I hope the title of this post doesn’t diminish what my friend, Justin, has accomplished.  I’m extremely proud of what he’s accomplished and how he has transformed his life over the past several years.  I just think the title is fitting, since he happened to stumble upon the Ironman back in 2007.  Many people who have come to participate in the sport have only discovered it by being held up from Ironman traffic, or waited in crowds downtown due to the overwhelming number of spectators.  It’s a blessing in disguise when annoyances and delays can end up changing your life for the better!

Justin, part of Madison Multisport, competes in Ironman Wisconsin 2012

Justin, part of Madison Multisport, competes in Ironman Wisconsin 2012

I hope you enjoy Justin’s story, it really made me smile.  Thanks to Justin for sharing!  Normally I try to summarize/slim down the narratives that I receive, but every word of what he said is worthwhile to read.

1.     What made you realize that you needed/wanted to make a change in your life to be healthier?

I accidentally ran into the Ironman Wisconsin in September of 2007, not really knowing much about triathlon or Ironman prior to that moment.  It was one of the most inspiring events I had ever witnessed; thousands of people taking on a grueling all-day challenge of mind and body.  Even though I couldn’t swim, bike or run at the time, I knew at that moment that I wanted to be an Ironman.
The other trigger/inspiration for me was my engagement to my wife in 2009.  I was looking through photos from my 5 year high school class reunion and realized that everyone else looked the same as they did in high school.  I, on the other hand, had gained a weight in college and during my first few years working a full time job.  I did not want to be overweight for my wedding; I wanted to be happy with my wedding photos.

In the last 5 years, I’ve lost around 85 pounds, have learned to swim, bike, and run, and completed Ironman Wisconsin this past September.

2.     What was the hardest part about making the change?

Finding a nutritious diet that works for my body has been a huge, progressive challenge for me. I started out reading a lot about food, re-teaching myself how to grocery shop, and setting up a weekly food preparation routine that helped me stick to my diet, all of which took much time and diligence. I’m still constantly reading up on new foods and strategies for eating. Nutrition is more important than most people realize; it’s not just about being active but eating right.  And even when you have that figured out for yourself, you are tempted by coworkers, family, and the world in general to not eat healthy.  Finding the balance of eating healthy but enjoying treats (I have a vicious sweet tooth) is incredibly hard and I work on that each and every day.

3.     What has been the most positive/biggest result since adopting your new lifestyle?

Easily the most rewarding part of my new lifestyle is the change I’ve inspired in others.  Don’t get me wrong, I love needing to buy new clothes, I love not feeling embarrassed to have my picture taken, and just feeling happier and healthier each and every day.  But since I’ve made my changes, my brother, dad, and mom have also made great strides in leading a healthier lifestyle.  We all now continue to teach and inspire each other to be healthier, and I know they’ve inspired others as well.

4.     Is there anything you would share with others who are struggling with reaching their fitness goals?

Whenever I talk to someone who is struggling or unhappy with their progress, I try to add perspective.  We live in a world with a million advertisements boasting about a product that will help us “lose 30 pounds in 30 days” or something else.  Sure, everyone wants things to happen quickly, but slow and steady progress is achievable and maintainable.  For example, though my weight has fluctuated up and down, over the last 5 years I’ve lost just less than 1.5 pounds a month.  I’ve learned how to swim, bike, and run “1 mile at a time.”  Start small, build on that, and reward yourself for progress along the way.  Also, always try to keep the perspective that adopting a healthy lifestyle is something you are doing for life, and you don’t need to make 100% change in one day, just 1% each day!

5.     What would you say was your “recipe for success?”  Support from family, coach, friends, planning meals ahead of time, fitting in training in the morning, etc.

I have a few keys for success.

  • Fitness -Find others to workout with.  Lift with a group of friends, or go to classes at a local health club.  Join a running or biking (or triathlonJ) group, or a masters swim class. Working out with a group on a regular basis can help keep you motivated and enjoying your work outs, as well as accountable!  If looking for even more guidance or accountability, work with a personal trainer or coach.
  • Nutrition -plan and cook meals ahead of time.  I currently cook 80% of all my meals for the week on Sunday, and substitute that last bit with some fresh salads or something fresh from the grill here or there.  Having your food prepared ahead of time will keep you on track and you will never need a last minute “fast food” run. Plus this is a great time-saver during the busy work week.
  • Set goals, plan for success-I have set numerous goals and consistently track progress on those goals (and adjust as things change).  If my goal is to eat healthy -I track what I eat.  If my goal is to workout a certain amount -I track how much I am working out each day!  If you are focused on weight loss -don’t just look at the number on the scale, take regular pictures of yourself and take measurements as well!  Try to remember to differentiate goals and targets -goals are focused on the process, and targets focus on the outcome.