Let me introduce you to Richard Kalasky.
Just two years ago, you would have found a 325 pound Richard working as a paramedic in Atlanta with a large soft drink in his cup holder and a pack of cigarettes nearby. He relocated to Colorado at the age of 32, living at 10,000 feet, and suffered from high blood pressure and sleep apnea due to a mixture of altitude and obesity. Knowing he had to make a change and FAST, Richard made a commitment to losing weight and adopting a healthier lifestyle.
Taking off the weight was a challenge. Richard underwent bariatric surgery and this was a jump-start to his massive weight loss. Today, Richard has lost 140 pounds. In the past 1 ½ years he has run three marathons. He broke four hours in at the Rock ‘n Roll Mardi Gras in February with a time of 3:56. He completed his first Olympic and Half Ironman triathlon distances this summer.
But, the dude doesn’t stop there. On his agenda for the future? Doing a race in every state. Completing an ultra marathon. Becoming an Ironman.
At the Boulder Peak Triathlon
So, what drives people like Richard to live their best lives? I had a chance to interview Richard and whether you are trying to lose weight, make better food choices, or train for your first race, I promise you will benefit from his answers.
SUAR: In your 20s you were overweight, did not exercise and smoked. How did these habits first develop? How did your family eat when you were growing up? Were you active as a child?
Richard: I was very active as a young child, even throughout high school and college playing sports. It was not until after college and in my early to mid 20’s that I began smoking, drinking heavily, and gaining weight quickly because I “couldn’t find the time to exercise”. I worked as a Paramedic in Atlanta and I guess became more sedentary than I thought, and couple that with drinking lots of sugary soda to stay awake at night and eating what I could easily grab, be it fast food or junk food from the 24 hour markets didn’t help either.
I remember seeing my parents smoke when I was younger but it wasn’t something that I picked up until hanging around with other co-workers in the Fire and Emergency Medical fields. The stress alone in my line of work made it easy to pick up those habits like drinking and smoking.
My mother has Crohn’s Disease, so we grew up with pretty abnormal diets and eating habits, and we did go out to eat a lot. My mother could not eat many vegetables or salads, and the family as a whole had an uncontrollable sweet tooth. My sister battled eating disorders her whole life, so I guess my family as a whole never really embraced a “normal” healthy eating lifestyle. Also growing up in the south meant that most everything was either deep fried or smothered in butter, gravy, or some kind of heavy sauces. Portion sizes were also out of control.
Finally in 2009 I reached my top weight of 325 pounds and with high blood pressure, uncontrollable sleep apnea, and borderline diabetes, it was time to make a change. The lifestyle here in Colorado is much more conducive to being healthy than it is back home in the south.
SUAR: What did running your first marathon symbolize to you?
Richard: I trained hard, following any marathon training program I could find on the internet and on social networking sites like Facebook. I was determined that on my 1 year anniversary of starting my weight loss journey I would complete my first full marathon. It so happened to be the Denver Rock n Roll Marathon in 2010. My partner and I were on a pace to complete it around 3:30 and at mile #20 I went down with excruciating pain in my left knee. It took me over an hour and a half to complete the final 6.2 miles, but with indescribable pain I finished it in 4:27.
Everyone told me that you would cry when you reached your goal of finishing your first marathon, however, I was all out of tears from the pain of the last 6.2 miles. Despite the IT Band issue, it was an amazing sense of accomplishment, not only had I lost over 100 pounds but I completed something that only a small percentage of people in the world can say they’ve accomplished. It sparked something in me to embrace a lifestyle of fitness and health, but also to continue to set and reach goals that I never dreamed I would be able to accomplish. It also allowed me to share with others my successes and help them also reach their goals. It also allows me the opportunity to train with my partner.
3 weeks later I registered for and completed the Rock n Roll San Antonio Marathon on my 35th birthday and was able to cut off 19 minutes off my time. I have not stopped trying to reach new PR’s at every event, all while having the time of my life!
Running the Georgetown to Idaho Springs Half in August with a finish time of 1:37!
SUAR: You say one key to maintaining weight loss and being healthy is cooking at home. What are some of your go-to meals you cook? Do you ever "cheat" and eat dessert or drink beer?
Richard: I do “cheat” I guess, because I have the most amazing partner who is a trained chef. We make every attempt to embrace an organic healthy diet, buying many of our food ingredients fresh from markets around town. By eating at home we are able to regulate what goes into our foods, I can watch salt and sugar intakes, manage fat and calories, and make sure that I am reaching my goals of 80-100 grams of protein per day. I also eat 5-6 small meals a day about 6-8oz each.
My favorite meal my partner prepares is a small Halibut steak with sweet potato puree, edamame, and quinoa salad with zucchini and squash. We eat a lot of fish and chicken, eggs straight out of the chicken coop, and pork from our past pet pig. I try to take in about 75% of my meals from high protein sources and about 25% from complex carbs. I also do “cheat” and eat dessert every now and again, typically we make our own ice cream both sugar and dairy free.
Recently while on vacation in Hawaii I was unable to keep solid foods down and spent the entire week on ice cream and cheesecake, it wasn’t pretty but I was able to keep it down and continue my training! I have not had alcohol in over 2 years, this is by choice. I have wanted to have a beer every now and then, but since not having it in over 2 years and basically losing the equivalent of a small adult, I am afraid of the consequences!
SUAR: For all those people who are reading this and don't know where to start with weight loss and fitness goals, what's your advice?
Richard: Set yourself up for success, give yourself a small yet achievable goal and go for it. You only set yourself up for failure and ultimately give up when you can’t reach those unobtainable goals. You have to embrace a program completely, you cannot embrace the nutrition and not the fitness, and vice versa. Remember, you will get out what you put into it, so be devoted and you will see the results!
There are several good free programs out there, but I recommend spending the extra money and seeing a nutritionist and trainer to start to make sure what you are doing is going to work for you and is not a scam. We are all dynamic individuals and what works for some does not necessarily work for all. I still actively meet with and speak with my nutritionist, especially now that I am training for more endurance events like my full Ironman St. George Utah in May 2012 and hopefully my first Ultra Marathon sometime in 2012. This is not about vanity, this is about your life, grab a hold of it and never look back!
SUAR: It seems an ultra marathon is in your future. I hope to do one too! Do you have your eye on one in particular?
Richard: I like to support local events here in Colorado as much as I can. A friend puts on the Bear Chase 50 mile, 50 K, and Half Marathon in Sept. This year I was competing in my first Ironman 70.3 and missed his event, but hoping to do it next year. There is also a new one in Moab, UT that sounds interesting, the Slim Rock 50 miler.
SUAR: How do you stay motivated on a daily basis to not fall back into old patterns/habits?
Richard: I’d like to say that it’s a healthy addiction, but I weigh myself every morning to make sure that I am on track and not slipping back into old habits! I continue to set new goals to reach for and will never allow failure to come into my life.
I enjoy swimming, biking, and especially running. I look forward to reaching my goals of 2012 of finishing my first full Ironman 140.6, my Ultra Marathon, and seeing those I am helping in the couch to 5K program succeed and run in their first event. Seeing that I can help others who struggle with obesity and health concerns overcome, is enough motivation to keep me going on a daily basis.
I appreciate the many opportunities I have had this year with representing Team MARATHON® Bar as an Active Ambassador and look forward to another great year in 2012 as I work to transition my successes over to helping others with fitness and nutrition!
Think you can’t lose weight? Think you can’t run a marathon? If Richard can do it, you can too. Ditch the excuses and find a way to make your life exactly how you want it to be.
PS: Don’t forget to enter my Marathon Bar giveaway. 5 winners!