It is that time of year when many people resolve to lead healthier lifestyles through changes in diet and exercise. These changes require commitment and perseverance that extends well beyond the first few weeks or months of the new year.
Ernie Garcia, a 34-year-old nurse from Ignacio, serendipitously took on this challenge when he entered the Turkey Trot race in 2010, because he thought it would be “a fun thing to do.”
At the time, Garcia weighed 210 pounds and was not a runner or even physically active.
“I did not realize how overweight I was until I thought I was going to die at mile two,” he said.
Garcia finished the race “dead last” and was thankful to be alive.
“I also realized at that moment how alive I really felt,” Garcia said.
This race was a turning point in his life, and losing his mother to type 2 diabetes two years ago really convinced him to stick with his new lifestyle.
“One of the reasons I run is that I want to keep my weight down. I do not want to be another statistic,” he said.
Garcia made a commitment to be healthy and in the process has found a lifestyle that is both rewarding and fun. Taking care of himself has become a priority, and he has designed his social life around healthy activities.
The changes Garcia made have been a five-year progression, beginning with shorter, more realistic running goals by competing in 5-kilometer events and building up his endurance through weekly cardio and weight-training activities.
The jump to longer distances came when he joined the Durango Running Club and won a drawing for a free entry in the Huff to Bluff Marathon in Utah.
“I had never felt such an amazing rush as I did running a marathon,” Garcia said. “The people cheering along the course, the nice people at the aid stations and the feeling of completion when you reach the finish.”
He emphasizes that making the jump from shorter distances to marathon and ultra distances requires training and preparing your body every day.
“The key is to make sure you always do something good for your body and find a workout partner – someone who is just as crazy as you,” Garcia said. “Make working out a part of your life, and always mix it up.”
Garcia just completed his 2014 running season with a finish at the Jacksonville Marathon in Florida and has begun planning his 2015 calendar.
“The first race I plan to do in 2015 is the Black Canyon 100K,” Garcia said. “This will be my farthest distance, so I have been doing some extra training.”
To date, he has done three races over 50 miles and has set a goal to do his first 100-mile race this year.
Running is Garcia’s activity of choice, and he has used it to reclaim his body and make positive changes in his life.
“I like to run, because it makes me feel healthy and happy,” he said. “I have met the most wonderful people running and have had the most amazing times in my running shoes.
“I started running because I was a very unhealthy individual, but I continue to run because of the way it makes me feel.”
Reach Marjorie Brinton at firstname.lastname@example.org.