Blog: How 2020 turned out to be my best year in fitness despite a stroke, diabetes, pandemic

Simple Health

New year, new you, new approach to reaching your goals

It took ten years to go from 230 pounds to 180. I was missing one key element in my search for better health. (Photo by Jose Torres)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Let me get in it. Setting goals is the easy part but reaching them can be challenging. I won’t bore you with the stats of how long people stick to the resolutions they make. The goal here is to thrive. I’m no expert but I want to share with you how 2020 turned out to be the best year of my fitness journey despite a pandemic, a stroke, dealing with diabetes, and realizing I was more out of shape than I thought.

Jose Torres completes the 2020 Barton Springs Polar Plunge (KXAN Photo/Jose Torres)
Jose Torres completes the 2020 Barton Springs Polar Plunge (KXAN Photo/Jose Torres)

My intent for 2020 was to be fit enough to participate in my first Spartan race in May — you know, the race where you bathe in mud … crawl like a baby under sharp wire … climb walls … and swing from bar to bar like you did on the playground when you were a kid. But, I needed some help! So, I hired a personal trainer to help me commit through strength training and accountability. And, on the first day of 2020, to mark the start of my transformation, I took the Barton Springs Polar Plunge.

For the last 20 years, I tried different things to get “shredded” like the athletes and movie stars you see on social media. In my early 20s, I briefly tried diet pills while working out. I was not ready to commit and put in the effort. I was impatient and wanted a quick fix … faster than the drive-thru service at Chick-fil-A. I was an impatient Cinderella waiting on her Godmother to come wave her magic wand around me from head to toe.

I tried running in my early 30s but gave it up after two years. I would join gyms off-and-on but would give up because I didn’t see the results I wanted in three months. Where were my washboard abs? Where were those sharp indentations on my arms that sculpted these bulging muscles? 90 days, 12 weeks, 3 months — that was enough time, right?

Jose Torres at a 5K near Lady Bird Lake in June 2010 (left) and after a 4 mile run on the east side of the trail near the lake in September 2020 (KXAN Photo/Jose Torres)
Jose Torres at a 5K near Lady Bird Lake in June 2010 (left) and after a 4 mile run on the east side of the trail near the lake in September 2020 (KXAN Photo/Jose Torres)

To be fair to myself, I have lost a lot of weight in the last 10 years. I went from weighing 230 pounds to around 180 pounds. I was still not in shape, though. My healthy living was not consistent, which kept me from staying in shape.

(Let me pause for a second. Don’t let these two words — “healthy lifestyle” — make you think you have to completely let go of those tasty treats or delicious carbs, or that you have to exercise seven days a week. Keep in mind, it’s all about your personal goals!)

So, what was so magical about 2020? How did it transform my fitness journey? Despite the terrible things that happened in those 12 months, I was inspired to change — for the better. I hope you will follow me along this path as we explore what works best for you to help you reach your goals.

When we are able to adjust, we thrive. The Spartan race I wanted to do was canceled, so I adjusted my goals and focused on running. I pulled my groin, so I adjusted by focusing on cross training with my personal trainer. And, oh yeah, I suffered a stroke! Yes, you read that correctly. It was sudden and scary.

The next thing I knew EMS medics were at my house to check up on me. (More on this journey in a later blog post…). But, I didn’t let the stroke stop me! I adjusted to that by taking a break and slowly getting back to training while consulting with my doctor. All of these setbacks turned out to be positives. By adjusting to these challenges, I went from an 18-minute running average pace during my three-mile run to an average of 14:48! And I’m slowly getting faster! I’m no “bodybuilder,” but these arms and legs of mine are getting stronger. My range of motion and mobility have improved. I actually get low when I do my squats, as opposed to looking like I’m repeatedly sitting in my baby nephew’s highchair!

This has been my path. In the last 12 months, I discovered a new world of motivation, and I’m excited to share it with you. I want to bring you stories of hope and determination from other people who fought through their own health struggles and life challenges. I look forward to sharing my conversations with you in upcoming blogs, including the story of a married couple’s health history and how it changed their outlook in life physically and professionally. There is also the story of a fitness instructor who was taken from his mom when he was a child and he recently got the chance to reunite with her. What 2020 has taught me is we may have the same goals in fitness and life, but we won’t take the same path.

Jose Torres in 2010 (left) and in January 2021 after running five miles as part of his goal to run longer distances of 11 miles by June (KXAN Photo/Jose Torres)
Jose Torres in 2010 (left) and in January 2021 after running five miles as part of his goal to run longer distances of 11 miles by June (KXAN Photo/Jose Torres)

Jose Torres is a morning news producer with KXAN. His blog will bring stories of hope and determination from others who have fought through their own health struggles and life challenges. He looks forward to sharing those conversations in future blogs.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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