Getting Out the Door – Chapter 20

In November, 2012,  I was at the end of my patience. On the morning of November 22, Thanksgiving Day, I tipped the scales at 250.5 lbs. Nobody ever held me down and forced food on me…I had done this to myself. I knew I had to deal with my eating issues. I didn’t drink or smoke, but I used food as a way to stifle my anger and emotions. 

I knew that if I starved myself, or went on some trendy diet, I’d lose weight, but how many times have you seen someone lose weight quickly, then bounce back higher than when they started? I realized that if I was going to be successful, I’d have to do this slowly and steadily.

Around this time, fitness trackers started to become popular. I bought my first Fitbit….and promptly lost it. I got another one, and kept better track of it…until it went through the washing machine. I got a third one. In later years, when people speak of me, I’ll be known as “David, Killer of Fitbits.” I lost, broke or replaced SEVEN Fitbits over 4 years…but in 2012, I started using one regularly.

I also started logging my food in an application called “My Fitness Pal” – despite the goofy name, it was a useful tool in logging and tracking what I ate, especially  when it came to tracking prepared or restaurant foods. It also shared data with Fitbit, so that made it easier to connect the information between the two apps.

Once I started logging food and counting my steps, it became a game to see how many steps I could get in. How many stairs could I climb? I knew that I had to eat less and exercise more, but these two applications made it easier to measure just how much I was eating and exercising…and the scale I used also connected to the other two, which gave me a great way to know my numbers.

Walking was easy to track – Fitbit did a good job of tracking how much walking I was doing. At the time, I worked at the Pentagon, which happens to be the world’s largest office building. Because I drove to work, I had to park at a nearby shopping mall, which was about a 1 mile walk to get to the Pentagon. Once inside, I’d spend about 4 miles a day walking between offices, and another mile back to the car. Walking six miles every day used up a lot of calories.

In MyFitnessPal, there was no fudging the numbers. If I didn’t stay below my target calories, I’d get a reminder. If I ate too many carbs, it would tell me. If I had too much sugar or salt, the numbers would show up in big, red detail. I started to consciously (and later, subconsciously) make better choices.

Slowly, and steadily, the weight began to come off. As I got down to around 200lbs, I started to consider other possibilities besides walking. I loved to ride my bike, but it was hard to ride in the winter time or rain, and I wanted some alternatives.

A few short years earlier,  I wouldn’t have considered the possibility, but now, as crazy as it sounded, at 52 years old….

I wanted to run.

I was a runner in high school. I loved running cross country, as well as track. That wasn’t by design, however. I joined the cross country team because I hated getting hit in football. Turns out, that I had a knack for it, and ran throughout high school. I was never the fastest out there, but I was fast enough.

In 1989, I ran my first marathon, which happened to be the New York Marathon. I didn’t train well for it, and while I did well for the first 19 miles, the last 7 were a death slog of shin splints and cramping quads. I couldn’t walk up or downstairs facing forward for a week. I had to take the stairs facing backwards.

In 1994, I ran the Marine Corps Marathon – the same year that Oprah Winfrey ran it. I trained smarter this time, and finished around 4:20. Again, not fast, but 30 minutes faster than New York, and 20 minutes faster than Oprah. Throughout the race, the Marines would yell “Oprah’s right behind you!” to get you motivated to keep running. Turns out that Oprah was a couple miles behind, but the Marines know motivation.

I missed running. I was afraid to run, but I thought – I’ll take it easy, and back off if I need to. The first day, I went out, started walking, and broke into a jog.

I ran (jogged)….60 feet.

It was the distance between two lamp posts on my neighborhood street. Not much more than the length of four parked cars.

The next day, I jogged the length of TWO lamp posts – not consecutively, but I’d jog for one section, and walk the next…then jog another section. The first week, I just did two sections. The following week, I did three. 60 feet at a time, jogging, then walking. Rinse and repeat.

It wasn’t great, but I didn’t feel like I had to be…I just had to get out the door. Once I did, it was a lot harder to go back in and go to bed. Some days, I felt awful when I went out, but I never felt that way when I finished. I always felt good coming back from a run, even if it was a slow one.

So, I got out the door.
Every week, I went a little bit further. Before long, I’d jog/walk all the way around the block, and later, I made it my first mile.

When I was released from treatment 8 years earlier, I asked the doctor of all the things I could or couldn’t do. He said, “As long as you feel OK, I don’t think you have any restrictions”

I asked,  “Can I run?”

He said – “Yeah, if somebody’s chasing you.”

I signed up for my first 5K.

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