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.


11 responses to “Final Post / The End of Running My Ass Off

  1. I totally get it Andy. This year has really been a dial back year for me too. I have enjoyed all the quality time with my family 🙂 Congrats on all your successes! Keep in touch and keep smiling

  2. Andy, thanks for sharing your story with us over the years. You are an inspiration to many. Good luck to you in your future endeavors.

  3. Ahhh Andy, you already know what I think and I am with you all the way. I just needed to comment because at the end of the year, when you do your stats, it usually says, ” Most comments by me”. LOL! Love ya man!

  4. Tammie Gillespie

    This is totally awesome…you are a hero to all of us, and a true man in every since of the word!! Stay healthy…and love that family!!!

  5. I totally get it to. All things in moderation and balance! Training plans have a way of putting a dose of reality right under your nose, not to mention emergency surgery. Things happen for a reason. Things will work if you let them. Best wishes

  6. Totally totally understand. Take care and thank you for sharing your journey with us!

  7. Connie Ciampanelli

    Andy, I think you are a man to be admired on countless levels. Because of your blog and you f/b posts, your readers readily see that you have your priorities right. There is no questions about that.
    You will find the balance because you recognize the need for it. It all takes a lot of time, of sifting through the details, of realizing when and how to make changes, all at which you excel.
    As I read through, I thought to myself, “Oh! I hope he does not take down this site!” Yes, your journey will continue to be a source of inspiration and of hope to so many others who are on a journey similar to yours. Thank you for that.
    It is SO easy to get sucked into obsession, keep adding challenges, pushing, pushing, sometimes too hard. Stopping to reassess, making those changes are good, are necessary.
    Like you, once I reach the goals I set for myself this season, or indeed if any of them remain from without my grasp, I plan to keep on running, but without training plans, without lofty goals, without time constraints. Just run for the love of it and the good it does me, two or three times a week, for shorter distances.
    You have touched so many lives, Andy, through your efforts and your words. You will never know how many. Your warmth and love and humor shine through every posted you’ve written. What a great service you have rendered.
    I hope one day to shake your hand, perhaps run a 5K with you, and Nicole and Diane. And I still owe you a book.

    Warm Regards,

  8. Andy, I want you to know you have been a role model to me. I mean that in the most sincere way. I’ve looked up to you since I came across your blog a year ago. It’s been a pleasure following your journey and the example you’ve set for all of us with the same goals. Thank you for sharing your life with us. My deepest respects to you, best of luck in everything you do and take it easy Sir.

  9. I’ll miss following your story, but I give you huge KUDOS for putting your family and yourself first. Best of luck in your future, and enjoy running just to run!

  10. Andy, good luck in the future. We have followed a similar path. I lost 52 pounds in the last year by getting back to running. But, you are right that you have to find that balance. It is great you are putting your family first where it should be, so many people don’t get that and kids grow up too fast. Take care

  11. ramblingsofaculturefreak

    You are such an inspiration! Im glad you are not closing or taking down the blog. You inspired me on my weight loss and I havent stopped running since january. Best of luck! and kepp on running!

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