An Anniversary

On April 18, 2016, one year ago today, I attended my first Couch-to-Crossfit class – and it began.  Three weeks later, on May 9, I walked into my first regular Crossfit class.  6am, Monday morning, Celebration Crossfit.  I didn’t know anybody.  I couldn’t do most of the movements.  I weighed about 315 pounds – I was enormous.  And I was scared to death.

Holy shit, was I scared to death.

That first day of regular class, I walked into a gym full of people that could actually do all of these things I simply could not physically do.  I was excited and ashamed and scared and nervous and embarrassed and a whole list of emotions all at once.  My shirts were too big because I couldn’t risk my belly hanging out.  I was wearing big thick running shoes.  I had no idea what I was doing – and I knew it.   And in some communities, when a newbie walks in like that they had better be ready to run the gauntlet.  The veterans make them earn it, every step of the way.  I was prepared to have to deal with being laughed at or getting the side-eye or feeling inadequate.  When you’re a fat guy trying to do something physical you have to approach it with a big dose of humility.

Very few pictures of me around that time – this was taken about two weeks prior to my first 6am class.  Probably around 315 – 320 here.

But that’s not what happened. Instead, I was welcomed in like I had been there forever.   I thought I would dislike the social aspect of Crossfit, that I would have to push through that discomfort indefinitely if I wanted the results.  I have come to like the social aspect the most – these people help me be a better me.  The 6am crew at Celebration Crossfit has become an integral support group.  They cheer me on when I succeed, and they encourage me when I am struggling. They help make it more fun.  They’ve taught me that I can push harder and go farther when I work with other people.  They (you, if you’re reading this) make it easier for me and help me on my path and never ask for anything other than that I keep working hard – and for that, I am eternally grateful.

The coaches, too, were a surprise for me.  I played basketball in high school, and our coaches were tough and aloof and gave the sense that they had a lot of things to be worrying about OTHER than me.  But regularly in class, and especially during the Open, I get the sense that Erik, JC, and Kaycie genuinely care about how I’m doing – care in a way that nobody else does except me.  They are invested in my success in all facets – as gym owners, yes, but also as human beings that personally want me to be a better me.  They are legitimately proud of the work I’ve done, in a way I could never have expected.

One of my favorite pictures from the Open is not the most technically sound or flattering shot.  It is a picture of me at the bottom of an overhead squat in 17.3 with JC sitting right in front of me, talking me through it.  He was there like that in every Open WOD – he and Erik cheered when I sped up to finish 17.1, and he was sitting right next to me during the row on 17.4.  Everybody else was encouraging and yelling – he was calmly talking me through the whole thing.  And Erik and Kaycie were the first two over to congratulate me after 17.4 – they were as happy as I was about my performance in that workout.  I work harder because I want to make them proud of me.  One year ago today I would have rolled my eyes if I had read that sentence from somebody else, and here I am writing it.  But it is true.  I didn’t expect to find a special thing, but I found it.

Coach. Coaching.

In the last year, I’ve accomplished more physically than I ever thought possible in this amount of time.  I can lift heavier weights, run longer distances – and run them faster – and generally move through the world in ways that were previously beyond me.  I have not missed a Monday since that one a year ago – a few times I’ve had to run because I was traveling, but I have not missed a Monday.  I have lost over 60 pounds out of the 100 that I plan to lose.  I look better than I have in maybe ever, and I feel like a million dollars.

Like one million damn dollars.

I freaking love deadlifts … and bacon

When I got the email from Erik about my membership renewal, I didn’t blink – I’d pay it at twice the cost (though they shouldn’t get any ideas).  I have a lot of goals still.  I have to get to work on that last 40 or so pounds.  And at next year’s open I’m going to have to be able to do pullups, double unders, and handstand pushups if my Rx scores are going to be meaningful.  I have drunk the Kool-aid on Crossfit, in a big way.

There have been many steps since that first one, 6am, Monday morning, just over one year ago. There will be many more, but I can say without reservation that that first one was the hardest one.  Maybe one of the hardest steps I’ve ever taken in my whole life.

In a Facebook post a few weeks ago Kaycie said that they were with me every step of the way.

So I guess I need to keep stepping.

See you guys at 6am.

Taken about 4 weeks ago. Like one million damn dollars.

So … this happened:

A couple of days ago the owner and head coach at my Crossfit box emailed and asked if they could use my before and now pictures for a post in their social media.  I agreed – I don’t like my fat picture, but, as I told him, if I didn’t want it out there I shouldn’t have put it out there.  I offered to take a current “now” picture, so I did that this morning and sent the pictures over.  The post below is the one they made on Instagram – they also posted this on Facebook.

I never dreamed I’d be the guy getting air time on a Crossfit gym’s social media, but it is happening.  I kind of don’t even know what to think – it feels surreal.  The best part has been the comments, both from my peers at the box as well as complete strangers.  The universal positivity and happy-for-me-ness is very gratifying.  Crossfit is a group effort, and I feel that more now than ever.  It makes a difference knowing all of those people are really rooting for me.

Now this, this is just pure HARD WORK & DEDICATION. @woody_mw1 works HARD! He didn't use magic pills or gimmicks, and he didn't do anything to take the easy road. He took the road that ensures a healthy lifelong habit is formed. That road is not easy. It is HARD! But, nothing good in life comes easy. Matt's journey has included coming to @celebrationcrossfit 5 days a week at 6am over the past year while also eating a nutritionally sound and consistent diet. And, his results show just that! Due to Matt's HARD WORK and DEDICATION he is down 60lbs a few weeks short of his 1 year mark into CrossFit. When Matt first started with us, he couldn't do a single sit up. Now he finishes each workout at the Box with 100 full range of motion Sit Ups. Keep up the great work, Matt! We are here every step of the way! #crossfit #crossfitter #crossfitathlete #weightloss #weightlossjourney #healthy #healthylifestyle #fitlife #fitfam #fitness #functionalfitness #crossfitbox #crossfitopen #crossfitlife #crossfitfamily #crossfitcommunity #crossfitlifestyle #crossfitdad #down60lbs #hardwork #dedication #celebrationfl #celebrationflorida #celebrationcrossfit #kissimmeefl #kissimmeeflorida #disneyworld #disneycrossfit #crossfitneardisney

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More “During” Photos

Holy shit, it has been a month since I posted anything.  Life gets in the way sometimes. You’ll be forgiven for thinking so, but I have not – repeat, have NOT – fallen off the wagon.  Things have slowed down considerably.  I’m going to have to start getting more formal with my food plan.  And I still have a ways to go.  BUT:

1_27-animated

I have lost just under 60 pounds, and I’m now smaller than I’ve been in over 10 years.  For reference:

before-after-front

before-after-side

Pictures are funny things.  There is some definition in my shoulders and arms (and even maybe just a little (a little – little) in my chest, squee!) that doesn’t really show up here.  And I still think the pictures today make me look like an enormous fat guy, though compared to those original ones, holy moly.

I can buy clothes in the regular person’s part of the store now.  I just had to buy a new belt – my third since I started this.  I’m running a half marathon on Sunday.  And this morning I squatted 325# for two reps.  We’re getting there – we are absolutely getting there.

Averages

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”  – Jim Rohn

Wednesday morning at the gym (still can’t call it a box), and we had our normal 6am crew.  We show up, we work hard, we go about the rest of our day.  The coach this week is JC, who also does all of the programming, and can be beasty – he’s a great coach, and he pushes hard and expects maximum effort.  So we did the WOD, which this day included lots of power cleans and an interesting front rack carry that was harder than it had any right to be is going to have me sore for days.  We got done about 10 minutes early, so he had us cool down with a bunch of band pull-aparts, and then I started gathering my stuff to go.

At this point, two of the guys get on the floor and start doing situps.  I’m sure the look on my face was interesting – “what fresh hell is this?”  When I asked, they said that they wanted to get in 100 situps, so that’s what they were doing.

Well, hell.  Now I’VE got do situps or I feel like a lazy bum.  So I get down and start doing situps.  And then an extraordinary thing happened.

The whole class started doing situps.  Nobody left.  The 7am class had to start their warmups while dodging us, because we were all doing situps.  We could have left, but we didn’t – there was work still to do.

From now on, when somebody asks me how I’ve been successful at my weight loss and health journey –even if somebody asks me how I’ve been successful in my career or anything else in life – my answer is going to be that I upped my average.  We are the average of the five people we spend the most time with, and my average has gone way, way up since I started Crossfit.  So here’s a question – do the people around you push your average up or bring it down?

Progress Pictures

Finally busted through a little plateau in my weigh-in this morning.  I’ve now lost 53.6 pounds, and I’m three weeks ahead of where my schedule says I need to be.  I’m also now officially smaller than the smallest I got when I was training for the Ragnar & half marathons in 2013 / 2014.  So I’m smaller than I’ve been in 10 years.  The next goal is another 15 pounds and I’ll be smaller than I’ve been in probably 15 – 20 years.  This is 269 pounds.

The progress, it is happening.  Woot!

12_10-animate

For reference:

Initial Pictures – about 320 pounds

 

Flat Lines

For four weeks in a row, I weighed in at exactly the same weight.  No up, no down, just the same, each week.  My graph looked like:

plateau-1

You see that flat line down there at the bottom?  That’s enough for a Grade A freakout if you aren’t prepared.  If you are accustomed to a steady pattern of losing weight at a pace of 1.5 – 2.0 pounds per week.

Food is the culprit, as you might guess.  It isn’t that I’ve gone crazy and started eating whatever I want in all of the quantities I want.  No – I’ve just relaxed a little.  An extra bite here or there adds up, you know.

Also, unlike previous efforts at getting slimmer, the exercising I’m doing has a distinct muscle-building and body-composition-changing element to it.  So, though my weight number got stuck in one spot for a month, my body was still changing and I’m very close to requiring another belt purchase.  I’ll take some pictures soon.

All of this would be difficult to work with if there were no perspective.  If I only had a visual way of seeing how much progress I’ve made, where I am relative to my ultimate goal and my ideal path, and how significant these four weeks are in the grand scheme of things.

Oh, wait.

plateau-2

And notice that little dip at the end?  I focused on food last week and lost 1.5 pounds.

Heads down – lets do this.

Danger, Will Robinson!

Roughly three years ago, I was in the best shape I had been in for years.  I had been consistently running and using Weight Watchers for about 9 months.  I had lost a bit over 50 pounds.  I had just run my first half marathon (the 2013 Rock and Roll Virginia Beach).  And I felt as good as I had in years.  Those were exciting times.  I was a runner!

Celtic Classic 5K - September 2013

Celtic Classic 5K – September 2013

And I was almost exactly the same size I am right now, in 2016.

We know how that turned out, don’t we?  My weight plateaued around the first of October, on the lead-up to Ragnar Tennessee.  I ran that Ragnar and basically fell off of the training wagon.  I gained 10 pounds over the holidays, but did manage to run a 15k in December, another half marathon in March, and my 5k PR in April.  And then it all blew to hell and I started gaining weight, and all but about 5 pounds of what I lost went right back on, just like that.  So, in February of this year I made the pound-a-week commitment, and in April I joined Crossfit and got serious about the commitment – and it has worked well:

Just over five pounds ahead of schedule...

Just over five pounds ahead of schedule…

But I am beginning to feel the challenge of doing well.

What prompted me to get serious about this, now and before, was that it is truly difficult being morbidly obese out in the world.  (Quick parenthetical – this is not whining or an attempt to get anybody to feel sorry for me or any other morbidly obese person.  Nope I did it to myself, and I completely get that, and I own it and have and am owning it.  Doesn’t change how difficult it is.)  Finding clothes to fit was challenging to impossible.  Airplane travel was excruciating, and that was even before it was embarrassing if I couldn’t get the seat belt buckled.  Just moving around could be hard, much less keeping up with my kids.  I wasn’t sleeping well.  My blood pressure was high enough I could feel it, and I probably needed medicine badly.   So many things are not built for obese people – rides at amusement parks, booths at restaurants, kayaks for if I want to take my kids out to experience that, mattresses that wear out in a fraction of the time they are supposed to, etc., etc., etc. … I could go on and on.  These were the things I hated, and these were the things that kicked me in the ass and made me actually do something.  Twice.

And almost all of that goes away for me starting at about the size I am right now.  My blood pressure and other health indicators are fine.  My clothes fit, and I can buy new ones in the regular-people sections of department stores.  I fit in cars and airplane seats.  I sleep like a rock, and I’m not scared of rides when I take my kids to Disney World.  The world is opening up because I physically fit in it better.

We had our National Sales Meeting this week at work, and many of our sales team had not seen me since I began losing all of this weight.  I spent the week fielding compliments and questions about what I was doing and how it was working so well and what was my secret.  So I just also LOOK more normal. I notice it in pictures, too – the person in that picture is a big dude, but not a morbidly obese dude.

And this, this feeling of success, is dangerous as hell.

When I’m comfortable, there is less pressure.  When I’m not constantly put out by my weight, it is easy to not be concerned about my weight.  I can have that piece of bread, or slice of cake, or doughnut, or Dr. Pepper.  I can order the gnocchi instead of the fish at the Italian work dinner because I have earned it, or some such nonsense.  I can be less than diligent because the consequences of being less than diligent are not immediate and actively bad.  For a short period of time, if I want, I can have my cake and eat it, too.  In the past, that has been it all it took to push me back the other way and put the pounds back on.  But this time, I anticipated the problem and did some things differently:

  • I set a big goal. Often you hear the advice to set small, very achievable goals – lose 20 pounds, lose 10% of your body weight, etc.  And that can be good advice if you tend to be overwhelmed by a big project that will take a lot of time.  What those small goals do for me is give me a feeling of having succeeded, which means I can dial back the effort.  So, instead, I set a big goal – 100 whole pounds – and, now that I’ve gone a ways down that path, I’ve started to communicate that goal.  I talked about it in an “about me” presentation to my company leadership last week.  If asked, I told my sales team about it.  I’m making a point to say “thank you, but we’re just getting started” when I am complimented.  This should help keep me on my toes.
  • I took pictures. Lets look at this again:  compareYou can see why I might be a touch self-conscious about ever being seen without a shirt on.  But, by having taken those pictures, I get to do two things.  First, I get to celebrate how much progress has been made.  But also, I get an objective look at how much progress there still is to go. I get real visual reminders that I’m not done yet, and not to act like it.
  • I have made it harder to backslide with tools. I use an alarm clock that doesn’t have a snooze button.  I don’t bring things into the house that I shouldn’t be eating so that I won’t be tempted by them.  I have a strict no-alcohol rule on work trips and dinners – I have nothing against the alcohol itself, but it conspires to convince me to make poor choices with food when I’m drinking it.  I have gotten rid of many of my fat clothes – getting bigger means buying clothes.

Here’s the thing – I am now approaching some semblance of normal for my size and build.  But I’m not even half way to where I need and want to be.  So I can’t relax, even though I want to.  That way a 350 pound man lies, and I’d rather not have to come face-to-face with that guy.

Progress Pictures – about 20 weeks

Hi there!  It has been awhile, and you probably thought I had fallen off the wagon.  That would have been a fair thought – it has happened before.  BUT – nope.  Just got busy.  And yesterday, for the first time in awhile, I took some pictures.

5-months

So, as of Saturday morning I’ve lost 43 pounds, and things have been going well – more on that later this week.  So my first reaction when I looked at the front-facing picture here was disappointment.  I still look like a really fat guy.

But then it hit me – this isn’t the end, this is the middle.  And this is also why we take pictures.  So I went back to the original set I took and:

compare

YIKES I WAS FREAKING ENORMOUS

No, seriously – wow.

So, obviously, you can see that my gut is significantly smaller.  The overhang at the bottom is more pronounced, largely because there is less pressure to hold the whole thing up.  My boobs haven’t changed much – I’m very self-conscious about my boobs – and that little roll under my arm is still there.  You can really see it in my face, and particularly my cheeks.

So … progress is being made.  These pictures both make me feel good about what I’ve done and also let me know that I’m still enormous and have a lot of work to do. Which is what they are designed for.

I deliberately don’t suck anything in on these pictures, though I do a lot of sucking in in my clothes.  And my wife doesn’t like that I don’t smile in these pictures, even though that could make them cheesy as hell.  So, for reference, and until next time:

dsc_0398

 

Goals

They say that setting goals is important, and communicating them is equally important.  In that spirit, lets talk about goals.

Back in February I turned 38, and on that day I weighed 314.8 pounds.  Which is not as heavy as I was back in 2012 when I started this blog, but still much heavier than I was in 2013 when I ran the Ragnar.  Now, I know that a healthy rate of weight loss is about one pound per week.  And I also know that BMI and other models indicate that I’m at least 100 pounds overweight for my height, if not body structure. (FTR, I don’t like BMI, either.).  In two years, I will turn 40.  There are 52 weeks in a year.  I’m 100 pounds overweight.  I want to lose about 1 pound per week.  These numbers seemed to work too well, and led to the following goal:

I will have lost 100 pounds by my 40th birthday, and I will do that by losing, on average, 1 pound per week beginning on my 38th birthday.  I will establish benchmark weights for each week along the way, and I will weigh myself weekly and track against those benchmarks.

The goal-setting model I have learned in my business career is called the SMART model … goals should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely.  That obviously informed the articulation of the above goal, and I think I hit everything.  The goal is:

Specific – I articulate numbers and timelines and even expected rates of loss

Measurable – We’re weighing ourselves here, so that’s easy – and I have a benchmark to track against.

Achievable – After having lost the weight I did in 2013, I’m convinced that this is very possible.  Even after it has been achieved, BMI will consider me overweight, if not obese. Physically, if I want it I can get there, no question.

Realistic – Different animal.  I do think this is realistic, but will require a big change in how I do things.  I have not missed a weekday workout since mid-May, so that habit is coming along.  And I’m doing well with food, though that will be my downfall if I have one.  I can change how I eat, and in that sense, it is realistic.  What I worry about more is how realistic it is that I will keep this weight off once I lose it.  That’s a topic for another time.

Timely – Specific start and end dates, with specific check-in dates.  Time isn’t an issue.

So … that’s the goal.  It is a big one, and I guess I’m nervous having it out there.  I started off with a bang and immediately gained weight after my birthday.  From that 314.8 in February, I got as high as 322.6 in late March.  That’s when I made the decision to start Crossfit, and so far, that has really turned things around.  The exercise itself of course is very good, but mostly it has helped me focus on my food consumption.  No formal tracking process this time – I’m just working hard to make good choices.  So far, so good.

As of this week, I’m 1.2 pounds (so just over a week) behind schedule.  In order to be back on schedule I need to lose 2.2 pounds this week – but I’ll take anything over 1 pound just to make progress.  I’ve lost, on average, 1.9 pounds per week for the last 12 weeks, and until I get caught up anything over 1 is a successful week.  Once I get caught up, I’m as happy as I can be with 1 pound a week.

Pound a Week