The Journey 'in a nutshell'

My journey to a healthier lifestyle started at the end of April 2010 when I was surprisingly diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. There I was, sitting in the doctor's office, looking at a glucometer showing a reading of 297 (a normal reading is between 70-99).  At 50 years old, I was 351 pounds and a diabetic.  And as the doctor was explaining what Diabetes was and all the ways it can shorten my lifespan, I decided on new goals for my life:

 That's me running in the Schaumburg Turkey Trot Half Marathon

That's me running in the Schaumburg Turkey Trot Half Marathon

My journey to a healthier lifestyle started at the end of April 2010 when I was surprisingly diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. There I was, sitting in the doctor's office, looking at a glucometer showing a reading of 297 (a normal reading is between 70-99).  At 50 years old, I was 351 pounds and a diabetic.  And as the doctor was explaining what Diabetes was and all the ways it can shorten my lifespan, I decided on new goals for my life:

  1. to be able to manage my diabetes without the need for medication
  2. to live a more active, healthy lifestyle
  3. to get to a healthier weight by losing 160 pounds

So I joined Weight Watchers to learn better food choices and portion control.  I got help from a Registered Dietician to learn about Carbs, Fats, Protein, Fibre, and Calorie intake.  And I added walking to my daily routine (it was all my doctor would let me do at first).  "Change your eating habits first, then we add in exercise", he said.

So I did just that.  And I could feel changes happening. By the end of 2010, I was 50 pounds lighter but still on diabetes medications and finding it difficult to walk for longer than 15-20 minutes at a time.  I was making progress towards my goals.  But I needed to do something more.

On January 2, 2011, with the approval from my doctor, I reactivated my fitness club membership and started walking on a treadmill. By the end of January, I was walking 45-50 minutes a day, 5 days a week. In February, I started Strength Training with a Personal Trainer for two days a week.  Then I started using stationary bikes. In March, I graduated from walking to very light jogging.  By now, I was doing some form of exercise six days a week.

That was when I started working with Meghan, a Personal Trainer and triathlete, who encouraged me to join her cardio class that met 3 days/week to make better progress. Then she suggested I think about running more rather than just walking on the treadmill.  I was skeptical I could actually run for any length of time (I ran in high school but that was back in the 70s).  But she worked with me, and I slowly started running (buying my first pair of running shoes in April).  I ran (and walked) the Weight Watchers 5K event in May, finishing in 38:20, with my family cheering me on.  It was a wonderful feeling! And I even got a medal for coming in second in my age group!

In August 2011, I reached an important weight loss milestone, having lost over 100 pounds since May 2010!  I was feeling the best I had ever felt!  And because of my weight loss, better eating habits, and improved physical health, my diabetes was under control (normal blood sugar levels) and had been for almost 4 months.  I was beginning to see a real possibility of reaching my three goals!

My running was also improving tremendously!  I ran my first 10K in late August 2011 (while listening to an episode of The Marathon Show).  And I made the decision to run the Disney World Half Marathon in January 2012 to give myself a specific running goal to strive towards.

In October 2011, I reached one of my goals.  My doctor took me off all my diabetes medications!  I am meds-free and my diabetes is fully under control through diet and exercise alone!  What a blessing and sense of accomplishment!

In 2012, I ran my first Half Marathon in Walt Disney World.  That experience changed my life and cemented my love for the sport of running.  I ran a ton of Half Marathons in 2012, as well as two Full Marathons.  I also reached my second goal -- of living a more healthy, active lifestyle -- with running, strength training, and swimming now a regular part of my weekly routine. And while my weight loss is slowing down, I am still losing inches off my body and gaining lean muscle mass.  Since muscle weighs more than fat, I am very encouraged that all this work is paying off!  I now wear a size XL instead of the 4XL I used to wear when this journey began.  I feel like a new person!

 That's me in the top frame taken in July 2013 at the National Senior Games.  The guy in the two bottom frames is also 'me' in 2009

That's me in the top frame taken in July 2013 at the National Senior Games.  The guy in the two bottom frames is also 'me' in 2009

2013 has been equally busy on the running front.  I qualified as a Marathon Maniac (I qualified as a Half Fanatic in 2012) and ran quite a few races outside of Illinois.  Looking at my stats, I ran a total of 13 races in 2011, 20 races in 2012, and 22 races in 2013.  Since 2012, I have run 18 Half Marathons and 7 Full Marathons (including the Chicago Marathon and my first Ultra Marathon)!  Never in a million years (or even three years ago) would I have ever dreamed of doing something like this!  And I have continued to manage my diabetes well, staying off all medications since 2011 and keeping my A1c levels below 5.8!  And I am still on my 'getting healthier' journey. I still have 50 pounds to lose and new challenges on my bucket list.

I already have a full race schedule laid out for 2014 (albeit a smaller number of races than last year).  That includes 6 more Full Marathons, 4 more Half Marathons, and my first Ragnar Relay Race (a 200 mile, 2-day relay race as part of a 12-member team).

In the summer of 2012, my son gave me a hug and then stepped back with a surprised yet happy look on his face. He said "Dad, when I hug you now, I can put my arms all the way around you and grab my hands behind your back.  I could never do that before.  Now I can give you a full hug!"  It almost made me cry.

I have no doubt that my regular workouts at my fitness club, and my newly-found love for running, will continue to play important roles in my life as I continue working towards my goals.  I am keeping an online record of my journey on this site to encourage others as I myself have been encouraged.

People say this all the time, but seriously, if I can do this, anyone can do this. It just takes the desire to take the first step, and then keep steppin!