He Got into Running at the Height of the Pandemic\u2014and Lost 70 Pounds

Name: Ryan Padilla Lee
Age: 37
Location: Sacramento, California
Occupation: Choral Director/Educator

Start Weight: 205 pounds
End Weight: 135 pounds
Time Running: 16 months

My weight has fluctuated between 160 and 200 pounds in my 30s, and at 5-foot-7, anything over 170 pounds weighs me down. Given my busy lifestyle, between regular work and side gigs, I barely had time to keep up with an exercise routine.

Around Christmas 2019, I was buying size 38 pants, a size I had never bought before. I also have a history of diabetes and stroke in my family, and I wanted to do what I could to prevent this from happening to me.

In January 2020, in preparation for taking my choirs to Hawaii, I started a strict diet and light exercise to lose the first few pounds. Once I dropped to about 185 pounds, I increased the intensity of my workouts. By March of 2020, the COVID pandemic had shut down everything. But since we were allowed to do outdoor exercises, I went all in.

I exercised twice a day, in the morning and in the afternoon. I would mix it up between walking, stair climbing, running, and cycling. I would run three days in a row, then taking a day off. If I felt good, I would skip the day off. I would use the fitness apps available to me on my phone, like LG Health and Samsung Health.

I also worked on changing my diet. I have a wicked sweet tooth, and food with too much sugar added to my peak weight. The biggest things that helped me in my initial weight loss journey was dropping all sugar, fast food, and other carbs like bread. In hindsight, dropping bread was probably useless, as my favorite breakfast for the last year has been a lightly toasted peanut butter and jelly sandwich with coffee. Lunch would be some sort of lettuce wrap, and dinner would be a salad. Lots of leafy greens (and coffee) in this diet now.

I got more into running around July 2020. It was hard at first, and I had to build up my endurance. I built up from running two miles a day to four miles to six miles. Now, I usually aim to do about five or six miles a day. We have a great set of trails and places to run here in Sacramento, which is a huge plus. I don’t like my runs to be dictated by red lights and dodging traffic.

In April 2021, I started using an app called The Conqueror Challenges. Since real races aren’t available to me yet, these virtual challenges have been a good motivator.

Currently, I run every other day. In May and June 2021, I started timing myself on 10K runs, and my best time so far is 43:47. I would love to do an actual 10K and half marathon eventually.

These three tips helped make my weight-loss efforts a success:

Tip 1: Keep pushing yourself. There will be days where you don’t feel like going out. Those are the days where it’s most important to go out and run.

Tip 2: Make the time. Everyone has a lot to do, between work, family, friends, etc. But you need to carve out the time to go exercise. It needs to be a daily priority.

Tip 3: Walk after every meal. This habit helped me get my weight down to 135 pounds from my plateau of 150 pounds.

I have lost about 70 pounds, and it happened in three phases. From January 2020 to March 2020, I went from 205 pounds to 161 pounds through diet changes. During the summer of 2020, I got down to about 150 pounds through running. I stayed there for a long time and honestly thought that was where I would remain. But after adding post-meal walks to my routine (in addition to afternoon runs), I dropped down to 135 pounds by the summer of 2021.

It’s been a remarkable journey. I weigh less now than I did in high school. I never knew this was possible. But now that I’ve gotten my health and weight in order, running and exercise is more fun than ever.

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