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Martin Turnley people of preston

Photo story by: Hayley Robb

Feeling the clicks and pops of his knee as he ascended WKU's infamous Hill motivated Martin Turnley to make a change in his life. He said he realized in traveling to this 8 a.m. class every morning that it was his body holding him back from the things he wanted to do.

Turnley is a first-year graduate student in the Counseling and Student Affairs program at WKU. Turnley also graduated from WKU in 2015 with a bachelor's degree in music. He transferred to WKU from Kentucky State University in 2012.

Turnley's time at WKU was spent learning the "language" of music, he said. He was a member of WKU's band for four years and Kentucky State University's band for two years. He was also involved in Choral Society, Men's Chorus, Tuba and Euphonium, Concert Band, Symphonic Band, Pep Band and Marching Band at WKU.

"To me, music is a universal language that not many understand," he said. "But it reaches the soul."

Turnley spent much of his time working out in the Preston Center determined to make a lifestyle change but he also worked as a control desk assistant during spring 2016.

"There's no other place like Preston, actually, to be honest," Turnley said. "I feel like with Preston you are actualy building a family and the rapport with the workers behind the desk and also the workers upstairs, as well."

He said the employees at the Preston Center work to make sure the students are successful in school and in life, which really helped in him in his journey to wellness.

Turnley was his heaviest at 371 pounds when he was 20 years old. He said he has struggled with obesity since he was in high school, but has always been involved in activities like music and marching band. At this point, however, he said daily activities such as walking started to get harder and harder for him to do.

"I needed to make a change for myself, and not only just for myself, but so I could possibly motivate other people around me," Turnley said.

Turney started coming to the Preston Center once a week in 2013 and would just walk around the track. Eventually, he said he started running and a year later he added strength training into his routine. He said he wanted to quit after the first three days but knew the product would be worth the process.

It was July 2015 when he saw the first change in his body. He had lost eight pounds.

In 2018, he was at his lowest weight of 207 pounds. He had lost 164 pounds and was living in Valdosta, Georgia at the time. He said people would praise him in the pictures he posted online, amazed by all of the progress he had made. But they didn't know the full story, he said.

Turnley was also homeless at this time. He was without a job and he was lost, he said. However, he said his turning point came in keeping his relationship with God.

"In staying close with Him and realizing I won't be here forever, and also thinking to myself if I give up right now where I'm at, even though I'm at my smallest, how will I ever know what the next point in my life is going to turn out to be," Turnley said. "I think right there, that's my turning point."

After Turnley left Valdosta, Georgia, he moved to Columbus, Georgia where he secured a job as an elementary school music teacher.

"You just gotta have faith and be patient."

Music has been a common thread throughout his life and throughout his transformation. From playing music in the band to just listening to music while exercising, Turnley said "music is something that touches us almost every day."

As for the future, Turnley said he's not where he wants to be, but is also not where he used to be.

He plans on maintaining his fitness and feels like he still has another 10 pounds to shed. Beyond physicality, Turnley has set a goal of becoming the president of a university one day. He plans to gain his master's degree and then pursue a doctorate degree to be able to work with and for students.

"Keep pushin' for the greatest part of you and never let it leave your sight," Turnley said. "When you set your eyes on something, go for it and reach for the stars."

Created By
Hayley Robb
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Photos by: Hayley Robb Some photos submitted by: Martin Turnley

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