Nate Bias has the physical power to crush the weight room. But what is far more powerful is his determination to crush the adversity in his life. People of CLT brings you Nate’s answers to our questions. We especially enjoy those on the practice of mental strength and on the importance of placing family first.
Nate grew up in Washington, D.C., with his late father, an Air Force Master Sergeant, and his mother, a registered nurse. Although his parents were full-time career people, family came first in their home, “Because my parents made the family unit their most important priority, we didn’t want for anything as kids. Most importantly love.”
In his childhood, he was the athlete who was the rare combination of both strong and fast; he was the guy who could play any sport. Nate didn’t just compete, he crushed every athletic challenge that he could get his hands on. When he wasn’t in the weight room, he was playing basketball, football, and competing in track and field competitions, “I loved competing in all sports!” But track was his bread and butter growing up, “The 40 and 100 meter dash always got me ramped-up!”
As a high schooler, his athleticism open the door to international competition. He recalls with a smile, “I was in Turkey racing against the kid who had clocked the fastest time in the 40 meter dash. Looking down the track with my hands on my hips, I visualized my body breaking the finish-line in first place. Hearing the starters command, I set-up in the starting blocks ready to tear-up the track. The gun fired! And in the blink of your eye, I was nose-to-nose with the sprinter ranked number one. The end was slow motion in my brain. As we both broke the invisible plain of the finish line, I looked to the side to see my second place finish and my personal best 4.2 seconds on the clock.”
Back then, he could never had imaged, filled with the adulation of the moment, that as an adult he would be battling a chronic disease called, Wegener’s Granulomatosis (GPA): a rare disease of unknown cause that requires suppression therapy. “Bottomline is I have pain 24/7. And the therapy makes me bloated. I have to respect my body and be on top of the way I feel or my internal organs will start to bleed.”
When did you move to Charlotte, North Carolina?
After I retired from the United States Air Force, I moved to Charlotte in 2015 with my wife Charmekia. We have been happily married for thirteen years and have two great kids, Daijah, thirteen, and Jamir, eleven. Our Beagle named Mia completes our family unit.
How do you transition yourself professionally from a career in the military to that of a civilian?
After my retirement from the military, my job became taking care of me and my family. I loved my military career as a Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge of RMO (Resource Management Office), but being diagnosed with Wegener’s (GPA) meant that I had to begin managing a new way of life.
What does taking “care of me” entail? Do you spend most of your energy on therapy and recovery?
You need to create your life, because no one is going to step and do it for you. You must make the best of what you have. My life now is therapy, recovery, and competition! Recently, I pressed 405 lbs to place first in a local powerlifting competition.
So you are still competing in sports?
Yes ma’am. Wegener’s has changed my life but not who I am. Now I am just a different type of competitor. After my diagnosis, I competed in the 2017 Invictus Games—invictus meaning unconquered. It is an international sporting event for wounded and sick servicemen and women with over 400 hundred athletes from 24 countries competing. I brought home a trifecta of gold in shot put, silver in powerlifting, and a bronze in discus. Previously, it was the 2016 Warrior Games, a competition close to my heart, where I earned repeated gold, silver, and bronze. I have plenty of hardware to show for my efforts and it is great! But in the end, it is the training and experience of competing with others that fills me up inside.
You recently power lifted an amazing 405 lbs. How do you keep putting out such awesome athletic results with a serious illness that requires debilitating therapy?
Although I am big, I look healthy with the exception of the edema. People are fooled by what shows up on the outside. Significant changes in my training, and how I compete, has been a trial and error process. Today, I play division III wheelchair basketball for the NWBA (National Wheelchair Basketball Association) and with the Rollin’ Hornets, a wheelchair basketball league in Charlotte. Unfortunately, I am no longer eligible to play in the NWBA due to my disability not meeting standards of the league. It was a disappointing blow, especially after winning the 2018 rookie of the year award in my conference.
My size creates a misconception. I am grateful that I can walk. On the other hand, I can no longer play the sport I love, basketball, standing up. My neurons just don’t fire correctly. The messages are not getting across the synapses. For example, when I attempt to move quickly, like standing up from a seated position, I get dizzy. High intensity exercise is just dangerous to my health, since it can cause my organs to bleed. On the other hand, I am a beast in a seated position!
You mentioned that you are in chronic pain and that therapy results in side effects. What does your training routine look like?
I still have the mind of a competitor. The years of developing mental strength help me to push forward. But it is not easy. It's a full time job. As soon as my eyes flutter open in the morning, I go directly to the kitchen where I take eight daily medications. Immediately afterwards, I get food into my stomach—making sure something substantial is in my body or else I will have a dizzy spell. If I am pressed for time, the breakfast of champions is a chicken biscuit from Bojangles! On the other hand, when time allows, I will rattle the pots and pans to whip-up a breakfast. Then, it is off to the gym. The free weight area is where I spend most of my time. Methodically, I begin my training. Listening for dizziness, pain, and fatigue, which can get the best of me if I am not careful.
Do you like to cook?
I love to cook! To manage my disease, I have to eat or my performance will suffer. Sauces are my favorite things to create in the kitchen. And a delicious distraction away from the negative.
If you had cooking show, what would it be called?
I would call it, “Chef Boy R N8.”
Along with your mental strength, what or who keeps you going?
My wife and family. I am a family first guy. I met my wife in 2003 at Dyess Air Force base in Abilene, TX. She arrived at the base one week after me. She struck me as such a loving person and it turns out that she is. Almost immediately, I felt the need to take care of her. Our friendship eventually led to marriage. Although she is shy and I am an extrovert, we have grown together. I like to think my big personality moved her to venture out to start her own business: she created Charmarie Photography. I am so proud of her.
You are a family first guy. Is your love of family something you learned or developed?
It is learned. In my married life, I remember the lessons my parents taught me as a child: to love, care for, and lead your family to a happy life. My mother taught me compassion for others, while my dad taught me to be organized and committed to leadership.
What is your most vivid memory of these lessons as a child?
It was a thirty minute car ride with my father when I was a young man, only wenty-one years old at the time. You see, my father had FSGS disease or chronic kidney disease. The family was hanging out watching a movie when the call came. He had been waiting for a kidney and it was finally ready! We drove to Walter Reed Hospital together. I was driving he was smiling. Old school music was on the radio and we were jamming together. The drop-off was the last time I heard him say I love you; he didn’t pull through to experience what a healthy kidney felt like. After he died, I promised to follow his advice, which was take care of family.
Where did Coogi come from? Is it your middle name?
No, it is a clothing brand that was very popular years ago. I wore it from head to toe. So, it became my nickname.
What is at the top of your list to accomplish in 2018?
My top priority this year is to move on and become a better me, despite the doors shut in my path.
Looking back on your life, what wisdom would you choose to share with People of CLT?
Live your life and love living it. Don't let things stop you from living your best life.
What is a metaphor that applies to your life?
My life is like a Gobstopper: hard on the outside but soft in the middle.
Facebook: Nate Coogi King Bias