Jay Maryniak wasn’t your typical 9 year old. He was an athlete with a bright future in baseball—but he was also a little rough around the edges. When he wasn’t stealing from other people, he was smoking cigarettes. At just 11 years old, he tried his first sip of alcohol.
During his teen years, Maryniak started using drugs. It began with smoking marijuana and drinking on the weekends. Hooked on the feeling, Maryniak forgot about sports and focused on partying with his friends. By 15, he was smoking a pack and a half a day.
Then he started to experiment with more dangerous drugs, like Oxycontin, acid, and cocaine. He became a black-out drinker and woke up every day looking to get his next fix.
“It started out innocent," Maryniak says. "It was fun, and then I got addicted.”
For many years, Maryniak knew he had a problem, but it wasn’t until he turned 20 that he realized how serious it had become.
“I finally hit a point—I couldn’t work anymore; I couldn’t do anything," he says. "I was smoking crack, taking pills. I was out of control.
“Finally, I was in so much pain, emotionally, I couldn’t take it anymore. I hated myself. I hated the person I became. That was the moment I knew I had to do something, or I would die doing this.”
After reaching out to his dad for help, Maryniak walked into rehab in November 2005. For the two weeks that he was there, he felt the symptoms of withdrawal, struggled to accept the fact that he could never drink again, and wanted nothing more than to just go home. He was given the option to leave early, so he took it. Twenty-year-old Maryniak joined a 12-step program and returned to work as a tattoo artist.
Wanting to just kick and punch stuff, Maryniak started taking martial arts classes and joined his local gym to let some aggression loose (a Planet Fitness, if you were curious).
“I was still smoking a pack and a half a day, but trying to be active. I took karate, and started doing traditional bodybuilding exercises with the machines,” Maryniak says. “I remember that vividly actually. I’d be the guy smoking a cigarette when I walked into the gym, and smoking a cigarette when I walked out.”
Then Maryniak threw Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Muay Thai kickboxing into the mix. After a couple of years, he was asked to become an instructor. Eventually, he quit the cigs.
“That’s sort of where my career began in fitness,” he says.
It wasn’t long before he met his next challenge: While training for a Muay Thai fight, someone told him about CrossFit. Realizing that he didn’t love getting punched in the face during his fights, Maryniak decided to give something else a shot. He went all in, and started doing CrossFit workouts 4 to 5 days a week.
“I think the competitive aspect of CrossFit really separates it from other facets of fitness. You’re constantly trying to beat your own times on workouts, as well as other CrossFitters. There was just a constant push to go harder and push yourself to your limits,” he says. “I loved doing gymnastics movements, like handstand pushups and muscle ups, as well as heavy deadlifts and squat cleans.”
Maryniak was hooked on the challenge. Determined to prove himself, he started competing in CrossFit competitions. After struggling to place in his first few, he took his training up a notch and entered another competition. He crushed it and placed first.
But something felt off. Maryniak had a hard time recovering after his win and even a few days later, his body still didn’t feel right. After two weeks, he had lost 15 pounds and could no longer sleep because he was urinating so frequently. He became disoriented and his vision was blurry. After driving himself to the ER, his doctors checked his blood sugars, which were so high that they couldn’t even be read on a meter.
In 2013, Maryniak was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. He was 27.
“I didn’t work out for like a month. Life was just so different. I had to relearn my body and what I was feeling,” he says. “But it changed me for the better. All of a sudden, I got stronger. I felt healthier. They think I probably had the diabetes for at least a year before I was diagnosed. I started feeling good, and getting stronger, putting on some weight, and putting on some muscle.”
Learning how to manage his diabetes couldn’t keep him away from a good sweat session—and we weren’t the only ones to take notice. Today, Maryniak has nearly 200,000 followers on Instagram, where he posts daily workouts and insane fitness feats, meaning you won’t just find weight lifting videos on his feed. Maryniak’s posts incorporate kickboxing, calisthenics, gymnastics, powerlifting, bodybuilding, and general gym-time tomfoolery.
“I always wanted to be the best at everything. I never wanted to train just one style and master that style. It was always kind of the CrossFit mentality—I wanted to be good at every facet of fitness,” he says. “I wanted to be the most well-rounded and I wanted to be the guy that was deadlifting 500 pounds and then doing back flips and handstands at the same time.”
When he’s not posting his stunts or working with clients as a personal trainer, he’s putting in several extra hours of work a day to maintain the physique you see in the after photo above.
Generally, Maryniak weighs in at 85-90kg of lean muscle. Currently, he trains his legs with tempo back squats, barbell lunges, and other lower-body exercises twice a week, since he is naturally top heavy. In addition to that, he works his chest and triceps once a week, and back and biceps once a week. He also does high intensity interval training twice a week and trains his abs—the part of his body he’s most proud of—nearly every single day.
“I do some traditional lifting, but I also really try and step outside the box with my training. I’m always trying to find new ways to challenge myself and be different.”
Maryniak doesn’t plan on ending that mentality any time soon, but he knows there will always be challenges along the way. At 31 years old, he still actively participates in his 12-step program to stay sober. He closely monitors his blood sugar levels during and after his workouts—but that’s a small price to pay for how far he’s come.
“I can remember sitting in a Planet Fitness, in my first year of sobriety, and looking in the mirror and having no abs, no definition whatsoever. I was 145 pounds. I had nothing,” he says. (For reference, check out the before photo above.)
With hard work, patience, and consistency, Maryniak has gained a life he never thought he would be capable of living and has managed to stay clean for 11 years.
“Fitness was a massive part of me staying sober. Fitness really gave me an outlet,” he says. “It became something that I looked forward to and without it I’m not sure I would have stayed sober.”