediately started to think, if I’m able to sacrifice one hour a day, which isn’t a lot to sacrifice. I spend an hour a day doing a lot of useless stuff,” Queen laughed. “But I researched what I could do that would burn the most calories consistently. No matter how hard I looked, it kept coming back to running.”
To Queen, running was the last thing he wanted to commit to regularly. Joking he would sooner jazzercise or buy Richard Simmons’ workout DVDs (leotard and all), the act of running was about as daunting as it could be.
“I tied up my sweatshirt and my running shoes, and I went running,” Queen said. “I called my wife about 20 minutes later and asked her to come get me … she asked where I was, and I told her to open the front door and turn right.
“I went a quarter of a mile before I felt like my lungs had left my body.”
The drive was there, and Queen refused to let his first attempt at running discourage him from his mission. After a good deal of research, he stumbled upon a book called Marathoning for Mortals. Almost as if this was his pinnacle “overcoming the fear of bats and becoming them” moment, Queen found a true direction for overcoming the obstacle of running.
“(As a trainer now) this is the problem with the fitness industry. We want to compare ourselves to everyone. And there’s television and everyone and their mother is trying to sell you something,” Queen said. “With fitness you have to have short term and long term goals because you have to celebrate those victories.”
As a comic book fan, Queen is no stranger to the idea of the short-term satisfaction of monthly single issues to the long-term satisfaction of the giant events they build toward; he just needed to think of fitness in the same context.
He decided he was going to set a date to run a marathon in a year, despite friends suggesting otherwise.
“This was just a personal thing. I just wanted to cross the finish line,” Queen said.
Queen set out his long-term goal, but not without setting a preliminary short term goal along with it.
“The next week I decided to do my first 5K, the UofL Health Classic in Cherokee Park. I ran that in 48 minutes,” Queen laughed. “It’s not, you know, the best feeling being lapped twice … but I will never forget hearing and seeing my daughters cheer for me at the finish line. They didn’t care how long it took me. There was a mental switch that went on in that moment that said I love this.
“You have to find something to turn that light on inside you, flip the switch.”
The Marathon Man
Soon, Queen started to sign up for any race he could find within the next year leading to his first marathon. Jumping from 5K to 5K, eventually attempting a 10-miler, there was no stopping Queen’s ambitious strides.
After only a year of epic training, Queen went for the marathon.
“I did it the first year and it was awful,” Queen said. “I finished in six and a half hours … felt like I was hit by a truck.”
Though slightly discouraged by the outcome, Queen achieved his goal: He crossed the finish line. But this wasn’t the end of Queen’s reign, not by any means. As a goal-oriented crusader, he set new goals to learn more and become a distance running apprentice imagine Dr. Strange with sorcery, only its Corey Queen, and with running.
“I became a student to the game,” Queen said. “Every book, article, documentary I could find.”
Along with the academic approach, Queen also emphasizes finding personal motivation and ignoring the naysayers. “Screw what your friends say (and) find what motivates you.”
Some examples of motivation for Queen include his own fortress of solitude, where he hangs his medals (as well as Superman shirts signed by his children Ayana, Annabelle, Adrianna and Jorel), and his routine of wearing his medal for a week after each race as a symbol of accomplishment.
“You have to get out of your comfort zone,” Queen said. “As you get older you find out how strong you are, and that’s a confidence booster.”
Queen, who has bipolar disorder and suffers from PTSD, found exercise therapeutic and discovered that “taking the ego out to learn” can be incredibly gratifying.
Queen started to see this more and more as time went on and ran marathon after marathon, working his way up to his standing 42-race count. But, at the end of the day, they are just milestones, he said. “Don’t get caught up in numbers. … Remember why you’re doing it. I’ve never lost sight of who I am; it’s part of me, not definitive.”
Emphasizing the importance of self is what really emerged through Queen’s journey to health: realizing you are worth something, and you owe it to yourself to believe in yourself enough to achieve these goals.
To Avengers: Infinity War and Beyond
Despite a scare in September 2014 caused by a stress-induced stroke, Queen’s health has drastically improved since he became dedicated to a healthier lifestyle and lost 80 pounds of fat.
With no true end in sight (although he claimed he told friends he was slowing down) Queen has five races on the docket, including the Spartan trifecta, which he plans to make a family “vacation.” These are only his short-term goals. His long-term goal? Running the Louisville Iron Man in five years, the year he will turn 50.
“I’m a terrible swimmer, so that will be a big challenge,” Queen said. “I’ll be drinking a lot of pool water the next couple years.”
In the meantime, Queen will continue as a personal trainer for his business, while also inspiring friends and family to try new fitness-oriented activities, including friends trying the Spartan Challenge, his wife running a mini-marathon and his kids more and more interested in exercise-based activities like volleyball and cross country.
Queen coaches cross country and also finds time to act as ambassador for the Urban Bourbon Half Marathon.
Then again, what super hero doesn’t jump around several different series and crossovers?
KEEPING UP WITH COREY QUEEN
Dieting Tips: I eat based on fueling my body for workouts and recovery from races/ workouts. So, lean proteins and lots of veggies. I never go more than 3 hours without eating, so I keep my metabolism going.
Workout Routine: Find whatever motivates you personally I wake up at 4 in the morning to run before my family and the rest of the world.
Fitness Tips: Don’t get caught up in the scale; it’s just a number that tells you how much gravity is weighing down your mass. As long as you’re exercising towards what’s healthiest for you, that’s most important.