Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Lifestyle Change

365 days ago, I made the decision to make a lifestyle change. I was not living a terrible life, but I was definitely not taking care of myself like I should have been. The main reason I wanted to live healthier was my new family. Becoming a father has changed me in many ways, but I think biggest change was to my general outlook at life. I have always been the type of person that lived for today. We can deal with tomorrow when it gets here, right? Well, when you become responsible for the health and well-being of your children, things change. I stress out about things that never would have even crossed my mind 3 1/2 years ago. One of my greatest fears is not being there for Anna and the boys, so I made the decision to lose some weight and live healthier.

I took the simplest approach I could to losing weight. I needed to burn more calories than I ate every day. I could eat a lot less, or I could eat a little less and add some exercise to my daily routine. The second options sounded a lot better to me, considering how much I enjoy food. I made myself an account on This website makes it easy to keep track of the calories you eat and the calories you burn. This made me be accountable for everything I put in my body. I think I drove Anna crazy by telling her how many calories everything had. This website also allows you to put a target weight on a specific date and adjusts your calorie intake in order to get to that weight. I urge anyone trying to lose weight to use some sort of tool to help them track their food and exercise.

As far as nutrition, we already ate pretty healthy around our house. We eat lots of grilled/baked chicken and fresh vegetables. My main area of concern was my portions at lunch and dinner time. Anyone who knows me knows I like to eat a lot. One word can sum up my approach to changing how I eat. That word is moderation. I needed to eat more frequently but in less quantity. I needed smaller breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. Also, I needed to add a few healthy snacks in between meals. These snacks help to do two things. First they help my metabolism to stay high by making my body process food more often. Secondly, the snacks help me not to be too hungry and lunch and dinner. I found that when I am extremely hungry, I eat a lot!

In order to not starve myself, I needed to add some exercise to my life in order increase my daily calorie burn. I decided to start getting on that dusty treadmill in my basement. I started very slowly. I would run just a few minutes and then walk a few minutes. I would repeat the run/walk combination for around 15-20 minutes. After a few weeks, I would change my routine and add a minute to my run times and subtract a minute from my walk times. I gradually built myself up to running for ten minutes at a time. After a few months of slowing increasing my running time, I found myself running for 30 minutes straight. Once the running started to get a little easier, I found myself actually enjoying the activity.

I decided to get out of the dark basement and run the Bedford "loop". Having grown up near the loop, I have walked and run it many times through the years. The first few times I ran the loop, I had to walk sections. Gradually I belt up the endurance to finish the entire 3 mile loop without walking any parts. It was still a lot easier just running in the basement during the week before work. I started to make myself run outside once a week.

After running 3 to 4 miles outside on a regular basis, I thought I would take part in a 5k (3.1 mile) race. I registered for the Drumstick Dash on Thanksgiving morning in downtown Roanoke. I found that running next to other people really brought out my competitiveness. This was a side of me that I have not felt since I stopped playing competitive sports years ago. It was not so much competing against the other people either. I enjoyed competing against myself to register the best possible time. I enjoyed the race so much that I registered for the Christmas classic 5k in Bedford a few weeks later.

It was after these two races that I decided on my next goal. I wanted to run a half marathon (13.1 miles). I planned out the next 3 months of runs. I would have 3 treadmill runs of 4 miles each per week. I would run a shorter faster run once a week in Bedford one weekday and I would spend the early morning hours of every Saturday working up long distance runs. First I started with 5 miles. Next were runs of varying distances from 6 to 12 miles. I got sick a couple of times though these winter months, which caused my weekly miles to drop a couple times. But for the most part, I averaged 20-26 miles per week. I will be running in the Charlottesville Half Marathon on Saturday. I very much looking forward to making it to the finish line and reaching the goal I set for myself months ago.

Even though I will hopefully be reaching my goal of finishing a half marathon, I have plenty other goals set for 2012. I have already run in my first trail race, the Montvale 5 miler trail race a few weeks ago.  I also have three 5k races, one 10k trail race, one 10 mile race, and one more half marathon planned this year. I am a big believer in setting goals for you to work towards. It is very easy to miss training sessions if you do not have clear and obtainable goal to reach.

During the past year of eating better and running, I have lost over 30 lbs. and I feel better than I have in years. I feel like a new and improved version of my former self. I have energy to play with the boys and I feel like I am healthy role model to them. They see how exercise should be a part of your everyday life. I hope Eli and Coy grow up to be active young men who take responsibility for their own personal health. Although, I think Anna is sick of hearing me talk about running now!

I wanted to share my lifestyle change story because I want to encourage others who want to live healthier. Anyone can make changes to their lives in order to drop a few pounds and feel better about you in the process. Get out there and walk, jog, or ride a bike, anything to get your heart rate up and burn some calories. Start slow and gradually build your activities up as your endurance and strength improves. Try to find something that you enjoy doing and something that will have fun doing for years to come. Set obtainable goals and work towards them. Don't be too tough on yourself. If you slip up and eat something that you maybe shouldn't have, just do an extra workout to make up for it. No one is going to be perfect, so don't expect to be. Indulge yourself in something as a reward for obtaining a goal.

1 comment:

  1. Great first post Ryan. It's awesome to see how running has transformed you, all with that added stress of two young kids in the house. It's the opposite of what happens to many people. Looking forward to more posts and thoughts. Have fun in Charlottesville this weekend!