When it comes to snow, we Illinoisans often have strong opinions. However, today we were lucky enough to interview Luis Cabrales, who not only uses the heavy Chicago snowfall as an opportunity to exercise but also helps his neighbors in the process. 

FY: Hello Luis! Tell us, why are health and fitness important to you?

It's super important for me for 2 reasons. One is my mental health; I was diagnosed with PTSD and I struggle with anger. Going to the gym and powerlifting is like my meditation. I also have Type 2 Diabetes: the one you get for eating unhealthy. Recently, I changed my eating habits and added more cardio. When I went to the doctor, she said I'm now pre-diabetic, so I was able to reverse it!

FY: That's great news! Not a lot of people can do that. Who or what is your motivation to exercise?

My motivation comes from one of my closest friends, Nikki Taylor. We did Zumba and Cheer together in undergrad. She lives in Virginia now, but we bond by keeping up with our fitness. She'll send me Zumba routines, saying, "Memorize this, so we can dance to this song when I get there!"

FY: We remember you mentioned you’re also a weightlifter. How did you get started?

Lifting is something I started in high school. There were many of us who couldn't afford to be on the school football team, so we played football in the street to avoid gangs, drugs, and negativity. At the gym, I'd lift to keep in shape for that. Then in undergrad, I power lifted for cheer, so I could throw humans in the air... And catch them! Throwing is fun, but catching them is a necessity!

FY: We would have to agree! A lot of people kick-start their exercise plan after New Year’s, but we hear you’re finding a way to exercise even when it’s snowy out. Can you tell us a little more about that?

One of my favorite things to do is exercise, and I love loving people, so I found a way to blend those things. I have no boots, but I shovel the sidewalk and wipe off people’s cars. Then I leave a little note that says, "Thank you for getting up today." And nothing makes you sweat more than shoveling with a bunch of layers on!

FY: Do your neighbors know about this?

No, because I wake up pretty early to do it, and go back to my daily life. I think it means a lot more to people when they don’t know who it is. It’s nice to give that way.

FY: Who or what is your motivation to help others?

Once, I read this quote, "Be the person you wish you had when you were a kid." I try to be the person I wish I had back then, and emulate that in every aspect of my life.

FY: Did you always have an attitude of service growing up?

For me, I grew up with immigrant parents, and my mom helped other immigrant parents. This helped me see the power of community: with a community, you'll never be alone, because everyone has a seat at your table. 

FY: With the rise of social media, it seems like there’s a big focus on self in fitness. (Of course, self-love is great too-- check out our Body Positivity series!) However, you’ve gone a different way and made your workout about helping others. Are there other kinds of change you’d like to see in our current fitness climate?

Yes! It's hard to go to the gym for the first time, and even harder if you're heavy set. We don't appear athletic, and I think people should be more accepting and validating. Say, "You're ready to crush it!" Or, if you notice something off, give them tips for safe lifting. Let them know they are noticed-- not excluded. Instead of recording someone and making fun of them, help with their form!

Thank you, Luis, for sharing your story and reminding us that when we serve others in our community, we are blessed as well!

How did Luis's story inspire you to pursue fitness and serve your community? We'd love to hear your ideas in the comments below or on social media with #TheFruitfulLife!