My Personal Fitness Journey

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Fitness is a journey, not a destination.” – unknown

 

I was born fat. No joke, just ask my mom! I spent the majority of my childhood as the “fat kid,” and a good part of my young adult life as “the fat guy.” It wasn’t always such a drag, though. I’ve been blessed with great friends, family and a generally outgoing nature. My friends and family would probably describe me as the consummate “nice guy” (I’m also the “cool guy,” depending on who you ask!) Was I made fun of? Absolutely, but I was able to not let other’s perceptions of my physical appearance destroy my self-esteem. My own perception of myself, though, was a different story. I was fat, and I knew it.

While I never really let other people’s jokes about my weight get to me, I was always conscious of the fact that I was really big. Outwardly, I displayed a confidence in myself that was present regardless of my appearance. However, inside my head, I would always criticize myself about my weight. I hated how I looked. I guess I didn’t have any room to allow other people to affect my self-esteem – I was doing enough damage to it all by myself.

I think my own criticisms of myself were at times debilitating, but also important; they helped me to internalize my motivation. When I set out to shed tons of weight (which I have done twice – more on that later) it wasn’t an external influence that was motivating me to do it – it was my internal disgust at my appearance that kept me going. It was like a double-edged sword; at one end, I was constantly judging myself negatively, and at the other I was using that negativity, in essence, to fuel my motivation. Admittedly, it’s probably not the healthiest thing to do for your psyche, but it’s where I started. It’s a part of my struggle that I’ve dealt with since I was very young, and still continue to deal with today.

I vividly remember the only external criticism of my weight that ever truly stuck with me. I was ten years old and visiting the doctor when he told my mother and me, very matter-of-factly, that if I were to continue to stay as obese as I was I would likely not see age thirty. Was he over-exaggerating (and a dick)? Perhaps. He did have a point, though – I was on a fast track to poor health and the many complications that accompany it.

The lingering thought of being on a fast track to an early grave and my own internal conflicts eventually led to my first weight loss transformation at the age of thirteen. I was in junior high school, and my self worth was at an all-time low. I wasn’t lacking for friends, but I definitely did not feel good about myself. My sister was on Slim-Fast at the time, and I thought, “Oh, what the hell. Let me try it. I’ve got to do something!” Thankfully the chocolate flavor actually tasted pretty good, otherwise I may not have lost the weight that I did! All jokes aside, I asked my mom, who was skeptical about it at the time, if I could try it. She reluctantly agreed (after an OK from our family doctor, of course) and I started the Slim-Fast program.

Along with being on Slim-Fast, my father would take me to our local gym every weeknight after I finished my homework. It was hard, at first. I would get hunger pangs from the calorie deficit that Slim-Fast puts you on, and the physical activity from the gym was fairly new to me. I wasn’t very active prior to this. In elementary school, I would have my mom write notes for me to be excused from participating in gym class. Now I was going out of my way to get that exercise! After a while, though, I was starting to see some results and, seeing my commitment, the gym regulars would give me words of encouragement and show me new things to help me along.

In about 6 months time I went from 280 lbs to 175 lbs. I had literally become a new person. My family, friends and classmates were all astonished. It was a fresh start – people who I knew before were practically being re-introduced to me, and those who I had just met would not have known the “fat” me.  I graduated junior high that year and went on to high school as a completely different person.

During my freshman year of high school I played on the school’s football team. It was during this year that I was truly introduced to strength training, and I loved it! I learned so much from my coaches, but I wanted more. Every month, I would make sure that I saved up enough of my allowance to buy the newest issue of Men’s Health magazine and Muscle & Fitness. I was taking control of my fitness, and I was going to have the body I always wanted.

Right around the end of my sophomore year, things started to go downhill again. I fell into a depression, and learned that I am an emotional eater – essentially, my mind tells me that eating copious amounts of sugary sweets makes me feel good. My fitness took a back seat to other things, and eventually all my hard work from before was lost. By the time I graduated high school I was weighing over 300 lbs.

From high school I went on to college, and in my second semester got myself a job working retail full-time while going to school full-time. I bet you can imagine the stress! Much of that stress contributed to my ever-increasing waistline and bodyweight. I eventually switched jobs to the one I am at currently. When I started there, I was weighing in at about 360 lbs, which is my absolute heaviest.

I work in TriBeCa, where there is always an abundance of fitness enthusiasts either jogging or biking in the area. I always admired the runners/joggers, and remembered how calming it was to be out on a run from my football days. Once the “runner’s high” kicked in it was sheer bliss. I wanted to be able to run again, but it was going to take a lot of work. I started by walking from the Staten Island Ferry to the job and back each day, for a total of about 2 miles each way (4 miles a day). I learned to love it, and started dropping some weight. I started incorporating as much walking as possible into my daily routine, and haven’t looked back since.

Walking was a great way to get some exercise, but I still wanted to run. I began to read a lot of articles online and in blogs about running, and found some people who, like me, were overweight, and set a goal to run a marathon in order to lose weight. Something inside just clicked, and I said to myself, “Martin, you’ve got to do this.” So, for some time I read about the safest way to do this type of training, what I would need, and how to get started. I also kept track of other people’s blogs who were doing something similar so that I could compare my experiences with theirs and get motivated. Then, in September of 2010, I started my training and boldly announced that I, Martin Arroyo, would be running in the 2011 ING New York City Marathon.

My friends and family were a bit skeptical about my decision to take on such an extreme goal, but they were always supportive. Week by week, month by month, I trained to increase my mileage. I started by only running for maybe a total of 6 minutes a week to over an hour each session. The weight was coming off, fast.

In July of that year, I had officially lost 110 lbs. My friends, family, and co-workers were astonished and proud. I did it again! And, keeping to my goal, on November 6, 2011, after 7 hours, I crossed the finish line of the 2011 ING New York City Marathon and received my finisher’s medal. It was a moment that I will never forget.

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With that goal accomplished, I set out to face the world and take on as many physical challenges as I could, while inspiring others to do the same. Since then, I’ve lost another 40 lbs or so, and am currently working towards becoming a Certified Personal Trainer and Registered Dietician. Eventually, I would like to be a certified wellness coach, as I know that in order to make any serious physical transformation and to make it stick, you need a combination of physical, nutritional and mental wellness to succeed. I want to help others realize their goals and make lasting changes to better their lives!

As you can see, my fitness journey thus far has been pretty long, but it’s far from over! Who would’ve thought that the kid who used to get notes to be excused from gym class would end up running a marathon and going into a career that revolves around exercise? If only my gym teacher could see me now! I must say that I am happy with the transformation that I have made thus far, and have realized that I don’t need to harness any self-imposed negativity to make changes – all I need to do is focus on the positive aspects of my own wellness and improving upon that. Today, I’m 25 years old, in the best overall shape of my life, and continually seeking to improve myself. So far, I’m beating the prediction my doctor made 15 years ago, and I intend to prove him wrong.

Thanks for reading about my journey. I hope I was able to provide some insight on what it can be like if you’re just about to start on yours, and something that can you can relate to and be motivated by.

~Martin

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