What I’ve Learned Along The Way

A few years ago I found myself spending the night in the hospital.  You see, I thought I was having chest pains, so off I went to the ER and of course they admitted me for tests.  This in spite of the fact that all of the initial results came back negative.  Sounds like bill padding you say?  Maybe, but I’m sure they saw a ticking time bomb and wanted to be sure.

I was tipping the scales at over 310 pounds, was on meds for high BP, cholesterol  and anxiety.  I was fully living a death-style, if you will, that was sure to end me earlier rather than later.

So, you’d think that I left the hospital resolved to do something about my weight and my health, right?  You’d be so wrong!  Since all of the tests came back negative, I guess I thought I still had time to destroy my body before it caught up with me.  Turns out, I was right, after a fashion.

In 2008 I discovered Facebook.  My friend from High School, Jeff Strohaver, convinced me to sign up.  Soon, I was reconnecting with old classmates at a rapid clip.  Having attended HS in Germany, this was quite a big deal to me.

There was one connection that has made the biggest difference, however.  We weren’t particularly close in school, but have become great friends in the last three years.  That will happen when someone saves your life, I reckon.

As it turns out, she’s a fitness professional.

One day, I made a half-assed post on FB about making an excuse to not hit the fitness center at work.  I got a response of something to the affect of “no excuses”.  This was the beginning of the end of that deathly spiral.

We chatted online and off and she agreed to help me get started, if I would commit to following her guidance.  I agreed.  This was big for me, I’m not one to follow along, but I knew I couldn’t do this solo.

So we started.

She gave me a meal plan that reduced my calories and replaced bad ones with good ones.  It was tough at first, but I got used to it.

I began by walking, just walking.  I had a 3 mile circuit in my neighborhood that I would walk six days a week.  Soon, she had me add cardio and weight training in the fitness center at the office.

The pounds literally began to melt away.  I was averaging about 10 pounds a month in lost weight for that first six months or so.

At the beginning of 2010 I had a physical with my new HMO.  My BP was close enough to normal that the doctor took me off of the meds.  The same for the cholesterol and anxiety meds.  I was free from prescription medications for the first time in over a decade!

I still had a long way to go.

That same month I joined a proper gym.  I was in the gym six days a week.  Doing cardio and weights and group exercise classes.  I even flirted with yoga for a while.

In October of 2010 I ran my first 5k and in April of last year, my first long race – the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler.  I followed that up with a half marathon in New Jersey in October.  Apparently I’ve turned into a runner.  I went from 310+ to 13.1 miles in less than three years.  I commemorated my accomplishment with a tattoo on my right calf.

I have gone from wearing XXL sized shirts (XXXL in some cases) to now buying Larges. My waist has shrunk from 50 inches to 36.  Sadly, I haven’t gotten any taller or smarter.

I’m only just getting started.  I still have weight to lose and miles to run.  Another friend has got me interested in trail running and yet another, cycling again.  The spectre of a full marathon lurks out there somewhere.  I want to shave 20 minutes off of my 10 mile time for next year’s Cherry Blossom Ten.

I will turn 50 in two years and 4 months and I plan on hitting that number at a sprint!

So, why do I tell you this?  Who cares, right?  Maybe someone.

I’ve learned some things, maybe they’ll help you.

  • You will start slow, and it will hurt and it will suck. That’s ok.  I spent the better part of that first year in a state of constant pain.  Sore muscles, sore joints and the occasional abrasion from a face plant or three.  Lost a really nice water bottle on one of those trips!
  • You need support.  It’s key to have some one who will call you on your bullshit and not brook any excuses.  It’s real easy to talk yourself into staying in bed or coming home and tucking into that pizza instead of hitting the gym or the road.  I got talked out of many pizzas and burgers in the early days via text message.
  • Weight is a number and your scale is evil!  I think a better measure is how your clothes fit.  Pun intended! Seriously, it’s complicated.  Muscle weighs more than fat, etc… blah, blah, blah – math is hard.  If you are downsizing your clothes, you’re on the right track.
  • Did I mention it will suck?
  • It will take time to feel comfortable in your new skin. I still don’t always recognize myself in the mirror.
  • It might get expensive at times.  Gym membership, protein powders, workout clothes, energy bars… but I think I’m still spending less for than I was for HMO co-pays.
  • On the plus side, you get to buy new shoes!  Frequently, if you take up running.
  • It’s for a good cause!  I’ve given probably 10 large green garbage bags of clothes to the AMVETS in the last couple of years.
  • On the down side, my collection of concert shirts all are now too big.  They’ll be a quilt some day.
  • People will be watching you for inspiration.  Your success will inspire them to begin and carry on.  Trust me, this is the truest truth.

So anyway… that’s the story so far.

Watch this space.