Guest blogger shares his personal weight loss and fitness journey:
Trooper C.L. Pratt, 15 year law-enforcement officer and instructor.
Poor Physical Condition and Excuses
I was one of those guys who, while in college, worked out on a regular basis and was active in sports. But, in the years following, upon starting a career and family, I found myself focusing on the daily tasks and soon fell into poor physical condition. Working odd shifts, weekends, and watching kids made it easy to become more sedentary over the next decade. I thought I had good excuses. It turns out my excuses were the very reasons I needed to improve my fitness. Spending time with the kids on the couch watching movies wasn’t good for me, and it wasn’t good for them. I needed to set an example for them.
Obstacle Course 5K Race in 2015
Family Weight-Loss Challenge was the Spark
In 2011, I had had enough. I found myself getting fatigued easily and had gained a lot of weight. Fortunately my wife’s side of our family put together a fitness challenge. I went all in. I knew I needed to do something that would last. I didn’t fall for any quick fix gimmicks or buy any expensive products that lined the pockets of others. I wanted a change that I could maintain over time. At first, a slow trot on the treadmill was all I could do. But, I pushed myself to do a little more each time. The first couple months were a struggle to make it a habit - I won’t lie. A couple of months in, though, I was seeing progress! I tracked every workout. I used MyFitnessPal to track what I ate very closely. I treated calories and nutrients like a bank account. I was honest to myself and it kept paying off. I improved the quality of my food intake and decreased quantities of unhealthy foods. There were no “off limits” foods. I would just fit them into my calorie and nutrient “budget” of sorts. I figured out how to eat fast food with healthier options when it was necessary - simply swapping out a steak and cheese sub with chipotle sauce for a ham and cheese sub with mustard can cut calories and fat. Overall, I try to stick to meats, veggies and fruits, with occasional splurges.
1 mile at a time (pictured here in 2015)
100 Pounds Gone
As far as the fitness/weight loss challenge goes, I was able to pull off a win. Two more weight loss challenge victories were picked up along the way. In eight months, 97 pounds disappeared. This was an amazing feeling, and would have never happened without the support of my wife! And I have kept it off for the past 4 years.
The definition of fitness I pulled from my training with the Cooper Institute really seems to explain the reasons I chose to change my lifestyle:
Fitness – “The ability to carry out daily tasks with vigor and alertness, without undue fatigue, and with ample energy to enjoy leisure-time pursuits and respond to emergencies.”
Those initial slow trots on the treadmill turned into biking, running, kayaking, plyometric and body weight exercises. Then, I started to compete in 5k races. Next, I moved to kayak-bike-run adventure triathlons lasting 3-5 hours, at times. 70 mile bike rides and 13 mile trail runs were now possible. There is still room for improvement, but I look forward to seeing how much more I am capable of. There have been a few first place finishes along the way but many more lower down the finisher list. Those are the ones that keep me working to improve.
Chequamegon Mountain Bike Race in 2015
More important than my own improved fitness is that of my kids. I’ve watched them emulate the very exercises they’ve watched me perform. Burpees, pull ups and pushups are more fun when the kids jump in. When my oldest was six, she and I set out on a 34 mile bike ride. The first several miles were an adjustment for her and I was concerned we could make it. But, my daughter worked through it and we cruised along at a steady 9mph pace, talking and working together. There is so much to talk about with a six year old over four and a half hours without interruption! I was most impressed as we neared our vehicle and we were a few tenths of a mile short of the 34 mile mark. I told her that if we stopped at the vehicle we wouldn’t make the 34 mile total. Initially she wasn’t too concerned and I wasn’t going to push her. There was a decent sized hill and bridge we would need to climb to make the 34 mile mark. On her own, she said she was going for it and took off. She pedaled strong and fast to the finish. Watching her beam with pride knowing she made the goal was a great moment as a father. I knew that a couple years before I would not have finished that distance. It was a bit of a realization that someday soon, it would be my kids pushing me further and helping me stay focused on staying fit.
My fitness has also had a positive effect on my career. It is well known that in law enforcement one needs to be able to respond in emergencies to assist others or yourself at any moment. Since improving my fitness I have taken on additional roles, hopefully setting a good example for newer employees. I have been given responsibilities that I most likely would not have been offered prior to improving my fitness, such as instructing defensive tactics through Krav Maga Worldwide. I also completed training through The Cooper Institute for a Fitness Specialist Certification. I don’t take these responsibilities lightly and have put a great deal of effort into not only presenting the material and instructing the newer employees, but also taking part in the same activities with them and leading by example. I hope to hear someday that I made a difference for some of them as their fitness instructor and assessor.
It Was Worth It
As you take on lifestyle changes toward wellness, I think it is important to remember the reason you started making the changes. I think you will find that a couple mile walk now can build into greatly improved fitness, over time. Be patient. Enlist a support system that will strengthen you when you feel weak. Fitness can be fun. Don’t take it too seriously but be honest with yourself and chose a method that will work for the long term. It is worth every bit of effort! And, if you can involve your kids, it can pay off for generations to come.