This post was written by Fit Dad Nation member John Bauer

They say that life is a journey, and my life is no exception to that description.

My journey is one that has gone beyond where I could imagine, and it has also been a journey that has taught me many things – in the high times and the low times, I have learned much about myself – my limits, my abilities and my priorities.

The Journey To Ironman

My journey over the past few years has been exceptionally amazing. In 2013, I had already gone from 335 pounds down to 275 pounds, when I finally committed myself to pushing myself like never before.

After struggling with diet, exercise and chronic back pain, I committed to pushing myself to the point where in 6 months, from July to December, 2013, I lost 60 pounds, and was at a low weight of 208 pounds, with about a 16% body fat.

I had arrived at the point where I knew there had to do something more – I couldn’t keep losing weight. Then, through a friends suggestion, I found myself training for triathlons, and in a quick period of time, I found myself training for Ironman triathlons.

It was the ultimate – the absolute ultimate! In three short years, I had gone from a very overweight early 40-something to the point in my life where I was seriously considering an Full Ironman Triathlon.

Here I was two short years later – at 210 pounds ready to take on the ultimate challenge. In 2015, with the help of a triathlon coach, I had trained and done two Half-Ironmans, and I decided that the ultimate Ironman challenge was a clear and obvious next step.

If I didn’t do this Ironman, what would be the point of all the races I had done before? But in the midst of my preparations in early 2016, I began to lose focus, and I hit bottom – I was totally burnt out. My desire to continue to pursue my training for an Ironman, and honestly, for almost anything was gone. I would rather sit at home, eat a bag of chips and feel sorry for myself.

I found myself unmotivated and discouraged. I found myself with more questions than answers – “How could I do this?”, “Why can’t I improve my times”, “Why am I gaining weight when I’m training 15 hours a week”? The questions kept coming, and there were no answers to be found.

I had come so far so fast, and all of a sudden, it seemed like maybe the amazing journey I had been on was coming to an end. It seemed like all the work I had done was past, and I was really almost ready to give up on my progress.

For three weeks, I didn’t lift a weight, ride on my bike, run or swim at all. I became focused on my work again, and found myself with time to spare at home. In the midst of this, I also found myself unhappy at home – no one understood what not being able to do this race meant to me – no one understood that after all the success I had had in gaining my fitness, I was going to fail at my crowning achievement.

My Light Bulb Moment..

Wait! My crowning achievement? Suddenly, during this time of discouragement, it hit me – had my pursuit of fitness become my sole obsession? Had I surrendered all the other successes simply to become “an Ironman”?

In the midst of my frustration, it really hit me. I had given up the joy I had found a few years before in the mere idea of challenging myself to improve, and had replaced that with the pursuit of something that I had put as my whole identity.

This new “identity” had replaced all the other identities I had – ones, that in reality, were much more important – employee, lawyer, father, husband – those were my identities, and in the long run, those were the identities that were going to matter. “Ironman” did not.

I slowly started to cycle and run again. I returned to the gym, with the trainer who had led me through all the changes I had experienced in the past 3 years. I began to run on trails instead of roads, I began to mountain bike instead of road ride – and slowly, I found myself again.

I found the joy in weightlifting, in stopping and taking a ridiculous amount of pictures while I road and ran, and more importantly, I found the joy in my family – in my children and in my wife. I went out to exercise when I could – not when I had to – I found time for soccer games and swim meets, and also found time to meet new friends on the trails and paths that I ran and rode.

My identity was returning, and it wasn’t in the form of a title that I earned at an athletic event, but in the roles I had already been in each and every day of my life.

Now, 6 months after my burnout, I’m back – I’m a stronger cyclist and I’m starting to work on my running and swimming again – when I want to – not when I “have to”. I’m finding joy and fun in the gym as I challenge myself to gain muscle and lose fat. But more than any of those things, I’m finding time to spend with my family.

Self-improvement and fitness is important. It’s essential that we, as husbands and fathers, find activities that are ours, and that help us stay fit. But just as important, we, as husbands and fathers, must find time and energy to encourage, inspire and lead our families. It’s a tough balance, but it’s a balance we must fine.

About The Author

John Bauer is an assistant prosecutor staring down the barrel of 50. In that past few years, John went from a high weight of 335 down to 208. He then jumped into the crazy world of triathlons, competing in his first 1/2 Ironman in 2015. Although his weight loss and triathlons are proud moments, he’s more proud of being a somewhat tolerable husband to Julie and endurable dad to Katherine (14), Elizabeth (12) and Christopher (10). He’s a follower of Jesus trying to balance the crazy life of endurance athletics with his family, church and job – and learning a lot about himself a long the way.

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