If you had come to me one year ago and shown me this picture, and said, “Here’s you right now on the left and here is what you will look like one year from today on the right, if you just get started…” I would have said, “No way! That is impossible! I can’t do that.”
Well, I did it! April 19, 2015… I started! April 19, 2016… I am 72 pounds lighter and in the best shape of my life!
I thought I would give you a recap – some lessons learned and advice from my one year of getting in better shape.
Let me begin with… JUST START! Seriously, as simple as it sounds, just get started today! No more of the excuses, no more of the procrastination, start today. You can. You don’t have to run 25 miles per week to start out, but you need to start. April 19, 2015… I decided to start. I probably walked 59 minutes and ran 1 minute that first day, and in all honesty, probably that whole first week. I was adamant though about doing a full 60 minutes on the treadmill every single day or at least close to every day. I think for a long time I was literally doing it 7 days a week. I started in the garage on a treadmill for about six months, then I eventually moved outdoors, to running on the street, and I love it out there.
I get it – I guarantee you… it is hard at first. Very, very hard at first! I still don’t really want to exercise. I want to sit on the couch, watch TV, and eat. It will get easier after a little while, but you will still find many days where the motivation just isn’t there. For me, and I think for most folks, after a while, it becomes a routine or even an addiction. At this point I absolutely will not go two days in a row without a run. Even when I am hurting – I make it out to do a run.
I can say that after this one year, I am in the absolute best shape of my life. I still need to build some muscle (upper body), but I feel pretty much invincible. I am not a runner – that might sound weird, but I still don’t think of myself as a runner. I am good with my 5-8 mile runs, but I do it just to stay “less-fat,” it’s just my workout. I am not turned on or motivated by competitive or organized running – probably because I know I am not fast enough to really compete and that isn’t my motivation – my motivation is “don’t get fat again.”
I haven’t lost much weight after about the first six months. I was 60 pounds lighter after six months. I have seen the 72 pound weight loss today after a celebratory 1/2 marathon this morning, but most days I wake up in the 176-181 pound range (depending on whether I ran the day before, how much I ate, etc.). I went from 244.4 pounds to now most days maybe 177.4 (67 pounds of weight loss). I have been at that level consistently for about the last 5 months. My one goal I have when it comes to weight loss… is to never get on the scale again and see 185 pounds.
I continue to consistently kill it with running at least 4-5 times per week with a minimum of 5.4 miles at a time. Most weeks my goal is to run a cumulative marathon (26.2 miles). Some weeks I am hitting 30+ miles in a week. This week I have 18.5 miles in just three days, which is rare.
- I think some of my initial weight loss was fueled by the fact that I started a lot of my running in the heat of the summer in the garage on a treadmill. It was stinking hot in there and I sweat like a beast. I wanted to be dripping with sweat when I was done on the treadmill. It didn’t matter if I was walking fast or running. My goal was to sweat it off!
- You will lose weight everywhere. If you had just seen my lower half when I started this journey – I doubt any of you would have thought I was overweight. I personally never would have thought that my legs would look different. I didn’t think I carried any weight in me legs – they looked fine, but even there… definitely a noticeable difference. My legs are much more toned at this point. In fact, Peighton and I often have calf comparison competitions – I’m killing her by the way. You will lose weight all over. My face, my neck, my Mountain Dew belly especially.
- People will be afraid to talk to you at first about your weight loss, because if it is as dramatic as mine has been – they are afraid that maybe you are dying of some disease (that has to be the explanation, right?). People are hesitant to ask why you look so different. I have to admit, from time to time I do mess with some of them and tell them I have just been really sick.
- One benefit I have noticed already this year is that by running outside 5 days a week… I have a good natural looking suntan. I have had a few people in the last couple of days tell me that I look really tan. I just tell them – go run! I use a face lotion each morning that has a 15 SPF to offer some protection. I want to look tan, but I don’t want to look like leather.
- One of the main benefits that I attribute to running and sweating hard… I haven’t been sick one time since I started running. Not one time! I feel like I sweat most of the bad stuff out. I usually get a couple of colds and nasty sinus infections each year, but not this past year. Not one sickness in 12 months.
- Self-confidence boost. This has been one that I didn’t expect to be as strong of a benefit as I would have thought at the beginning of my journey. I think when you notice your body looking better, when you start to feel better physically – your self esteem gets a little boost. How many of you are constantly tugging at your shirt, because it just doesn’t fit well, or it accentuates your belly when you sit down? I used to spend more time per day tugging at my shirt then I do now working out. I am not self-conscious about myself in that way any more. I feel good about me. I know my body isn’t perfect. You still don’t want to see me with my shirt off, but I feel so much better.
- I now look forward to active activities. I used to always shy away from doing anything active. I was perfectly happy to waste the day away in front of my computer. But now I actually look for and look forward to doing something active, like a hike with friends or playing outside with the kids. I mean seriously, I would never have even considered for a second taking a 100 mile bike ride with some guys from church or running a half-marathon with a friend when I started a year ago.
- You are worth the investment! Let me say this one again… YOU ARE WORTH THE INVESTMENT! It’s gonna cost you some time and some money! But you are worth it – to yourself, to your family, to your friends, to your employer, to God… You will be a better person inside and out! Whatever it is that you decide to start doing in order to get in shape… invest in yourself. Buy the right stuff and put in the time that is needed to help you succeed.
- You are going to inspire others! This wasn’t my intention at all when I started, but people now tell me that I inspire them in their journey. You may inspire your kids, your spouse, your friends… you may even inspire people that you don’t even know. I personally have been inspired by a young guy that runs fast through our neighborhood. I don’t know who he is, but he inspires me. I would be sitting at my desk, working from home and look out the window and see him flying by all the time. It got me to thinking – it inspired me. Your family, your friends… they will be inspired. I have conversations with people all the time now about weight loss and getting in shape.
Lessons Learned / Advice:
- Get the right equipment – invest in good gear!
- Shoes – I wear Brooks Adrenaline GTS 15. Go to a real running store and have them help you pick some out. I started with the GTS 14, and today I just laced up for the first time, my second pair of the GTS 15’s. These shoes have been perfect for me and I have no intention of ever buying another kind of shoe. I also keep buying the one-year old model of the shoe and saving money. The GTS 16’s are around $120 – the version I buy is around $80. They don’t change the shoe much year over year except colors.
- Socks – this is one I haven’t done as well with. I wear some Under Armour or Nike socks, but I really should find some better running socks – I just haven’t yet.
- Shorts – I wear a good quality Nike running short – I have three pairs that I alternate between.
- Shirts – I wear a dry-fit Under Armour or Nike under shirt to “wick away” the sweat and then I wear a Nike running shirt over that also keeps me cool. I mentioned earlier – I like to sweat, so I double up on the shirts and feel great in them. I have also just recently bought a few tank top versions, too for the Summer months.
- Calf sleeves – I have just started wearing these on longer runs. The guy at the running store talked me through them and they seem to help my calves feel stronger and seem to hold the muscles together better while running. I haven’t had these long enough to give you a great recommendation yet, but I like them so far. They are hard to take off when you are done.
- One thing that really motivated me at the beginning was my Polar Loop. I was motivated by the number of steps I took each day. So, for the first 6 months at least I wore it religiously. Get yourself a Fitbit or Polar Loop or whatever you like best. My next move will be a GPS watch as I am now tracking the distance of my runs and don’t want to carry my iPhone which relies on my cell signal and isn’t 100% accurate.
- Season-appropriate gear…
- Gloves, hat, ear cover, compression leggings. I have run in weather as cold as 19 degrees so far and felt just fine with some of the aforementioned gear. It usually takes a solid mile to get comfortable, but after that first mile I can start to feel my hands again – the rest of me does great.
- Listen to your body:
- Your body will tell you when it’s time to rest. You will feel all kinds of aches and pains along the way. Sore shins, ankles, legs, etc. But, here’s one thing I will tell you that probably most experts would argue against… Don’t be a sissy – run through the pain. Do you know how many days off I would have taken if I let the pain stop me? Even with a pinched back – get out there and run or at least walk, but be smart. When my back was killing me I rested for a day like usual and then headed out for an 8.2 mile run. By the time I got to 5.5 miles, each step was followed by an audible expression of pain, so I walked 2.7 miles home, because it hurt and then I varied my other rest day for the week to recover. I hurt for a couple of weeks, but I made it through it. Don’t give up too easily, we do that way too quickly. I am so inspired by a fried of mine that does some ultra-marathoning and a million other things – I have not talked to him about it, but I assume he is hurting pretty bad some of his 24 hours of continuous running, but it is a lot of head strength vs. body strength (your body can handle a lot more than you think).
- Negative Body Stuff:
- Toenails die randomly – I’ve had a couple of toenails that just get tweaked and die. Your feet may not always be as pretty as you would like, but I am good with that. At least for you ladies you can paint your toenails. They do grow back eventually.
- You will have chaffing – depending on your activity. Definitely for running in the heat. I have found some things that work for me – find your remedy. As a side note, there are probably a million products out there for this kind of issue, but they do make body washes for “sensitive skin.”
- Band-aids… I don’t get toe or heel blisters very often, but when I do I just pop a Band-aid on them and get right back out and run again with no problems. Band-aids are also great nipple protection – thus the subtitle of the article (at times I have felt like I was breastfeeding baby Dracula). I don’t like to be too gross here, but let me assure you that a man’s nipples can drip blood. Oh man, that hurts. Keep a box or two of Band-aids on hand. Don’t get the ones that are real sticky either – remember you have to take them off. Ouch!
- Find a support group that will offer you encouragement and accountability. I have a great group of friends that will encourage me to keep pushing myself, because they do the same. Find some friends, a group that will keep you accountable and talk about being active and getting in shape. There are apps to help with this like MapMyRun or MapMyRide, but we also just use some group texting.
- Find a good local store to partner with. Find someone that knows about the activity that you are getting into and listen to their advice. I found a great local store here in Buford (Classic City Running). Their staff is very knowledgeable and friendly. I just picked up my newest shoes from them yesterday. These stores want to partner with you. For biking, which I have done some cross-training with I enjoy going to Performance Bicycle in Buford – the people there know what they are talking about, too.
- Vary your run or activity. Be creative. Sometimes I’ll do something like drop the car off for an oil change and run home from dealership. My wife has a prayer group at a friend’s house that is about 7 miles away – I will ride over there with her and then just run home from their house while she is praying (hopefully for my safety). Keep it interesting – don’t get bored. Find what works for you. I started on the treadmill with an iPad and Hulu or Netflix (movies and TV series) and I really did well with that. Now, I struggle even wanting to go out to the treadmill. I run outside in the rain, snow, sun, usually with no music, because I run on the road facing traffic, not much sidewalk action available. Run with music if you want. What works best for me is being able to go out my front door and start. If I have to drive somewhere to exercise – I struggle to stay motivated.
- STRETCH! At least stretch well before your run. I assume you should when you are finished, too, but I generally don’t. I am adamant about my stretching, especially the older I get. I have torn muscles before (in the past) and I don’t want to repeat that. I have a little routine I do that I don’t skip – ever and I have not tweaked anything related to a run, yet. A messed up muscle can cost you weeks or months of activity.
- Set some goals that you will hold yourself to. I never set a weight goal at all when I started. My goal was to hit my 10,000 step goal on the Polar Loop with at least 60 minutes per day on the treadmill. Now my goal is to run a marathon per week (cumulative 26.2 miles per week). As I mentioned earlier, too I have a goal of never taking two days off in a row. I run at least 4-5 days per week most weeks. And my other goal now that I know what I can do is to never get on a scale again and see 185 pounds.
- Eat food! Dieting doesn’t work like a lifestyle change. I can afford to eat like a normal person, because I run. I do eat smaller portions than before and have given up heavy Mountain Dew drinking, but I still treat myself to a 7.5 ounce can of soda every once in a while. I definitely drink a lot of sweet tea and two cups of coffee per day with plenty of sugar in it. I still eat my peanut butter and milk for breakfast every day. But, I can also afford two big meals a day if I want to on a Sunday, because I know I will work it off and punish myself on Monday. Drink a lot of water – I do some days, but still need to improve. Eat less junk, keep healthier snacks on hand, don’t eat garbage late at night, etc., but eat! I enjoy real food. I’ll go to Chili’s on Sunday after church and polish off a basket of chips without even thinking about it.
- Find your motivation. Maybe you do have a target weight – use the scale as motivation for you. I weigh myself three times per day, at least. I like to see how my body reacts to different foods and runs. Maybe you like competitive or organized running, awesome – set a target out there that motivates you. My motivation is a healthier lifestyle. I’m 40 and don’t want to die early just because I was a fat and lazy guy. With any luck now I will just drop dead from a heart attack while running.
I’ve said all of this to say… START!!! I don’t care what it is. Do some sit-ups every day or plank while watching TV. Go walking around your neighborhood. Do some yoga in your living room. Start! You can do it! Stop making excuses. Stop procrastinating. If I didn’t just start – I would be just as fat and unhealthy if not even worse than I was a year ago (the guy on the left). But, I’m not. I started and don’t ever expect to stop now!