Born to Run: How I Lost 70 Pounds and Got Pandemically Fit at 50
By Dave Greenbaum
Turning 50 can be a challenge at any time, but it’s even worse during a pandemic. The quarantine of 2020 is a capstone to my 10-year journey from being a fat kid to being fit at 50 and ready to run my first marathon. COVID-19 wasn’t going to dash my hopes of doing that!
Being a fat kid is never fun. Not only do you get teased, but you often don’t have the energy and stamina to participate in sports. That shoots down your self-esteem, and you learn the way to deal with that is through that dynamic duo of fat and carbs. You know how that turns out.
I knew that turning 40 was going to be a significant milestone for me. My maternal grandfather died of a heart attack in his 40s, and my father had his first heart attack at the age of 43. In 2010, I was almost 270 pounds on a 5’11” frame. When your doctor says “morbidly obese,” well, that’s not something you want to see on your death certificate.
I asked my family and friends for two things on my big Four Zero. No material gifts, as those never interest me. First, I wanted 40 birthday cards, telling me how I made a difference in the world. With all the resources I’ve consumed on this planet, I wanted to know that I’d earned my keep for another 40 years.
The second thing I wanted was to be more fit at 40 than I was at 20. I couldn’t find the hook to motivate myself until I read about a local 10-week weight-loss contest. I have my own computer repair business, so if I won, the publicity would be great. Again, since money isn’t a motivator, I said in advance that I’d donate the prize money to the local Humane Society. I set a goal of 40 pounds since it was my 40th birthday gift.
After doing research, my plan was to reduce my calorie intake and increase my exercise. I used the Lose-It food tracker to keep a diary of what I ate and my calorie consumption. My budget was 1,800 calories a day. I focused mostly on fresh items I purchased at the farmer’s market, and avoided eating out. At home, I often ate the same thing for days in a row. By keeping meals simple, I learned to look at food as sustenance, rather than entertainment.
Supporting my business as well as puppies and kittens, was a powerful motivator. You look at a cupcake and think that “Gosh, a cute puppy can find a home if I refrain from this.” Alternatively, if someone tells you a “little piece of cake won’t hurt,” and you tell them to tell that to a kitten, people listen!
While I didn’t win first place, I hit my goal of 40 pounds and won $150, which I donated to the Humane Society. My 40th birthday I bought myself new clothes to match my new look. Everyone on a weight loss journey has that one piece of clothing they hope to fit into. I was able to wear a pair of acid-washed jeans I had saved from high school that I never could fit into before..
But losing weight is only half the journey. The other part is keeping it off, which I continued to do. My “secret’ was doing cardio workouts and weight training. I continued toning my body.
As 50 started looming, people asked me what my big challenge would be. Good question! I was at the gym on the treadmill, and someone asked if I wanted to do a 5K race. The fat kid now a runner? Okay, losing weight was one thing but starting to run when I was almost 50? I remember trying football in high school. Running was hard on my knees, but I was also that fat kid. Why not? Let’s give this another try.
To prevent injury, I joined a run-walk-run training class that taught the Galloway Method. Instead of running to exhaustion, this method has you take strategically timed walk breaks during the run. As training concluded, I was expected to sign up for the 5K. I put the deadline off; I wasn’t ready. Our class coach reminded me that it would be my best time ever, no matter what my finishing time.
Given my family history of heart disease, I did a full stress test before the race. They ran out of test before I ran out of endurance.. They said I was more than ready!
Since I was now officially a runner, I started running with the local chapter of the LGBT running group called Front Runners. They have chapters throughout the world. We ran twice a week and usually went out for brunch or dinner afterward. It’s a fantastic group with runners and walkers of all paces and skills. In this group, I learned to run twice a week. Some days, I’d be following someone fast who inspired me. Other days, I’d inspire someone else. Overall we had an immense sense of camaraderie, and I found an accepting community.
Then COVID-19 hit.
No gyms. No social gatherings. No restaurants.
Like many people, pandemic anxiety hit me hard. There wasn’t much I could do. But I remembered that sense of accomplishment I had when I turned 40. So I again took control of my life, determined to accomplish something. I’d be back to cooking more meals at home and transforming myself again.
Even though I enjoyed running with a group, it was a skill I didn’t need any equipment to pursue. All I needed was my shoes. Running during a pandemic is a unique experience. I ran through a busy downtown in the middle of the day and not a car in the road.
While running, I discovered my hometown of Lawrence, Kan. through different eyes. Each time, I’d take a different route and discover new things that I’d never noticed while driving or running in a group. Our Front Runners group would do “virtual” runs, posting photos of the communities they were in, and we all learned about each other.
Now gyms are opening up a bit more, along with restaurants and social gatherings. We’re meeting again as a group, but socially distant. Instead of brunch at a restaurant, we often have picnics and outdoor meals.
While I expect the next six months to be touch-and-go with openings and closings, I take comfort in knowing that my feet can help me keep off the weight and hit my fitness goals. Even if it’s freezing outside, I’ll bundle up and keep going with my journey. Lockdowns and viruses can’t change that. I’m part of the running community now, whether I run in my backyard or with my Front Runners.
Turning 50 in November during the pandemic won’t be fun, but as I hit that milestone, I feel more in control of my fitness and my future more than ever. When races start back up again, I’ll be ready to run that marathon. I said I’d do it when I was 50, so I just have to do it before the end of November 2021!
Dave Greenbaum, aka Doctor Dave (www.calldrdavekc.com), is a computer repair business owner based in Kansas City, Kan. He makes “mouse calls” all over Lawrence, Topeka, and Kansas City. Since the pandemic, he’s been able to help people remotely all over the world. Yes, he’ll ask if you if you tried turning it off and on again first. No, he won’t charge you for that piece of advice.
When he’s not fixing computers or running Dave is usually drinking beer, coffee and sometimes coffee flavored beer. While he believes in running, it’s often a down payment on beer.