You Can Do It, Too!
50/50 Featured Member, Joe Jagiello
In 2015, my life was going great save one thing: I was approaching my 48th birthday in February 2016, I could no longer claim I was in my mid-forties, and I was in the worst shape of my life. At 5’10”, I was just shy of 240 pounds and almost 40% body fat. I had asthma, my back and knees hurt, I was on cholesterol medications, snored and was generally unhappy with my appearance. Over the years, I had allowed the pressures of balancing work, the house, kids, and other responsibilities to contribute a couple pounds a year till I reached that state.
I played a few sports in high school, enjoyed club cycling in my 30’s, and had been an on and off (mostly off) runner for years. I considered myself an active person, but the evidence proved otherwise. So, I did as always, made a New Year’s resolution that this time I was going to get back in shape.
I started the year strong. Running on the treadmill five days a week, then four, oh, then a business trip broke the rhythm, then three, wait, start again five, oops missed, rats: business trip. Six weeks later I was facing my birthday. I weighed in at a historical high. Depressed and discouraged, I contemplated my situation and realized…
Wait, I was born in 1969; I am only turning 47 this year! I can still claim mid-forties for one more year!
I was being given a bonus year. I vowed there would be no way I would find myself in the same situation a year later when I actually turned 48.
This year, I entered my late forties almost sixty pounds lighter. My body fat percentage has been cut almost in half. I no longer need medication for cholesterol or asthma. I look good, feel great, sleep great and am in the best shape of my life. At 48, I have a resting heart rate in the 50’s and a VO2max in the high 40’s, both considered very good.
The best part is that my family, job, home and all those things important to me, but that I used as an excuse to not exercise and eat right, are all better for me being healthy. In fact, they were all enlisted in helping me create this change in my life.
The number one factor in my success has been my amazing wife, Angela. She recognized what this meant to us and vowed to embark on this mission alongside me. Even though I was shooting to drop seventy pounds and she was only shooting for eight, I knew she was with me every step of the way.
These are twelve things we learned that helped us achieve success.
You can find the time
For us, our first challenge was to determine how to consistently exercise with two kids, with jobs that required travel, and the daily distractions of life. If we didn’t exercise first thing, the day had a way of keeping us from it. We started going to bed an hour earlier. Angie took the tough shift and woke up at 4:45 A.M. to hit the treadmill. She got me at 5:45 and I ran next. That left just enough time to shower and get the kids off to school. By 8 A.M., we had accomplished our goals for the day. While it meant an early start, it was achievable and sustainable.
Don’t be discouraged by how hard it can be at first
In 2015, I could barely run two very slow miles in a row. I couldn’t do a sit up and very few push-ups. It gets easier. Come prepared to work and know the experience changes from difficult to enjoyable.
Don’t give up if you have a bad day, especially in the first months. Whether it was a bad food choice or a missed workout, we would examine what derailed us and redoubled our efforts to make tomorrow better. If it happened again, we tried again.
Discuss the week with your partner and agree on when each of you will work out. We posted a schedule on the refrigerator so we were always sure what our commitments were. Lay your clothes out the night before. Set up your water bottles. Knock down any impediment before you go to bed. Take the same approach to grocery shopping; go into the week with a healthy meal plan to set yourself up to win.
It takes diet and exercise to get there
Who knew? I evaluated what I was eating and changed my diet. I have worked in the Organic and Natural product industry for over 25 years and thought I ate well. I uncovered amazing hidden calories in my diet (what? 220 calories in a tortilla!) and I also started learning more about sports nutrition. I substituted Vega One shakes for breakfast and lunch, and while it took some discipline, I immediately saw weight loss and increased motivation to continue. (Note: Vega is a brand owned by my employer)
I stopped stocking foods that I knew would derail me. If it wasn’t in the house, I wouldn’t eat it. It is far easier to have discipline around a shopping list than when snacks are in the pantry.
I also stopped thinking “I worked out today, so I can eat this” and started considering exercise as the way I keep my metabolism accelerated as I restrict calories. As I saw results, I became more reasonable with my food choices and more motivated to reinforce the hard work of my day. Fitness and strength became the rewards, not ice cream.
Use a fitness tracker (if that’s your thing)
I wish I had more information on where I started from. While I know some numbers, I should have taken advantage of 50/50’s complementary fitness assessment.
If you are motivated by statistics, use it to your advantage. I track my exercise, weight, steps, BMI, % fat, etc. and have my history going back two years. I love to look at the graphs and revisit past workouts. I weigh in almost every day with the knowledge that I am looking for long term trends, and not getting discouraged by short term setbacks.
Enlist the help friends and co-workers
I shared my goals and was amazed at the support and encouragement I received. I became accountable to the people I spoke with daily and they checked in on my progress. I began running with co-workers during business trips, competed with Fitbit Challenges and even held plank-off sessions against each other. We now make sure that fitness is prioritized in our agendas when we meet, making time in the morning or between meetings.
Include your kids
Your journey to fitness is a positive influence for your kids. I have run with my four year old in a jog stroller, done wind sprints with him in the driveway, and jumping jacks in the airport. My teenager has come to core classes, spin classes and Spin & Strength. Even if they are too young or too cynical to make it part of their daily life now, it is a message they will carry through their lives.
Bring variety to your workouts
While I consider running my primary form of exercise, I also spin at 50/50 and try to take Spin & Strength a couple days a week. I sampled a number of different classes and instructors and switch around with the ones I find most enjoyable.
As an added bonus, mixing it up not only keep its fun, it helps to keep you injury free. In my year plus since I started, I have not only avoided injury completely, the cross training has strengthened areas of my body I never addressed before. With that, my chronic back and knee pain are all but gone.
I also enjoy hunting, fishing, cycling hiking and other outdoor activities… and I am better at all of them now.
Set Audacious Goals (and smaller ones along the way)
Even though I had never run a race before, in June I decided I would run my first half marathon. I signed up for the Happy Valley Half Marathon. While I knew it was a big goal, I made sure there were smaller, more achievable goals along the way, such as my first 5K and reducing my pace from 14 minute miles to 9 minute miles. I exceeded my goal of running it in under two hours, finishing in 1:57!
Surround yourself with positive people
The staff at 50/50 makes this easy, they are ready and available to connect. Take advantage of that. Outside of my wife and the 50/50 team, my co-workers, my boss, and my friends offered a ton of encouragement and their energy was infectious. In the same way, know that your success is an inspiration to others. Share your message.
Steal inspiration from unlikely sources
The first time I ran ten miles, I found myself repeating Tom Brady’s, “We haven’t come this far to come this far.” During my eleven mile run, it was Dory from Finding Nemo, “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.” There is encouragement everywhere if you look for it. No days off.
Treat yourself along the way
As I started slimming down I dragged my heels on replacing my wardrobe. Don’t do that. You are starting to look and feel better, allow yourself to reflect that. Buy new clothes as you need them and donate/sell them as you don’t.
Changing my perspective from “I need to exercise and eat well” to “I live to exercise and eat well” has created positive change across all aspects of my life. I have still not achieved all my goals, but I am in the best shape of my life and continue to improve. I am at 50/50 every week, I signed up for the Whately Mother’s Day Half and the Buffalo Half in May and will run the Happy Valley again this year. If you see me in the gym, say “hi.” 50/50 is a community and we can all achieve our goals with the positive support and encouragement of our 50/50 family.
Wish Joe luck in the Western Mass Mother’s Day Half, on May 14th!