In my late twenties, my doctor told me that I was borderline hypertension and that I should start exercising. “How is that possible? I work out like three days a week pumping weights!” Of course I failed to mention the amount of beer that I drank or the horrible eating habits that I had or that I lit up a cigarette every time I walked out of the gym. Plus, the amount of anxiety and constant state of tension throughout the day from my emotional imbalances were keeping me on the opposite side of fit. My pants were getting tighter, and I remember thinking as I had to get the next sizes up, “Dang, lifting weights is really paying off!” I was quite delusional at the time, obviously.
Around the same time in my life, I attended my cousin’s wedding. The only nice clothes I had fit a bit tight around the waist and I was uncomfortable from the extra weight around my equator. When I arrived, I was seated next to my grandma and the first thing she said was, “You sure are getting fat, Tony.” She mentioned it as casually as you would ask someone to pass the potatoes at the dinner table. I love her so much for that, because I knew she was right. She was the only person to hit me with the truth. I was miserable and having a hard time even tying my damn shoes without being winded.
Not long after that, I was changing clothes in the bathroom at home. I had my shirt off and caught a fleeting glimpse in the mirror out of the corner of my eye, and stopped in my tracks. My belly was so big that I barely recognized myself. And I had to lean over the edge of the behemoth just to see my sausage toes. Enough was enough. I made a decision at that very moment to change.
I bought a treadmill and placed it in the spare room that we had at the time in a small space that faced a wall. It wasn’t the best view, but I’ll never forget how difficult it was to run a single mile. The foundation to the house was shaking as my heaviness slammed down with each little stride. Thankfully the floor held up and the windows didn’t blow out as I wheezily panted along. I could image now what the neighbors must’ve thought, “What the hell is that? For the love of God, is there a rhinoceros trapped inside that house?”
I very SLOWLY made progress through the years as I had many ups and downs with my personal fitness. I started to run more, yet still ate like crap, drank like a fish, and enjoyed lighting cancer sticks after exercise. I would workout for a few days feeling good, then stop for a period of time, then start up again. It was frustrating wanting to live one way yet battling with breaking free from old habits and philosophies of health.
I have changed many behaviors and am living a pretty cool life today. My lifestyle has changed completely and I’m reaping the rewards. I put the drinks down and stomped out my last cigarette years ago. Since then I’ve been consistent with being active. I love to sweat and try to do something to turn the sweat-valve on everyday. And since I’m not a professional athlete, just a working single dad who loves to sport Under Armour gear (Shirt size Large if Under Armour gets this message), I get to mix it up. I use the gym to maintain strength and endurance for when I am out running, cycling, or playing sports with my son. I went snowboarding for the first time in years and thought I wouldn’t make it passed the morning without being exhausted, but I was able to tear it up the whole day.
My body is to the point where it has to have regular doses of exercise. One day I had plenty of energy and a voice telling me to put my running shoes on. Then the rain started coming down, but I hesitantly went anyway and had a sweet time as the rain drummed on the leaves and my feet splashed in the puddles along the trail. I went on another memorable run last fall under the ginormous harvest moon. The trail was lit up like, well, like a ginormous harvest moon was out, as my steady stride took me along sanctuaries and over bridges. My friend wondered if I was crazy because there are skunks out at night. “Yes,” I had replied. “There’s all sorts of animals…’out there’… in nature… where the magic happens.
Yoga is also a practice that I take part in when I can and will write a blog about that subject another time because there’s so much cool shit to write of how oo Johnny breathing and the toad pose is opening up a whole new perspective of the world for me.
Getting fit has also connected me to people who share in the joys of active lifestyles. I trained with some amazing people out in Santa Rosa for a few months in preparation for a charity ride that was eighty miles long. Some cyclists can ride eighty miles in their sleep, but for this trailer trash kid, that was quite the accomplishment. We rode along acres of wine country, along rivers and through the twist and turns of the coastal highway as waves splashed against the rocks below. One friend was our traffic horn as she yelled obscenities at people driving too close for comfort. She’d be telling a sweet story of her lovely partner then out of nowhere scream, “ASSHOLE!” Then would carry on with her peaceful tale of two lovebirds. I laughed so hard that I almost fell into traffic. And it was fun because it had nothing to do with who finishes the fastest, but that we finish together. Tear.
People that have known me from beer gut to slim cut say some strange things and ask how I have done it. They’ll say things such as, “Oh, you must still be on that health kick.” As if eating healthy foods and taking care of myself is a phase they’re waiting for me to get over. A friend at work commented on how I looked different one day while at a job site with a crew of men. He asked how I did it and I told him without hesitation, “I’m taking a new pill that came out.” His eyes widened with anticipation as he excitedly asked me, “Really?! What is it?” He was obviously looking for the quick fix that many people want to use to get in shape. It took him a few seconds as a couple others chuckled when I told him that the new pill was called ‘diet and exercise.’ My friend gave me a dirty look before going about his task at hand.
Throughout the years I’ve experimented with different diets and foods. I didn’t get hooked on any crazy fad diet where you only eat bacon dipped in Velveeter cheese or those that forbid eating vegetables because they have carbs. Or the ‘vegan’ diet where you don’t eat any animal products, but stick to piles of cookies and sugary snacks because they don’t moo or bark. I did try a whole foods plant based diet for a while that introduced me to a variety of delicious foods and a better understanding of what nutrients are available in the different foods that we consume. I felt amazing as I watched the pounds fade quickly and my endurance shoot up, along with something else…
What eating differently taught me was to listen to how my body feels after I consume certain foods. Not one diet fits all. I found what works best for me and still enjoy tasting new foods. I’ve learned to stay consistent. To make better decisions and go for the greens and fish instead of the beer and fries. Unless of course, you are baking some sweet potato fries…
I get amped up when it comes to physical activity and with enjoying this world through fun fitness. I hope that I never stop because if feels oh so good to feel good. And Grandma doesn’t mention my weight anymore, although she still likes to feed me cookies when given the chance.