The Will to Build


Photo Courtesy of Ian Barnes

A chronic immune disease could not keep this young man from staying healthy and strong. Here’s how he defied the odds.

Ever since the age of 10, I have been living with severe Crohn’s disease. In fact, when diagnosed, I was told that I was going to die due to the severity of my condition. Long story short, I have come to survive and thrive.

I am lucky enough to be blessed with an amazing family: two loving parents who have instilled in me the importance of living an active lifestyle, and two very supportive older brothers. While growing up in Ohio, I played basketball and baseball, and was a really good pitcher. And then I got sick.

It started with uncontrolled vomiting; I couldn’t eat and was losing a lot of weight. Then I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and E. coli.

After four days in one hospital, I had to be medevaced to University Hospital in Cleveland. Two weeks later, I left with a surgically implanted IV in my arm so that my mom could inject me with medicine every day. I even played sports while receiving my meds intravenously. I never said anything because I didn’t want my condition to make people feel sorry for me or doubt my ability.

Thankfully, my doctors have always encouraged me to continue to play sports and not let the disease define me.

Defying The Odds

When I was 11, I started doing 500 ab crunches and push-ups every day; I didn’t know any other exercises. When I was 14, my brother David introduced me to lifting weights. In high school, I became an All-American Conference first-team basketball player, but lifting became my passion — and it is to this day. I’m now seriously pursuing bodybuilding.

The fact that I can gain weight and muscle at all shocks my doctors. I watch my diet very closely. I try not to eat a lot of sugar and I eat as much protein as I can. In addition to my medicine, I take a multivitamin, vitamin D, folic acid, acidophilus and fish oil daily. I swear by MuscleTech’s NeuroCore preworkout. It keeps me going nonstop during a lifting day. It gives me energy and puts me in a great mood.

Currently, I am 6’1”, 195 lb with a little more than 5% body fat. I have a max bench press of 300 lb and a max barbell curl of 155 lb. I love working out because it relieves stress and allows me to continually defy the odds. I have formed lasting friendships both at the gym at my school and the one in my hometown.

Although I have had severe flare-ups that have almost led to my death, I have always bounced back by lacing up and doing work. I won’t let my condition hold me back. Nothing will stop me.


“Go out, be you, do what you want to do and live life to the fullest.”

Ian Barnes

Age: 19

City: Warren, Ohio

Height: 6’1”
Weight: 195 lb