by Daniel West
For as long as I can remember, I was overweight. Physical activity always seemed like this huge chore, and it was never fun. When I was in elementary school, during our schools “Fun Run and/or Turkey Trot,” I wasn’t the one running; I was the one helping at the water booth. I would always pick the easiest role to play (i.e., goalie). As a second grader, I found out I had asthma, and so for the rest of primary and secondary school, I used that as a crutch. I always had some sort of excuse; too tired, homework, work, etc… for not doing any sort of physical activity. I was in marching band in high school, and enjoyed it, but once the spring rolled around, hello couch. I was a frequent visitor of the vending machine, as well. Dr. Pepper and I had an ongoing love-hate relationship. For lunch, I would always opt for the cheeseburger or pizza for lunch in high school. Food was food to me. I didn’t recognize or understand the positive or negative consequences it could do to my body.
Fast-forwarding to 2003, I started college at Austin Community College (ACC). I had moved into an apartment with my older brother and twin brother. My twin brother had been overweight for quite sometime, and made the decision to lose weight. He started the Akins diet, and my older brother joined in with him. I, on the other hand, was just along for the ride. It never registered that I needed to lose weight. I was just thinking, “we all eat the same food, so I might as well just join in.” This same year, I had a serious kidney stone, and the only remedy was surgery. It wasn’t invasive, but was still painful, and put me out of commission for a solid week. Anyone who has had kidney stones will feel my pain. The result of this week was a 25 lb weight loss. I thought, “Hey, alright, I like this.” Just like anyone else who loses weight, I bought new clothes, but soon, I went back to my old eating patterns. While all of this is going on, I still had NO appreciation for my overall health. I thought getting sick, as often as I was, was normal. I attributed sinus infections to living in Austin. The light never went off, and wouldn’t for quite sometime.
Moving on to 2005. I had transferred from ACC to Texas State. I did very well there. Well enough to transfer to The University of Texas in the fall of 2006. I thought my life was on the right track, but I was wrong. My life changed drastically that year. On October 16, 2006, I was rear-ended in my Ford Explorer, which caused it to spin into a 360-degree revolution. I lost consciousness; my left elbow had been severely punctured by the glass from the car window, and I had no idea what had just happened. The months following were hard. The onset of PTSD like symptoms set in, and I felt like my life was going into a tailspin. Food and espresso soon became the one thing I could rely upon. About a year after the accident, I began counseling. It wasn’t until after the first day of counseling, that I came to fully understand what had happened. I literally broke down.
Two years later, I had completed my second year of counseling, had changed my major, and was finally on the path to what I loved to do: teach. I had become actively involved in a couple of student organizations at Texas, had the opportunity to travel to Mexico to build a house, amongst other things. While all of this was going on, the person I was seeing in the mirror was getting bigger. I began to realize that I probably needed to lose weight, but just wasn’t high on the list of priorities. I had tried working out at the gyms at Texas, but a lack of knowledge on how to workout drained any sort of motivation.
The spring of 2010 rolls around, and I’m finally graduating from The University of Texas. At this point, I’m the largest I’ve ever been. If I remember correctly, I weighted around 247 to 250 pounds.
The rest of 2010 was not very productive. I didn’t have a full-time job, had no idea on how to even start losing weight, but I knew that I needed to do something. In early 2011, I started a part-time job as a messenger down at the Capitol for the legislative session. This was one of the best things that could of ever happened to me. I was walking 2-3 miles a day, drinking tons of water, and being exposed to different people who exercised on a daily basis. I ended up getting a permanent part-time position.
It was the summer now, and I went in for my routine physical. My doctor freaked out when he saw how much I weighed, my blood work, etc…He wanted to put me on all sorts of medication for pre-diabetes, high blood pressure, and I knew what that would lead too. I didn’t let him. I wanted to prove him wrong.
One of my co-workers was a trainer at a local gym. With the help of my parents, after the legislative session was over, I started training with him. I went to him with my hat in my hand. I needed help. I trained with him for six weeks straight, and lost about 20 pounds and 3% of my overall body fat (My starting body fat percentage was around 30%). I wanted to continue training with him, but neither my parents nor I had the money to pay for it.
About a month later, I joined Gold’s Gym. It was something that I could afford. In November 2011, I got my first full-time, salary position. Shortly thereafter, I started training with a trainer at Gold’s. For almost year, twice a week, I’d meet with my trainer. These two days are what I looked forward to the most. I was eager to learn new ways I could workout. My workouts were more of a HIIT, or High Intensity Interval Training. Soon, Crossfit intrigued me. My trainer started putting my through a Crossfit style workout, and I couldn’t believe the rush.
In the space of a year, I had gone from living a sedentary lifestyle, to being physically active on a daily basis. My trainer encouraged me to start practicing yoga. I was reluctant at first, mostly because of the stereotypes of guys and yoga. However, I decided I wanted to give it a shot, and that is all I needed. I love it. If you need a good yoga studio, I recommend Black Swan Yoga or Castle Hill Yoga.
It’s now the summer of 2012, and for a while, I’ve been looking for a cardio element to add into my workout regimen. Then, out of the blue one day, on Lululemon’s facebook status, I see an event for a running group to train for the IBM Uptown Classic in 8 weeks. Lululemon and Rogue sponsored it. Seeing as how I had lost a bunch of weight, and my asthma didn’t seem to be a problem anymore, I wanted to give it a shot. I thought, how hard could this be?
I remember the first day like it was yesterday. To say that I was nervous was an understatement. I walked in, having never run since middle school, feeling very awkward. The coaches introduced themselves: Jenn and Stephanie. As we went around to introducing ourselves, I was listening to the other runners talk about how they had run 10Ks, marathons and half-marathons. I began to wonder what I had gotten myself into. I introduced myself, and stated that I had not run since middle school. I was relieved to find out that others had not run in quite some time as well. I thought to myself, thank God.
Weeks went by as I trained, and soon, I saw some really good progress. Around week 4, I ran almost 4 miles in 38 minutes. The next four weeks were an uphill battle. As a new runner, I began to experience some aches and pains new runners get. The RICE rule and I became quick friends.
Finally, October 7th, 2012 was here. It was cold, windy, and damp. We had trained hard on the course for eight weeks, and while I was scared of what I was about to do, I knew I could do it. The first half of the course had a strong head wind. My Achilles tendon on my left foot that was starting to bother me around mile 3, but I was determined to finish the race. I kept pushing on. Mile 4. Mile 5. I stayed positive. I knew I could do this. I was on the home stretch, and one of my teammates, Jessie was along the side, and told me it was less than a mile. Believe it or not, that was the extra kick I needed. I headed towards the last turn, and headed towards mile 6 and the finish line. I remember my twin brother and his wife running beside me. That was so helpful, and gave me an extra kick in my giddy up. I had passed mile 6, and was so close, but ready to pass out. I approached the finish line. My brother and sister-in-law stopped, and it was all on me. As I neared the finish line, my coach Jenn, and my teammates ran along side of me. I was in a full on sprint to the finish. I remember Jenn telling me to keep pushing, keep pushing. I ran the fastest I had ever run. Finally, it was there. I had crossed the finish line. I had finished my first race ever, a 10K. I gave my coach Jenn a huge hug.
Today, I weight roughly 200 lbs, give or take, depending on the weather. I can’t say enough for Jenn and Stephanie. Without them, I would not have kept showing up week after week. Also, I big shot out to James Dodds. Every week, I go to the Cedar Park Rogue to do my long runs, and James has always been there to provide guidance and support. Now, I am training with the Jenn and Tonics, and I’m running the Rogue 10K in January 2013. I am proud to say, I am a runner.
Check out a video record of Daniel’s journey!