Written by Brad Martin, ACK Web Content Manager

When you start college people talk about the “Freshman 15” aka those 15 pounds one gains during theirunnamed-1 freshman year of college. Well, my Freshman 15 quickly turned into the Senior 55. I walked into college a slim 170lbs and walked out a round 225lbs. Needless to say, I enjoyed my years in Huntsville, Texas, home of the Sam Houston State University Bearkats!

After college I continued my upward trend in weight. Peaking at 253lbs, I was definitely what you would call round. However, even at my heaviest, I continued to live an outdoorsy and active life. I worked as a field producer for the Outdoor Channel, continued to hike, camp, fish and participate in all of the other outdoor activities I enjoyed. So without my weight hindering my ability to move I did little to curb the weight gain trend. Even when I returned to Texas and began a relationship with my girlfriend Lindzey my weight didn’t play a major role in my life. It didn’t help that we both did the same things; smoked, drank, ate fried foods and minimally exercised except for the occasional hike and kayak paddle. In our minds, if we could do what we wanted and remained happy, why bother trying to lose the weight? That was until doing our favorite outdoor activities unnamed-4became hassles.

The strain crept up slowly. Simply beginning with shorter hikes; we wouldn’t attempt that second hill or walk that wider loop. Then we noticed that our kayaks, normally roomy and comfortable, seemed to be a bit smaller and harder to maneuver. Eventually, carrying the extra load of weight was beginning to take its toll. If we wanted to continue our outdoor lifestyle something had to give! Thus, changes were made!

Lindzey and I decided the best way to tackle this lifestyle change was to start with the easy stuff ie. eating better and zero drinking. When the calories were cut and the hangovers were few and far between, the energy levels began to skyrocket! With that extra energy we started exercising. At some point, our walking turned to jogging and jogging turned to running. As our lifestyle changed and we became more in-tuned with our bodies, we knew we had to make the biggest and most difficult change- we had to quit smoking. This was by far the hardest and longest part of our transformation. We had no idea the grip smoking had on our lives! The time, money and energy spent on cigarettes had made us prisoners to our own habit.

Brad & Lindzey in Yellowstone

As time went on and our addiction ceased, our lifestyle changes began to show major results- more energy, more movement and less cravings. All of this resulted in us losing weight and gaining momentum in our workouts. We were once again enjoying the outdoors as we should! We even rewarded ourselves with the money we saved from not smoking with a trip to Yellowstone. A three day backpacking trip to the backcountry! Two years before, we could barely make it up to the summit of Enchanted Rock and now we were able to hike up the sides of mountains overlooking some of the best scenic sights in America. It was definitely what I would call a humbling and motivating experience.

By the far the best thing we did was start running. At first it was 20 seconds at a time, then 20 minutes, then 1 hour! As we gained endurance and stamina we started to join races. Starting with a few 5k’s and making our way to half marathons we eventually arrived to the place we wanted to be! The journey to run over 13 miles in one day has been a long, wonderful experience.

An even better experience is completing yet another 13.1 race in the very town I gained my “Freshman 15’s”. Having completed my fourth half-marathon in two years on the same streets I previously drove to the nearest fast food joint, the closest bar and convenience store, was one of the best feelings I’ve ever felt.

The reason I got into better shape was simple, I was no longer able to enjoy the outdoors with my girlfriend in a way I once did. By getting into better shape I was able to take on that second hill and hike that wider loop without struggling to catch my breath. Kayaks are once again roomy, fast and lightweight. The journey was a long one and came with sacrifice. Fortunately for me, I had Lindzey with me to be my rock when I needed her and to be her rock when she needed me. Together we started this journey and ended it at the same place, the finish line of the Huntsville Half Marathon.

Brad and Lindzey before at their first race (left) and after at the finish line of the Huntsville Half (right)


-Brad @ ACK

Have you made a change in your lifestyle so that you could get outdoors more? Tell us about it in the comments below!