The Shrinking Man (Part 2)
Editor’s Note: This is Part 2 in a 2 part series. You can read Part 1 here.
I’m sure you expected to read about Vibram Five Fingers in this article, I’m getting to that. I promise. I have to tell the whole story.
I walked into the Saginaw Muscle Factory almost a year ago today. I was met by the owner Tim Whalen. I was planning to join no matter what but I asked Tim to show me around anyway. What I discovered was a whole new world of fitness. A painful, humbling, challenging, and extremely rewarding world if I do say so.
As I said in Part 1, I have lifted weights my entire adult life. Tim asked if I could do pushups, of course I can do pushups. So Tim told me to try some pushups on the suspension trainer (similar to trx). I did one, just one damn pushup. The next assessment was to see how long I could do a rope wave for, the answer, not very long. I may have been able to do it for thirty seconds. I was sold. The next day I joined the Muscle Factory, they offer a free week to try it out and see if you like it, I didn’t need it, I signed up and proceeded to begin the process of transforming my body and my mind.
In my first month I lost three inches of fat from my belly and my physical performance improved dramatically. I went from doing forty-two pushups in a minute to over fifty. I was introduced to new exercises that I had never even heard of. The frog squat, the burpee, the lunger, and something else that I would learn to love, the kettle bell.
One of the amazing aspects of this type of training is that it elevates your heart and keeps your metabolism burning for hours after you are done. There is no need to spend time on the treadmill because you are getting your cardio in while you do the exercises.
The staff at the Muscle Factory also gave me priceless advice on nutrition and eating. As I said earlier, I eat. Unfortunately, I don’t have the luxury of hiring a personal chef or eating special expensive diet plans. What I did was to just be sensible. No more eating McDonalds or an entire bag of cookies in one sitting. I still eat that stuff, don’t get me wrong, but I do it in moderation. So many people are stuck on the idea that you have to eat chicken and broccoli every day for the rest of your life. You don’t. You just have to be smart. The key to weight loss for me is to burn more calories than I take in. I do that and I lose weight. I began to see that food was something that was to be used as fuel, not as fun.
Once spring finally came I decided I was ready to run again. I went to my normal running trail and expected to run a couple minutes and then die, like I normally did. I ran for six minutes and stopped, not because it hurt, but because I was surprised at how far I had made it and how good I felt. Anyone who has ever run in the spring in Michigan knows that its a dangerous thing! I spent more time dodging ice and jumping over snow than I did running. So I kept at it and kept going a couple times a week until the weather finally broke.
For Christmas a dear friend of mine had gotten me a subscription to “Runners World”. I read every single page of every issue. I got so much from those magazines: inspiration, knowledge, nutrition, and recovery advice. By June I had worked my way up to running two or three miles at a time. One day I decided I was going to run six miles. I don’t know why six, it just sounded like a good number. So I measured six miles according to my phones GPS and got busy. I did it, or I thought I did. I would later learn that it was only four miles but hey, who’s counting! I could run.
The August issue of “Runners World” would turn out to be something that would change my life. It said that if you have been running two or three miles a couple times a week, you could run a half marathon. The friend that got me the subscription to the magazine ran half marathons and had always told me I could do one! I would tell her she was crazy and shrug it off. By this time I had lost about 50 pounds so I began to think “maybe I could actually do one”. So I studied the training plan in the magazine and decided I was going to do it.
I picked a race in Lansing later on in September and got busy. To my surprise the training wasn’t all that hard and the miles gradually began to add up. My sister came to visit in July and of course we had to run. I kicked her ass. My long run that week was six miles (actually six, not four) so I ran and she rode a bike… with my water. That day I ran six miles in a minute faster than I had ran five miles the week before. I was pumped. Then on my 33rd birthday I pulled my hamstring…bad.
To be completely honest, I was almost relieved that I pulled my hamstring. The old fat guy in me was telling me to quit, like I always did when things got tough. I had to take some time off or it would never heal. Here was my excuse. But, over time I had changed on the inside without even knowing it. I wasn’t going to listen to that old fat guy and quit. I was going to finish this. I was going to run every single step or die trying. I changed up the training a little and instead of running my two short weekly runs at race pace, I just ran them. Slow and deliberate. I didn’t want to chance pulling my hamstring again. I was only competing against myself so there was no need to worry about speed. All I wanted to do was finish.
Race day came and in the back of my mind I still wanted to find a way out. I was hoping maybe the truck will break down, or I’ll oversleep. Millions of things were running through my mind but I showed up. I was always told “showing up was half the battle”. Well I was ready. Most people don’t pick a half marathon to be their first organized race, but I did. I had never seen so many “runners” in my life. I got my bib and my t-shirt and I headed for the starting line.
What I would experience over the next 2 hours and 35 minutes would change me forever. I remember running past store fronts and looking at the reflection in the window and thinking “all these runners and here I am looking like a defensive tackle”. No short shorts for me, no hydration belts, no cool running sunglasses. Just a pair of basketball shorts and an under armour t-shirt. I decided to line up with the eleven minute mile group. I was right on pace through mile seven and then the gorilla jumped on my back. I was being passed by old ladies, moms pushing strollers, and I think, even a race walker, but I kept going.
Mile nine, mile ten, my longest training run was eight miles due to my pulled hamstring so every step was a new record for me. Slowly but surely I kept going. My goal was to run every step and I was going to make it. Then the cramps set in. My calves and hamstrings were shot. I decided to step off the path and try to stretch, bad move, it hurt more to stretch that it did to actually keep going. So I kept at it. The mile eleven marker must have fallen down or someone moved it because miles ten to eleven felt like the longest mile in the history of man. Finally, mile twelve, I kept going. As we came down the stretch to the finish I prayed ‘Please God, don’t let me catch a cramp now and fall down in front of all these people”! I didn’t and I finished. Where’s my damn medal? The medal would prove to the world, but more importantly to me, that I was a runner. I finished.
I hobbled back to my truck and called my mom. My mom has always been my biggest fan, as all moms should be. She kept telling me I could do it, that I could finish. I didn’t want to let her down. I could barely talk because I was so tired and I was choking back tears but I told her “I did it. I ran every damn step”. This is the first goal I had set and met since making the eighth grade basketball team.
Now finally this is where FiveFingers come into my story. I was hooked on running and I knew I had to get stronger. 300 pounds is a lot of weight to carry for 13.1 miles. What better time to get stronger than in the winter when you can’t run outside. I purchased the KomodoSport and, after finally learning how to put them on in less than twenty minutes, fell in love with them.My friends think I’m crazy for wearing them. I call them my “creeper” shoes. I wear them every chance I get. The Muscle Factory has a Woodway Curve treadmill and that thing is the devil. I usually run intervals in my Komodos three or four times a week on them. My legs feel better than they ever have. My feet used to bother me after long runs, especially my toes. The Vibrams just make sense, they allow your feet to act naturally, like they would if you were barefoot. I don’t only wear them when I run, I wear them for kettle bell workouts, weight lifting, and any other chance I get. Squatting in them is my favorite exercise. You get so much feedback from your feet. Often times I feel my feet correcting themselves without me telling them to. It’s quite a feeling to actually feel your toes working. I’ve had mine for two months now and can see a huge difference in my calves and feet. They look so much more defined and leaner than they did before. I can’t wait for spring when I can run outside again.
When I set out to write this I just wanted to tell my story. I want people to see that you don’t have to join an expensive gym, hire a personal trainer, or eat these overpriced boxed meals that are going to help you slim down. You just have to be smart. You have to be sensible. You have to work at it. It takes work, lots of hard work. Most people want instant gratification. You can’t get instant gratification when it comes to losing weight. You didn’t get fat over night. You definitely won’t get healthy overnight. Notice I said “healthy”. Your fitness goal should not be “skinny”, it should be “healthy”. Any trainer or gym that preaches “skinny” isn’t worth your time and they’re certainly not worth your money.
One thing I’ve learned from the Muscle Factory is to throw your scale out. There are no scales at the muscle factory. Use a measuring tape to determine your progress. I weigh between 290 and 300 on any given day, depending on what I ate for breakfast. A doctor would tell me I need to lose weight. Do I? Sure I do. I don’t need to lose weight as much as I need to lose fat. That should be your goal, to lose fat. As you can see in my picture I’ve come a long way but I’m not done yet. Life is so much better these days. Life is just easier when you’re healthy. I went from 380 pounds to being able to run a half marathon, so anything is possible.
That’s the end of my story up to this point… I hope you’ve enjoyed it, I’ve definitely enjoyed sharing it with you.