How I was able to finally fit on the roller coaster

July 28, 2021

Nothing matters more to me than family. As the second youngest of seven siblings, it was ingrained in me by my parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins that nothing was more important than that familial bond. So when I had kids of my own, I was excited to impart those values to them.  

It wasn't just family values that I wanted to share with my kids. I wanted to share memories, the kind that they'd remember forever, long after I’m gone. More than anything, I wanted to be involved in their lives. But I had a problem.

One thing that hindered my ability to play with my kids was my out of control weight. I was pushing three hundred pounds despite only being five foot six. The weight was a lifelong issue, putting undue stress on my joints and even my organs, including my lungs.

On several occasions, my doctor told me that I needed to figure out a way to shed those extra pounds. They warned me that I was pre-diabetic, and if I wasn't careful, it was very likely that I’d succumb to the same heart disease that ran in my father's side of the family. As bad as those prospects were, they were even more severe potential complications for my health on the horizon.

It was hard for me to break my eating habits and my sedentary lifestyle. Changing the way you live your life is tough and daunting. But he knew he had to try. Still, finding the motivation was difficult.

One day, everything changed for me. It was late summer and after months of begging, my kids finally convinced me to take them to a local amusement park. I’d always avoided the trip, not because I couldn't afford it or  I was scared of the rides. I was scared of embarrassment.

When I was a kid, I went to the very same amusement park with my parents and siblings. Even back then, I was overweight. There was one ride over all the others that I really wanted to try. It was a new looping roller coaster built that winter, enjoying its grand opening season. Commercials for it ran non-stop on TV.

What the younger version of myself didn't think of when I got in line for the looping coaster were the restraints used to keep riders safe and secure in the cars. When I reached the station, I was denied entry onto the ride because said restraints were too loose and couldn't fit and click properly over my stomach. My siblings made fun of me for years about it, and I was embarrassed, absolutely mortified.

That memory stuck with me over the years. The last thing I wanted was for my kids to somehow see me as less because Daddy couldn't fit on a roller coaster. To make matters worse, I was, of course, much bigger than when I was a child. I didn't consider the amount of physical activity involved, just getting around and spending a day at an amusement park.

The day at the amusement park started off well. I wondered why I was so hesitant to take my kids there. They were having all the fun in the world, and so did I. Then the afternoon sun made its presence known. Suddenly the park got a lot bigger. Trips from one ride to another became more strenuous.

Dripping with sweat and out of breath, I struggled. My kids kept running around, excited, eager for the next thrill. Meanwhile, I was looking forward to the next bench, the next chance to sit down. Halfway through the day, I couldn't take anymore.

It was difficult for me, explaining to my confused and disappointed kids that Dad was too out of shape to keep going. It was even harder making peace with that myself. So I decided not to accept it. Next time we went, when we returned, I'd not only be able to keep up with my children, but I would be able to ride every attraction with them.  

Now, I've tried gym memberships before. I'd go for a couple of weeks, maybe a month or two, then get too lazy to continue. All I'd get out of it was a monthly fee taken out of my checking account. I wanted to try something new, something fresh. For me, I needed something that could be both interesting and a good workout.

An Engineer by trade and a bit of a technophile, I came across a digital personal trainer company. What interested me was that they used technology to not only track how many calories their members lost but also analyzed each workout, each motion. The technology they used was intriguing and sparked a newfound interest in physical fitness that I never thought it possible to have.

Sean, my new coach, asked me what I wanted to get out of their sessions together. I replied with the first thing that came to my mind. More than anything, I wanted to keep up with my kids and take a more active and physical role in their lives.

Armed with my goals, Sean got to work creating a plan for me. Then she got me to work.  It was tough sledding at first. I was so out of shape that simple exercises were true challenges. However, unlike the times I tried before, I was dedicated to getting in shape this time.

Not only did I enjoy seeing improvements like shedding pounds and being able to endure longer, more strenuous exercises, I also enjoyed my progress in getting the movements of each routine correct. I loved sitting down and going over how we could improve my mechanics and range of motion.

CoPilot and Sean’s approach made my well-being more like a problem I had to find solutions to solve. That was a way of thinking I was more comfortable with rather than abstract goals.

The pounds melted off. In conjunction with the weight loss I gained a sense of energy and stamina that I’d never had before in my life. Not only could I keep up with my kids, but I found myself doing things that I'd never dreamed of before. I started bike riding and jogging. I joined a work softball team. And I even ran a mini-marathon, not finishing near the top but still finishing nonetheless.

Months passed, and before I knew it, it was summer again. With the arrival of the season came the reopening of the local amusement park. I didn't wait or delay. Excited, I took my kids the week it opened up.

Keeping up with my kids wasn't an issue. It could be argued they had to keep up with me. The moment that stuck out to me and made me realize just how hard I worked and achieved was when the over-the-head and shoulder restraints of that looping coaster easily lowered over my head. I heard the click and felt how tight it was, and smiled. Silently I thanked myself for the decision to take a more active role in my own physical fitness.

Based on the journey of CoPilot member Jordan

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