Fit Fathers Shawn Ciers: I Run To Stay Young

shawn-ciers-235x195It all started last year during the holiday season enjoying fun times with old friends back home in Michigan, and new friends in Maryland. Festive dinners at both grandparents’ homes has always meant something special to me. But looking back at pictures of myself during that time, I was secretly unhappy about the image I saw.

I have always been the optimistic person, wanting for, and believing in the fact that change in moderation was good.  Well, this year I wanted something different.  I wanted to make a major change in my life. Not because it would be a New Year or that I was turning 40, well, not entirely that reason. I wanted to change because I needed it for me and for my family. I needed it because I was a first time father of a 1 year-old son (Nathan) who could only benefit from having a father in his life.

Being a Fit Father at my age has a very sentimental meaning. I now perceive the idea of fatherhood as being a supporter and provider. After all, I didn’t think I was in “that bad of shape.” Most would even argue a “healthy size” for my height, a “big fella.” With regards to work, I got stuck in the routine of putting in long hours during the day with zero minutes or hours of exercise.  My past job had been so time consuming that I did not realize how many hours for physical fitness were being neglected. I went from working out and running a few miles a week to doing none, zero!  This behavior would soon shape the frame of my physical appearance and my peace of mind. My biological father had passed away of a heart attack at the age of 42, so of course I wanted to change my day-to-day habits. Rightfully so I made the decision to start the year off with health and fitness in mind.

1235000_10151659745642339_410763674_nThis usually would come with the same ole’ promises to self. “I will loss weight. I will get in better shape. I will do this and that…!” But the commitment this year was stronger from the start since I had a burning desire to complete a half marathon. Holding Nathan and knowing that as an African-American male I had to be there for him in the later years of both of our lives is what drove me. This meant I had to maintain and exceed what I thought was the idea of good physical shape.

Starting with simple changes in my diet I dedicated myself to preparing my own meals and exchanging destructive foods that offer short-term comfort for new long-term goals of nourishing foods. Here are a few, simple promises to myself:

  • Every morning I will rise to prepare my meals and Nathan’s meals for the day (no excuses).
  • Ensuring he and I would have fresh fruits like grapefruit, watermelon, strawberries, apples and grapes daily.
  • Lunches now meant consuming freshly prepared spinach or kale salads with tomatoes, carrots and cucumbers.
  • Other changes in my diet would eventually see me reducing chicken, turkey and fish for protein intake. A poultry eater for 22 years, I was still in the mindset of believing that lean meats should be the primary source of protein in my diet. With knowledge that my consumption of these meats would mean my body is actually working harder to digest them, I went from eating one of them a day (for protein) to maybe eating them once or twice a month. Instantly I felt the benefits of having less weight and added energy.

Following my new eating routine would allow me to turn the focus to workouts. The plan would call for strength training 3 to 4 days a week. I wanted to keep things simple at first, but then remembered what I promised myself in the beginning, “this year would be different.” I started my workouts like I was in middle school, all lightweights. Several months later I would eventually reach bench presses of 215 lbs. (4 sets of 10 reps) and dumbbell presses of 70 lbs.  My sessions were definitely improving.

The plan was simple for cardio. Every day I would increase the intensity of each run. If I ran 20 minutes on Monday, then on Tuesday I would complete 21 minutes, Wednesday would be 22 minutes and so on. Eventually reaching a goal of 60 minutes straight. This would help in my preparation for outside trail runs which would call for more time and miles.

Healthy-Picnic-Vegetable-BasketAs the months passed subtle changes in habit began to take shape. I noticed longer distances, lifted heavier weights and incorporated various cross-training exercises with ease. Yes, my clothes would start feeling bigger and people would comment on my weight loss. These changes have now become the new direction of my life. All the preparation, hard work and sacrifices have paid off recently completing one of the goals by successfully finishing my first half marathon. The completion of the Rock’n’Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon would prove that my new lifestyle change is what I needed for both myself and my family.

FYI, the journey continues as I plan on completing my third half marathon of the year, after recently conquering the 2014 Detroit Free Press/Talmer Bank International Half-Marathon.

Shawn Ciers