Episode #116: How To Lose A Couple Hundred Pounds.

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Mike Before

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Mike, pictured above at over 400 pounds, is interviewed in this episode…scroll down to the bottom of this post to see what Mike looks like now!

In this October 20, 2010 free audio episode: getting rid of a stubborn gut, combining strength with endurance training, and how to lose over 220 pounds.

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Featured Topic: How To Lose 220 Pounds

In today's featured topic, I interview Mike, who originally asked a question in Podcast #108 (listen to that podcast by clicking here), and whose story is below (from Pantagraph.com). We talk in detail about how he lost the weight.

Triathlete Mike Bernico isn't sure how much he weighed at his peak two years ago. His scale didn't go higher than 380, and the needle was pinned.

“I was almost 400,” guessed the technical analyst at State Farm Insurance Cos.

He stood 5 feet, 10 inches tall and his waist was 50 inches around. Today, Bernico, 32, weighs 178 pounds as he prepares for the upcoming Tri Sharks Classic Triathlon at Comlara Park near Hudson on June 5. His body fat measures just 8.1 percent. His waist is 32 inches.

Bernico made small lifestyle changes at first.

“Like not having an entire pizza for dinner,” he said with a smile.

Better menus and portion control came next. At 330 pounds, he started strength training. He bought a recumbent bicycle trainer and started to spin his legs. His knee withstood the challenge. After a time, he bought a road bike and rode outside. By the end of 2008, he could go up to 60 miles at a time.

That's when someone urged him to complete a triathlon, where participants are timed as they swim, bike and run. One of the fastest growing sports in America, participation grew by nearly 70 percent to nearly 1.1 million from 2006-2008, according to the Outdoor Foundation. USA Triathlon, the sports governing organization, had 53,000 members in 2004. That number is more than twice that today.

Approached with the idea of being a triathlete, Bernico's response was, “No way.”

But he found a couch-to-5K (3.1 mile) training course that gradually ramps up running time and distance. He practiced swimming. He did a short triathlon in Sullivan in April 2009.
Last June, he found himself on the shore of Evergreen Lake at Comlara Park with other triathletes ready to hit the water at the start of the Tri-Sharks Classic Triathlon, a sprint-distance race named after Bloomington's triathlon club. Athletes swim 600 yards, bike 12.5 miles and run 3.1 miles.

McLean County is becoming a hub of triathlon and endurance sports in Illinois and the Midwest. The field of 600 fills up in a matter of minutes when registration opens several months before the event, said race director Colleen Klein. Bernico will be joined by his fiancée, Lana Fryer, 27, a Bloomington pharmacist, who will compete in her first triathlon.

Mike Mikel of Bloomington also will do his first sprint triathlon. Mikel started bike riding and later added swimming and running to get back in shape before he turned 40. He signed up for the triathlon when he realized he was doing all three sports during workouts.

“This (competing in triathlons) gives me another goal,” said Mikel, who also is using triathlons as a way to raise money for The Children's Foundation of Children's Home + Aid, where he is a board member. (See the outdoor column on F-1.) The Children's Foundation will be title charity sponsor for the Tri Sharks Classic in 2011.

As for Bernico, he plans to do an Olympic-distance race at the Evergreen International Triathlon July 17 at Comlara Park, where he placed fifth in his age group last year. Distances are doubled to 1,200 yards in the water, 25 miles on a bike and a 6.2 mile run. He also will compete at Steelhead, a half Ironman in Bentown Harbor, Mich., at the end of July.

In 2011, he plans to complete an Ironman triathlon, which many consider the most grueling athletic test of all. The race tests the limits of physical endurance with a swim of 2.4 miles, a bike competition of 112 miles and a marathon distance run of 26.2 miles. Competitors must complete the entire 140.6 miles in 17 hours. Bernico, who blogs at http://iron-path.blogspot.com, weighs and logs everything he eats now. Those small healthy changes have led to a diet without processed foods.

“I'm very careful,” he said.
Still, he exercises so much now he still loses weight even though he's eating a normal 3,000 calories a day. The irony amuses him.

“I'll just have to eat more,” he said, with a laugh.

Perhaps more important than the weight loss is the attitude change that has accompanied his transition, he said. He's gone through tough times with a more positive outlook.

“It's changed everything in my life,” Bernico said. “It's brought a different perspective into things. I've learned about nutrition, staying active and healthy, but I've learned no matter how bad things get, no matter what happens, I can suffer through it. After you do a triathlon, there is nothing you can't do. It's the triathlete mindset.”


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Listener Q&A:

Listener Mike asks:  My question concerns the timing of weight workouts relative to endurance workouts. What is the correct timing for hitting the weights if on the same day as a swim, bike or run workout? Should a strength session fall immediately after a ride or swim or with a few hours between? Should they be avoided on long days all together and fall on easy and rest days? It seems that introducing a couple of sessions a week on top of a full SBR schedule would put one in a constant state of tearing down muscle fibers with little time between to rebuild/recover.

Listener Mike asks: I gave up smoking almost 17 months ago. Then within one month of stopping smoking ballooned out to 93kgs…Predominantly in my gut..  still skinny legs and arms..The whole time i had been going to the gym atleast 4/5 a times week.. doing a class (pump/step/spin/combat each visit)…The weight didn´t move.. neither did my 7 month pregnant gut (101cm). How do i get rid of this last 5kgs from my gut and will i have to keep doing gym for the rest of my life like crazy to be at my former weight and bodyshape when i was a smoker.

Mike asks: I'm a triathlete in my second year of triathlon training.  I've just completed my first 70.3 and I'm hoping to do a full next year.  I'm 5'10 and currently weigh 178 pounds.  I've been measured by the local university Exercise Phys lab at 8.1% body fat.  I'm self coached.  Three years ago I weighed over 400 pounds, and I've lost over 220 pounds eating right and exercising. My leg strength seems to be a big limiter.  My legs always give out before my lungs do.  I have great cardio fitness, with a VO2max of around 66 and a resting HR of 35.  However, my bike FTP is only around 235, which gives me a power to weight ratio of 2.9 W/Kg. I've been trying to address this by doing intervals at 90-100% of FTP for 10 to 20 minutes 1 to 2 times a week.  It helps, but I'm wondering if there is more I could be doing as the improvement is very slow going.  I've only gained about 15W on my FTP since January.

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Mike After

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Ask Ben a Podcast Question

8 thoughts on “Episode #116: How To Lose A Couple Hundred Pounds.

  1. Ben, thank you for the series of posts and podcasts, very instructive but truly inspirational for many… also, the picture of Mike at above 400Ibs is awesome…

    As you know, and as many of your readers will find out, losing weight can have some detrimental effect on the face area, for some weight losers.. especially lose skin around the cheeks and chin… good facial exercises are essential to help this… i'm sure that some of your readers would benefit from good information, for the cheek area see the post at http://facialexercises.co/cheeky-face-exercises for guidance and instruction…

    Keep up the excellent work, the future of many people is in your hands as concerned weight loss

  2. kelly says:

    HI- podcast was great. I also have lost weight but ws always in ok shape- this is probably a dumb question but is there any facial exercises to tighten up lose skin aroudn the chin area. I look like buddha when i laugh and believe it or not very self conscious of it.

  3. joebruin88 says:

    Although it was a brief interview, I really enjoyed this podcast! I appreciate Mike's transparent honesty and can relate to the loose skin issue.

  4. spoonsister says:

    Mike, you're awesome and a total inspiration. Keep it up dude!!

    Ben and Jessa, you mentioned wanting to chat on the inner circle cast about topics we care about (so far so good, thanks!). I have one that has been on my mind! I'm a bit stuck after the microwave podcast. Since, like Jessa, I value making my own food and sometimes cook for the whole week on a Sunday, I end up bringing good homemade leftovers to the office instead of spending time, calories and my health on fast food. But then…all I have is a microwave there. Any advice on this? favorite hot foods that also taste great cold? haha. I bring salads a lot, but sometimes in the winter a hot lunch is tempting and a microwave seems like the only office way to get that unless i use the boiling water here for couscous.(maybe i'll call this one in as well for a shot at the prize :-) )

    1. Favorite hot foods that are good for dinner and also taste good cold the next day:

      -ANY vegetable soup, specifically pumpkin soup, squash soup, zucchini soup. Throw in some walnuts, raisins and a bit of cayenne pepper and you're set.

      -Gluten Free Pizza + pack your own fresh spinach and tomatoes to add to the top. Gluten free dough available just about anywhere

      -Spicy Thai beef salad. Recipes abound. Google it.

      -Stir fry with chicken, beef, pork, shrimp, or tofu. Add sea salt and it is actually pretty good cold.

      -The old stand-by: grilled chicken with quinoa, soy sauce or Bragg's amino sauce, and broccoli/cauliflower

  5. Brad Koehler says:

    @mike Hi, I am just starting to get into running and am a little overweight, currently it feels like its just painful cycles of running for a minute and then hardly being able to breathe for a minute, when did it start to ease up for you?

    Congratulations on your transformation it's an incredible achievement, you should be so proud.

    1. Mike says:

      Thank you Brad, and everyone! ____It definately gets easier as time goes on, but starting out as a runner can be hard. I went through the same thing. I walked/ran my first 5k in over 48 minutes, but 2ish years later I can run that same distance in 22 minutes. I think it took me about 3 solid months of walk/running before I could run 5k without stopping. It started getting easier in just a few weeks, but it probably took me a solid 6 months before I could smile and run at the same time! The lighter I got, the easier it got too, every bit of weight I took off made a difference in my running.____Alternating between walking and running is a very good idea. Depending on how out of breath you are, it might be a good idea to slow down just a little bit too. Start with making running easy, and worry about fast later!____Stick with it Brad, that investment in yourself will pay you back many times over.

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