Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Day I Survived An Hour on The Treadmill & Lived to Tell About It

Yesterday I spent an hour on a treadmill and it didn’t kill me.

After a very, very long hour as the seconds ticked towards the 60:00 minute mark, I began to smile.

There I was, drenched in sweat and throwing my hands above my head in a giant “V” for victory. I felt like Rocky at the end of his work out after running up the stairs.

In my mind, this personal moment of glory was recognition I had just completed a fete that I would have never deemed imaginable just a few short months ago.

When all was said and done, the digital display told me I had burned nearly 650 calories during this very productive hour of my life. It also indicated I had walked nearly 3.5 miles.

And for practically every step, I felt very much like a fat hamster wanting nothing more than to get off the wheel.

Let me state unequivocally I really, truly, bitterly hate exercise. And I mean that seriously. I hate it with all my heart and soul. But I have been forcing myself to go to the gym pretty routinely since I began this life change.

Who would have thunk that something as simple as diet and exercise actually works?

For many reasons, I never was able to successfully crack the code on this simple concept. But I guess my back trouble rang the bell and triggered a magic epiphany.

So for the last several months, I have been doing a lot of cardio and a modest amount of weight lifting all the while building up the amount of time I am able to stay on the treadmill.

Whatever I am now doing is seemingly working. My methods may be less than polished, but I am not doing this with a trainer.

The last time I worked out with a trainer, I just used the exercise as an excuse to leave the gym and eat more.

So this time, I am training myself.

I started working out on the circuit machines and on the treadmill gradually. But for the last few weeks I began hitting 45 minutes pretty regularly. I even started getting ambitious, futzing around with various buttons that control the speed and incline as I went for my stroll.

Now I know you will cringe when you hear this, but the treadmills at my gym have these televisions where you can watch your choice of shows while you are exercising. My preferred programming is The Food Network. Yes, other folks are watching ESPN, Extreme Sports and other Alpha Male programming like Fox News. I am watching cooking challenges.

Hey, as far as I am concerned there is nothing like Rachel Ray, Giada De Laurentiis or The Barefoot Contessa to get the heart pumping.

Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

On Saturday, I wanted to move the cardio goal post to a place on the field where I have never, ever been before. So I threw caution to the wind and went for it: a full hour.

I even “jogged” on the damn thing for part of the time, though I use that term about as loosely as one can.

You look at most people jogging on a treadmill and you don’t see fat people. You see fit people.

They jog confidently with their hands at their sides extended at 90-degree angles. When they jog, their outstretched fists look like they should be connecting with a punching bag.

I, on the other hand, look more like a rather rotund fella moving at a pace maybe one or two notches beyond brisk. My fists are not moving back and forth against my side in that proverbial jogger motion because, let’s face it, my hands are too busy holding the rails in a death grip to make sure I don’t go flying off the back of the treadmill.

For those brief few moments yesterday when I bravely decided to juice up the speed and begin my “jog,” the look on my face was anything but confident.

Panic probably captures it more accurately.

I imagine in time I will become more at ease with jogging on a treadmill. But for my first experience, I was as clumsy as a virgin. And I probably lasted just about as long as one too.

My goal moving forward is to do what I can to increase my jogging on the treadmill, but for now, walking for 60 minutes is my new 45 as I step on the conveyer belt of torture.

And as hard as all of this is for a man who despises exercise, I welcome the challenge.

Never in a million years could I have dreamed of a day where I would settle into a routine of diet and exercise to lose my weight.

You see, when it comes to dieting, I have always considered myself more a short cut kind of guy. My motto was “when in doubt, take the easy route.” Probably a reason I flirted with the idea of gastric bypass. It’s also the reason I tried and failed at diets with liquid protein shakes.

I was a magnet to any plan that seemed like it was the path of least resistance.

But now my family and I are burning it off one calorie at a time and there is nothing easy about this route. There are no shortcuts.

I am not the only one exercising. Amy also regularly goes to aerobics classes and the kids get plenty of activity between physical education at school and their daily dose of soccer, softball, karate, basketball or whatever the sport of the moment is in suburbia.

Friday will mark the end of our third month following this regimen. And when I think about how far we have all come in radically transforming our lives it truly brings tears to my eyes. But then again, so does jogging on a treadmill, so just call me Mr. Weepy.

Those who have been following the blog probably sensed from my last post that I was a bit unsure of how we fared on our family vacation to Lake Tahoe.

I admit that I was nervous, apprehensive and more than anxious as we weighed in on Friday. For me, it had been 2 weeks since confronting the scale and while I knew I had been devout, I wasn’t sure about the rest of the clan. For Amy it had been 3 weeks since her last caloric confessional and for the kids, it was a month since they last met face-to-face with the all knowing and all telling.

To be honest, with all that time away from the scale, I was worried about whether the kids and Amy were sticking to the plan.


Well, I saw and heard things that gave me reason to pause. And watching the madness ensue with the cake was just one example.

A word to the wise: when your kids and wife are deprived of carbs and sugar for nearly three months, don’t be surprised if they attack their first chance at cake like a great white shark attacks a surfer when it discovers blood in the water.

So I guess after that savage scene of strawberries and whipped cream, I questioned whether we were lacking in real self-control – and when I say “we” I include me.

To say I was blown away to learn that my fears were unfounded would be an understatement.

Last Thursday night, I was preparing myself for weigh-in results that would have confirmed my suspicions of “rogue eating.”

But when I got the call from Amy on Friday morning, I was stunned to learn Hannah and Lucas lost 15 additional pounds last month.

So our family total since starting the diet together is 146 pounds. Add to that the 10 I lost while flat on my back and we have made a 156-pound dent in our weight loss goals.

Hannah & Lucas are now very close to completing this phase of the plan. They are shadows of their former selves with each of them dropping in the 30 pound range. Soon we are going to have a conversation with the doctor about a maintenance program for the kids.

And if that doesn’t fill me with enormous pride, nothing ever will.

I only wish I could have been in the room when they met their pediatrician last week for their annual check ups.

For years, we have been told the kids needed to drop a few. Well the two together have lost close to 60 pounds since starting this new chapter in their lives. Now the doctor wants to refer other families to our program.

Unfortunately, I wish I could say that others would be as successful as we have been but I can’t. Because it really all comes down to commitment and resolve. And, while I do believe it is a little easier to diet when you take on the challenge as a family and have a kick-ass support system of friends, there is still no quick fix to any of this.

At the end of the day, there is only one question that determines success. Do you want it bad enough? Are you finally ready to make a change?

That is the bottom line of any diet.

And like anyone who has battled losing weight their whole life, I have learned that any diet works as long as you stick to it. My God, The Cookie Diet works if you follow it faithfully.

The real question is what happens when you transition to other eating.

My hope is that we as a family have finally learned the fundamentals of real world dieting.

I see now how we can go on vacation or how I can attend a wine dinner or a nice night out with my wife without feeling deprived. And I see how all these traps are possible while still losing weight.

And that is a monster step in this process.

I still have more than 100 pounds to lose so I am a long way from reaching whatever finish line I have set. And the ultimate goal is to keep the weight off for good and that will be a struggle I will wage for the rest of my life. But I can’t even think that far into the future.

Today I am encouraged about all of the results to date and for lots of good reasons.

*I have NEVER followed a food program for three months – EVER.

*For the first time in my life, I actually feel in control.

*It has been nearly 10 years since my weight has been this low.

*I am just about ready to get a new belt and I am close to 8 inches smaller than I was last December.

*Amy hasn’t been this weight since before Hannah was born.

*By now my pharmacist is wondering what happened to one of his best customers.

And the kids – well, they are my heroes.

So I guess I have no choice but to stay on the hamster wheel and keep eating the hamster food.

And if you happen to be at the Spectrum Club in Valencia and you see a guy trying to run on a treadmill a minute or two at a time, the panicked look on his face is the look of someone who finally gets it.

 Steve Elzer, 2009


  1. Congratulations Steve! 146 pounds! We always equate a pound to four sticks of butter - makes it a lot more real...

    Elizabeth and I are working on eating a lot different now and I just plotted out my extension to my morning bike ride to more than double it to 6.4 miles. I've lost 12 and she is down 14. Eating right and exercise are the way to go and keep the meds to a minimum. We look at salt in everything and it is amazing how conscious choices can make a huge difference, My test always comes down to wine trade events where food is everywhere!!

    Keep it up brother, I'm proud of you!

  2. Steve, you and your family are an inspiration. Thanks for sharing this journey.
    - Gary Gentile

  3. Hi Steve. I've been seeing your posts on Facebook and this is y first visit to your blog... I think I first met you at Casino Nigt a while back. And before that our boys played together at High Holiays but we never connected outside of those events. I'm very touched by your writing and what you and your family are accomplishing together. Glad I finally found your blog. I can't wait to actually 'SEE' all of you!

    Cheers, B.J. Kaufman

  4. Again...I'm so proud of you guys. I spoke to your amazing brother today and was talking about you.....and he said I should write and tell you what I said.

    Here goes...
    I spent my entire lifetime wishing that my unbelievable mother would take her health (mostly her weight) and get it under control.
    After many surgeries for various ailments (which she refuses to acknowledge are weight related) we have had TOO many close calls for me to share with you without crying.
    What you are doing right now is not only AMAZING for yourself.......everyone who loves you, myself included, will be forever greatful for your willingness to BE THERE for as long as you can.
    I can't wait to see you all when I get back...and please know that I really do think of you every day!!! Bravo.

    You are also a FIERCE writer!!!

  5. Thank you Bets, BJ, Gary and Doug... I can't tell you what your encouragement and support means to me.


  6. that's a very brisk pace...3.5 miles in an hour. congratulations! jane and i support you, amy, and the kids on this fabulous journey of renewal. secret tip: hang a bottle of 2000 petrus off a stick, just in front of the treadmill (i'm confident it's a sound bottle). :-)

  7. Steve, did you ever think of sending this blogspot to Barbara Uehling? - if you could find her? I bet she'd be impressed. just a thought ...


  8. Wow Steve You look completely different! You handsome bugg'a. Happy Fathers Day to you!
    With and Aloha, Marie