Mike Lutes

mike lutes blogMy weight is something I have struggled with my entire life, from childhood to high school to college and into adulthood (although some would argue I never actually became an adult!). Many times, I have lost significant amounts of weight only to gain it all back.

I joined HAC when it opened in June 2007. Like many people who first join a fitness center or gym, I had the best intentions of working out, getting in shape, and losing the weight. But unfortunately, that didn’t happen. I would sporadically go and get on the treadmill or the recumbent bike but there was no real commitment to achieving those fitness and weight loss goals.

In late 2010, I connected with a group of people that were regulars in the morning at HAC. The self-named “5:35 am crew” welcomed me and I quickly made new friends. With the support of this group, I started becoming a regular in the morning. I was working out on a regular basis and started incorporating additional workout activities into my routine. In addition to the treadmill, I began swimming and taking BodyPump™ and RPM/Cycle classes. Despite working out 4-5 mornings a week and mixing up my workouts, I still was not losing weight.

I decided to set a fitness goal, thinking driving towards achieving that goal would result in weight loss. So a group of the “5:35 am crew” members and I decided to work towards participating in the Try-It Triathlon at Lums Pond in June 2012. The first 6 months of 2012 I spent preparing for the event. I added walking/running outside and biking outdoors to my workout routine. I am proud to say that I successfully completed the Try-It Tri. However, despite achieving that fitness goal, I hadn’t lost the weight I’d hoped to lose.

Another year passed and I continued to workout regularly in the mornings but I was still not losing weight. Why was I not losing the weight? I finally decided that I need some help. I met with then HAC trainer Maria Lucey in the summer of 2013. And this is where I discovered why I wasn’t losing weight: you can’t out-exercise a bad diet! My diet was what was sabotaging my ability to lose weight. The type of food and amount of foods I was consuming was not going to allow me to lose weight no matter how much I was working out.

Despite being armed with this knowledge and adding FIT class once a week to my workout schedule. I did not incorporate the necessary dietary changes to start losing weight. In fact, I had actually started to gain more weight. What was wrong with me? I knew the issue, how to resolve it, and wanted to do it. But why hadn’t I started?

I don’t know what happened, what clicked, what made the light bulb finally turn on, but a week before Thanksgiving in 2013 I had my “ah-ha” moment. I remember looking in the mirror and not liking what I saw. I remember crying. I was on my way to a premature death.
I remember that conversation I had with the person I saw in the mirror. “You are going to die.
“You have a beautiful wife whose love and support of you has never wavered. You are going to leave her a young widow. You have three wonderful, beautiful kids that you are going to have grow-up without a father.”

That day, I realized what a great life I had and that I needed to do everything in my power to be around as long as possible. That day I committed to a lifestyle change.

“My goal was to lose 150 pounds before my 15th wedding anniversary on May 5, 2015. That day everything changed.”

It was easy to start once I made the commitment to change my lifestyle. I knew what had to be changed with my diet; I just had to implement it. One of my biggest issues was portion size, so I immediately started weighing and measuring my food. I ate more fruits and vegetables, more lean protein, and drank water, A LOT of water. I limited the number of carbs I was eating (and drinking!) and no desserts. I downloaded the MyFitnessPal application on my phone and tracked every calorie I consumed. I continued my workouts four times per week that included RPM, swimming, treadmill, BodyPump™ and FIT class. I wore my MYZONE heart rate monitor for every workout and tracked my calories burned.

It did not take long for the weight to start dropping. And as the weight dropped, I was able to workout more. I added Saturday as a workout day and was up to five times per week. I had more energy so my workouts lasted longer, but it was in FIT class where I really saw significant progress in my journey.

I started participating in FIT class from its inception. Throughout my journey, I have developed a special bond with Dina Saitis. She has helped motivate me and push me to do things I never thought possible. Box jumps, kettlebell swings, Jacobs ladder, rower – you name it, she has me do it, with more weight and more reps than I ever thought I could possibly do. Dina has even altered portions of the workouts for me to accommodate a physical limitation from a pre-existing condition. I remember after one class that had a jump rope station – I had to stay afterward to talk to Dina in private and let her know that it was the first time in probably 8 years I had been physically able to actually jump rope. When I started FIT I was also unable to do box jumps – not a problem now!

My favorite FIT memory was the day I finally hit 300 meters in a minute on the rower. I had been so close for so long that when I finally hit at 301 meters, Dina ran across the room and jumped into my arms as the whole class cheered. Everyone in the Thursday 5:45 am FIT class (Dina’s best!) has been so encouraging and motivational and they have continued to help in my progress.

In June 2014, 8 months after starting my journey, I had lost 100 pounds! I was feeling great.
I had so much more energy and was as motivated as ever to reach that 150-pound weight loss before my 15th wedding anniversary. The highlight of my first 100-pound weight loss was my trip to Hershey Park with my son Grant, my brother, and my nephews. The prior summer we had made that same trip and my brother had to go on many of the roller coasters and other rides with my son because I was physically unable to fit on the rides. Well, this trip I rode every one of those rides with my son! I am sure he wasn’t aware but this was one of the best days ever and one I will never forget!

Later that summer, while on vacation in Rehoboth, my son and I rode our bikes on the Junction & Breakwater Trail from Rehoboth to Lewes and back. My daughter and I were now able to take two-mile walks with our dog. All activities I would never have been able to do before. I knew that it was going to be a longer and more difficult challenge to lose the next 50 pounds but I remained focused on achieving my goal. But by then, the diet and exercise had become part of my normal routine, I had truly made a lifestyle change. I continued to increase the intensity and length of my workouts and continued with swimming, RPM/Cycle, FIT, and other classes and keep a good diet and track my progress on the MyFitnessPal app.

The next 50 pounds came off and I was able to give my wife the gift of less of me for our anniversary on May 5th, less of me in hopes that it would result in more years together with her and our children. I still have 25 pounds to go before reaching my final goal. I know that it will not end there and that working on my fitness and diet will be a life long journey that will never end. However, I am confident that the lifestyle changes I have made the last 18 months have prepared me for that challenge.

I have a new joy for life. I have found the joy in shopping for clothes again (and I needed a whole new wardrobe!), my energy level is off the charts, I am doing new things (took the whole family ice skating, family hikes), my self-confidence is at an all-time high, I don’t stress about going on an airplane or to a stadium because I know now that I am able to fit comfortably into the seat, and I am better at my job (just hope my manager agrees when it comes time for annual reviews).

I am a better Dad to my kids and a better husband to my so-deserving wife, and am so glad that I will be around to share this life with them for many years to come.

A special thank you to Maria Lucey, Dina Saitis, the “5:35 am crew,” and the Thursday 5:45 am FIT class whom I owe a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid. You helped save my life.


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