Part of our ongoing Fitness Friday series
I met Dan via a Facebook connection back in September and as soon as I heard his story knew that we had to interview him for The Father Life! Dan, husband and father of 3, weighed 400+ pounds 2 years ago… today he’s an Ironman Triathlete and has more races on his calendar than I can list here. I can’t think of a better story to kick off our weekly “Fitness Friday” series – I hope you find Dan’s story as inspiring as I have!
NAME, AGE, LOCATION? FATHER OF HOW MANY KIDS?
35 – Fort Worth, TX
Father of 3: Ayden (6) Ava (3) Austin (1)
SO, TELL US YOUR STORY. YOU WEREN’T ALWAYS DOING TRIATHLONS WERE YOU?
In high school, I played Football, Soccer, and Golf and always ate like a horse. I was burning so many calories training for my sports that I never had any weight issues. I graduated at 6’2″ 215 pounds with around 8% body fat. I steadily started putting on 5-10 pounds a year as the activity level dropped, and after about 12 years of this pattern (riddled with failed diet after failed diet) I found myself at a whopping weight of 400 pounds. I had never swam, cycled, or ran competitively, so after losing the weight, Triathlon was an entirely new thing to me.
HOW DID YOU GET TO A POINT OF 400 POUNDS… AND HOW DID BEING OVERWEIGHT AFFECT YOUR ROLE AS A FATHER?
I really don’t remember every pound I gained along the way. I started after high school with a 36″ waist, then I bought 38″ and kept going up in size year on top of year until I reached my biggest pant size of 56″. The weight really creeped up on me, and it was easy to ignore as I just bought baggy clothes, avoided being in pictures, dodged every mirror that came in my path, and secluded myself from the outside world to an extent. When I hit my highest weight and became a father, I really felt the effects of my weight in every aspect. I was embarassed to go to public functions with my family because I knew I would be the biggest Dad there. I had no energy to do anything that involved physical activity including shopping, basic chores, and going to public places where I knew I would not fit in chairs, seats, or booths.
HOW HAS YOUR ABILITY TO BE A GOOD DAD CHANGED ONCE YOU LOST THE WEIGHT AND STARTED MAKING BETTER HEALTH CHOICES?
After I lost the weight, I really wanted to be more active and involved in my kid’s lives. Since then I have coached my son’s Soccer Teams, Baseball Teams, and Football Teams, along with getting them involved in running kids races at local 1k and 1 mile events. We have been camping together, I shop with everyone and try to knock out the chores around the house, play in the snow together, and try to go to the track and run / walk as a family frequently.
NOT EVERYONE READING THIS IS GOING TO GO OUT AND DO AN IRONMAN. BUT, EVERY FATHER HAS GOOD REASON (THEIR KIDS) TO MAKE SURE THEIR OWN HEALTH IS IN ORDER. WHAT TIPS CAN YOU OFFER TODAY’S BUSY DADS?
Just before I got married, my grandfather gave me some of the best advice. He told me that the key to a successful, happy, and enduring marriage could be found by implementing 1 word… COMPROMISE! I think that with all the day-to-day tasks we have to accomplish as Fathers, husbands, providers, and friends we MUST make time for daily excercise. I know for me, it allows me to clear my thoughts, and prioritize my daily tasks.
When I first began training, my wife was getting VERY frustrated with my training regimen. At the pinnacle of her frustration, I asked her what I could do for her, in order to be able to do what I needed to do. She said “Train in the morning and be here at night”. So, I get up at 4am and do my thing. COMPROMISE!!!
WHAT’S BEEN THE BIGGEST LESSON LEARNED FOR YOU THROUGHOUT THIS EXPERIENCE?
The biggest lesson learned along my journey is that your head will give up long before your body will. I have learned that I am so much more capable of doing things that I never thought were possible largely in part to the FACT that I am no longer AFRAID to push myself to the limit and the only thing holding me back from doing ANYTHING is what goes on between my ears.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU? UPCOMING RACES? UPCOMING GOALS?
The races that I have planned for the near future are as follows:
– October 23rd – 100 Mile endurance Challenge. 100 mile run (30 hour time limit) from Corona, CA to The Santa Monica Pier.
– November 21st – IRONMAN Arizona
– February 5th 2011 – Rocky Raccoon 100 Mile endurance Trail Run (30 hour limit)
– Tentative – ULTRAMAN Canada July 30th – 3 day race : 10K swim 418.3K Bike 84.3K Run
– August 2011 – Swim From Obesity – Swim from Spain to Africa through The strait of Gibraltar (Fundraiser for Childhood Obesity)
We will see what else looks appealing along the way!
WHAT’S A TYPICAL WEEK OF TRAINING FOR YOU?
When I am ramping for Ironman I usually Swim 8-10 miles Bike 175-200 miles and run 25-30 miles a week.
HOW DO YOU JUGGLE WORK, FAMILY, TRAINING? HOW DO YOU POSSIBLY FIND THE TIME TO TRAIN CONSISTENTLY AT THE LEVEL THAT YOU DO?
Well, I get up at 4am to train, have my BIG training days on Saturday, but have promised my wife I would be home by noon on Saturdays as a compromise. I do not train on Sundays usually. That is reserved for Church and family day.
Ben Murphy, founder of The Father Life, is an Adventure Athlete, Writer, and Wellness Advocate who used to be obese. You can ask him your questions at www.BenMurphyOnline.com. He lives in upstate New York with his wife and three daughters.
4 thoughts on “THE TRANSFORMER: Ironman Dan Benintendi”
I am at the beginning of the realization that I need to get out and be active. I have been cycling about 5 miles a day 5 days a week for almost a month now. I have not seen the weight loss that I was hoping for but really haven’t changed my diet and I know deep down that is what is to blame. What advice can you give a guy who wants to get back down to his “fighting weight”? I’m at 195ish and would love to be be back down around 180. Great article and good luck to Dan on his upcoming events!
Ricky – First, great job getting back out there! That first month of trying to develop a new habit is really tough, so good work!
Second, gotta change the diet. Just use common sense. Don’t eat too much (you and I both know what “too much” is, that’s a big struggle for me). One healthy serving is one thing; 2nd and 3rd helpings don’t do you any favors. Also, eat real food. The more processed it is the less it’s doing you any good. If the ingredients list sounds like a chemistry lesson than don’t eat it. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables – they’ll fill you up and give you the right kind of energy.
As an aside, something I’ve found helpful (and it’s not for everyone) is using something like the iPhone LoseIt! app. It’s free and it’s forced me to actually pay attention to what I eat and how much I excercise. Weight loss really is just basic math, but it’s easy to forget that. And, for example, when it’s the evening and you’ve used all but 150 of your calories for the day, you’re more likely to consume something like a bananna than a beer. Again, it’s not for everyone, but taking this approach for even one week can be very eye-opening.
Lastly, extend the time you’re working out, or go harder. One of the hardest things for me as a working father of 3 is to find time for long periods of exercise. I might only be able to find time for a one hour run, tops. But I’ll go hard. Make the time count. A 5 mile bike ride? Double the distance and see how you feel. Or go harder and try to squeeze 6 miles into the same amount of time. When time is limited, it really is about quality.
I hope that’s helpful; I think one of the hardest things about this journey is figuring out what works best for you and what doesn’t and than sticking to it. Best of luck!