I Died 3 TIMES in One Night
CELEBRITY TRAINER DREW LOGAN ON THE CARDIAC CRISIS THAT CHANGED HIS LIFE—AND HIS APPROACH TO FITNESS
Drew Logan doesn’t look like someone death would want to mess with. But on Oct. 4, 2004, it tried—three times. The elite fitness pro, who works out for hours a day with athletes and actors, was spending a quiet night in Nashville with his then-girlfriend when he suffered sudden cardiac arrest (SCA), a complication with the heart’s electrical system that less than 10 percent of people survive.
“I remember hitting the carpet facedown, and I knew I was dying,” says Logan, now 43. “People always ask me how I knew, but it’s just like how you know you’re in love. You just know, and there wasn’t any time to resist it.”
Possibly because of his physical conditioning, Logan’s body did resist the first SCA and he woke up woozy and confused. But before he could get out the door to the ER, another one hit, and he had to be revived by paramedics. He suffered a third after he arrived at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. His doctors told him that surviving three SCAs— two outside the hospital—was a phenomenon they’d never seen.
Cheating death that night changed Logan’s approach to life—and his life’s work. He talks all about it in his new book, 25 Days: A Proven Program to Rewire Your Brain, Stop Weight Gain, and Finally Crush the Habits You Hate—Forever. The Los Angeles–based pro, who has trained Keith Urban, The Flash’s Jesse L. Martin and NBA star Nazr Mohammed, simplified the training he’d practiced with toptier clientele for years. And it works just as well—if not better.
“When I was younger, I didn’t understand why everyone didn’t work out. I thought fitness was super easy,” he says. “Now I know that’s not empowering and I feel like a jerk! If I hadn’t had cardiac arrest, I never would have understood the pain, fear and insecurity that people bring with them when they come to me for help.”
The Night the Lights Went Out
Before he even graduated college, the Lexington, Ky.-born Logan had built a business as a personal trainer. By age 30, he’d relocated to Nashville to work with NFL and NBA athletes.
He stayed close to his family, and his mom, Judy, and dad, Ron, were there for him after his cardiac arrests. Logan recalls what Ron, a Vietnam vet, told him after seeing him in the hospital bed: “I’ve seen more death in my life than anyone deserves to see. And when I walked in the room, you were a dead man. So I just cried and prayed.”
Logan pauses and chuckles. “The story gets funnier from there—we’ve gone through the dark parts.”
Within days, he was out of danger, but doctors were still flummoxed about what had caused a healthy 30-year-old to suffer cardiac arrest. Every test indicated a heart in top form—no evidence of scar tissue, no trace of the trauma it had been through. They spent hours trying to recreate the SCA in a controlled experiment but came up empty-handed.
In the absence of a problem to treat, the only solution was a safeguard: an implantable defibrillator that will automatically shock his heart back into rhythm should he ever suffer another SCA. His therapy dog, Lucky, provides backup, alerting Logan when his cortisol levels rise, indicating a stress level that could be dangerous given his history. (See “Life
With Lucky” on page 10.)
In the hospital, he watched a video created for patients who get pacemakers, starring a cast of senior citizens, and shook his head. For most cardiac patients, the idea of getting back to the gym is terrifying. But for Logan, already in the throes of post-traumatic depression, it felt crucial.
“I was more afraid I was going to lose my mind if I didn’t work out—because without exercise I didn’t feel like myself,” he says.
Conquering the Mental Battle
After some tweaking with the defibrillator’s pacemaker—which initially would sound an alarm when his heart rate reached a certain threshold—Logan quickly settled back into the type of physical regimen he was used to. What he hadn’t anticipated were the mental challenges.
“The kind of training you do with elite athletes is very detailed, and there’s a lot of math behind it, like calculating metabolic resting rates, which I always enjoyed,” he says. “But now it was taking me hours where it used to just take me a few minutes. It was like Greek.”
Years later, Logan learned this was likely due to mild brain trauma caused by oxygen deprivation before he was revived. At the time, he just knew he was frustrated. He decided to go back to basics and give clients a list of simple benchmarks to meet. He asked them to score themselves out of 100 each day on how well they followed the guidelines for meals, snacks and workouts.
“If you do what you’re supposed to do that day, you get an A-plus,” he says. “It was so dorky that at the time I thought it was really stupid.”
Logan figured it would just be a temporary solution until his brain fogginess cleared, but his clients loved the new plan. He heard less defeat in their voices. If they slipped up and ate cookies on Monday, oh well, they told him, tomorrow is another day to get an A.
“They started saying, ‘I didn’t know it could be this easy,’ ” he says. “And I thought, Me neither!”
People were getting results so fast that after four weeks, they often had enough success that they didn’t need his ongoing support.
His 25 Days program was born. And it turned out that the idea he once thought was too simplistic to be effective had a lot of science behind it. It’s a concept called neurological patterning, and it has to do with the way our brains form habits out of a feedback loop of repetition and reward, eventually becoming a default setting that can override bad impulses. (It’s no coincidence that addiction recovery programs are often built on a similar oneday-at-a-time model.) Giving yourself an A gives you a burst of feel-good brain chemical dopamine, which makes you want to repeat the behavior that triggered it.
“It’s positive reinforcement on a chemical level,” Logan says. “These are patterns created by our brain that feel like ‘addiction’ if they’re bad habits, but feel like great things if they’re good for you.”
But you don’t have to understand the science behind it—most people just want a plan to follow. Logan has seen this one work for himself, high-profile clients and even his
70-year-old dad. “It’s not a competition against anyone else—or your younger self. It’s just, ‘ Did I do it at all?’ ”
And at its core, it’s a philosophy born out of Logan’s brush—or three—with death: “Tomorrow might not come, and yesterday doesn’t really matter that much. Let’s just try to control today.”
Lucky, the therapy dog