Scrawny To Brawny

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Zarak’s Full (Surprise) Day With The S2B Crew

We secretly planned an entire day of cool stuff for our latest Grand Prize winner and then surprised him by showing up in his hometown to hang out. Here’s what happened.

Nate Green, Craig Weller, Calvin Buhler, Zarak MahmudCalvin Buhler, Craig Weller, Zarak, and Nate Green.

The Best way to become a better man

The best way to become a better man and accomplish big things — whether it’s getting in shape, starting a business, or learning a new skill — is to surround yourself with people who give a shit about you.

I figured that out when I went through my own “scrawny to brawny” transformation and I’ve seen it with hundreds of guys since.

I got another reminder this past weekend when Craig, Calvin, and I flew to Toronto to surprise and hang out with Zarak, our latest Grand Prize winner.

Zarak-575x345Zarak gained 33 pounds and won $10,000 in the S2B Coaching Program.

“How About We Do More Than Just Send Him A Check?”

Zarak accomplished more with his body in this past year than most guys do in their lifetime.

And although we could have just sent him a check and congratulated him over the phone, we wanted to do something more personal.

That’s when an idea came to us:

Now that sounded like our kind of fun. And lucky for us, we had the resources available to pull it off.

So we spent a few days hatching a plan and then we booked our airfare to Toronto, where Zarak lives and goes to school.

Here’s what happened, starting with the time-line leading up to Friday night (where the fun begins).

Tuesday, October 15th

Craig calls Zarak on Skype to inform him that he won the Grand Prize. He also asks if Zarak is free on Friday and Saturday night, but doesn’t explain why.

Zarak says he’s free.

On the video recording, he looks confused. “What’s going on?” he says.

Craig just smiles.

Wednesday, October 16th

The post announcing our most recent winners and finalists goes live on the site and I send the following email to Zarak:

Thursday, October 17th

Craig, Calvin, and I fly into Toronto from New Jersey, Utah, and Oregon, respectively. We spend the day making final arrangements and reservations.

Friday, October 18th

Let the fun begin.

6 PM – Pick-up

A jet-black Lincoln Towncar Sedan pulls up to Zarak’s apartment. The driver, wearing a crisp suit, steps outside of the car and stands with his hands behind his back, waiting.

A few minutes later, Zarak is in the back of the car, zooming toward the luxury Ritz Carlton hotel, gazing out the tinted windows at the city, and feeling like a movie star.

He tells me later that it was the first time he’d really felt proud of himself in as long as he could remember.

Ritz CarltonSneaking into Zarak’s room at the Ritz Carlton and leaving him some gifts.

6:45 PM – The Ritz Carlton Suite

Zarak walks into his suite at the Ritz. There are two couches, a TV, and a bar. He turns the corner, walks down the hallway past the bathroom, and sees the presents we’d left for him earlier that day: a bottle of single-barrel whiskey, a Precision Nutrition t-shirt, some protein powder, and a card.

He opens the card and reads this:

He still has no idea that Calvin, Craig, and I are in town. It’s perfect. 

TOCATOCA restaurant.


Zarak and a friend eat steak and fries at TOCA, the gourmet restaurant at the Ritz. At the end of the meal, the waiter informs him that the bill has already been taken care of.

They go back up to the suite and watch baseball on the TV in the living room.

Later that evening, Zarak is excited and anxious. He doesn’t sleep well.



The next morning, at 9AM, Craig, Calvin, and I arrive at the Ritz Carlton and have a seat in the lobby.

A few minutes later, I notice Zarak walking by the front desk. We lock eyes, and I wave. He looks confused, like “Who is that guy waving to me?”

He looks away. And then he does a double take. 

He walks over, looking like he’s trying to suppress a smile. We all stand up.

“Hey man. You ready to go?” 


He looks utterly shocked.

“Cool, let’s do it.”

And then we all walk out of the Ritz and right into the jet-black Chevy Suburban that’s waiting for us.


Zarak says maybe 15 words in the next 15 minutes. I ask him how he’s feeling as we walk into the gym.

“Good. Nervous. I can’t believe you guys are here. This is insane.”

But our talk is cut short when Craig comes over.

“Let’s warm-up and then we’ll start,” he says.

Craig has been Zarak’s coach for the past year in the S2B coaching program, and now he’s finally gonna have the opportunity to torture coach him in person.

IMG_0139Zarak front squatting.

IMG_0162Ring push-ups while Craig watches and fixes Zarak’s form.

IMG_0176Heavy farmer’s walks.

IMG_0155Prowler pushes to end it all.


After the workout, we walk a few short blocks to the Thompson Diner for breakfast.

We load up on omelets, vegetables, potatoes, toast, and bacon and talk about Zarak’s journey from scrawny to brawny, about how his time in S2B showed him what he was truly capable of.

Craig, Calvin, and I tell our own stories.

We talk about how when we decided to get in shape, how hard it was to stay consistent at first, but how changing your body bleeds into other parts of your life and makes everything better.

“And now that you’re here,” Craig tells Zarak toward the end of our meal, “you’ll find it much easier to maintain.

You worked your ass off to get where you are right now. You put in the hard work. You earned this. Never forget that.”

Zarak sits back and smiles.

IMG_0321Walking to breakfast after our surprise workout with Zarak.

IMG_0388Eating omelets and talking about life.

3PM – New man, new body, new clothes

After showering and changing out of our gym clothes, we have another surprise for Zarak.

We walk into GotStyle, a men’s clothing store a few blocks away from the hotel. Zarak is completely oblivious, lost in a conversation with Calvin.

Finally, he notices where we are.

“What are we doing?” he asks.

“Well, now that you’ve gained 30 pounds, we’re betting some of your clothes are a little tight on you,” I explain.

“So we’d like to buy you some new clothes,” says Craig. “You know, to complete the transformation.”

IMG_0501Helping Zarak pick out some new clothes to complete his transformation.

IMG_0512Adjusting Zarak’s tie while one of the “stylists” looks on.

IMG_0400 Looking sharp and heading to our first dinner.


After the clothing store, it’s back into the Suburban for our first dinner at 416 Snack Bar, a hipster-gourmet restaurant that specializes in small plates.

We sit down and look at the menu. The waiter comes by.

What can I get you guys?”

I look at the group then back to the waiter.

“Can we order the entire menu or have you design a dinner for us?” I ask. “We’ll be happy as long as there’s enough food for all of us.”

The waiter looks excited. “You guys trust me?” he asks with a smile.

We nod.

“All right then, I’m gonna hook you up.”

And then plate after plate after plate of delicious food hits the table and we feast like kings.

Snackbar416 Snack Bar, where we order the entire menu twice over.


From 416 Snack Bar, it’s a quick walk to our next stop, the Spirithouse cocktail lounge. We slide into the rich leather seats and order all the classics: old-fashioneds, manhattans, and daquiris.

Zarak’s really opening up now, sipping his whiskey and smiling. We chat about the idea of paying it forward, the code we all try to live by.

Now that Zarak has changed the way he looks and feels, he has friends asking him how to accomplish the same thing.

It feels good, he says, to be the guy who helps. It feels good to be the kind of guy who keeps his word and does what he says he’s going to do. It feels good to earn something.

We raise our glasses and clink them together.

And that’s when Craig pulls an envelope out of his pocket and slides it across the table to Zarak, who just stares at it.

“This is for trusting yourself and for trusting us,” he says. “You earned this.”

Zarak opens the envelope and holds up the $10,000 check. It’s the biggest smile I’ve seen on him yet.

SpirithouseSpiritHouse, where we order classic cocktails and relax.

IMG_0536Zarak holding his $10,000 check.


We finish our drinks, hop in the Suburban, and tell our driver to take us to  Barberians, Toronto’s best-known steakhouse and our last stop of the day.

Even though we just ate a few hours ago, everyone is hungry for steak.

We feast on 16 oz rib-eyes, lamb chops, vegetables, potatoes, glasses of red wine, and dessert to top it all off.

“Man, how am I going to finish this night?” Zarak asks toward the end of the meal. “It’s been unbelievable so far. Thank you guys so much.”

“If I were you,” I tell him, “I’d go back to the Ritz, take a hot bath, have a glass of bourbon, and just soak it all in.”

Everyone agrees that it sounds like the perfect end to one hell of a day.

And then Craig has perhaps the best idea of the evening.

“The Ritz is known for their customer service…” he says, a hint of a smile forming on his face. “…so what if you called the concierge and asked them to run your bathwater for you?”

We all laugh.

“I’m serious,” says Craig. “You should do that. I bet they’d do it.”

IMG_0406Arriving at our second dinner location.

BarberiansBarberian’s Steak House, where we cap off the night.


After dinner we’re back in the Suburban, feeling full and happy, when Zarak pulls out his phone.

He looks a little nervous, like what he’s about to do is out of his comfort zone.

Which is exactly why he must do it.

Everyone in the car — even the driver — goes silent as Zarak puts the phone up to his ear.

“Hi, my name is Zarak Mahmud and I’m staying in the suite at your hotel,” Zarak says. “I”m on my way back right now, and I’d really like to take a bath.”

There’s nothing but silence on the other end of the line. We all muffle laughter.

“So,” Zarak continues, “I’m wondering if you could send someone up to my room to run the hot water for me so it’s ready by the time I get back. Also, I’d like some bath salts if you have them.”

We all lean in and listen closely. And then we hear it:

Zarak thanks the concierge and hangs up the phone.

We all erupt into laughter and cheers.

15 minutes later, we roll into the Ritz.

Zarak shakes hands with Calvin and Craig, and a gentleman in a suit opens the door for him. I hop out to say goodbye.

“Thanks for a good day,” I tell him. “We really appreciate you spending time with us.” 

“This has been one of the best days of my life,” says Zarak. And I can tell he means it.

I shake his hand.

“Remember,” I say. “You earned all of this. Now go pay it forward.”

And then Zarak walks through the front door, past the lobby, and up to his room where a hot bath, a glass of bourbon, and a good night’s sleep awaits him.

[Special thanks to Jay Grenci for the awesome photos and for spending the day with us, too. And the guys at Bang for letting us train in their gym.]

15 Responses to Zarak’s Full (Surprise) Day With The S2B Crew

  1. Chris says:

    Freaking awesome. You guys kick ass!

  2. Eric Bach says:

    Awesome stuff! And way to go Zarak!

  3. Chris says:

    Excellent. What an experience!

  4. Rick Washburn says:

    How great! What a transformation too!!! Still can’t get over that, love his progress.

  5. MichelleV says:

    That is just too freakin cool! Congrats Zarak!

  6. Tim says:

    Above and beyond. That’s an awesome way to spend a weekend. Classy, real, a man’s gift.

  7. Mike Samuels says:

    This is seriously cool. Props to all you guys at S2B. Just shows what a great industry we’re in — going out of your ways to pay it forward.

  8. curtis says:

    This is insane! so cool of you guys.

  9. miketnelson says:

    Awesome work everyone! Excellent!!! Congrats Zarak!

  10. Tiger Joe Sallmen says:

    That makes me want to enter the last remaining S2B contest.

    Just curious, what happened to Paul and Chuck, the two other S2B cohorts?

    • Nate Green says:

      We’d love to have you, man.

      Paul and Chuck decided to seek other opportunities outside of S2B; Paul, for one, is going back to school for naturopathy.

  11. Zarak says:

    I really appreciate all the comments! I’m completely floored by what these guys did. Truly an experience I’ll never forget.

  12. Nuno Pereira says:

    Nice surprise. You guys are really fulfilling your purpose and that’s awesome.
    ZArak, great progress, i’m just starting and i wanna beat that 33 pounds!

  13. Danny Boy says:

    WOW, this was motivational to read. Congratulations to you Zarak for being able to see all that effort pay off on one hell of a night!!