I’ve been sensitive about my weight since I was in elementary school. I was never the “super fat” kid, but I was never thin and people referred to me as “husky”. By 2006 I was 31 years old, about 6 feet tall, and I weighed 236 lbs. Not that weight in and of itself is what matters, but I was 236 lbs of useless fat with no muscle. I was not healthy. I couldn’t walk up a flight of 10 stairs without running out of breath. If I moved too quickly I risked pulling a muscle. At the same time I was running a business and working 60-80 hours per week. I wanted to get in shape, but I didn’t have the time. I was miserable, not because I was fat, but because I was out of control and had no self-discipline.
I started going to the gym in January of ’07. I kept things pretty light. I lifted weights, rode the stationary bike 15-20 minutes each day, and started to feel better and lose a little of the fat. In April of ’07 my friend invited me to watch him do a small triathlon. As I watched him swim, bike, and run, I thought “If you’re ever going to get control of yourself you’re going to have to do something extreme like this.” At the same time I made up excuses about how I didn’t have the time or the money. But it was inevitable.
Around July ’07 I dove into it. I had never run over a mile in my life. I hadn’t swam in over 20 years. I had never ridden a road bike, and the last time I had ridden a bike of any sort had been about 8 years prior. But I made a commitment to myself that I would do an Ironman no matter what it took. I started training. I started swimming at the gym, I started biking, and I started running. It was hard. At one point during the first two weeks I woke up and couldn’t walk because my knees hurt so bad. I later found out I was pushing myself too hard. I talked to a physical therapist and started doing stretches and being more methodical about things.
In September of ’07 I did my first triathlon, a “sprint” distance triathlon. I thought I was going to die. It was very, very hard. The hardest thing I had ever done physically in my life up to that point. A month later I did another triathlon, and it was a lot easier. Then came winter and the end of the season, but I kept on training. If it wasn’t snowing I was out biking. If it was snowing I was out running. I swam 2-3 days per week.
In March of ’08 I traveled to Oceanside, California and did my first half-Ironman, swimming 1.2 miles, biking 56 miles, and running a half-marathon–13.1 miles. I never had to stop and get off my bike to rest, and I never walked during the run other than at aid stations when I was drinking Gatorade or eating a half of a banana. It took me about 7 hours to finish. Strangely, it was easier in some ways than the first triathlon I had done approximately 7 months before, and although I was sore and tired, within a day or two I felt great again.
As of July ’08 I am training to run a full marathon–one of my steps along the way towards doing a full Ironman. It has been a year since I started doing triathlons and I feel great. My entire life has changed. I’m much, much healthier, I eat better, I think more clearly, and best of all, I have a sense of respect for myself that I haven’t felt in a long time.
If you’ve hit rock bottom like I did, you might have to take drastic measures to recover. You might need to change your entire lifestyle. You might be scared. You might think you can’t do it. But maybe you can, maybe you will, and maybe you’ll love it.
— Joshua Steimle, 01 July 2008
Update 02 June 2010: It has been almost two years since I created this page. During that time I had to quit triathlons due to financial considerations. I wasn’t able to run my full marathon in April 2009 as I had planned, and instead ran a half-marathon. In August 2009 I was able to return to triathlon training, and this time I had a coach and much better equipment. I did another sprint triathlon, my first olympic distance triathlon, and in April 2010 I finally completed my first marathon in 4 hours, 20 minutes. In 10 days I will do my second half-Ironman (Boise), and after that I will be focused on my first full-Ironman in November, which will be in Panama City, Florida. I’m currently weighing in at 198 lbs, which is the lowest I’ve weighed since 1998. The fat is still coming off, but I have also added quite a bit of muscle. I am easily in the best overall shape of my life, and I feel great. I’ve had a lot of injuries and setbacks along the way, but I’ve been able to work through all of them, and I’ve gained a great education along the way. What used to strike me as overwhelming and confusing is now normal and understandable. What hasn’t changed is my belief that if I can do this, then you can too.