Project Description

For most of my life, I’ve been overweight. At my heaviest, about 300 lbs., I’d sweat climbing one flight of stairs. I’d lose my breath when I tied my shoes. I never wore my shirts tucked in. I had weight-induced sleep apnea and gastric-reflux disease. I was miserable.

When I was 42, my daughter was born and, for the very first time I thought about how my health would impact someone besides myself. I knew needed to get healthy or the chances were I’d fall gravely ill or even die before my baby girl graduated from high school. Inspired, I exercised a little – very little — and skipped meals a lot to lose about 100 lbs. over three years that ended in 2008.

Then I hit a plateau. I although I was lighter, I really wasn’t fit. I still ran out of breath after climbing a short flight of stairs. I couldn’t do single pushup. And although my job as a writer made virtually no physical demands beyond lifting a coffee cup, I was always fatigued.

Then my clothes started to fit a little too snugly. Probably because I started eating whatever, whenever. I returned to an old habit that used food to soothe anger, to celebrate happiness and to relieve boredom.

So while I looked better than when I was 100 lbs. heavier, but I really didn’t feel that much better. My body had changed but somehow I hadn’t.

In March of 2016 I started training with T.J. During our first session, he assessed my physical condition: I struggled to do 10 semi-standing pushups from a tabletop. I couldn’t do a one sit up or touch my toes without bending my knees. I was drenched in sweat after just a few simple squats.

But over the next few months, things started to turn around. Dramatically.

First, T.J. got my diet on track. He came over to the house one evening and prepared a week’s worth of dinners for me and my wife, who had started training with T.J. before I did. (Our favorite is a baked maple-salmon dish that we eat as a main dinner course. The leftovers go on the grill for a lunchtime sandwich or in breakfast scrambles. Slap-your-forehead yummy!)

Meanwhile, through challenging yet simple exercises, T.J. helped me go from struggling to do those half-pushups to 40 legitimate ones. Core strength for sit ups? No problem. I can hold a plank for two minutes and do 20 sit-ups in about 15 seconds. I’m so flexible now that I can keep my legs straight and grab my toes. My clothes fit comfortably again.

But best of all. I don’t see myself as a thin person just waiting to get heavy again. T.J. has helped me reach the point that I’m uncomfortable with inactivity and poor eating habits. My lifestyle has changed.

It’s changed so much in fact that in November of 2016, T.J. and I ran a Spartan Race we had trained together for nearly four months. I’m planning to run four Spartan Races in 2017.

Physically, I figure I’m now about 15 years younger than my actual age of 54. I need to be. I’ve got kids and grandkids to raise.

– Jon Ortiz