Thursday, December 30, 2010

Stumbling Into It–The Average Guy’s Fitness Journey

As promised, I want to introduce my blogging audience with some of my dearest friends and my network of support, knowledge sharing, and accountability.  Jim is a running buddy with an emphasis on "buddy" and a member of my running club The Mud Mafia.  Jim is one of the most genuine people you will meet and he's been on quite a journey with his personal well being and is a perfect example of a success story and truly an inspiration.  He was kind enough to share his story with us.  Read on to hear the story in his own words...

jimbwFor most of my live, I have felt very average.  I know that my mom would think differently since she always use to tell me that everyone was made special, but the stats show otherwise.  By the time I was 18, I was six foot tall (average), wore size 32 pants (average), size 11 shoes (average), weighed 185 pounds (average) and looked like all my friends.  I was an athlete in high school but found myself sharing time on the bench as well as on the field.  I blended in at most social outing and was #150 out of 300 in my graduating class.  I am your average guy.
I say that because most people think the are average too!  While we know that is not true, maybe me sharing my story will inspire you to start your own journey.  If an average guy can do it, so can you!

In 1986, I joined the military and spent 6 years staying very fit with a purpose.  Most of the time, it was because Uncle Sam said so.  We weighed in every couple of months and being over the weight limit wasn’t really an option.  The Army kept me fit!
In 1992, I exited the service and entered into civilian live.  By 1993, I was working crazy hours, going to college full time, a dad of 3 kids and a very demanding schedule.  While I made several attempts to say fit and eat right, it just wasn’t in the cards.  I began a slow decent into the American Dream (or Nightmare!).  Gaining 2 or 3 pounds per year without any hope of ever doing anything different.  By 2007, I was 240, had a blood cholesterol level of 287, elevated blood pressure and was heading for your average guy heart attack and diabetes.  Something had to change.
In July of 2007, during a job change, I joined a new organization that would change my life.  You might might have even heard of them.  Gallup.
Gallup believes that a person’s total well being can be statically categorized five ways.  Career, Social, Financial, Physical, and Community.  They are universal in nature and when tested, can identify the difference from someone who is thriving and someone who is suffering.  Since they are measureable, actions can be taken to make changes.  Much has been written on this an can be found at http://www.wbfinder.com/home.aspx
You should have guessed by now that one of the categories that had become out of whack was my physical well being.  I was 39 and at a tipping point in my life.  I could continue down the path of the past, but at what cost?
At Gallup, we have two staff trainers and a fitness center.  It’s kind of unusual for company our size, but it shows the commitment they have to fitness.  Ryan Wolf, one of the trainers, got a hold of me early and began to work at breaking down some of the barriers that had been holding me back.  It all started with a simple plan.
Let me be very clear here, this is not a story of overnight success or a miracle cure all!  It’s a story of an EVERYDAY battle for success.  It’s a story of winning some and losing some, but winning more than losing.  Tough battles and tremendous victories.  In the end however, it’s just an average guy’s story.

The beginning…
The first workout plans looked something like this - Get to the gym a minimum of 5 days a week for a short 30 minute workout.  Walking, riding the bike, lifting some weights…anything, or just something.  Every Friday I would come into work early and do a one-on-one workout with Ryan.  He would always kill me!  But hey, it was Friday!  I always had the weekend to recover.  It was simple and easy and something I could follow. 
LESSON LEAENED: Start slow and do what you can handle.  Have realistic goals from the beginning!
In the summer of 2008, we began a program of working out in groups at Gallup.  4 or 5 of us would show up at the fitness center at a specific time and do a group workout together.  This step in my progress is what cemented in my commitment to fitness.  It’s hard to skip a workout when you have others around you calling you on it.  And those voices were not quiet!  It was all about accountability and it really worked.
LESSON LEARNED: Get group accountability.  If others know, you are less likely to skip or cheat!
I was still not running.  I had told the trainers that, and I quote, “I was not a runner and never will be one!”  They were content to just have me working out.  In that first year and I half, I lost about 15 pounds (one pound a month) and gained a ton of strength and endurance.  It was a slow, but strong start.
In the spring of 2009, I watched a Nova special on PBS that would change things again.  In the program, they took 12 non runners and trained them for 6 months to run a marathon.  And not just any marathon, but the Boston Marathon!  They trained though a harsh New England winter and had many physical and mental battles.  To my surprise, every single runner finished the race.  I immediately thought, “man, if they can do that…?”  I came in the next morning and told Jamie, our other trainer (Ryan was out that morning), I’m going to run.  In fact, I’m going to run a marathon!”  Wide-eyed and with a big smile, Jamie encouraged me and sent me back to the treadmills.  My first run in 15 or more years was 3 LONG miles.  I struggled, but got it done.
Again, let me be really clear.  I had already put in 18 months of working out BEFORE I ran my first mile.  When people hear my story they say, “man, I have to start running.  I want to lose some weight!”  I say you don’t run to lose weight, you lose weight to run.

LESSON LEARNED: Get a fitness base FIRST, then think about running!
That spring and summer I ran a few local races (mostly 10Ks) and prepared for my first ever half marathon.  Each week, the runs got longer and the times a little better.  Slow and steady!  What seemed impossible just a few weeks earlier, became possible with each passing week.  In May of 2009, I finished the Papillion Half Marathon (my first ever) and the running journey began.  I started blogging my running events on my personal blog (http://theaverageguy.me/) so I won’t rehash them here, but in September 2009, I did the Omaha Half, October of 2009, I finished my first marathon in Kansas City, in May 2010, I completed my second marathon in Lincoln and in September 2010 I completed a very difficult Omaha Marathon in just over 4 hours!
LESSON LEARNED:  You can do amazing things when you put your heart into it!
Most of this time, I had been stuck at 220 pounds even thought I was working out very hard.  In wasn’t until May of 2010 that I began to believe that nutrition plays a bigger role in weight loss than exercise.  Certainly, you can’t have one without the other, but you cannot just exercise and expect to see a change.  I began tracking everything I consumed at http://livestrong.com/ and that accountability made the difference.  I lost 10 pounds between my spring marathon and fall marathon and that made a 25 minute difference in my overall time.  I am now sitting at 210 with a goal of 200 by May 1st 2011.  Slow and steady!
LESSON LEARNED: It’s not just about what you do, but what you eat that makes the difference!
So here we are at the end of 2010.  I have told you a small part of my story, now what is yours?  Maybe you have made great progress in the last year!  Share that with me at podcast@theaverguy.tv, in the comments here or privately to a close friend or group of friends. Let someone know and celebrate it.  Pick new goals and drive towards them.  If you need an accountability group, you are welcome to join ours - http://themudmafia.blogspot.com/. If you need something to listen to, try to the Fitness Tech Podcast that I host each week with Gallup trainer Jamie Eikmeier
Maybe your journey has yet to be written and it’s going to start right now!  Remember, be realistic, start with reasonable goals.  Start slow and seek out a group of people who are heading the same direction to keep you on the path.  Build your base and discover what you are good at doing.  Pour your heart into it and go for more than you ever thought.  Lastly, care about what you eat.  it makes all the difference.
It’s a beautiful December day in Omaha and the trails are calling me for a run!  Maybe we will stumble into each other next year on the road?  Love to see you there!
The Average Guy!

Jim
Jim is a podcaster and blogger for the Home Server Show and a few podcasts on the Average Guy Network.  He also has a personal blog that he uses to track his running and other stuff.  You can find that at http://theaverageguy.me/ or follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jcollison