Read My Breakthrough Story

I overcame nearly losing my life before it even started, to refusing to follow down the path of crime and drug use. In my later teens I faced constant battles in my own head as I was plagued with episodes of bipolar depression, was reborn in my newfound faith, and proactively faced the fact that I could no longer afford to finish college.

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If you landed here that means you want to know more about me, which is GREAT because I want you to know more about me! I want you to know my whole story. So hi, my name is Dakota Vanidestine and I am going to take you all the way back to humble beginnings….


August 23, 1994 – Welcome, Baby Boy

My beautiful mother Kara Lynn Maske gave birth to her first child, that’s me! There were some complications during birth, however. The doctors had to do an emergency c-section because they had lost my heartbeat, at which time my mother stopped breathing… The c-section was performed and although I was delivered with my umbilical cord wrapped around my neck, we both survived. THANK GOD (seriously, thank God. You will find out more about my journey to faith later).

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(My beautiful mother and I)


1994-2009 – Brief Overview

To briefly cover my life between 1994 and 2009… I became a big brother…THREE TIMES (and my mom was not finished yet either)! My sister Alexis and brothers Caylubb and Ryile were born. I can’t forget to mention my wonderful step-sister Casey, who is actually the oldest out of the bunch. My biological father was not around much growing up but my step-father Matt has been there since before I was born. Growing up, we were such a tight-knit bunch. We were constantly playing outside together. Still feels like yesterday that we were running around in the fields at our old house out on Highway 64.

Family time was important to us so we often had our cousins and aunts over to play with us. My aunts are few years older than me so I sort of looked up to them in a way because they were supposed to be role models, right? Unfortunately, that was not the case. They  were often getting in trouble with the law and doing drugs (nothing major…at this time), starting at a young age. As I mentioned, we were all close so my brothers, sister and I were exposed to this. I remember going with my grandma to visit the older of my two aunts while she was away at a juvenile correctional facility. Her reason for being there? At age 14 she went to a car dealership, broke into the key box and took the vehicle for a joy ride. She was eventually chased down by the police. Hanging around my aunts exposed me to a life path of crime and drugs that I easily could have taken.However, I was bound and determined to pave a new path and be the best possible role model that I could be for my brothers and sisters. I wanted to show them that there is more to this world than crime and drugs.

If I was not at home playing outside with my siblings, cousins and aunts, I was at school or practice for whatever sport I was playing at the time. I was extremely active growing up, excelling in basketball, baseball, and football. I was also really hard on myself, constantly feeling like I could have done something better even though I noticeably a cut above the rest. This act of being hard on myself would grow into something much greater, but it was nothing more than a little extra motivation for the time being. Out of the three sports I played, my true passion was football. It showed as success came – starting with winning championships in Pop Warner to losing only a couple football games in middle school. Adding to that fact, I was always one of, if not the, top performer on the team.

The summer going into my freshman year of high school, I remember receiving a surprising phone call  (surprising to me at least). Reggie, a coach for varsity, called to inform me that I would be with the varsity squad. My mind was blown and I was filled with emotion – nervous, excited, scared, honored. Little did I know this amazing opportunity would cause me to put even more pressure on myself, maybe more than I could handle…

 


2009 – Discovering My Passion

September 1st, 2009 marked my first day of high school. Little pip squeak freshman, sitting 5’11” – 150 pounds soaking wet, walking in to 0 hour to lift weights with the big boys (0 hour was sports conditioning class for athletes that took place before school). I had never touched a weight before this and it showed… I was WEAK! I was also embarrassed as these guys looked savagely at me as I attempted to keep up with them. I told myself, “never again.”  This is where my passion for weight lifting stems from and I recall that day very vividly.

As a football team we finished 0-9, which was something that I was not used to. As an individual, I did not perform at the level I was accustomed to in middle school but that was expected, right. I was a smooth faced, 15 year old little boy who was competing against bearded, 17-18 year old grown men. I averaged over 150 rushing yards a game, which is actually good looking back at it now.

However, at the time I felt awful about myself and I was plagued with negative thoughts of self doubt. I would say this was the point when being hard on myself took a turn for the worse. I had all of these thoughts and emotions running through my head. I was not one to open up and talk to people either. I was trapped in my mind…and it was a lonely, dark, and all consuming place to be. My way of coping? Self harm. At it’s worse, I contemplated suicide. I am getting emotional typing all of this because of were I am at now. How could I even consider such a selfish decision? Who would be there to set an example for my brothers and sisters? Things eventually got better and I contribute that directly to the newfound method that I learned to use to cope with negative thoughts…

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(High School Football – “Talk to the Hand”)


2010-11 – Transformation

This is the year that me and my high school buddy, Kyle, started lifting like crazy! Lifting weights became addicting, it became my release from negative thoughts, my time to recharge. A little paradoxical considering weight lifting is more energy draining than anything, but it made me feel ALIVE! At first, we would meet up and lift together at the high school. We did not know a ton, or anything really, about lifting so we just did the basic stuff: bench, squat, rows, and curls (for the girls, of course).

As we continued to lift together, we began training in Kyle’s girlfriend’s basement with her step-dad, Rick. Rick was a former bodybuilder and introduced Kyle and I to a whole new world of weight lifting. We began trying new lifts, working each muscle from multiple angles, and being completely dead when we were finished. I fell in love with this style of training as I became bigger, faster and stronger! I remember coming across a bodybuilding magazine in his basement one day and thinking…”I want to look like that.” That was the point that I decided I wanted to bodybuild (although I did not actually pursue it until years down the the road).

Kyle had another game changing impact on my life. He introduced me to Christ. His family had an active faith and they invited me to come with them to church since we were constantly together. I was always interested but never acted on those interests, so I agreed! It felt good going, even though I couldn’t tell you the difference between a hymnal and a bible at that time (seriously, I was confused). I continued to go with them and my faith grew exponentially. A year after starting to go, I confirmed my newborn faith in Christ.

I can’t forget to mention that my sister Abbigial was born during this time! A slight age gap between us but I love children so I was overjoyed when my mother gave birth to this precious little girl. Regardless of age, we formed a bond right away. That bond still exists to this day (I can’t wait until she is older so I can show her all of the crazy pictures we have together!

With a healthier coping method in bodybuilding, a strong bond with my baby sister, and a growing faith, things seemed to be going well. Actually, they were going great! Little did I know, this new feeling of euphoria would carry through my senior year and lead to a lot of the successes that year…

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(Bodybuilding – from fluffy to fit)


2013 – Senior Year

By the time my senior year rolled around, I was a completely different person, physically and mentally. I went from 5’11” – 150 lbs my freshman year to 5’11 – 195 lbs at the start of my senior year! I had gained quite a bit of strength over that time as well. I still hold the squatting record at my high school for my body weight – 500 pound back squat weighing only 195 lbs! To go along with a new physical appearance, I had a much better mindset. Although I still pushed myself to be the absolute best version of myself that I could be, I handled it in a more proactive way. I knew that I could always be better but I never doubted my ability to get there through hard work and perseverance. I attribute this mental transformation to my newfound faith.

My senior year of football was decent. I do not recall any specific numbers but none of them were outstanding. We ended up making the playoffs but lost in the first round. That was the end of football for all of the seniors…except for me! I had been in contact with a small private school in Milwaukee and was offered the privilege to continue playing football (more on this later). I felt honored to have this opportunity and I could not wait! I had my entire senior year ahead of me, however, so I guess I would have to wait a bit longer.

Another sport I had taken up during my sophomore year was track & field. I was always fast as a kid so I figured why not see how I stacked up against guys from other schools. No real accomplishments my sophomore year. During my junior year we had an awesome 4x100m relay team! We ended up breaking our schools record for that event and placed 6th at the state track meet. Now, my senior year was the real deal! My main events were the 100m dash, 4x100m relay, and 4x200m relay. To make things even better, we were bringing back 3 out of the 4 guys from our 6th place finishing relay from the year before. In order to fill the fourth spot, we recruited a sophomore who had some wheels so we were confident that we couldn’t be beat.

Our confidence came with hard work and it paid off! We only lost once all year in the 4x100m relay and that was to a D1 team at one of our biggest meets. Our 4x200m relay had the same success. Until regionals came around that is… our young buck dropped the baton and we ended up being disqualified. At the time, we were on pace for our best time of the year (1:29.00), a time that would have won state in that event. We knew we had to turn the page and dominate in the 4x100m. As for the 100m dash, I peaked at the perfect time! I was ranked first going in to state, running a 10.75 at sectionals (school record). Our relay ended up winning state with a 42.64 (you have to check out the video below – still gives me chills watching it)!

(We are Marinette, Lane 5, Purple & Black Suits)

You may be thinking, “did you go to school or did you just play sports and lift weights?” Of course I went to school! ROLE MODEL, remember? High school came easy to me. No need to prepare or study, just show up. I actually graduated with honors and received quite a bit of money in scholarships and grant money because of it! Even with all of the extra assistance, that still wasn’t enough (continue reading to find out why)…


2013-2015 – College Years

Wisconsin Lutheran College (WLC), my college of choice! Not only  did I have the opportunity to play football there, WLC was also affiliated with the church I attended back home. It was the perfect fit for me, or so I thought …

Football started a few weeks before class so I had to head down to school earlier than all of my friends. It was hard saying goodbye to my family because I am such a family oriented person (yes, there were tears)… I was excited to start this new venture though. College football was much more involved than high school. Meetings, practice, more meetings, more practice…never ending football! A few weeks later classes began. Before I let myself get behind, I knew I needed to crack down, study, and take notes. I started doing this on my very first day and continued to do that during my two years at WLC.

While I was away at, I received some shocking, yet exciting, news… another baby brother and sister added to the family! My mother gave birth to twins, Talyn and Raegan. The family was now complete – me, Casey, Alexis, Caylubb, Ryile, Abbi, Talyn, and Raegan. One big, BIG, happy family.

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(Me, Raegan, My Mother, Step Father, Talyn, and Abbi after a Sunday church service)

If you are still reading, and I hope you are, I’m sure you are waiting for all of the wild college stories that everyone has. Unfortunately, that was not me. The couple years I was away at school actually flew by. I played football, studied, got good grades – pretty simple and boring. After twos years, I could no longer keep up with the payments. Man, private schools are EXPENSIVE!  Athletically, I was named a Pre-Season All American Defensive Back after my sophomore year. Academically, I made the deans all four semesters that I attended WLC, finishing with a 3.9 GPA after two years. FullSizeRender (1).jpg

 (My Pre Season All American Listing on the All American Network)

2015-Present – Hopeless to Healed

When I received the call notifying me of my student balance, I came to terms with the fact that I would not being heading back to WLC for my junior year. I acted like I was okay with that fact but in reality I felt hopeless, depressed. I was supposed to be the first person in my family to finish college. I felt like I was letting everyone down. These thoughts consumed my mind for quite some time. As we have learned, my new coping method was exercise. So I exercised….a lot. Not only did I begin to over train, I also began to under eat. I was doing Cory Gregory‘s #SquatEveryday during this time (this program can be found here), plus cardio, and being on my feet all day at work. Click the hyperlink to head to my Instagram account where all of my #SquatEveryday videos can be found (it’ll require some scrolling but I promise they are there)! I went 100 consecutive days until I finally called it quits. I was only consuming around 2,000 calories a day when I probably needed 4,000.  A the end of this vicious cycle, about 5 months, I went from 190 lbs down to 160 lbs with only 4% body fat.

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(After 5 months of unhealthy habits – 160lbs with only 4% bodyfat)

During this time I was hired at our local YMCA. Many of you probably assumed as a personal trainer, right?… but that comes later! I was actually hired as a summer youth program staff. I was hesitant at first because I had never worked with children before. I did have younger siblings so I figured, “why not?” Basically, I got to be a big kid all day! Playing games, making crafts, reading time, S.T.E.M. experiments (Science, Math, Engineering, Technology)… it was awesome!  I worked with kids for about a year, starting with summer programs to coordinating the Y’s After School Program. A ton of memories were made and instead of trying to express every memory, check out the slideshow below (I bet it will make you smile)!

After a year of working with the kid’s, our Healthy Living Director Kristen saw my passion for health and wellness and told me that I should become a personal trainer. With no hesitation, I agreed! At that time, I didn’t realize how expensive it was to become a certified personal trainer… It took some time but I finally saved up the money and started my course. I worked diligently and finished the entire course in two weeks (I was glued to my desk if I wasn’t working or working out).

Because of the financial barrier that I faced at first, I have created a scholarship to help fund aspiring personal trainers who can’t afford it themselves! Click here to fill out the application today. Not long after that earning my certification, Kristen received a job offer that was closer to home and decided to take it. Though I was sad to see her go, I saw an opportunity to fill that position as the Healthy Living Director a the Y! Everyone, including myself, thought this was the perfect fit for me because of my genuine concern for the health and wellness of everyone who I encountered.

After praying diligently and talking with others, I handed in my resume and cover letter to our Mission’s Director Jenni, with whom I was very close with. She saw great potential in me and provided me with ample opportunity to grow at the Y. As I waited for a response, I took over some of Kristen’s old responsibilities as the Healthy Living Director. I was personal training, teaching classes, and instructing chronic disease prevention programs (LIVESTRONG and Diabetes Prevention). I loved heading into”work” knowing that I had the opportunity to positively impact someone’s life (major reason for starting this blog too). I had several clients and formed countless relationships with members at the Y. I probably knew over 500 people by name! However, I do want to highlight one inspiring experience that I had while personal training… Dan, a 96 year old active older adult who I had the opportunity to train a couple times (picture below). Although I only trained with him a couple times, he made it to the Y constantly…AT 96 YEARS OLD!

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(Dan, his family, and I getting a quick flex in after our training session)

Around this time, I also competed in my first ever bodybuilding competition. I trained effortlessly leading up to the show. Overall, the lack of experience proved costly as I failed to fill out and, to be honest, did not achieve the level of conditioning that I should have been at. These are all lessons that I will take into my next show and I know that little bit of experience that I now have will give me more of an edge!

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(Shawn Rhoden – flexatronrhoden – and I at my first ever bodybuilding competition)

Unfortunately, my circumstances changed and could no longer afford to work only a part time position. The YMCA had a huge impact on my life. Being surrounded by supportive coworkers, clients, and members was just what I needed after receiving the devastating news that I would not be able to afford to finish college. God was definitely watching over me, putting me right where I need to be exactly when I needed it. If I were working a meaningless 9 to 5 job surrounded by unhappy people all day, I don’t know if I would have ever gotten out of the slump I was in. The Y showed me that it is possible to have a large impact with the simplest act of kindness and servant hood.

I am currently the Social Media Manager at Feldstein Jewelers, a family owned jewelry company. I am still surrounding myself with my family (the people I love most), still bodybuilding, and still actively living out my faith. I wake each and every day thankful for the obstacles that I have faced because they helped mold me into who I am today. Without faith, I could have never overcame some of the difficulties that I faced in my life.

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(Coworker Tommy and I during the holidays. Merry Christmas, ya filthy animals)

Thank you for taking time to read my story. Hopefully you have a better understanding of who I am and why I have created this blog. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to go here and send me a message. I would love to hear from each of who have taken the time to  read through my story.

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