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This Dad Lost 55 Pounds in 9 Months By Running on His Lunch Break

He ditched the pounds by changing his diet and lacing up his sneakers.

zack spears how running changed me
Courtesy Zack Spears

Name: Zack Spears
Age: 34
Hometown: Shelbyville, Tennessee
Occupation: Teacher
Start Weight: 230 pounds
End Weight: 175 pounds
Time Running: 9 months

After grad school, I just kept gaining weight. I would eat like I was never going to eat again at every meal. I would eat lots of pasta and fast food hamburgers. I typically ate about four servings of pasta at every meal or the largest hamburgers on the menu every time.

I was also exercising very lightly. I was always tired and none of my clothes ever fit well. I also never felt well. I would look at pictures of myself with my daughter, and I just kept getting bigger, faster than she did.

In July 2021, I was starting a new job. When I had to fill out the paperwork for health, I had to write down my health stats. That’s when it finally hit me how unhealthy I was. I was up to an XL in clothing, and didn’t want to keep buying bigger clothes. I knew I needed to make a change.

I decided to start walking and running that same month. I wanted to get away on my lunch break and there was a backwoods trail near my work that I could drive to nearby that was a 3-mile loop. Even though I couldn’t finish the entire loop at first, and I was super tired when I first started, I realized I would feel much better the rest of the day. I signed up for a 15k in February 2022, which helped keep me motivated.

I also started using the LoseIt! app to track my calories burned, along with using my Apple Watch. Currently, I eat grilled lean chicken and vegetables for most meals. I drink a protein shake at lunch because I typically am not hungry after my runs, but I know my body needs fuel. I also cut out a lot of the sweets that I was eating. I would get cookies or cake regularly. I also stopped buying junk food at the grocery store. Not having it around the house has been a major help.

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Now, I run between 5 to 6 miles a day at lunch. Instead of running the backwoods trail, I moved to running in the neighborhood nearby so that I don’t waste any of my lunch break driving. I would like to get to where I can finish 8 to 10 miles in an hour at lunch. I also run for an hour or so right after I put my daughter to bed every night. I am starting to train for a half marathon. I plan on running the Middle Half in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, this year.

I have now lost 55 pounds in nine months. One of the best moments from my journey was when I had to donate all the clothes in my closet because none of them fit me anymore. I had gotten back down to my size at my wedding, and the only thing that fit me in my closet was my wedding suit.

I didn’t do anything special. I was always the one who hated running because I had never pushed past that first hard stage. Now I love it. I am happier and feel much better now because of getting that extra weight off. I find myself to be less crabby at home as well with my daughter, and I can keep up with her all the time with no problem.

These three tips have made my running journey successful:

1. You don’t have to go fast, you just have to go

One of my favorite coworkers used to say this all the time, and I thought he was crazy–but it is so true. The work is what matters. The speed comes with time if you want it, but the work is what makes you better.

2. Track your progress

This applies to both your running and your eating. I tracked my eating and it changed my habits dramatically just because I had to think about what I was eating. Tracking my running gave me something to compete against every day.

3. Schedule your runs

I can talk myself out of working out pretty easily if I don’t have a set time that I plan to do it. I thought the COVID lockdown would get me in shape, but I didn’t set up times to actually do the working out–and as such, I never really did it. I currently have my lunch break as a great running/workout time, and the hour or so right after I put my daughter to bed every night. I now feel off if I miss one of those times.

Zack’s Must-Have Gear

Skullcandy Push Active Earbuds: I typically can’t get earbuds to stay in my ears while I run, so I picked these up and I have absolutely loved them. They are sweat-resistant and work well even in the rain and the mud running in the woods.

Adidas Adizero Pro Running Shoes: I never had real running shoes until these. They are cool and light, and I get so much more return on my work from them. I can feel the bounce as I run, and they help keep my knees from hurting on my longer runs.

Apple Watch: It keeps me updated on my pace and I can play my podcasts and audiobooks while I run to keep me from having to carry my phone in my pockets.

Apple Podcasts: I can listen to all my favorites while I run, like Office Ladies, StarTalk, Stuff To Blow Your Mind, Stuff You Should Know, and The Psychologists Are In. It really helps me hit that flow state where everything just feels right and it feels like I could run for days.

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