1998 Jim October 2017 Jim October 2018 Jim
Runners like numbers so let’s start with a few:
This time last year those numbers were my blood pressure, my weight and how many meters I could run without stopping for a walk break.
On the rare occasion anyone would ask me about working out or talk about getting back into shape, I would always quip “Hey, round is a shape!”
Obviously, my days of running 100 mile weeks, hovering around six minute per mile pace are over but hopefully so are my days of being winded after bending over to tie my shoes.
I’m not passing judgement on those who struggle with the various challenges to fitness that we all experience, it’s more to say “hey, I’ve been there too.” Hell, if one person is motivated by my “struggle,” I’ll consider it a bonus.
I can remember when I was fit (the first time), saying “I’ll always run, probably at least seven miles, four or five days a week.” It’s amazing how fast that changed!
The reasons for that change are many but they all boil down to choices. Choices I made in how to deal with a variety of circumstances.
Trust me, I understand, everyone has families, jobs and daily pressures that require various amounts of personal attention and energy. However, in the last two years, I’ve come to realize that these responsibilities and pressures can be either magnified or minimized by those around us. Sometimes, we don’t necessarily have a choice regarding who is around us but we do have a choice in how much space they occupy in our life.
Choices, we all have them, we all make good ones and we all make some that we second guess or even regret. I’m sure I’ll have plenty of each for years to come.
But I digress.
Somehow, over the last 10 years or so, I started making the choice to skip a run to sleep a little more, usually after making the choice to skip the previous afternoon’s run so I could go straight to the bar. That choice, quickly turned into a habit, that habit quickly turned into 10 pounds and that turned into 20, you see where this is heading.
1.5 - That’s the number of bottles of wine I could find myself drinking most nights.
It was this time about three years ago that I really started to realize that I was making some poor choices. That was magnified by a personal tragedy where I learned a lot about myself and some of the people around me. One of the main lessons I now choose to focus on was that I’m a lucky man and have some great friends.
Anyway, that tragedy caused me to really think about some of the choices I was making and you know what? I didn’t do a damned thing about it. Sure, I’d go out and run a couple of miles here and there, sometimes as many as two or three days in a row! But overall, I hadn’t really changed anything, mostly because I chose not to.
Then one August day two years ago, I literally woke up and said “Today is the day.” It was the day that I realized that if I’m going to have a twilight of my life, something had to give.
I watched my dad pretty much work himself to death. He was a long-haul trucker who loved what he did. His retirement was going to include buying an RV so he could take my mom to see all of the places he had seen over the years. It wasn’t long after he finally retired that he found out he had Parkinson’s, needless to say, he didn’t get that RV...choices.
So that day in August, I made a choice that I was going to have some sort of life that included actually living.
When people ask me what I’m doing now, I say “Mostly whatever I want.” Some people take that to mean that “everyday is Sunday” but that’s not the case. I haven’t won the lottery and quite possibly will always have to work (maybe I should say “get to work.”).
So I made that change. I feel like it saved my life.
38 – That was the waist size of the pants I was wearing. They were tight.
From there, the next series of changes got easier with each one. Without detailing every single one, we ended up in Colorado and the most prevalent thought in my mind everyday was that I can’t live someplace like this and not be able to take advantage of it. It also didn’t hurt that a few really good friends reminded me every chance they had that I looked a lot like the guy that ate Jim Estes.
And so, with a little badgering, I knew it was time to try to get into some sort of shape other than round.
I’ve trained at altitude before but I don’t think I fully appreciated how much starting to work out again would hurt. Luckily last summer, Camille and I had started doing some indoor cycling and walking three to four miles a day so at least I wasn’t starting from absolute zero. That much aside, I got comfortable being uncomfortable again.
During one of our walks, I decided that I was going to mix in a little running, I had no idea how little. I made it 200 meters, it hurt, a lot. And I had to walk nearly a mile before I worked up the nerve to run some more. I managed to run a total of 600 meters during a three mile walk that day. How did this happen?
From the end of October until the end of 2017, I spent nearly every day trying to run just a little farther than I did the day before. Most days it wasn’t fun and from the looks I would get from people at the park, it wasn’t pretty. I’m sure that there were plenty of days that people would look at me and say “Well at least he’s trying...”
For the first time in my life, I made a New Year’s Resolution, I was not going to have drink for an entire month. That would end up turning into five months, just to hit the old reset button.
3500 – 4000 – The number of calories I was eating a day. I started keeping track of what I was taking in, mostly out of curiosity but found that not only was I taking in way too many calories, I was taking in the wrong amounts of things like fat and carbohydrates. Naturally the next change was diet.
Now I won’t say that I completely overhauled my diet, but I did start to pay attention to what I was taking in. I set limits on different things and stuck to them – mostly.
That’s another thing. I learned not to beat myself up or consider everything a total loss if I missed a workout or gave in to a craving on a particular day. I did know that I would have to choose to refocus again the next day.
In March, we bought bikes and I started riding every day and running/walking three to four miles four days a week.
This would be my pattern until April this year, when I could finally run an entire mile without stopping. By May, I was running three whole miles! A long run was when I felt good and could do four!
From there, a couple of trips back to sea level saw me running four and five miles at a time. I even did a couple of seven mile runs during a trip to Minneapolis in mid-May. I felt like Superman, because you know, oxygen!
After a few weeks of consistent running, I somehow got roped into running a 3K up in Boulder and surprisingly I wasn’t demoralized. I definitely didn’t set the world on fire, but I now had a target.
36 – I was back in pants with a 36 waist and by now, I was proud of the roughly 25 pounds I had lost.
During remaining summer months, I managed to get to the point where I could run 8 miles a day almost every day.
I know it sounds cliché but it’s unbelievable how much better I feel, both physically and emotionally. I won’t say that my energy is limitless but it’s a ton better than it was a year ago!
By the beginning of this month, I could drop in a 10-mile run here and there. It was pretty cool to be able to go out and run with a couple of different friends when I was in the Twin Cities for the marathon. In fact, that weekend, I think I caught the marathon bug again. If all goes well, I think I might be doing one in the spring. Fingers crossed!
The last set of numbers for now:
This week, that was my blood pressure, my weight, how far I ran in miles on Sunday, the waist size of my pants (they’re baggy!) and the number of toenails I lost after the 13-mile run.
Choices take effort, but it turns out, they also take time. They lead you down different paths to different places where you meet different people or get to know old friends in different ways.