Welcome!

Welcome!

My name is Andy, and this  is my story. I started out to lose weight and get fit because I was fed up and needed to make a change in my life. I found myself horribly overweight and out of shape, and realized that my daughter and wife deserved better than that from me. So, as a 330 pound man, I decided to try the impossible and start running. (Well, walking and running. A LOT more walking than running at first and then slowly worked my way up.) That, coupled with watching what I eat by counting calories has helped me to lose 130+ pounds, get myself back into shape, and completely change my life. (that’s the quick and dirty version of my story, anyway; if you want to take a look at a much more complete and detailed version, check out my very first post and introduction HERE)

I started this blog in the very beginning to keep myself accountable and honest throughout the entire process. Since I started I have trained for and raced everything from 5K, 10K, 10 Milers, and Half Marathons, and I am now slowly pushing forward, continuing the distance running and learning how to balance it all with “real life” along the way.

What you will find on this blog is a first hand account- a two and a half year snapshot of my life during this time. I am now at the end of my public weight loss efforts, but in the beginning when I was heavy into the weight loss efforts I would post close to 3 times a week, and once I hit the goals and started progressing into maintaining, racing, and product reviews, the frequency dropped to once a week or so, but all in all it’s a very consistent view of what was going on in my head and in my body during that time.

The story ends with me losing the weight, and altering the way I pretty much look at everything. This weight loss and blog have changed my entire life, and I could not be more grateful to all the readers, old and new who stop by and check out what I have had to say.

I have decided that as of June of 2014 I will not be regularly updating the blog anymore, but I am leaving it up for the sake of any other people out there who can still find some value in the chronicle of my weight loss. I will check back in from time to time, but if I can leave you with some parting words I want them to be this:

You can do it. believe me, if I can do this, you can too. I was the laziest couch potato there was, but once I hit my tipping point and decided to try it for real, I can serve as proof that hard work produces real results. One of the reasons I love running so much is because it provides me the way to surprise myself by accomplishing things that I honestly thought were impossible, even a short time beforehand. It’s an amazing feeling and I genuinely hope you get to experience it too. Hang in there, and keep at it, we’re all in this together.

I’m proud to share my story with you and hopefully it can inspire some more people out there to try, because it can be done!

 

Final Post / The End of Running My Ass Off

For the short version of this post, stop reading after the following sentence.

Family first: it’s time to dial things back and focus on what’s most important right now.

For the much expanded version, please continue reading. This is a long one, so bear with me. I’ve got a lot on my mind and have to get it all out.

It’s time to switch things up again. Not the end of the road, but just the next step for me. The continuation of my evolution. Whatever you want to call it, it’s time to change up the program, make some big changes and move forward again.

My wife and family were the driving force for me to get so aggressive and active in effort to lose the weight and change my life so I am a better man for them. And now coming full circle, they are now also the reason why I am dialing things back. I am becoming less aggressive on the racing front, and re-evaluating how I look at my fitness in general.

Early on in an interview when asked to sum myself up an a few words I described myself as: a husband, father, runner, weight loss success story, etc. While that is true and all of those play a part in making up who I am, It’s important to note that: that’s not ALL I am, and most importantly: those two classifications of husband and father will ALWAYS come first.

The time has come for me to make some pretty substantial changes in my life… Yet again.

I’ll be honest, with the progress that I have had over the past few years with the weight loss and running, and with my doing it as publicly as I have, my story has garnered it’s fair share of publicity. This was never really meant in a self-serving type of way, but it did make it very easy and tempting to get sucked in, continue pushing and see how far I could take things. I always put everything out there with the hopes of keeping myself motivated and potentially (hopefully) helping others to the same.

I finally feel secure in saying that my efforts to accomplish my intended goals have been a resounding success on all levels. I lost the weight, got myself more active, been able to maintain it all, and completely changed my life in the process. That has trickled into not only fitness aspects for me but into “real life” as well. Work, relationships, pretty much the way that I view everything has been altered. Nothing is off the table anymore. If you are willing to put in the work, you can achieve it. No matter what the “it” in question is. That does not make it free or easy, but it does make it do-able.

But then again, what I have completed is my *original* goals. And as noble as those original goals were, they are not 100% fitting of my situation anymore. The thing is, in the time that it has taken me to accomplish this set of goals, my life has changed. No longer the father to just one six month old baby girl, I’m now dad to two, have more responsibility at work, moved to a newer, bigger home requiring more time and energy, etc. and my life as it stands does not allow the free time to devote to running according to the training plans that my advanced racing schedule would demand. It’s just not in the cards for me right now. It’s life:  responsibilities change, priority shift, it’s just what happens to everyone. I’m not alone in this, it’s truly a universal thing.

Speaking of races, it’s important to mention why this is such a big deal to me and why I am viewing this as such a major shift in perspective. Now a big component in how I’ve kept myself motivated is by participating in races. Included in this has been the practice of planning out and rigorously following the corresponding training plans for said races. These training plans would span months in advance, essentially giving me a mapped out calendar to ensure that I had my workouts built into a static schedule. It was a reliable, structured, and effective way for me to plot things out way in advance and keep myself on track.

That being said, as my fitness has improved, my goals have grown accordingly.  I have progressed into bigger, longer, and more challenging races- not to mention many more of them. With the heightened challenges comes increased training to make sure I prepare myself the right way, and this takes time: time in the gym, time on the road, and time away from the family that I started all this for the first place.

I talked a little bit about this back in January when I had to back off from being an American Cancer Society/DNation running coach. Same concept, but on a much grander scale this time around. I’m not looking at just one facet of my training regimen; I’m looking at the entire thing as a whole now.

Now I’m not saying that I have been an absentee family member or anything, but I am saying that (if you have not figured it out by now), being a husband and father is a huge deal to me, and it’s a role I take very seriously.

Once I realized that the races and corresponding training plans that I had laid out for the rest of the year amounted to more than I was willing to sacrifice in terms of time spent with Jenn and the kids, I realized it was time to dial it back and reevaluate things. And I know myself, I fully have the potential to take something that I love (like fitness planning/ racing/ pushing my goals further and further, etc) and totally let it take over and become 100% sucked in. I have learned the hard way a long time ago to recognize the signs that I’m headed down that road and apply the brakes immediately, for the sake of all the other aspects of my life maintaining balance. I’m keeping my eyes open, seeing the signs and pulling back. Like I said, no crazy obsessive behavior or damage done yet, and I intend to keep it that way.

I said this back in January, and the same thinking still rings true: While I technically have not done anything really wrong or neglectful, the fact remains that I don’t like how much time and attention I’ve allowed all the extra fitness related activities and associated planning to take up in my life. Simply put, I’m not living up to the standards that I like to hold myself to: In terms of being a husband, father, friend or otherwise. I let myself get caught up in all the races, training, planning, and everything else that goes along with adopting competitive endurance racing as a full-time lifestyle. I’m not too proud to admit that I got too far sucked in to an extent. It’s addicting, especially when you’re getting the attention that I did there is literally always an opportunity to talk to someone new, plan out a variation of a training plan, organize another event, map out your next race (or next several races), etc.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t intend to just cold turkey stop running or abandon my fitness minded approach to things. But my focus now is going to be on learning how to balance. I need to realize that training for a race is not the only way to maintain a decent level of fitness. I need to learn how to be able to just go for a run for the sake of running. To be able to go for a run for the sheer value of getting a workout in, not having that run be one building block towards a gigantic master-plan that culminates several months later in a big race. To be the guy who wakes up early and goes for a run as a way to start the day off on the right foot. To be that dad who is out running around the neighborhood or along the local trail while pushing one or both of his kids in the jogging stroller- and be totally content with that. To allow running to still be a big part of what makes me up, but not be the ONLY thing that defines me. I don’t need that to be the only thing that is front and center at all times. I let it get that way for a while, but I recognized it and I’m putting a stop to it. There is much more to me than just being a runner, and it’s time to let those other aspects come through again. It can be done. It will be done. And I know I can do this while keeping up on all the other responsibilities in my “real life” as well.

And this is not forever, it’s until I find the balance and some extra room opens up in the schedule. I’m not quite done yet with the lofty personal challenges: I still do have some goals that are yet to be completed. Before it’s all said and done, this guy WILL run the Philadelphia Marathon. I really want to run in a team based relay-style distance race like Hood to Coast or a Ragnar Relay. There is also the matter of the triathlons that I had initially on the schedule for this year. I’d like to do at least one, just to be able to say that I did it. But what I learned this year the hard way, is that full marathons, relays, triathlons, and the like require very significant amounts of planning and training (at least the way that I approach races like them).  It’s not undoable, it’s just not in the cards for me right now. I have much more important matters to attend to.

By that measure, this emergency surgery that I had to go through earlier this month was shockingly well-timed. I literally was at the crossroads and had decided it was time to scale things way back, when along came a circumstance totally outside of my control that would have sidelined me for months anyway. I’m taking it as confirmation that the decision to hit the reset button was the right one, and this is the opportunity to really take a step back and focus on what matters, knowing that it will completely destroy what conditioning I had built up and being ok with that, and then literally rebuilding my habits and routines from scratch.
(…as if I have a choice with it: Whether or not I made the decision to change my approach to fitness or not, I’d still be sitting on the couch right now thanks to my stone-producing gall bladder)

I am going to achieve this by working at it the same way that I have worked at everything else up until this point. The only way I know how to do this and do it right is to commit 100%. So that means no more races for now. I backed away from pretty much all things running related over the past month, just to give myself a chance to take a breath and get everything worked out in my head. It’s been hard, and there are a lot of people I miss, but I will be back. It’s not forever, but it is the way I know how to make sure things get done for now.

As for races, I’m hoping that I can still do 1 or 2 a year in the short-term, but I will see how things go and if I can get them in: awesome; if time does not allow that right now: that’s ok too, they will still be there when I’m ready to come back to them.

That also means I am going to close up shop and stop the regular posting on this blog as well.

Like I said, major changes for me, but it’s the right call and the end more than justifies the means. I’m not going to take the blog down, because I feel like the chronicle of my story can still do some good for others out there, but as for new postings this will be my final one. I’ll be continuing on in my efforts, but the public aspect ends here. The next steps are for my family, and for me. And meant to be shared with them and them alone.

Back in January when I had to step back from the running coach responsibility it was kind of bittersweet for me. I knew it was the right call, but I was still pretty bummed about it. I’ll be honest though, this time around: I will definitely miss the training and racing, and I know it’s going to be a huge adjustment for me but I’m actually really excited about it. I’m really looking forward to turning all of my focus and energy on just being “daddy” and even more importantly, instilling the same values and love of running/active lifestyle that I have developed over the past few years in my kids. I don’t want them to ever have to go through the same struggle that I went through. The best way to make that happen in my mind is to prevent them from getting that big in the first place. The logic is simple, if they don’t have an unnecessary 130 extra pounds packed on in the first place, then they will never have to fight that hard to lose it. And even with all the personal successes I’ve experienced over the past few years, THAT will be my crowning achievement.

So it looks like this is it.

I would be remiss if I did not give out a resounding thank you to everybody reading this. I can say without exaggeration that this blog has truly changed my life. It has shown me that there are people out there, complete strangers, who are willing to support you in no matter how great of an endeavor you are looking to take on, so long as you are honest and willing to give it your best effort to rise to the challenge.

This blog has created new friends, reconnected me with old ones after we’ve drifted apart, and put me in a position to help other people who are in the same position I was in make some changes for themselves and accomplish some pretty amazing things. The blog has grown to a level and reached a volume of people that I never could have anticipated in a million years. I will always be grateful for the accountability, support, love, and camaraderie that has come as a direct result of Running My Ass Off.

So thanks again. It has been an honor and privilege to bring you along with me, every step of the way.

And lastly: I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my wife Jenn who has supported me every step of the way. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: none of this happens without your love and support. It’s that kind of relationship that made me want to be a better man for you in the first place and what drives me every day. And to my Tessa and AJ: you were also the catalyst for this change to begin with, and now I get to be the dad and role model I want to be for you. I can’t wait for every single day with you; I’m not taking one of them for granted.

So, for the final time: thanks again, and take it easy.

Andy

Puma Faas 3.0 v3 Review

Runners by nature tend to be creatures of habit and fiercely loyal: I am prime example #1 of this. So when I was approached by the folks at Puma asking if I was interested in trying and reviewing a pair of their new Faas 300 v3 shoes, it took them 2 tries for me to say yes.

I’ve made no secret that I am a devout Hoka One One runner through and through, but the simple fact remains that the Hokas are massively padded and with that comes a lot of extra size, enough to make them feel clunky on the treadmill. When you add a clunky shoe to an already clumsy and accident-prone person to begin with, it’s a recipe for disaster.

Thus I have a void to fill in my shoe rotation, that of “treadmill shoe”. I am particularly open to this topic and have tried several options. What I am looking for is a shoe that has a decent level of support and cushioning still, but it does not need to be nearly as much as the massive Hokas, because let’s face it, the impact of the treadmill is not even comparable to the impact of the asphalt. This opens a lot more doors for me to try a lot of other, more varied and nimble options.

In a great stroke of luck, the folks at Puma have approached me and asked if I would be willing to wear and review a pair of their new Faas 300 v3 running shoes for you. I am open to trying a new option for the treadmill so away I go again with a new alternative.

Right off the bat, these shoes are really cool looking. They look like Pumas. The familiar sweeping logo is on the outside of each shoe, and then the inside has an inlaid rubber “puma/cat logo” near the heel. Nothing crazy of overly flashy, just classic and cool. The blue and orange color scheme on the pair they provided to me is my go-to combo anyway, so they instantly matched 90% of running gear immediately. Not a running related remark but it was an instant check in the plus column for them right off the bat. In a more functional observation: these things are really comfortable. The upper is of the “no sew” variety, so the inside is totally smooth with no seams to rub or chafe your feet. Everything on the outside of the shoe is welded on by overlay, (not stitched) which I would also imagine cuts down on the weight of things. I’ll be honest, as a relatively new runner (only been in the game for a few years) and as someone who regularly runs all of his outdoor runs in shoes resembling minivans, I am less observant of the weight of shoes when it comes down to identifying which is heavier/ lighter by a matter of ounces. But in terms of what I can really attest to, the smooth interior and overall this Puma is damn comfy. The midsole and outsole are comprised of proprietary Puma foam and rubber, and both have held up well. The shoe does provide a little stiffer/ more responsive feel than I am used to.

After wearing these on the treadmill, on a few short runs around my neighborhood, and on the local high school track, I am inclined to use them as a backup for the treadmill and will most likely never let them hit the roads again with the intent of running with purpose. The place where I can see them being added into the rotation however, is on the track when I go to incorporate speed work into my training again. They felt most comfortable and responsive once they hit the track, and with the training plans I have been researching for my future I can see the importance of speed work and in turn, these as my track-specific trainers. They feature an 8mm heel drop, a less cushioned/ more responsive feel, and lend themselves to being a really solid track work option.

I’ll be honest, with as reasonably priced as these shoes are (retail for approx. $90), coupled with the fact I am not looking to get into a hardcore training plan again anytime soon, I am really thinking that I am going to start wearing these shoes all the time and when it comes time to get down to business and attack the speed work for real, go out and buy a new pair just for that purpose. I like them too much right now and they are just too comfy for me to just let them sit in the closet till then.

So as always, I try to bring it back to the readers of this blog: by and large I am talking to newer runners and those who have some weight to lose and are looking to do it through getting more active: would I recommend this shoe? It all depends on your personal preferences. I can say that (in gross generalizations), most newer and overweight runners tend to have a less than perfect running form, heel striking, over pronation, and similar running styles are common- myself included. For these reasons, I found myself benefiting from a more heavily cushioned shoe with a lower heel drop. But like I said, everyone is different and what works for me you might hate, and vice versa. Alternatively, if you are like me and looking to add a lightweight, solid trainer to your rotation of shoes for things like speed work or even tempo runs, these might be a great option to check out.
As always, thanks for reading and I hope this helps. ​

20140603-222130-80490855.jpg

20140603-222133-80493685.jpg

20140603-222131-80491838.jpg

20140603-222132-80492734.jpg

currexSole RunPro Insole Review

Of all the running gear out there, not much has seemed so mysterious and off limits to me. I’ve always been able to conduct a little research and determine: what the gear is, what the benefits of said gear are, and who the “major players” in the marketplace are for that specific area. This is the case, however with Running Shoe Insoles. The topic of insoles (or shoe inserts) has always been a total mystery to me. The basic reason for them is clear, to provide additional cushioning, a more customized fit, and to compensate for any foot issues you may have going on (like high or low arches, etc.). I know there are the generic insoles you see at the drug store, more high-end ones, and then doctor prescribed total custom jobs. But to be honest, that’s where my knowledge of them stopped. I guess I always figured that the real benefits that I’m looking for will be coming from the shoes themselves, the insoles would only “tweak” or “fine tune” it…

Well, I was wrong.

I have been provided a pair of CurrexSole Running insoles to use and review for you, and while admittedly this is my first venture into the world of aftermarket insoles all I can really say is: Wow, what a difference.

Ok, so this review will follow my same basic format: Who the company is, how the experience has been for me, and then any additional thoughts & opinions about how this all may apply to the readers of this blog to round things up.

To start things off, who exactly is currexSole? Per my marketing contact (and the most educated and well spoken resource I know on the topic):

currexSole is the most awarded insole brand in Europe, and their running specific RUNPRO features a dynamic and individual specific fit that is right in line with current footwear science and technology (zero mm drop so it won’t interfere with shoe construction and the insoles move with your feet vs restricting them). 

With a fitting system based on foot type, body weight and leg/knee angles currexSole ensures that athletes get a proper fit for their body. Please note these aren’t designed to be like orthotics, but simply replace the cheap and ineffective liner already in your shoes with something actually fitted for your feet and biomechanics.”

…ok, you have my attention. That pedigree of company and description is more than enough to not only convince me that this is a reputable company, but one that make a product that will actually have the potential to really have an effect on me and my running. These are two of the big criteria that I use while deciding which products I will review and which I will pass on. Consider my interest officially confirmed and everything seems like it will be a great fit with me and my readers.  Now moving on to how they actually stack up…

The experience for me has to start with the ordering process, especially since the whole concept of insoles was so mystifying to me I had quite a bit of apprehension as to making sure I get the right ones and a lot of fear that if I ordered the wrong ones I’d somehow screw up my feet and end up injuring myself. Luckily, while the company does have 3 different variations of the running insoles, they also have a very easy to follow test to determine which is the proper insole for you, this all deals with some basic questions and then you need to reference your foot’s arch height, but if you’ve never had to really be concerned about it before, how are you supposed to know off the top of your head how tall or low your arches are, and if they are enough to qualify you as “high arched, low arched”, etc. like I said, I like dummy proof tests are key here, and this one was. Stepping in a pan of water to wet the bottom of your foot, stepping on a piece of newspaper and then comparing the imprint to pictures provided on the test form is as foolproof as it gets…just my speed.

So I determined which was the best fit for me and ordered them up. When they arrive they are huge, with the intent of being cut to size so they fit your specific shoes perfectly. All you do is take the current insole out of your shoe, line it up against the new CurrexSole, break out the scissors and get to cutting. The entire process was surprisingly easy.

Ok, so I got the right insoles and now have them in my shoes. Time to put them on. First impressions? Holy crap these things are comfortable. The difference in the fit and feel of the shoes is immediately noticeable, and it’s night and day. The shoes I put them in are my Hokas, which are far and away the workhorses of all my running shoes. They are the shoes I wear when running long miles (anything over a 10K is “long miles” for me) and the shoes I wear for all my outdoor running. Also, being Hokas they are also super-cushioned to begin with. A feature I was drawn to as a means to reduce impact while running on my arthritis-riddled knee. Surprisingly enough, with all the cushioning built into the shoe itself, the included insole that comes with the shoes is a simple piece of foam that literally does nothing. With the addition of these CurrexSole insoles, I’m pretty sure that I have the most comfortable shoes ever made.

The fit provides such a dramatic difference. The insole itself has a lot of structure going on, there is support  in the arch area, there are specialized cushioned areas under the heel and ball of the feet, and then the heel has been formed into a cupped shape to let your foot sit down into it and really fit like a glove, and let me tell you, it works. It also bears mentioning that they managed to cram all this technology and features into this insole while keeping it “zero drop”, which is to say that the entire insole is the same thickness all the way through- the heel is not taller than the toes which is important to some runners. Many runners out there, particularly those who prefer a more minimalist running shoe and midfoot strike running style try very hard to run in shoes that do not have a huge differential between the height of your heel and toes from the ground (so as to mimic running barefoot) so for them, the closer to zero drop the better.

imgres

As for the actual running, things have been really good. The main purpose of these insoles is to reduce impact and assist in injury prevention. The impact reduction is evident, you can really notice a difference when you are out on the run. As a matter of fact, once they hit my shoes, they have never left. These insoles got me through the beefy double digit training runs and my most recent 10-miler race earlier this month.  I’m a big fan of products that help me become more efficient / take the effort I put out and get more from it / keep me injury free: and by measurable accounts these insoles now fit squarely into that category. As for the injury prevention part of it, well, I  did not get injured and while my experience with the insoles has been limited to just over a month at this point, time will tell on that one. I can say that it makes sense to me that no one thing will keep you injury free, but these look to be a nice piece to the puzzle to help with that injury free goal. (along with proper shoes, cross training, recovery days, following a realistic training plan, etc.)

Ok, personal impressions: I love these things. I am actually planning on ordering a second pair to put into my treadmill shoes (New Balance Fresh Foam). I don’t even see myself testing out the other competitors on the market, these are really that great feeling to me. If pressed to find a negative, I would have to fall back to what seems to be a common theme that spans across a lot of this type of running gear- this is a very specialized item, and it is priced as such. These CurrexSole RunPro insoles retail for approx. $50. I even searched around on the alternative marketplaces like amazon, running warehouse, roadrunner sports and the like and the pricing is consistent across the board. So they aren’t break the bank/ deal killer expensive, but $50 still is not chump change or “impulse buy” territory for me.

To bring it back to the readers of this blog, who by most accounts are runners who are relatively new to the sport, people looking to lose weight and do it in part by getting more active (or both), what does all this really mean? I can say when you are first starting out, do you need these insoles to really get your feet moving and begin the process? No, Absolutely not. But I can also say that once you get into things, figure out what shoes are the best for you and you are looking for easy ways to upgrade, improve your experience, this is something I will readily recommend going forward that provides a lot of bang for your buck.  While not a “need to have” item, they are definitely a “very nice to have” one. If you are looking for a way to add a little more cush and fit to your current shoes, it might just be worth your while to take a look at these and see if they work as well for you as they do for me.

OK, thanks again for reading, and as always, I hope this helps.

______________________________________________________

I am approaching this review from my standard viewpoint of what I believe the core interest of this blog really gets at: that is to say I am presenting my review by looking at this product from the perspective of a person who is relatively new to the running world, has some weight to lose and wants go about losing the weight by starting to incorporate a more active lifestyle and want to know how sift through the volumes of available gear/ equipment out there.

One of the great benefits to running a blog like this one is that it puts me in a position from time to time to receive various products to use and review for you. Oftentimes, these items are provided to me free of charge. This is the only type of compensation I have ever received, and my acceptance of these items in no way constitutes any obligation to provide an unwarranted positive review. My opinions on the products are unfiltered and 100% my own.

**This product was provided to me free of charge, but again, this does not influence my review or views on the product in any way**

Also please note that these are the personal opinions and experiences of one individual (me) on my personal blog, and intended to be taken as such. I personally, and The Running My Ass Off Blog do not accept any liability from the purchase or use of any products reviewed on this blog.

**Sorry, just have to cover my ass here. These are unbiased reviews, intended only to help. I’m not going to try and sell you anything, nor do I want you to take my opinions as the final word on any product. Let me help you figure out what you should check out, and then check the stuff out for yourself to see if you like it.**