Shawn Eckert is a 41-year-old church youth director living in Clearwater, Fla. After recovering from drug and alcohol overuse, he felt overweight and that he was not a health role model for his son. He took up working out and running, losing more than 200 pounds on his way to running his first ultramarathon. Here, in his own words, is how he did it.
I’d been slim growing up, but in my late teens and early twenties, I got into drug use, including cocaine, Xanax, and shrooms. Coming out of that, I was on some pretty heavy medications for my mental health, and I drank alcohol daily; I gained a lot of weight and developed a fatty liver. I worked on trying to get myself sober.
In my late-twenties to mid-thirties I was at my heaviest, weighing 446 pounds at one point. But I was still active, taking my son skateboarding, for example. I got married in 2008, at a time when I was wearing size-54 pants. My tux ended up not fitting, so I wore a pair of Dickie’s pants and a t-shirt to the ceremony. At the time I knew I was big, but it didn’t seem out of hand until I looked back. I remember things like bending down to tie my shoes and having to hold my breath.
That made me think about what kind of life I’d be able to have with my son. It went beyond just getting sober; I wanted to be physically fit, too. My son took up running at a young age, and I wanted to help be an example to him.
I started working out with some friends from church, starting slowly. I could barely run 100 meters. In the beginning, I’d work out three times a week with a bootcamp-style class. My coach was a runner, so she’d always build running into our routines. I’d also hit the gym to do weightlifting on top of my bootcamp classes. I stay motivated because I feel I wasted so much of my youth and I want to do whatever I can to keep my body strong into old age.
To that end, I also switched to a plant-based diet. For a while I was really strict, drinking protein shakes and watching my calories, but I felt like that created a bit of an obsession. Now I try to listen to my body, eat organic, drinks lots of water, and limit caffeine.
Once I got serious about my goals, dropped 200 pounds in just about two years. I’m at about 240 pounds now, down from that peak of 446. I feel great. I don’t get sore or stiff, and I recover pretty well. It’s really not to have to clothes shop at a big and tall store.
I ran my first official ultra race, the Daytona 100, in December, with a lot of training and support from Nathan performance gear. I had to stop that race because of a knee injury, but I’m not going to stop running. That 100-mile marker is calling to me, and I’m going to meet it.
When I was younger, I never really thought about the future. I just lived for the day. Now I feel like I have a sense of purpose; I have goals. I hope anyone reading my story sees it as living proof that change is possible. You can do it.
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