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!

 

I’m Back. I guess this is why “never say never” is a thing.

So here we are again…

I am about to (well, I did yesterday, truthfully) set out on a 90 day challenge with myself.

So over the past year I have been weighing in a lot higher than I would like/ am used to.

Now, it risks sounding pretentious to even say this, coming from someone who has lost 100+ pounds, but I am heavier than I want to be by an amount that makes me look to take action.

At my lowest, I was 195. (Heaviest was 330) When I look back I see that 195 was too thin for me. After years of slowly altering where I was, the weight where I am most comfortable in  (clothes wise, feeling wise, appearance wise, health and strength wise) is in the 205 range. Does not sound like a lot, but those 10 pounds make a difference.

When I weighed myself a few days ago, I was at 224. If those 10 pounds between 195 and 205 make a difference, you bet your ass the 20 between 205 and my current weight make a difference as well. And not a good one.

This just does not work for me. I’m bigger than I want to be, my clothes (that I bought 20+ pounds ago) are agreeing that this is not working. My joints are telling me it, my workouts are telling me it, how I feel overall (while still good, but there is a definite difference) is telling me it. Things need to change, and I’m at the point where I’m making it happen. Now.

So I started yesterday. I am back onto MyFitnessPal hardcore. I’m not going to cheat (which was a big part of the gain). I’m going to get more active and mix it up. I’m upping the running mileage, adding in a biking routine, and will try and also incorporate swimming as well.

90 days, starting yesterday ends on Nov 18th. This is a HUGE day for me. It’s the anniversary of basically everything in my life that is fitness and weight loss related. It was the day I reached my tipping point and decided that I needed to make changes. It’s the day  went for my first run ever. It’s the day I set my Half Marathon PR. It was the day my open letter to my daughter (easily the favorite thing I’ve ever written) was published on the Runner’s World website. Its going to be the day that put myself back to where I want to be. Its aggressive, but I want to be back to 205 on 11/18. 90 days. 3 months 12 weeks. 20 pounds.

I’m going back to the same philosophy that got me here in the first place and led me to success: I’m going to be publicly accountable. I’m just putting it out there and forcing myself to stick to it.

So how the hell did I get into the “your pants don’t quite fit” zone?

Truthfully, it’s not surprising. I got cocky. And lazy. Eating things I know I shouldn’t, at a frequency and volume I also know I shouldn’t.

Me and my goddamned Ben & Jerry’s.

I was just completely Stupid Stupid Stupid.

So I am stopping this now so that 20 up does not turn into 40 up or 80 up.

I think that I also let time get the better of me in terms of memory and remembering exactly how hard it was to lose the weight the first time. A lot of “oh, I know exactly what to do to lose xxxx pounds again. I did it once I can do it again no problem if I ever need to” (Like I told you, I got cocky. I’m not proud of it, but I will be truthful)I did not consider that this was a 5 years ago and an almost 35 year old body reacts differently than an almost 40 year old body does. Time had hazed over how strict I had to be and how closely I had to follow the plan I had laid out for myself. That haze is gone however. It’s going to take hard work to get back, but I can and will do it. While im not exactly thrilled that this happened, I am at least a little grateful, if only because it snapped my ass back into reality and reminded me that this really is a lifelong change that takes a conscious effort, and it also demonstrated just how easy it all could disappear if I let things slide.

It not like I sat on the couch and ate peanut butter cups all year- I had some medical stuff in the beginning of the year with forced me to take the entire month of January off from active workouts. So while I was totally inactive, I was eating heavier amounts than usual/ necessary and I would like to believe that my body was hanging onto the food in a different way as well. So that started me off way behind the starting line. Then as I have gotten more active, I have gotten lax in my usual strict eating routines. It’s always been a conscious decision, aware of the moment but not looking past that to the overall picture. Only when a sizeable chunk of weight was added did I stop and realize that all the little drops in the bucket ended up filling the damn bucket all the way up to the “I’m no longer ok with this” line.

It’s not all bad news doom and gloom: I have maintained a healthy 50 mile per month average from feb through now, which is higher than I have ever been used to totaling before. And I’ve felt good. Been holding down respectable paces (for me at least) and running pretty strong. I think it’s time to throw some curveballs at my body and force it to adapt again, while eating a strict diet again.

I hate having to re-lose weight that I’ve already lost once. It’s the principle of the matter. It was hard enough the first time.

But it’s time to do just that- lose the weight. Again.

Here we go.

 

Thanks for reading this and take it easy.

-Andy

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. ​

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