By John Moe
There must be harder things to do in life than losing 60 pounds in four and one-half months, I just can't think of any at the moment. Along the way, I re-discovered how to say "No thank you" to most edible and drinkable temptations while coming to terms with the fact I was the one that got into this mess so I'd have to be the one to get out of it. The scariest part was the beginning - the realization that today was going to be the day - not tomorrow, which would always lead to just another tomorrow. I would have to change my life permanently, which was not a bad thing - it was an overdue and desperately needed thing!
It's just that...the cold beer in the frosted mug went so well with the chicken wings and nachos... and when the Habs played the Leafs on Hockey Night, the beer seemed to taste better and...well, you get the idea. I chose February 26 to begin my journey back to a healthy lifestyle because that was the day my significant other, Christine, flew home to Quebec for 17 days to visit with her family. Though she always stood beside me, I knew Christine would appreciate seeing a non-stop effort to reclaim what was mine not so long ago - but feels like a lifetime. I knew I needed to be alone to start this.
In 2005 I was at the top of my game, ranked number one in Canada in the 50-plus age group for the marathon. I'd qualified to race at Boston by winning my age group at the Royal Victoria Marathon in'04 and followed that up with a second-place showing for my age group at the '05 Boston Marathon. But even at the finish line I knew my racing days were over as I'd run with severe plantar fasciitis that worsened over the next six months, plus there were Achilles and I.T. band issues that rendered me unable to even jog a mile or two. There was depression over being deprived of doing what I loved to do. I could have cross-trained but that wasn't running so I rejected it. It was one of my biggest mistakes, actually rejecting an opportunity to maintain fitness while my injuries healed. So I "retired" as a runner - but not as a big eater. In fact, doing less made me even hungrier. The beer had its effect too. I'd spent several years being disciplined, even counting calories while training for a race and now I had my excuse to just relax...or so I thought.
As life unfolded over the next 10 years, while my belts got bigger, my back became weaker. I had a physical job and eventually I suffered a third and final back injury. I'd managed to permanently damage five vertebrae in my lower lumbar area and was bed-ridden for more than three months. There were weekly spinal injections that were so painful I almost passed out. If not for Christine I don't know how I would have survived...and my career did not. My back healed only to a level of functional movement that allowed me to do some but not all of my duties, so on January 15 I called it a career. Just over a month later, on Feb. 26, I drove Christine to the airport for her trip home and upon returning, I stepped on the scale for the first time in years. It read: 230 pounds. I said out loud, "Oh no! You've GOT to be kidding!" But scales never lie, do they? The sense of panic felt like drowning - when you just have to swim a little farther to be safe but you're so tired....
I went to Costco that day and instinctively bought a huge bag of nachos, only this time I never opened the bag. It was still unopened 17 days later when Christine came home and it took her at least a month to get through it. That dark, drizzly afternoon, I walked as briskly as I could manage for five miles along a trail route. At home, I stretched my hamstrings, quads and calves before stirring half a can of tuna into a large green salad I made. Without a word spoken, I bid adieu to my favorite watering hole, which is right around the corner. I thought I might miss the beer but I don't. After a workout, nothing tastes better than cold water. And then, one day at a time, I set out to first do the five-mile walk and after a week, worked the elliptical machine for 30 minutes at low level of resistance and speed - to 45 minutes at higher resistance and speed. After a few days, I added light weights (10 lb. dumb bells) to the program, working all of my muscle groups for 40 minutes. By late May, my weight had dropped 41 lbs. to 189 and I decided to give running another try. To my utter delight, after a humiliating initial effort, I was back running - slow but steady.
This time, my goal is just to live healthy and stay that way. I will not push the speed limits as I did back in the day. The pressure is off and just getting fit is a blessing. To avoid injury, I alternate between the elliptical machine and running. I try to do the walk every day and the weights are light so I'm able to do that for most days, as well. Today I weigh 169 pounds, on my way to 160. My marathon race weight was 150 lbs. but I don't need to get there again. It's been a lot of fun lately seeing jaws drop on faces that I hadn't seen in awhile. When you're ready to do something worthwhile, no one can stop you, so let today be the day! And I'm so grateful for the opportunity.
Follow Christine Blanchette on Twitter: www.twitter.com/christineruns