I have always been a chubby person. In 2016 I started watching ‘Biggest Loser’ and I saw everyone weighing in for the first time and asked the person I was with if I looked that big and out of shape? I was told no. I then asked how I didn’t when I weighed 20-30lbs more than some of them and I was told I carry it better. It was at that moment I knew something needed to change. I was 360 lbs wearing a 4x almost 5x shirt, and 52” pants. I couldn’t walk up a flight of stairs without getting winded. Something needed to change or I would die an early death. Could I go from 360 lbs to athlete was a question I asked myself, often.
From Couch to Elliptical: The Beginnings
As a big guy I was shy. I didn’t know what to do in the gym. I was afraid of being laughed at for being so big and thinking I could make changes as well as lose weight. With this thinking, I bought myself an elliptical. I started with 10 minutes at a time and then built up over the next 3 weeks to an hour every day. While I didn’t really know what I was doing I just knew if I moved something would happen. I cut calories and changed my eating habits and it got down to 340 lbs around March.
Joining a 5k Race and Embracing Fear
It was at this moment that I wanted to go to the next step so I signed up for a gym membership and I posted on Facebook asking if anyone knew of a 5k that they would want to sign up for with me. My life long best friend messaged me and said she knew of one. It was the Boilermaker in Utica NY. So foolishly I signed up for it and the next day started at the gym.
I went into the gym and got on the elliptical. Did my workout then spent time on the treadmill. Over the next few weeks the elliptical time decreased and treadmill time increased to a point where it was all treadmill.
Now starting on the treadmill I was using the Galloway Method which consisted of 0.1 miles of running followed by 0.2 miles of walking. As summer came I moved this to outside running. I went from one lamp post to the next then walking the next two. As time passed I slowly just increased the run distances. I also decided that I needed something else to mix it up a bit so I went to my local bike shop and bought a mountain bike. My training became biking every other day and running every other day I wasn’t riding.
Overcoming Self-Doubt and Crossing the Finish Line
Finally it was race weekend and I was scared. What happens if people laugh at me? Was I gonna be the biggest guy there? What happens if people tell me I don’t belong there cause I’m too big? All of these negative self-talk thoughts filled my head. My friend told me to relax and enjoy the race. She would see me at the finish line.
The horn went off and the race started. There had to be 5000-10000 people there, it was crazy. It took what felt like forever to just get from where we lined up to the timing start line.
Mile 1 was uphill and mile 2 was downhill. The last 1.1 was flat to rolling. I finished the 5k in about 49-ish minutes. I felt like I was on top of the world. It was amazing. Hearing my name as I crossed the line. At this point I was unknowingly hooked and maybe I could go from 360 lbs to athlete.
Exploring the World of Triathlons
The way home I started thinking about what was next? I had set the goal of a race and completed it so now what? Did I have a bike? Yes. How about running shoes? Check. I can kinda swim so what would it be like to do all three in the same day?
I started to look at what exactly was involved in triathlons. Were there any I could do that were short and where the swim wasn’t very long. I knew I didn’t have the endurance for that. So I found a Try-aTri. A 200m swim, a 10k bike, and a 3k run. I mean I can do that right?
Discovering Swimming and Getting Coached
Well during the training I never ran right after biking. I didn’t know what it would feel like. That was a surprise. When it comes to swimming I didn’t realize how far away 200m was. How different is playing around in the pool and really swimming?. I could do the side stroke pretty strong but the crawl stroke totally different story.
So over the next month and a half I trained and I worked at it and again plodded along and just kinda figured it out. I had hired a coach to help me get ready a bit for it.
I was told to get tri shorts as it would be more comfortable racing and I went and looked at them and ya chubby guys in tri shorts was a whole new level of discomfort and self consciousness. My coach told me no one was gonna care and get comfortable being uncomfortable. That is some great advice in triathlon: get comfortable being uncomfortable.
Facing Challenges and Preparing for Race Day
Race day came and again I had all of these self conscious thoughts in my head about what happens if I’m told I’m too fat, too slow, I don’t belong here.
When I got to the race I watched the olympic distance athletes go out, then the sprint distance athletes. Now, it was my turn. I went down by the water and as I was standing there it was almost time for the race to start and the announcer said “athletes please get in the water.” I waited a minute thinking ok they are gonna tell the rest of us to get in in a few. They never did. Finally I asked the announcer when I could get in. They looked at me puzzled and asked if I was racing and I assured them I was and she said “well you’re an athlete then get in there.”
Transformative Moments in Triathlon
I was an athlete. Me, chubby me, an athlete. I had gone from 360 lbs to athlete. I swam that race 200m doing the side stroke, thinking I am an athlete with a huge smile on my face. Out of the swim I ran up the hill and was excited I didn’t drown. Onto the bike I just got going and thinking again with a smile on my face I was an athlete. Finished with the bike, I went back to transition and out on the run. I thought ‘oh shit this hurts.’ Being an athlete hurts your legs. But I am an athlete. Finally coming up the last hill and into the finish line I had done it. I was an athlete.
The Ongoing Benefits of Endurance Sports
I haven’t ever looked back after this. Triathlon saved my life and has kept me motivated to keep moving. I have had my ups and downs with weight during off seasons but I am in much better shape than I was before I started. Mentally triathlon has helped me work through so many things in my life. It is during those long runs that I think things through and disconnect from the world. I often think about how I had gone from 360 lbs to athlete. That keeps me motivated.
I’m not fast, I’m not one to finish on the podium, and I have done a huge variety of endurance events. What I have learned is that we are all adults. No one cares if you’re chubby, if you’re slow, if you have the most expensive equipment, or anything else. For the most part other people on the running course, triathlon course, spectators, and volunteers are all going to cheer you on and keep encouraging you. A mile is a mile regardless of how long it takes you to travel it. You being out there is what makes you an athlete.
Becoming Part of the Base Performance Family
I said my Base Performance tri kit is my favorite piece of equipment. That is because in 2018 I signed up to be an ambassador for my first company. In doing so Matt Miller the owner for Base Performance called me and talked to me about the team. He had done some research on me and knew some of my finish times and welcomed me to the team. Base performance has been a part of my life since 2018 and they are so inclusive of everyone going to races. Having fellow teammates at these races has allowed me to never feel like I don’t belong. I have gone from 360 lbs to an athlete and you can too.