Introduction to the Recovering Fat Kid Part 2 or How I Learned to Not Hate Running

So my bad for the Sopranos style cliffhanger on the last post. The need for sleep got in the way of finishing the story but this is how we learn and realize sleep is for the weak. Story time comes first So let’s get back to it. (DISCLAIMER: a full night’s sleep is actually fundamental to putting and keeping the weight off so embrace the bed and the necessity of a good old fashioned nap. Now let’s get back to it.)

I’m going to be upfront; I hated running. It was the absolute worst form of cardio in the history of cardio and I couldn’t stand it, it was so monotonous for me that I could never actually get into. Which is slight problem when you want to run a Tough Mudder since there’s roughly 10 miles of terrain and ridiculous obstacles that you have to run through. So when my friend Jen started talking about this running challenge for this past February, at least a mile for every day of the month, I knew it was going to be the absolute worst idea. But I kind of wanted to survive the Mudder, so I said what the hell and went along with it. Then the weirdest thing happened over the course of those 23 days (the stupid flu hit me like a Mac truck after I ran to the gym and I was out of commission for a few days). I actually started to like running. I got off the treadmill and started running through my neighborhood and enjoyed it.

My times were terrible and the competitive side of me loathed each and every slow pace but instead of letting the get me down like I used to, I let it fuel my hatefire and channeled that into getting better. I’m now at the point where if I don’t go running at least a 3-4 times a week I feel out of whack. My times are consistently getting better, sub 10 minute mile right here, and its all about getting faster and prepping for the next challenge. But I’m getting ahead of myself here, that’s for another post.

With February turning into March and my stamina slowly but surely increasing, preparation for the Mudder was in full swing but I did notice one thing after I started running in earnest. While some of the weight started to melt away, you plateau. You plateau hard and fast. I went from about 258 at the start of January when it was mostly lifting sessions at Planet Fitness about 3-5 times a week to around 242 towards the end of March when I brought into the idea of running not being the devil incarnate. And no matter how much harder I worked in the gym or on the road, the scale just wouldn’t move past the 240 mark. Frustration was mounting, anger was overruling the hatefire, and I was feeling bummed. But I’ll say it once and I’ll say 100,000,000 more times, having someone along the way to keep you honest and motivated is essential. Once again, Jen comes through in the clutch and talks me into putting down the pizza, sugary drinks and cookies. Yes I know I had the diet of an overgrown pre-diabetic Oompa Loompa but comfort food! Anyway, she talked me into doing the Whole30 for the end of March through most of April. The results spoke for themselves.

To Be Continued in Part 3 of 5. I think it’s going to be 5, it’s a fluid situation, we’ll see how it goes.

The Awkward Moment When Your Body Betrays You

The human body is a weird and complex machine. It’s basically a fleshy meat suit transporting a brain around while getting into ridiculous situations that could be easily solved by not overthinking the little details and avoiding self destructive behavior. But where’s the fun in that? So when December started I had a fairly simple goal; run 100 miles in the month of December. No big deal right? That’s just a little more than running a 5K run every day throughout the month. Easy squeezy right? Yeaaaaahhhhhhh, about that.

The first 4 days of December go off without a hitch. I did not hit the over 5K target pace but I was out there everyday and improving that distance each day. It had been awhile since I tried to run each and every day so getting back into the swing of things proved to be a challenge. My desire to have the “perfect run” each time usually throws a wrench into things as well. For me, the “perfect run” consists of beating my time, pace, and distance of the previous run. It’s the easiest metric to define improvement each time out. Deep down I know that’s not *exactly* how running works but I’m hyper competitive and it’s how my internal motivation clock works. So when I got back to work after a lengthy vacation, I was refreshed and ready to tackle finding the balance between work life, gym life, and the runner life during the dark days of December. Well, that was the plan until I got a nasty virus knocked me right on my ass as soon as I get back to work.

The common cold on steroids, it’s the gift that keeps on giving. You’re not sick enough to call out of work, thank you modern “nose to the grindstone” workplace culture, but you also know that you should probably keep contact with other people to the bare minimum. While you’re coughing so violently and often that running more than a quarter mile at a time seems like a running a marathon with a hangry toddler strapped to your chest in a babybjorn the entire time, you tend to prioritize getting better over trying in vain to reach those long term running and fitness goals. It’s the worst feeling knowing that achieving your goals has been taken out of your hands by outside forces. However, throwing a pity party gets absolutely nothing done.

So instead of throwing said pity party, what do you do in the interim while you pump yourself full of DayQuill severe to get through the day without coughing up a lung and passing for a functional human being? Channel that unused energy into more productive pursuits and maintain your dietary mission. Just because you’re sick doesn’t mean that you can completely ignore the nutritional side of the equation. Maintaining the same standards you set for our diet while you’re on the mend is vitally important to making sure that you don’t sabotage all of the progress you made when you were neglecting the feeling of unobstructed breathing through our nose. Ahhh, the good old days, how I miss them so.

The moral of the story is even when the world throws you a curveball like getting sick AS SOON AS YOU GET BACK FROM VACATION, there is still plenty within your realm of control to capitalize on the downtime. As well as even if you miss the mark on the goals you set forth through circumstances beyond your control, there is no time for sulking. Sulking gets nothing accomplished besides giving depression an annoying hole to slither through back into your life. And no one has time for that when you have goals to smash through as soon as you’re healthy again.

The Conundrum: Do I Actually LIKE Running?

This past weekend I went back to my college alma mater for what amounts to our version of Homecoming, Carol Night. Yes, this is what happens when you went to a small school that never had a football program and only became coed about 2-3 years before your freshman year. Regardless, it’s always good going back and seeing your friends that you don’t get the chance to see nearly as often anymore because of the barren wasteland that comprises post college social life. So when the opportunity arises to go out with your college friends, catch up, and drink a fraction of what you all could when you had the liver of a 21 year old, you take it.

While attending the after party for Carol Night, talk turned to my weight loss and how I dropped so much. As I mentioned on almost every single one of these posts so far, running is one of the biggest contributing factors in how I’ve made it this far. One of the questions posed to me throughout the course of the night was “Do you actually like running?” My automatic response “Of course I do!” But it was question that’s been rattling around my brain ever since it was asked. The more I think about that question and my relationship to running I’ve come to the realization that it’s much less cut and dry than a simple emphatic yes. It’s much more a “It’s Complicated.”

In broad generalities, cardio is the least liked aspect of the fitness world. Let’s get that out of the way first. Running takes a toll on your body that few other physical activities can. It’s part of the reason why I want nothing to do with a full marathon. It’s just not fun when you start talking about running any distance further than 13.1 miles, and even then you’re pushing it. Running without some form of purpose absolutely sucks. At least that’s what our subconscious would have us believe. That’s one of the most important things I have discovered over the past 10 months; the physical act of running is barely half the battle, the rest of it is purely mental.

The cerebral part of running is the part most people struggle with overcoming. Our brains telling us “Ok buddy. We’ve gone 1/4 of a mile already we can totally stop now and go back and have some waffles! You remember waffles right? With a nice heaping side of maple bacon, doesn’t that sound better than running another mile?” It’s those thoughts that follow you every step you take. That’s why having an excellent running playlist to drown out the lazy thoughts is essential to every run. Without the music, I know I’ll get consumed by an internal debate about whether Reservoir Dogs or Pulp Fiction is the best Quentin Tarantino movie. The answer is Reservoir Dogs, don’t be a sheep and say Pulp Fiction. Either way, there’s plenty of physical and mental obstacles that making running more of a chore than an actual enjoyable activity. However, once you cut through the litany of bullshittery you tell yourself why running is a waste of time, you come to a realization. Running is one of the most cathartic and life affirming physical activities you can do.

So to answer the original question “Do I like actually like running?” Yes, I do. I just had to teach myself how to sift through the bullshittery and find the reasons why running is a worthwhile pursuit and truly cathartic. And then my hamstrings decide to start yelling at me because I try to go up some stairs and then i’m back at square one. So let’s say it’s complicated.

The Never Ending War on Carbs and How Butternut Squash Noodles Are the Best

Sorry for the long lay over between posts, life gets in the way sometimes and finding inspiration to write these missives is it’s own unique challenge. And I may have dove headlong into the new South Park game, The Fractured but Whole and forgot to come up for air for the better part of a week. It happens from time to time.

But here we are, covering a topic that anyone who has tried to lose weight has faced, all of the best food makes you fat and is not good for you. Now that’s where diets like Whole30 come into play and help mitigate those temptations. As long as you A) have the will to fit it out for 30 days and B) are 100% committed to that lifestyle for every day of the rest of your life. I can do option A, in clearly defined spurts that have a set endgame. Option B is a completely different beast since well, pasta is life, bread is amazeballs, and you have to indulge every now and again.

Now, I’m not saying it’s completely futile and you shouldn’t even try to lose the weight. Far from it. It’s a matter of finding alternatives to the stuff that’s bad for you, making it taste absolutely delicious, and when you’re not in the strict confines of a specific diet, indulge a little bit to maintain some semblance of your sanity. Sometimes you will indulge a little too much, that is human nature. What makes all the difference in the world is how you approach those cheat meals and respond once they’re over and done with. Hopefully over time, the need for cheat meals becomes less prevalent because you have found ways to make the healthier food taste just as good as the junk. Which brings us to the pasta substitute that has changed my eating habits. Butternut Squash noodles may not be life like good old fashioned pasta, but daggumit does it come close when prepared properly.

A few months back, a friend of mine got one of those noodleizer kitchen contraptions and showed it off over Snapchat by making zucchini noodles. To answer the question you’re currently exasperatedly asking your phone/computer screen, yes I know I can Google the actual name of it but we all know I’m too lazy to pull up another tab for that. Curiosity got the better of me and I started asking her questions about how zoodles tasted and whether or not it was an investment. She sang the praises of that gizmo for a solid 10 minutes and piqued my curiosity. Not enough to order one of those jawns (yes I’m from the suburbs of Philadelphia, deal with it) but enough to keep an eye out the supermarkets to see if they were available in the produce sections. Low and behold, there they were, in all of their zoodle glory. Although, I didn’t go for the zucchini noodles for the first go around, I settled on butternut squash because honestly it was more fun to say. That it one of the major criteria I judge things on, how much fun their given name is to say. Makes all the difference in the world when you’re telling the stories later.


The 200 Barrier and the (Wrong) Reasons I Told Myself It Was a Pipe-Dream

This time last year, if you said I was on the door step of being under 200 pounds, I probably would have laughed in your face and said “at least one of us believes in me.”  It was this mythical promise land that I never considered I’d reach again because I had accepted the big guy lifestyle. Eat, drink, be merry, eat some more, tell some bad jokes and drink some more. Wash, rinse and repeat until the day I die eating a dozen peanut butter and bacon burgers. Actually full disclosure, those are actually absolutely delicious and will change your life. In moderation of course. I am a recovering fat kid after-all.

Growing up, I was always on the bigger side. It was something that I accepted as a fact of life, accepted as part of my identity and wound up embracing the comedic relief big guy role. I have the ability to occasionally make people with the ridiculous non sequiturs, obscure pop culture references, and a terrible accent or 3 that are really the same terrible accent in a higher pitch and I was OK with being that guy. Losing the weight seemed counter-productive to that set identity and I listened to the little voice in my head that always encouraged second helpings and the finest soda, in the largest cup that McDonald’s had to offer. The bigger I got, the easier it became to simply accept the fact that I would never been under 200 pounds again.

The last time I was under 200 pounds was *cough*high*couch*school*cough*. Since nutrition and working out wasn’t a priority in high school and the start of college I ballooned and accepted it as a part of life, something that I had to learn to live with as I got older. Hell, even when I recognized that changes were needed I never entertained the notion that I would ever be under 200 pounds again, I thought 215 would be a solid end goal weight. Any weight below 200 seemed like a foolish pipe dream that only belonged in purely hypothetical discussions that immediately got pushed aside because it wasn’t realistic. Every time I would try to start getting a handle on the weight, that little voice would speak up, say that why should I even bother, I’m still just going to be a big dude and it’s not worth the aggravation to put myself through that. I would have the fortitude to keep it at bay for a little while, but that voice always seemed to win out in the end. Until recently anyway.

That obnoxious little troll voice has been with me every step of the way over the last 9 1/2 months. When I started back in January, I still didn’t entertain the idea that I could get under 200 pounds, I still figured 215 would a nice, healthy(ish) weight that was attainable. As I went along and got closer to that goal, the voice started getting a little weaker, not much at first but enough that goals that once seemed outrageous and entirely unattainable seemed more reasonable. 215 eventually became under 200, and under 200 is now 180-185.

The best way to combat the inner demons that tell you that you can’t do the thing for whatever cockamamie reason it comes up with is to show it and yourself that you can do the thing as long as you stick to your guns, and have that support system in place that will help you on the darker days. That’s how I’ve gotten as far as I have, which as of this morning includes weighing in at 199.5. Next stop is the 180’s. Beyond that? Well, there’s only one way to truly find out right? Keep moving forward, and only look back for the occasional Transformation Tuesday and Throwback Thursday post.

Thursday Night Musings or Running Through the Art of the Excuse

“Excuses are the nails that built the house of failure.” That was a quote from my brother’s college lacrosse coach that I’ve used frequently over the years. Mostly to guilt trip people into going out for a night of drinking and general shenanigans but that’s neither here or there. What I should have done is turn that sentiment towards the way I viewed not eating like I’m in a constant pie eating contest and treating working out and general exercise like it was the plague. But over the past 10ish months, I have put aside the excuses and put the work in, for the most part.

I’ve noticed something while I’ve been running lately; the times have been improving but the distance hasn’t been nearly as consistent. It may simply be that I’m trying new variations on my usual route to try and spice things up a bit. It could also be I’ve been placing more emphasis on weight training and neglected the running portion. Or it’s as simple as life gets in the way and I can’t run as often as I would like. I personally take issue with the last option for one reason- it’s pure poppycock.

Excuses are your own worst enemy. They seem like perfectly rational reasons for putting something off and try again tomorrow. But that’s also how you fall into the procrastinator’s trap and the next thing you know you’re almost 30 and are identifying with the plight of Fat Bastard from the Austin Powers movies on a personal level. The “I eat because I’m unhappy. I’m unhappy because I eat. It’s a vicious cycle.” That plight. Not the plight involving Mini-Me and baby back ribs.

Back on point. It takes something relatively big, a doctor’s appointment where they go over the real health related risks of staying that weight; or something seemingly trivial but stays with you, like being called a boulder when a drunk jack wagon is trying to muscle past you on an escalator at a Flyer’s game to make you put aside the excuses and make the time for the things that matter. Whether it’s taking the first steps towards a healthier lifestyle, meal prepping more frequently, or in my present case get back out there and get the stamina back up and do more 3+ mile runs, excuses only hold us back from accomplishing the goals we set for ourselves. Excuses are a sign that we are only human. They are our way of maintaining our quaint little comfort zone bubble and for the most part we are perfectly OK with that. But that’s the thing, excuses don’t actually lead you towards your goals, you just wind up stuck in the same rut, doing the same things, and the wonder why you are miserable all the time. So, throw the excuses aside and go out for a run. I know it sucks at first but trust me, it’s therapeutic.

And that’s my long winded way of saying I need to run more to improve my 5K time.


The Love/Hate Relationship Between Motivation, Music, Wireless Headphones and First World Problems

Motivation can be a tricky and fickle mistress. When you have the proper motivation, everything comes naturally, it all falls into place and you go on your merry way towards crushing whatever goal is right in front of you. Funny story how motivation rarely works that perfectly. Sure you’ll have all the motivation in the world to get to the gym, or go out on a trail and start running but those reserves of motivation get used quickly and then you’re half way through leg day thinking “Why did I think this was going to be a good idea?” I get it, it happens to the best of us. Even though I’m one of those weirdos that actually likes leg day. There’s 5 of us and we meet in an online chat room every 3 third Thursday and talk about all of the dirty looks we get at the gym. I digress, when those last fleeting moments of actual motivation are starting their death march and leave you all alone in the squat rack with your thoughts, the next song on your playlist kicks in and the motivation comes back full force and you pull through the rest of the set.

As I’ve become more active and regularly running and lifting, music has become an indispensable part of the routine. The right mix of rap, rock, punk, 90’s throwbacks, and a dash smooth jazz will get me through just about every workout imaginable. But I did notice one thing as I become more active, wired headphones are the devil. There is no getting around that fact, the wired headphones are the goddamn devil and they need to be banished. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been running, getting into a nice groove and then through a hilariously awkward series of events I wind up judo chopping the buds out of my ears in the most painful way possible. The next logical step would be to get wireless headphones and enjoy a nice tranquil run right? In the words of the eternal Lee Corso “NOT SO FAST MY FRIEND!”

I got the Powerbeats 3 last Christmas and for a while they were the answer to my prayers. They stayed out my way during workouts, the sound was nice and crisp and best of all, I never had to worry about readjusting them. Then maybe three months into having them, they slowly started losing their charge quicker. A single charge went from a few days and a few workouts and runs to only 1 of each. By the end, they wouldn’t even turn back on and I was back to drawing board.

I wound up going back to wired headphones for the time being, I have plenty of them and I reaaaalllllyyyyyy needed my regular dose of “Till I Collapse” and “Carry on My Wayward Son” to power through to the end of my workouts. It’s like going back to any ex. There’s a period in the beginning where you think that everything is better and it will be different this time. You start wondering why you even broke up in the first place. And then you violently karate chop your headphones out of your skull and all of the painful reminders of why you wanted wireless headphones in the first place come rushing back to you in throbbing agony. Off to Best Buy I went in hopes of finding a new pair that wouldn’t wind up disappointing me.

And I did find that pair. Sort of. It’s kind of a funny story. Upon venturing into the local Best Buy, I was looking for a pair of wireless headphones that wouldn’t break the bank but would also do the job and stay in my ears during long runs without it feeling like I was getting jabbed with the eraser end of a pencil with every step. I thought I found the perfect pair with this set made by Jabra that only ran me 50 bucks. With the athletic ear hook attachment, the headphones fit perfectly every single time. I was able to run without any discomfort and I got to enjoy my tunes while I tried to get my pace down towards sub-10 minutes. However, there was one slight drawback to the Jabra buds. A design flaw if you will. The athletic ear hook attachments that securely kept the buds in place? They were made with probably the thinnest and most brittle plastic I have ever seen. Seriously, if you looked at it at the wrong angle the hooks would bend until you apologized and brought it a snow cone. Well, one day I forgot the snow cone and all hell broke loose.

I just got back from a run and went to take the headphones out when tragedy struck. The right ear hook broke and there was absolutely nothing I could do to save it. It was so young, it had a full life ahead of it. 5K’s to dominate, playlists full of 80’s motivational montage music to motivate me to keep on running like Rocky Balboa. Now granted, this is a first world problem to end all first world problems but this is highly inconvenient. The buds came with other attachments to help keep them in your ears but they’re just not the same. I spend roughly 33-55% of my runs trying to readjust and jam these things into my ears in such a way that I don’t have to worry about them falling out every 4.56 seconds. The buds themselves still work fantastically. Good quality sound, the Bluetooth connection has stayed strong and the battery life is everything I could ever ask for. But those damn thin plastic ear attachments have broken my heart.

So I’m in the market for a new set of reasonably priced. I think I can go as high as 175-200 because I’m worth it. Who knows, if/when I get the new pair, I’ll do a review/rant about them and be the epitome of first world problems. Or I can MacGuyver something out of paper clips, some string, and a kick-ass mullet wig and keep on rocking the Jabra pair. All I know is, the only way I’m going to eventually break the 9 minute run barrier on a consistent basis is with the right combination of will, stamina, good running shoes, and “Hearts on Fire” on repeat.

Introduction to The Recovering Fat Kid Part 5 or The Tough Mudder Summer Hangover

You know that feeling you get when you finish a difficult challenge and then you just want to do absolutely nothing after because you earned it? Multiply that by 50 and throw in a limp and that was me right after the Mudder. I finally conquered the one race that was the epitome of being physically fit. If it wasn’t for my left cheek/hammy violently meeting a 2×4, a line of 70+ people for a wall climb, volunteers on the other side of said wall screwing in additional pieces of wood for “safety reasons”, and the fact that me and diving/falling with style into a pool was probably the most terrifying thing I saw that dreary May day, I completed every obstacle the Mudder threw at me. While basking in the post Mudder glow for about 2 weeks one question kept creeping into my mind, trying to grab my attention. Now what?

Without another race lined up, there wasn’t an immediate event on the horizon to act as a motivator to keep improving to ensure a solid finish time, or in the case of the Mudder, basic survival. All I had was a long term goal of getting down to 175-180 pounds by December for my friend’s wedding and general slimming down. I’m also a procrastinator by nature so 7 months seemed like a life time to get down to business. I was about 215-217 by the time I ran the Mudder, down a total of 40ish pounds and that was impressive sure. So I thought the summer would be a breeze. I’d run some more, continue going to Planet Fitness, avoid anything even resembling pizza party night and I would golden. Overconfidence has a way of knocking us all down a couple pegs and remind us that it’s an ongoing process.

In the following months, I maintained a similar running and workout regimen that I had prior to the Mudder. But, my old kryptonite would rear it’s annoyingly delicious head and stall my progress. Bread, pasta and everything even remotely resembling a carb was fair game. In my defense, I was being much more moderate and still eating well about 75-80% of the time, so the highest I ever slipped back to was around 220 and as soon as that happened I went hard for the next week to get back down below 215. But I was having trouble breaking the 210 barrier and getting into the single digits and it started wearing on me a bit. Working 6 days a week on top of finding time to run and workout did not exactly make for the most balance summer, so that *probably* had something to do with the general funk I experienced. So when my friend Bucko, the groom in the wedding I’m going to in December, proposed going to a gym run by a couple friends of ours from high school, I figured what the hell, might as well try something new. So we went to the 6am class at Sonic Boom Fitness at the end of June and as they say, it was on like Donkey Kong. (Come on, you all are shocked it took me 4 1/2 posts to make that joke.)

I can’t stress this enough; if you’ve hit a plateau and are frustrated with the lack of movement on the scale, 5K time, or your hopscotch game don’t let it bring you down. You just need something to break up the routine and push yourself past where you thought your limits were. For me, that was Sonic Boom. It’s nice to have guys that run the place that A) actually know what they’re doing and B) are just as competitive as you are and structure the workouts to bring out that competitive fire. So with the workouts getting a needed jump start, I had a renewed energy to tackle these long term goals of mine. Though a funny thing happened on the way to 180. The scale largely remained unchanged.

Over this summer, I’ve seen my weight largely remain unchanged. steadily between 208-215. Granted that’s 50 pounds less than I was at the start of the year and I felt while I might not earned a parade per say, a few hearty brunches would have been appreciated for my efforts. However, what did wind up happening over this summer were changes that aren’t immediately seen but speak to my overall better health and fitness level. Start of the year, I was happy I could “run” a 15 minute mile and not need an iron lung after. Now, my fastest run is 8:35. Thank you Jen for being an excellent pace car for that particular car. On the whole my mile times are either right at 10 minutes or around 9:45. If you told me that this time last year, I would have laughed in your face and gone back to eating my tacos and beer resting comfortably on my belly. I can actually deadlift more than my body weight right now.

The most important lesson I learned and that I can impart on you guys is this; don’t let that obnoxious scale be the end all, be all measure of success. It’s a number. An important number sure. But the amount of importance we place on what the scale says in determining your mood, how you feel about yourself and whether or not that particular day is going to be a good is complete and utter bullshit. (This page is PG-13, I’m allowed one of those per every 5 posts.)

So going into my birthday/friend’s bachelor party/wedding season, I’m presented with a crossroads. Either be a slave to the scale and let it lord over aspect of my life and mood. Or put the work in, eat better, and throw the scale in the closest until the Thanksgiving deadline as highlight by that handy dandy countdown clock at the bottom of the page. It’s a bit of a no-brainer isn’t it?

Introduction to the Recovering Fat Kid Part 4 or I Walked Funny for a Week After the Tough Mudder

So here we are, what started as my End Game. The Holy Grail. The maguffin that propels every action movie plot forward towards the next ridiculous action scene. I’m of course talking about the Tough Mudder Philly 2017. All the training, the running, the dieting, and the “minor” bouts of anxiety I subjected myself to the first half of 2017 was coming to a head one cloudy and slightly damp morning in May. But before I start having flashbacks to Pyramid Scheme and the way I walked with a limp for the better part of a week, a little backstory is in order.

I first heard about the Tough Mudder back in freshman year in college. My buddy Alex ran it and just hearing about it piqued my interest. All the talk of jumping over flaming logs, running through a ton of obstacles and then given a complementary beer for my troubles sounded like the adult version of Global Guts every 90’s kid dreamed about. Damn shame that the mere thought of running for an extended period of time gave me a migraine at the time. So I went back to playing God of War in a folding lounge chair that I got at Target for about 20 bucks and didn’t give the Mudder much thought after that. Then more time passes, I eat and drink with the reckless abandon of a typical college kid away from home for the first time and only towards the end of my four years at school did I realize that maybe working out and not being 240+ pounds was a solid life plan. It would take another 6 years and the threat of friendship disownment for me to tackle the Mudder but hey, baby steps.

My interest in the Mudder was piqued again when my two friends Vinny and Nick ran the Philly Mudder a couple years ago and the more I heard about it, the more I wanted to do it to say that I did and know that I could. But the motivation was still lacking and it existed as a fun mental exercise rather than an actual plan. However, a funny thing happened on the inevitable march towards the end of my 20’s. The Mudder became the end goal of this renewed focus on being a generally healthy and fit member of society. It was my athletic Holy Grail, mostly because I never got onto Guts, Legends of the Hidden Temple, or Double Dare as a kid and this seemed like the next best bet.

Staring down this borderline Herculean task with me was my two buddies John, Kevin and Kevin’s sister Katie. Team My Patronus is a Mudkip was ready to wade through mud, climb over every gigantic stack of hay, run up an obnoxiously high half-pipe, and even form a human daisy chain (Goddamn you Pyramid Scheme) that the Tough Mudder course could throw our way.

Over the 10 mile course we experienced the most physically tasking day any of us ever gone through. And speaking solely for myself here, I had the time of my life pushing my limits. John may slightly disagree since I did accidentally launch him over a trench thing face first into a pool of cold muddy water. Sorry buddy <3. I mean, Karma did come back and dropkick me in the face on Pyramid Scheme. I know, this is the third time I’ve mentioned this obstacle and how much I loathe it and now you’ll know why. The obstacle is a slippery ramp at an insanely steep incline. The only way to scale this beast is to form a human ladder with your fellow Mudders and make it to the top. I get about half way up the ramp and try to reposition myself to try and help others up. The was mistake number 1. Mistake number two was trying to catch myself, failing miserably and then go sliding down the ramp and landing hard on the 2×4 at the base of the ramp that people used to brace themselves. Did I mention this obstacle was at the half way point of the run? It was and I ran the rest of it with a limp. Thank the Fitness Gods for adrenaline. However, the very next obstacle was the perfect summary of the Tough Mudder and captured the exact reason why I put myself through this and have every intention of doing it TWICE in 2018.

Everest 2.0 seems like a simple obstacle on paper. There’s a half-pipe. You run up the half-pipe. Grab a hold of the ledge at the top and hoist yourself up. Cake walk right? Hahaha. Hahahaha. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. You sweet summer child, you have no idea. Not only was this immediately after Pyramid Scheme gave me the love tap from Hell, it was the exact mid-point of run. At this point I’ve run about 5-6 miles depending on who you ask, no one really knew. I was told 3 separate times that we were almost done and each time there were still about 5-7 obstacles still to go. Needless to say, the tank was running low and as with a couple obstacles before Everest and more than couple after it, I asked myself “Why are we doing this again? You stupid idiot!” John runs and makes it to the top and I have my mark. First attempt- almost made it but couldn’t get a good grip and I slide down. It’s all good, I’ll try again. Second attempt- I start running, make it as far up as I can and leap, just missed John’s hand and a fellow Mudder at the top by inches. Attempts 3-5 were mostly the same. Frustration was mounting as a group of seasoned Mudders, as noted by their snazzy different colored headbands, gave me some pointers I resolved that this attempt was the last, one way or the other. I get a good head of steam, run and jump at the highest point of the wall I can get to and grab the hands of John and our good Mudder Samaritan who stayed until I got up that wall. The fact that I didn’t have strength left in my arms didn’t help our situation. Props to the guy on my left who grabbed my legs as I started swinging them over in my last ditch attempt to get up that damn wall.

That feeling I had when I made it to the top of Everest 2.0 is one I will never forget. The elation, the relief, and the triumph of finally scaling that way made me forget that we still had the back half of the course to finish and that’s where most of the ridiculous obstacles were found. But after beating Everest and earning that warm fuzzy feeling in my guy, nothing was going to ruin my day. Not even running through a field of electrified wires for the last obstacle.

I accomplished the main goal of this particular fitness adventure. I survived the Tough Mudder, got my orange headband and my complimentary beer. One of the best beers I have even drunk in my life. I rode that high for a couple weeks after the Mudder until I had to face the eventual question that comes after you finish any difficult challenge in front you; Now what? What’s next for this Recovering Fat Kid now that I tackled my white whale and got my commemorative t-shirt and coffee mug?

Find out next time on The Diary of a Recovering Fat Kid! Sorry for the cliffhanger but it is almost 1230 AM and I’ve already gone through my writing playlist twice. A man has sleep related needs people.

Introduction to the Recovering Fat Kid Part 3 or TRUST THE (Dietary) PROCESS

This one is going to be tough and slightly longer than the previous two posts. For the simple reason, this is the part of the entire process that has given me the most trouble. Tell me to lift for an hour? Done. Go run for a half hour straight? I hate you a little bit for it but I’m there. Tell me I have to cut out carbs and give up bread for a month? OK, now we have problems. I have a love/love relationship with food. I’m now at the point where I’ll try anything once and I actively try to find some reasonably healthy dishes on the menu. With a side of mac n cheese because come on, it’s the perfect meal. I haven’t always been that open when it came to venturing outside my food comfort zone. Saying I had a limited number of acceptable food items would be giving me far too much credit. And yes, none of it included salad.

Before millennials started killing the fast casual restaurant industry, my friends and I would frequent a few different Applebees for their Quizzo nights back in high school and for a the first couple of years in college. Those nights were when we came up with the most ridiculous team names, laughed till our sides hurt, won our fair share of Quizzo, and in later years would serve as the place were our one friend told us he and his girlfriend, now fiancee, were expecting. Applebees has a special nostalgic place in heart against any and all odds. However, one thing where this brand loyalty did not help was my gut. The guys who were will attest to this in the comments, the only thing I ever ordered there were the chicken fingers and fries.

It was like clock work. We would go in, get our seat, do the usual teenage banter thing, waitress would come up and I’d make my order of chicken fingers, fries and a side of honey mustard sauce. Maybe if I was feeling daring, there’d be a chicken sandwich but they were few and far between. The main reason behind this exotic eating lifestyle you ask? I said because that was the dish they couldn’t possibly screw up. The real reason though? Because it was comfortable. It was safe. And tasted like deep fried crunchy happiness with every bite, but I digress. The point is, we fall into these eating habits that make us feel safe and comfortable, when most of the time those food choice are the last possible thing we should be eating every single time out. It took me a long time to realize that and the waistline suffered for my stubbornness.

When I started to take losing weight seriously, I knew the diet would be the hardest part. I’m stubborn and rigidly set in my ways which makes adapting to new dietary restrictions a bit of a challenge. So when I was stuck at the 240 plateau with the Mudder being two months away, I knew I was in pickle. Not the fried kind of pickle, those are awesome. So when Jen, from last post fame, approached me with the idea of going on the Whole 30 diet, I was skeptical at best. This diet takes out most of the food groups that we’ve grown up thinking are necessary to being functional members of society. Absolutely nothing with added sugar. No grains. No bread. No junk food or sweets of any kind. No booze. No bread. No sulfates, nitrates or nitrites. No peanut butter. NO BREAD.

Guys I won’t lie to you. I may embellish from time to time and make snarky comments every 15.8 seconds but I won’t lie. This was a hard month. One of the hardest of the past year for me but it was worth every minute of it. I survived without the added sugar, the peanut butter, the junk food, the booze. Yes, even the *sobs* bread. I cooked more that month than I had to previous 5 years and through trial and error, I made it work. I went from about 242 down to 217 and it felt GOOD. Like smelling freshly cut Kentucky Bluegrass on a baseball field good. Like smelling freshly cooked bacon good. Like doing the Guy Fieri hunch and biting into a delicious burger good. (Note to self- Don’t write these posts hungry. Weird analogies happen.)

I’ll go more in depth into how I made my Whole 30 work in a later post, it really does deserve a series devoted to it. However I will say that it was definitely a turning point for me on this weird, hilarious, and oddly cathartic journey over the past 10ish months. It hasn’t always been easy since last April, I am only human after-all, but I am in a better place now than I was and that’s the important thing. Going forward from there, I was ready to go onto the Tough Mudder course in May considerably lighter, a little bit faster, and in an overall better position to not die while scaling some stupid high obstacle because of stubborn pride. But we’ll save those stories for next time.