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Marathon finish inspires a new challenge
January 9, 2014 - Andy Flynn
This week: 452 lbs.
Last week: 457 lbs.
Start weight: 470 lbs.
Total lost: 18 lbs.
I’m stubborn, and I think that’s going to help me as I try to lose weight in 2014.
Despite my dozens of weight-loss failures over the years, I have one thing going for me: I keep getting back up on my feet, brushing myself off and trying again. I’ve taken breaks for months at a time, binging on food and growing my waist line, but I’ve never stopped trying to change my life for the better.
I’ve come real close to giving up, not just on my diet but on life itself. Have you ever been ready for the big sleep? I have. A few times, I was so sick of being huge, tired and in pain all the time that I wanted the pain to just go away. Let me be clear, I wasn’t suicidal. I was just at peace and had accepted that I could die. But I was too stubborn to let a good life go to waste, so I slowly bounced back.
Twelve years ago, I came up with this crazy idea and created the VIC Marathon, a fundraiser for the arts programming I was organizing at the Paul Smiths Visitor Interpretive Center. I was the public relations guy and decided, as a publicity stunt, to walk the entire marathon, even though I weighed 370 pounds at the time and figured nobody would expect me to get close to finishing. I spent several months training, first walking in the VIC parking lot on lunch breaks in the dead of winter and then three weeks on the trails once the snow had melted. The event was set for Sunday, May 19, 2002. It was no ordinary marathon, as this was on a trail system, not on pavement. It was 12 laps around a 2.2-mile loop in the forest, with temperatures in the 30s and snow flurries in the air instead of blackflies.
“I’m going to finish this marathon,” I kept saying to myself.
I made a promise to walk that marathon, and I was going to finish the damn thing even if it took me all day and into the night. In the end, I realized it didn’t really matter what other people thought about whether I crossed the finish line. But I had to prove to myself that I could do it, to achieve what seemed like the unachievable for a person of my size. I needed to show that preparation and sheer determination were enough to fulfill that goal.
The marathon wasn’t easy. It was extremely slow walking that final lap with my wife, Dawn, stopping at every bench along the way to rest. It took 13 hours. I started at 6 a.m. and finished at 7 p.m., after most people had left the building. I was so sore that Dawn had to drive me home, and I couldn’t walk much the next day. But I’ll always have that one achievement to prove to myself that I can lose the weight.
I’d love to walk a marathon later this year, but I’d have to trim down considerably and spend about six months training. We’ll see how I’m doing in the spring before taking on that challenge. One of my friends challenged me to walk the Lake Placid Half-Marathon with her in June. And I’m going to take that challenge.
After talking with two trainers at the local gym, Fitness Revolution, I’m starting to get more confidence about taking on more challenges like a half-marathon or marathon. General manager and head trainer Jason McComber and personal trainer Janice Atkinson reminded me to take it slow at first. The idea is get up from my computer desk and start moving.
“Without moving, without exercising, you’re not really burning fat or toning up,” McComber said. “You’re just reducing calories. So you’re just existing, losing weight through deprivation.”
It’s essential to complement my diet with exercise and teach myself how to move again.
“Exercise is about living,” Atkinson said. “You’re getting out and doing things. You’re being active in life. ... Do things with your family, not just sit around and be. Get out there and do as much as you can, and have fun with your life.”
So I’ve decided to stop being a couch potato. Now what? McComber tells me to start making small changes and, above all, keep my commitment.
“It’s just baby steps,” McComber said. “For example, you can park at the far end of the parking lot at the supermarket and walk that distance rather than park right up front.”
He suggests adding exercises in little doses. Walk somewhere rather than drive. Do little things to start moving.
“Make a pact that you’re going to walk 10 laps around the table before you eat,” McComber said. “Anything that’s different to your current plan is going to start creating a habit or a pattern, just making smart lifestyle choices. The big thing is staying committed to exercising.”
“So instead of taking the elevator to the third floor of the town hall last night for a meeting, I should have taken the stairs?” I asked.
“The problem is people try to do it all at once,” McComber replied, adding that walking three flights of stairs could be a big change for some people. “So the change would be take two flights in the elevator and walk up one. And the next week you’re there, go one in the elevator, and walk two flights of stairs.”
So I took their advice when I started walking this past week. On Dec. 30, I walked about three-tenths of a mile during lunch. It was as far as I could go at the time. On New Year’s Day, I walked six-tenths of a mile at the horse show grounds. By the end of this week, I hope to walk 1 mile.
“A lot of times when people jump into it instead of taking it gradually, that’s when you see injury,” Atkinson said. “And then they take four steps back because they’re injured and say they can’t do anything.”
And having those stumbling blocks can be psychologically harmful. With a break in the action, some people won’t ever return to a regular exercise routine and find themselves back on the couch watching TV all the time. Luckily for me I’m stubborn. I’ll always return at some point.
For now, I’m planning to take it slow and join the next round of Fitness Revolution’s 13-week Take It Off Weight Loss Challenge. That will hopefully start soon.
Fitness Revolution is located at 1991 Saranac Ave. Learn more at 518-523-4127 or online at www.placidhealth.com.
Next week: I meet with a nutrition consultant.
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Andy Flynn smiles after finishing the VIC Marathon on May 19, 2002 at the Paul Smiths Visitor Interpretive Center. His wife, Dawn, is shown above holding a radio just in case something happened on the final 2.2-mile lap, which she walked with him.