Today on the Doc On the Run Podcast we’re talking about the special considerations overweight runners need to think about WHEN THEY get to their goals without getting injured.
I am really excited to have Gary Stotler on the show today and Gary is a guy who is truly inspirational. He actually went from 400 pounds to running 100 miles.
Dr. Segler: Gary welcome to the show!
Gary Stotler: Thanks for having me. I really appreciate it!
Dr. Segler: Before we get started maybe you could just give us a little bit of background about how you got to 400 pounds, and then what changed and inspired you to try to get to the point where you can actually run 100 miles.
Gary Stotler: I grew up overweight. It’s just the way that it was seventh grade through football physically I weighed 215 pounds. I graduated high school somewhere around 275-300. I actually had to cut weight my senior year to be able to wrestle at 275. Then I went to college I lost all of my muscle mass because I started drinking and eating like a freshman that doesn’t have any money. So always eating out and when my wife our first son, I gained more weight than she did. And then when we had our second son, again I gained more weight than she did and then three days before my oldest son’s fourth birthday when I stepped on the scale and it read 397 pounds.
It literally scared the death out of me. I knew I was on fast track to heart attack. By that time I was thirty-five and I just knew something had to change and I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t how I was going to do it but I knew that I’d never ever ever wanted to feel that way again.
Dr. Segler: Yes, so I mean obviously that’s something that a lot of people don’t even notice right? That they don’t really realize how at risk they are and there’s no question like the medical literature is just rife with all these very specific correlations between being that heavy and the risk of a heart attack, stroke, diabetes, all sorts of chronic illnesses that will kill you. People who weigh 400 pounds don’t live to be a hundred ever. It just doesn’t work that way. So what really went through your head? When you had this sort of shock that you had gotten that heavy even though you’ve heavy all throughout as a kid, through high school, through college. What really struck you so much? Is it because you had kids you were more worried now? Why did this really strike you so significantly that time?
Gary Stotler: I wanted to be able to see my kids graduate high school. I lost my dad when I was in High School and to a heart attack. When I saw the inside of my coffin that day I’ve never ever ever wanted to feel like that again. I don’t want my kids to miss out on their dad because his choices, his poor choice. And it scared me literally, I woke up on the inside of my own coffin and it was the best worst thing that’s ever happened to me.
Dr. Segler: Yes it’s tough, I mean my dad actually died when I was in my first year of med school and he had a long sort of history of heart disease and that kind of stuff. He died at fifty-nine and it’s interesting because I have kids now and he never met them. Somebody asked me one time, it was actually my son, he actually asked me “If you could have dinner with any two people alive or dead, who would it be?” Which was an interesting question from a nine year old and at first I started thinking about all these famous people, past presidents and that kind of stuff and I was driving along thinking about it that actually if I could just have dinner with any two people, it would be my dad and my grandfather because I was relatively young when they died. There’s all these questions I have about raising kids and stuff that actually I would like to ask but I can’t. Unless that’s happened you don’t really understand the impact of it. But obviously this really really kind of frightened you and then you decided to lose the weight. Did you immediately just decided you wanted to start running or how did you get from just making that decision of realizing you to lose this weight to really starting to run into all these goals that you have?
Gary Stotler: So my first thought is I have to do something and I have no idea what I’m going to do. At this point I had been out of college and in sales for about four to five years and I am very huge. I was never a huge reader until I graduated college. But once I graduated and got into the real world I started reading and studying and so I read that book after book after book on self-development and sales and even today, I’ve never finished a book on running, a book on losing weight, a book on fitness and health. They bore the fire out of me and I think they’re all wrong.
I get so frustrated at these books but what I did was my favorite book in the world is “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill, written early nineteen-hundreds. That was the start of the information that I used and then there’s a book called “The Compound Effect” book by Darren Hardy and if you’ve ever heard of the compounded penny where I offer you three million dollars today or a penny of compounds every day for thirty one days. Most people choose the three million dollars today because they now they don’t have to do any work for it. I am going to hand them three million dollars and they’re like “Okay yeah that’s cool.
But they don’t understand that the compounded penny after thirty one days is worth ten million dollars. In the audiobook actually he talks about an interview with Doctor Oz and Doctor Oz talks about if you just cut out a hundred twenty five calories a day over something like three years, you would lose thirty-three pounds. Well a hundred twenty-five calories is literally a cup of cereal not even a bowl of cereal. Just a couple cereal. So it’s nothing, it’s a soda a day. If you walk something like three quarters of a mile, would burn a hundred twenty five calories. So essentially you do something that’s as small as two hundred fifty calories a day would lose sixty-six pounds after three years.
So I used that basic concept of well what if I just walked around the block today and then I walked around the block tomorrow and then I walked around the block the next day. Well that’s what I did so first I day walked around one block. Second day I walked on two blocks. Third day I walked around three blocks and eventually it took me six months but I was walking five miles a day. And on the eating aspect, I didn’t know what was healthy food and rowing up my thought soda was healthy because it didn’t have any fat in it. I have no idea about sugar I mean I just didn’t know.
Now that I look at it, it’s my own fault, I should’ve learned. But even in the college I did not understand that eating three Big Macs was a bad thing. I didn’t understand that taco Tuesday eating twelve tacos and drinking beer was not healthy. It never resonated in me because it was never something that was brought to my attention.
I knew that if I try to change too much too fast I would fail because believe me I failed at losing weight twenty five plus times. I mean I would lose twenty pounds and I would gained forty. I would lose twenty five pounds and I would gain fifty. So I knew that I couldn’t change too much too fast. I went back to this basic concept of just cutting out a little bit every day and just changing my mindset rather than trying to change everything else and focusing.
Losing a hundred pounds was never my goal. My goal was to make a lifestyle change. I started eating out of a four ounce sosa bowl. If it went in my body, it went through this four ounce sosa bowl. I just learned to portion control my food and when you fell like “Oh my god I am still hungry” but the physical act of having to walk back to the kitchen and fill up your bowl again, go back to your seat, eat it, go back to the kitchen, fill up your bowl again, walk back to your seat. When you’re on your fourth bowl, you’re like “Oh my God I’ve had so much food”. But in reality it’s that mental aspect of being conscious of how much you are eating.
For the first six months I ate out of the sosa bowl and I took a walk around the block and that’s what I did. I just knew that I have to focus on the daily action and taking those small steps every single day. And going back to the running, it’s also a misconception for myself. It took me fourteen months to take my first running step and all I did was walk and that’s how he did it. I didn’t even become a runner until I saw Nikki trained to run and then I started running the exact same way.
On one of my walks one day I am like I am going to try running and so I tried to run a block and it was miserable. I was still 270-280, somewhere around there and it was awful. I wanted to quit. In fact did I quit after that block and I tried for two miles home. I can’t believe that I can’t run a block. I was sad. I was disappointed and luckily I got back up the next day and ran two blocks and that’s how it started just little steps, a little bit of the time.
Dr. Segler: Yes, I think everybody wants a magic pill and there’s so much of this stuff about American culture with pull yourself up, buy your bootstraps and you can do anything and anybody can be president and all that may be true. But the problem is it instills in us this idea of overnight massive change that’s not realistic. I just recently did an interview with Dr. Stephan Guyenet about stress related eating and how that affects runners and one of the things that he talked about is just in making food choices about obviously like not filling your house with a jar of candy sitting on the counter. But he said one of the most important things is to only have food visible that involves some sort of effort barrier and what he meant by that is like if you have an orange on the counter. If you get hungry you can eat the orange but you have to peel the orange and believe it or not like those very small effort barriers can often be the difference to eating something and not eating something. And obviously an orange is a relatively healthy thing. But still there is this effort barrier, you have to do something to prepare it and when you have processed foods that you just open like a bag of chips and start eating them, it removes that effort barrier and that in itself can be a huge difference.
It is interesting that it is the small changes and the books you talked about, I do a book club basically with medical students and the very first one we ever did was “Think and Grow Rich” because I think it’s one of most important books ever for somebody who is trying to set goals. But there’s another one that I don’t know if you read this one or not but “The Slight Edge” by Jeff Olson.
Gary Stotler: No I have not read them.
Dr. Segler: I think you will really enjoy this so it talks about the same things and he basically argues I think pretty convincingly that you don’t have to have this massive goal or massive change. You need to make very small improvements and do the things that you know work, only slightly better. Even a very small improvement in each of these areas will wind up as massive change for the exact same reason that compound in a penny everyday turns into many millions of dollars not just three million.
But that’s really what it is. It’s about making these very small changes. So obviously you don’t wake up one day and get on the scale and say “Oh man, I got a problem! I weigh 400 pounds I better go run a hundred miles tomorrow”. You have to do something to get there but you have to also be realistic about it and not give up and I think that’s really the big challenge is that people give up and t’s pretty easy to give up when you have an enormous goal. Even though you hadn’t read a bunch of books on running or weight loss you realized you had to start expending more energy and burn more calories, you start walking, working your way up.
But one of the things that can happen particularly runners, I do see runners that are overweight and they get discouraged and there’s enough to discourage you already right? Like it’s a very difficult challenge and you don’t need more discouragement and I have heard from lots of runners that they’ve actually been discouraged by physicians and one of the common misconceptions is that being overweight can actually put you at increased risk overuse injuries when you start running. And just last week I was lecturing to a large group of physicians at the International Foot and Ankle Foundation meeting and specifically I was giving a lecture on what can be done and how we can do things differently when treating runners to help reduce their risk of recurring overused injuries like stress fractures and tendonitis. All that kind of stuff.
When I started that talk what I did was I just asked the question to the audience. I said “What factors do you think actually put runners at risk of increase injury?” and of course it is all doctors. One of the first doctors raises hand said “High BMI” which of course means Body Mass Index and I said “well that’s interesting, I thought that too for years because we’re always told by other doctors that when somebody weighs more then that’s a problem”. Lots of doctors actually believe that a high body mass index or being overweight can put a runner at increased risk of injury. The idea that increased weight that they’re carrying result in more pounding from the force of gravity when they start running.
But interestingly if you actually look at all the research it’s been done on running injuries, it doesn’t turn out that way. The sort of best one study you can read on risk injury on runners was published in the British Medical Journal on Sports Medicine. This in 2007 and I actually looked at all the variables that contribute statistically to running injuries and a high body mass index was actually protective against foot injuries and there was some evidence that a high body mass index of like greater than twenty six actually protected male runners from overall lower extremity injury not just foot.
I guess one question I have for you is when you started down this path and started running, you’re really trying to change your life. Did run into any doctor or friends or family members or anybody that suggested that running might not be a good idea just because you are heavier than some other runners?
Gary Stotler: So with friends and family I actually hid the fact that I was trying to lose weight because that I was scared of what everyone would say. After I ran my first marathon I had this blinding pain in my knee and so I went to the doctor and said “Well I can’t find anything wrong with it. But my advice to you would be too just stick with 5K’s because you’re just you’re too big to be running. A man in your size just not need to be running”. And after I got over the eventual tears of someone telling me just stop running and I didn’t even love running at this point. I just completed a marathon and I was like “This is amazing. I cannot believe that I just did this”. But the fact that he looked me in the eye and said you should quit running because you’re too big, it lit a fire underneath me. Don’t ever tell me not to do something because I’ll do it twice and I’ll take pictures. So when he told me that, it lit this fire underneath me and so I spent two weeks in the pool, literally running in the pool so I that could keep my fitness, so that I could take all of the weight off from my body but still keep myself in condition because I had a marathon like two months after my first marathon, I was running my second one.
So that’s what I did, I just went to the pool and said “What can I do that allows me to keep my physical fitness but also allows me to keep weight off of this so that it can recover, it can heal”. So that’s what I did, I ran in the pool for two weeks, every single day, thirty minutes a day. And so a month after my marathon I actually went to the mountains where I live and I did thirty one miles from my thirty first birthday which was technically my first ultra even though it was unofficial and it was just me.
But that was my first step towards saying “Screw you, I am going to do what I want. Don’t tell me that I’m too fat to run. Don’t tell me I’m too big to run because I’m not”. And I actually wrote a blod about this sometime last year but someone asked and he said “Well what happens if you get a knee injury that puts you out. Aren’t you worried about having to have your joints replaced when you’re fifty? And I looked at him and kind of sarcastically but kind of seriously, “Doctors can replace my knees. They can replace my hips. They can replace my shoulders but they cannot replace my heart.” And if I have a heart attack and I go, that’s one thing because I’m overweight, because I made wrong decision.
Nobody’s going to give an overweight Fifty-year-old a new heart. That’s just not the way that it is but they’re going to give a physically fit Fifty-year-old new knees, new ankles, new joints so that they can go and continue running. I guess my point with all of that is even if I screw up, even if I do you hurt myself running these crazy distances to prove myself that I can do it, if they have to replace a knee at some point in time, good let it happen. Doctors are amazing now. But you guys can’t put a new heart in me from the twenty five year-old. It’s just not going to work that way.
Dr. Segler: It’s true. One thing is I remember one of the one of the fascinating things I remember about sitting in class in med school was I was sitting there and I remember the guy lecturing said “The very first symptom of heart disease in most adult males is a fatal heart attack”. That’s not a good thing. If you’re a man and you have a heart attack, you actually may well die as your very first symptom and so that’s not a good thing to experiment with. You don’t want to play around with that and also this whole thing speaks to this misinformation from doctors and used to race motorcycles before I went to med school and had a knee injury and the orthopedic surgeon, he actually listened to my story and he said “Oh your knee only dislocates when you’re riding motorcycles” and I said “Well yeah but specifically just on the left hand of tracks like it’s actually okay mostly right hand of tracks” and he said “Well you just quit riding motorcycles then” like in all seriousness and I was racing professionally at that time.
Then that same guy, after he did my reconstructed knee surgery when he realized that was not going to quit riding motorcycles he told me “You know if you ever run, you’re going to have to have a knee replacement within ten years and you’re going to be too young and so you don’t want to do that”. Well that time when he actually told me that I would definitely have to have a new replacement within ten years was more than twenty five years ago and I’ve done fifteen Ironman triathlons, I run all the time and I literally like I think about him still and I think I should make an appointment and just go see him and just say “Hey you know what, you were wrong. You don’t really have the right to tell people that with one hundred percent certainty they can’t do a given activity when you don’t actually know that”. But that’s mostly what doctors do and of course they really do want to protect you. They really are on your team I guess just like as your family members are. But even as Napoleon Hill, he talks about this a lot in “Think and Grow Rich” that some of the people closest to you who are seemingly supposed to be most supportive of you will tell you all kinds of things about you shouldn’t start that business, you shouldn’t set that goal, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. They don’t want you get hurt but it’s counter-productive to your overall goal and you have to surround yourself with people who are going to be encouraging. How did you find people to help support you? I mean it seems like if you’re kind of keeping this more or less a secret. Did you run into any other people who were kind of on the same path that did help, support you, encourage you?
Gary Stotler: So that first year I was completely quiet on social media. I walked by myself, I walked with Nicky. But yes, that first year until my first anniversary and I have lost 110 pounds, I didn’t say a word to anybody about losing weight. A couple of people noticed especially a lot of my customers, they would walk in and say “Oh my god Gary, you look fantastic. What are you doing?” I didn’t even get into social media until eighteen months after I had started and I was training for my first marathon and then went to Instagram and I used to live three hours from Denver and through Instagram, all of these people that were like-minded, a lot of us were running our first marathon. We were all training for the same race and through hashtags we just got each other and we still to this day, as a group of like eight of us still hang out and still challenge each other and still run races together. But that was my first true outside influence of people that encouraged me to not give up and encouraged me to keep going.
At that point in time that was no longer about losing weight. It was just about running a marathon and so we were all going through a lot of the same struggles. We were all having wins at different times and we were all having different losses at different times. But having this close knit group, even though we were three-four hours away and we’ve never actually met each other in person. We had this support group kind of within ourselves and then through social media that’s kind of where I started telling my story and what I had done it and what happened and that’s kind of what’s put me at where I am today.
But some my closest friends were people that we’re strangers two years ago, three years ago and I found them through social media and now we encourage each other in person and we run together on a regular basis. But yes because of what Napoleon Hill talks about that your friends and your family are going to discourage you mainly because they’re so scared that you’re going to fail. It’s not that they’re bad people. It’s just that they get worried about you keep getting disappointed. So I just knew going into all this that I couldn’t make a big deal about it and then when I set my goal to lose 200 pounds, when I set my goal to run a half marathon I still didn’t tell anybody because I was afraid of what they were going to say.
When you tell somebody you’re going to lose 200 pounds, the very first thing that comes out of their mouth is “Oh my gosh! You shouldn’t do that. That’s losing too much weight” and now I look at myself and I’m like I am completely healthy. I’ve gone from over high blood pressure my entire life to normal blood pressure for the first time in my life. No medication. I run, even on a recovery month I run a hundred and twenty, a hundred and fifty miles a month plus cross train and do this and I don’t sleep very much and I’m always going, going, going.
A lot of people look at it now like “You’re going to crash, you’re going to crash, you’re going to crash” and I say “No I’m not going to crash”. This is actually healthy. You have no idea and the reason that I just go go go is because I was talking to another guy last month in a marathon and he used to weigh 400 pounds and he would also run a hundred mile race. So we’re chatting and I just said “Hey, do you ever feel like the weight of the world has just been lifted? Like do you ever feel like you just have so much energy and you can spring up every single day because you’re not weighed down?” and he said “Yes that’s exactly how I feel” and so I think one reason that we have so much energy is because it took so much effort to get ourselves out of bed weighing 400 pounds. Let alone go for a walk. Let alone make the right decisions. Let alone go to work that it took so much effort to get out of bed. That now we’re excited about life when we have energy because we’re physically fit, we’re eating the right foods and we have big goals. You can just bounce and bounce and bounce all day long and it’s one of the best things that’s ever happened because of where we came from and I guess kind of going back to the family like they don’t understand that feeling because they’ve never taken the steps. Forward, they’ve never been in the position that we have been in, to make those hard choices every single day just to get out of bed and so they don’t know how great it can be. And they like are going back again to the magic pill.
Everybody wants a magic pill. Nobody wants to put in the work. But it’s the work and the failures that you go through every day that’s actually going to get you where are you need to be, where you want to be and that’s going to do it the healthy way.
Dr. Segler: Yes, that’s interesting and yesterday I was listening to a podcast. It was on a different topic but the interviewer asked this guy who’s actually from Germany, he said “Do you think that because you came from another country as an adult to America it’s giving you an advantage? and he said “It definitely gave me an advantage because I grew up seeing the way things should be in my home country and then I came here and when I look around, I see the differences” and he said “I see differences that normal Americans don’t recognize. They don’t see what opportunities in front of them. They don’t see what advantages they have because they grew up with them and they don’t recognize them”. And so when you go from this situation where you been inactive and you have been unable to do all these things and suddenly you start having this. It’s not surprising that you have so much energy that you could do so much and you recognize how great it is.
Many people who are completely physically capable of doing those things don’t really recognize this an opportunity and in a sense they squander it. They just don’t take advantage of it. But it’s not easy right? It’s not easy to lose all that weight and I think a lot of shows like “The Biggest Loser” in some respect has made it difficult for people and I remember years ago when it first came out watching them and they would say “It’s just a simple formula, you just you burn more calories, you less food”, well that’s sort of true and you spoke about that. You realized like okay if you don’t drink a soda you completely eliminate over a hundred calories. If you walk around the block you eliminate a hundred calories and it’s more than just math though.
If you’re actually trying to get to the place where you’re running consistently, you’re working toward becoming an endurance runner, you have to make sure you’re getting all the nutrients you need to rebuild tissue that gets damaged as a normal consequence of your training runs because every time you go for a run, you damage tissue. That tissue rebuild itself when you rest before your next workout. If you do that correctly, then you do a little tissue damage, it gets repaired, you get stronger and then you go do it again. So you have to have the building blocks for that repair process. It isn’t just that you eat less and run more. That’s just eating less and running more is going to be a recipe for disaster because you’re going to get an overtraining injury. So what sort of strategies did you use to make sure you were really optimizing your nutrition as you start ramping up your mileage after that first year?
Gary Stotler: That is a phenomenal question and I am going to take you back to the beginning and walk you through. So when I first started, I was still eating all of the bad foods that I was used to. I was just portion controlling the amount of food that I was eating. That was six months of portion control. Then I started eating better food. I started eating more fruits and vegetables. I stopped eating a ton of spaghetti and I started switching my spaghetti noodles for spaghetti squash and I bought and I was using instead of using noodles, I was using zucchini noodles and things like that. Just some simple transitions. Just mixing up a few things in my diet. I hit a point where I was actually under eating and I think I had a depression state. I had a point where I think I was actually starving myself and I was trying to do so many things all at once that I was actually under eating and when I got into ultra running. That’s actually what I believe saved my life and saved my eating and saved me from starving myself because when you’re going to run fifty miles, you have to eat.
Dr. Segler: It’s true, you can’t drive your car across the country without gas.
Gary Stotler: Exactly. When I was in the moment I wasn’t thinking about how little I was eating. I was just going, going, going. But I just remember, I would get up some days and I would get dizzy and I would fall over and I would get these massive headaches and it would hurt and so like getting into ultra running and forcing myself to eat and having to eat twenty five hundred calories to three thousand calories a day was foreign to me at this point because I learned to just cut out so many calories. So much of this running fifty miles, I started to get into eating better food, eating at Whole Foods, less processed foods because I was still conscious of how many calories I was eating.
But I was like I’m hungry and I know that I have to eat. If I’m hungry, maybe I need to eat an apple instead of eating a cookie or something because one cookie and one apple might have the same calories but which one’s going to do you better. Obviously the apple. And just making sure that I am eating the right proteins. At this point it was no longer eating sixteen ounce prime rib, I might be eating a four sirloin on top of the salad or something. So just making sure that I’m balancing my food and what actually help is I joined a crossfit gym and they did, I can’t remember what it’s called now but it’s balancing your proteins, your fats and your carbs. But yes getting through that, I mean just kind of learning that you do have to have carbs and you do have to have protein and you do have to have fat.
It just taught me just enough to make it my own and just to make it conscious of okay I can’t eat two pounds of steak today and that’s it or I can’t eat just salad all day long with nothing else on it or just a head of lettuce like I had to balance that steak with the salad with some vegetables and maybe some peanut butter or something. Just the kind of look at the holistic look at my diet and once I started doing that, I realized I could eat more than I have ever eaten but I was making proper food decisions. And so I felt better physically. My body felt better physically, mentally.
I had never been on top of my game like this and then I was like “This is amazing” like I have never been able to eat this much food, workout this much and after I started eating better I actually gained twenty pounds but I had a body scan done through the crossfit gym and I had lost six percent body fat. As I gained that twenty pounds, I lost six percent of my body fat and when I got that body scan back I said “Oh my God. I am on to something” and so now I just make sure I make good decisions when eating.
I do screw up, I’m just like everybody else. There’s a cake sitting there, I will probably eat two pieces. There’s cookies or something. I’m an emotional eater as well and this weekend, I had a rough weekend. I ate some bad stuff and now I just have to forgive myself and move on. That’s just kind of what you have to learn how to do is balance everything just because you’re training for a marathon it doesn’t mean you can eat whatever you want. You still have to make proper decision and I think that was my main advantage with how I started with a year plus of walking. I have learned that by walking five miles I couldn’t go to my house and reward myself of food because in my head I didn’t burn enough calories to justify eating a bowl of ice cream and I think a lot of people, a lot of marathon runners still go out and run twenty miles on the Saturday and then go and eat a large pizza because they’re like “Oh, I earned it”. Like you don’t get it. Like a food is not a reward and if you go run twenty miles, go to the movies or something. Go do something that’s different that you can still recover from. But don’t waste your twenty miles of effort with a pizza or a bowl ice cream or something. Change up that reward and then you will actually get closer to your goals by making the correct decisions rather than having the wrong rewards for what you have done.
Dr. Segler: Yes that’s true. You also have to think about what is the real goal. So if your goal of running twenty miles is to be stronger the following week then you need the appropriate building blocks. You just did a lot of tissue damage and pizza is not going to heal that. Ice cream is not going to heal that. But if you come home and you have a like a recovery smoothie that’s just filled with antioxidants, leafy green vegetables, all kinds of fruits and different forms of protein. That’s going to help a balanced meal that has a wide variety of food and wide variety micronutrients that you need to rebuild those tissues. That’s going to help. You think about what the goal is. If the goal is just to eat junk food you don’t need to run twenty miles right?
If you really want to do that, you just do the math and go do a workout that corresponds with that. But if you’re trying to train as an athlete you have to really think about what it is that’s going to help you recover so that you don’t get in overtraining injury because the overtraining injuries are under recovery injuries. It’s that you’ve done too much damage, you built up over time, you didn’t let recover and then you get damaged. So it really is these small choices and it really is about balance in a whole variety of different ways. It’s not just balance in terms of just protein, fat and carbohydrate. Its balance in terms of the way that you view it.
Obviously this was working right? So you’re ramping up your mileage, you’re getting stronger, you’re more and more fit. What happened? How did you get this idea about Leadville?
Gary Stotler: I actually read maybe like fifty pages of “Born To Run” and I still have not finished the book, it bored the crap out of me but somewhere in there it talks about Leadville 100. Why would you ever run a hundred miles? It just doesn’t make sense to me.
Dr. Segler: For those who don’t know what Leadville is maybe just like briefly tell us what that race involves?
Gary Stotler: So Leadville is Leadville, Colorado and the starting line is at ten thousand two hundred feet above sea level and its a hundred mile race through the mountains and you go out fifty miles. You start at ten two you kind of drop in to ninety six hundred and you go over like eleven thousand five hundred feet. Drop back down. You go down through lakes which drops at the river crossing drops at ninety two hundred feet of elevation and then you go past which is a little over twelve thousand six hundred and you drop back into Winfield which is at ten thousand feet and then you turn around and comeback.
Leadville I believe is the highest city in the U.S. and so it’s just this little tiny mining town. Leadville was started when the mine shut down and they needed a way to bring tourists to the city. Last year was the 35th anniversary of the race and it’s an iconic race and Leadville has become a very special place to me. I’ve had some major life events happen there. I’ve had some good things and some bad things happen there. But it’s just as iconic race and “Born to Run” just talks about bringing an ultra runner from a different country into the race to see how they would do.
Leadville is an iconic race in an iconic place and its a hundred mile race and you have thirty hours to complete its which is quite the task because hundred miles in thirty hours is tough.
Dr. Segler: Anyway but then when you add that it’s at elevation and it’s a really really difficult trail. It’s not just running a hundred miles and thirty hours would be difficult on flat grounded sea level but that not what we are talking about. I mean this thing is like difficulty of mythical proportions right? It is really something that most people are never going to attempt. But you decided this was be a good idea?
Gary Stotler: So I read about in the book and then like three months later I was just cruising through Facebook and this live feed that came on my Facebook page from the Leadville race series and I’m like “What is this?”. I just pulled it up and watched it and then there’s this race called the Silver Rush Fifty which is done by the Leadville race series and it’s a fifty mile race. It’s actually on the opposite side of Leadville. I was like “Wait a minute there’s a fifty mile race” so I started looking at it and I was like “I’ve got to run. This like this is going be my first fifty”. And so that’s what I did. I set goal to do the Silver Rush Fifty.
Well as I was training for the fifty mile race because so many people tried to enter into its lottery system. You have your name in the lottery and have to be chosen and then you get to run it. In the Leadville race series they have a half and a marathon and the fifty and some other races. They actually pull five numbers at the end of people that finish the race, you can put your bib number in and they pull it and if they pull it you don’t have to wait for the lottery. You get a spot. So you just have to pay for it.
I finished the fifty and they pulled my number I got a lottery point into the Leadville 100. So that’s how I actually got into the 2017 race. I knew I was in, thirteen months before the actual race which was a good thing and a bad thing for more reasons than we have time to go over but that’s how I got into Leadville that’s how it kind of got into even thinking about fifty milers and hundred milers. Silver was actually my first official ultra-marathon.
Dr. Segler: Yes the first organized one. I mean you did that thirty one mile run right? Like your birthday which technically is ultra distance. But this is the first organized when you actually participated in right?
Gary Stotler: Exactly.
Dr. Segler: So what was that like? I mean that experience because I would have to imagine it’s pretty incredible to think about getting from that point where you stood on the scale that day and look and realized you weighed almost 400 pounds to then going to run by an extremely grueling fifty mile trail. I mean what was that experience like?
Gary Stotler: It was hard and I guess hard is probably an understatement. But so a marathon with this twenty six miles, I did my first one in five hours. In my second one in like four hours and thirty minutes or something and so I did a marathon the next year. It was training for Silver Rush and I kind of hurt myself. My body didn’t feel right, my knees hurt. It was probably the under nutrition and the overtraining and whatever ended up being. I didn’t really know what the heck I was doing training for fifty miles and so I had a friend that I was running with at this point and we just went out and she’s like “You know we have to get as many as much time on our feet as possible”. So that’s what we did. We would go out for like a four-hour run on Saturday and a four-hour run on Sunday which really isn’t a lot when you think about training for fifty miles and a hundred miles.
Dr. Segler: Do you think that contributed to your injury that you got?
Gary Stotler: This was actually after my injury. So before my injury I just wasn’t, I wasn’t cross-training. I was just going out and I was just running roads and I just didn’t know what I was doing for these amazing distances. Part of that was I wasn’t educating myself on a proper way. I wasn’t thinking. I wasn’t thinking holistically about the training. I was just “I need to go run a whole bunch” and so that’s what I’ve tried to do.
I didn’t have the proper knowledge going in so that was probably my fault for not having a coach, for not having people that knew what they were doing helping me along. Three days before the race before the fifty, I had a friend that I have met a month ago and I have helped him through his first hundred mile race and he texted me and he said “Hey, do you mind if I come run that fifty with me. I really appreciated your help get me through my race and I want to come return the favor”. So he actually drove down and ran the whole fifty miles with me. Which was amazing because without him I would not have finished that race. I just physically wasn’t in good enough shape. My core broke down, my back broke down, my legs broke down and after a mile thirty I wasn’t eating anymore because it was hot and I wasn’t hydrated. My race was completely destroyed. But with his help and having him and working through me talking to me saying “Hey all we got to do is just get to the next aid station, all we got to do is just get to the next aid station. You need to be drinking more water”. Just simple things like that helped me get through the finish of the race.
It was too is exhausting. It was miserable and it was the coolest thing I’ve ever done up to that point in time.
Dr. Segler: So what are you up to now? What sort of things you’re working for right now? What goals? What’s your training schedule like? I mean what are you doing right now? Are you actually training for anything specific?
Gary Stotler: The Leadville 100 last year, I did actually fail at Mile sixty-nine. It took me some recovery time. I had a bad year last year. Depression and alcoholism and like a whole bunch of other things happened in my life. So I pretty much took from August until December. I might have run a hundred miles a month to that time and then in December I kind of I started getting back in my groove.
Right now I’m focused on just having some fun running and running trails with friends and just running roads with friends and run groups and stuff. But I did get back into Leadville this year so I can go back and so I don’t actually start my training schedule until April first. But I am a true strong believer that your base is the most important thing that you can possibly do and your daily habits and your schedule, your routine, that is all the most important thing.
So in all of this recovery time I let my mind heal, I let my body heal and right now I’m just running for fun and just trying to get into a routine because I recently moved to Colorado so that’s added a whole bunch of new things into my routine. I’m literally just rebuilding myself and rebuilding my fitness right now.
As far as what my training looks like, in February my goal is to keep it minimal and run like a hundred and twenty five to a hundred fifty miles this month and I have a gym membership with the pool. So the pool is just something that I just enjoy doing that helps me recover as much as workout and I’m starting yoga and that’s something that I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve just never had the mental capacity to just chill out. As much mental training and as it is physical training and stretching and then I’m getting into some different group classes. Just some group physical fitness classes. I know that my core is something that I need work on. Stuff like that.
Right now I go to a group fitness class three days a week. I got to yoga twice a week. I have to run a hundred and twenty five to a hundred fifty miles of month. And then in March I will add an extra day of group training. I will add extra day of yoga and I’ll probably go between a hundred fifty and a hundred fifty seventy five miles and then in April when I start I will all be in the gym five days a week and I’ll be running two hundred plus miles a month so.
Dr. Segler: Very cool! So now I know that because of your experience and the enormous change that you have had. You’ve done lots of speaking engagements and I know you can inspire and do inspire a lot of different kinds of people and I saw some pictures on your website of you with a group of kids. I’m just curious like with the current epidemic of childhood obesity. Do you ever really make it a point to go share your story with groups of kids?
Gary Stotler: I do, yes. The picture that you’re referencing is actually a guy I knew from college. His significant other is a teacher and they were doing a hundred mile challenge for the year and so that was right after I finished my first hundred. So she said “Hey would be so cool if you just came down and we can tell the kids that what they’re doing over the year, you did in just over a day”. I had the opportunity to go down and talk to them and I helped them raise some money for after school program.
They get some outdoors and I ended up running. I did a 5K with the fifth graders and then directly after I did a 5K with the sixth graders. I just had so much fun doing that. But one thing that we talk about is a lot of these kids, they get stuck on their tablets, they get stuck in front of the TV or something. So just getting them active and it’s not even really about running. It’s just about if we can build the habits. Well they’re kids but just exercising thirty minutes a day. Even if it’s just light, get outside, get some fresh air, it’s a movement.
If we can build that when they’re young then they can take these habits into junior high, high school and even into adulthood and just getting outside. Just staying active. You don’t have to run a hundred miles to be active. You just need to get outside, you just need to take a walk and the same lesson goes for fourth graders. It does for a couple that’s forty years old. If everybody would just get outside for thirty minutes a day. They would realize how great it feels and that thirty minutes would turn into forty-five and it would turn into an hour because it like “This is amazing and I feel so much better after I get outside rather than sitting in front of the TV watching reruns”.
I mean the same as it goes for kids as adults. Just get active. Just get outside. Just do something. Do something that get you moving because motion creates emotion. If you’re moving, if you’re just going, going, going, your emotions are better and even as we’re talking I’m pacing back and forth in the living room. Just moving my hands and my everything and I just feel so much better when I’m walking back and forth.
I love talking to kids because they’re so impressionable and I can get excited and some days I feel like I’m a twelve year old and so just getting in the group of twelve year olds I can have a different kind of fun and it brings back this aliveness that I don’t get to have with when I’m an adult.
Dr. Segler: Right and it’s true. I like to run primarily. I do Ironman triathlon, I swim and I bike too. But I really love to run and I was recently talking with one of my best friends about this and he’s really into yoga and we both have fairly busy lives. We have work stuff. We have kids. We have all these different commitments and it happens periodically where I get really busy and I have tons patients, tons of remote consultations on Skype or by phone and lots of house calls and suddenly it’s been two or three days since I’ve been active or since I’ve run and as a consequence of being injured from all these motorcycle crashes and stuff in my past. My back gets really messed up. I get really tensed. I start having headaches and if I just go run like three miles, it doesn’t have to be a long run. If I just go run its unbelievable how much better I feel and my buddy was saying the same thing where he was very busy with a bunch of construction project. He lives in Colorado, he runs a construction company and he gets really busy. He’s busy with his kids. He just gets a few days of workout and then he goes to like one yoga class and it’s night and day and how he feels.
I think that’s really important because when you grow up as an inactive kid, how would you even know that? How would you know that this can be a solution for those problems because when we feel like we have back pain or we have a headache? Most people think well you should take it easy and that makes it worse not better. It is counterintuitive sometimes. I think it’s really important when you are teaching these kids that it really can be different. That life can be different. You don’t have to have the same risk of obesity that is so overwhelming right now in our culture and there really is a simple solution. So along those lines do you actually do any personalized coaching for people who want to lose weight and want to start running?
Gary Stotler: I do, yes. I have a couple of clients right now and we do anything from just doing their first 5K to just getting off of their couch. I do have one client that we have a holistic look at her life and do it’s more life coaching. But there’s some physical fitness aspect in it as well. I do not do weight loss coaching because I don’t know enough about specific weight loss. I want to look at the holistic look at your life and say “where we can add twenty minutes of physical fitness is going to make you a better person, is going to make you feel better” because I want people who live these full lives instead of just going out and say “I want to lose twenty pounds ” because I can guarantee you that losing twenty pounds is not going to do what I can do for you by looking at a holistic look at your life.
Dr. Segler: Well recently I was in Houston. I was running with my sister at a memorial park and I think I took a picture. I’m going to look and see if I did. I’m going to find it and put it in the show notes. But basically someone had spray-painted on there’s a section where you run past the tennis courts and there’s one of the backboards where people play tennis balls against it. On the side of the running track where we’re running someone had spray-painted this little tiny image and it had basically a silhouette of an obese guy running and then it had a white arrow and then there was a skinny guy running.
It really is that simple. It’s like if you start running it’s going to be very difficult to not lose weight and but it’s not so simple because like you just start running and you don’t go out and just run five miles with the running group. You have to get there and so that’s why I was curious about you doing coaching because it’s not so simple to just go and start running and I think many people who try to start running will get discouraged very very quickly because they go out and they realize they literally can’t even run to the end of their block. When they read all this stuff or they see this Instagram post with everybody putting their strava map on “I just ran eighteen miles today” and all that sort of stuff. They can be discouraging because we can sort of instinctively compare ourselves to what we see with other people and having somebody that has been through it who can actually explain this is how you get from point A to point B. You don’t just go from running to be 400 pounds to Leadville.
There’s a long course of change that has to happen to make that happen and you have to be able to stay on course without getting discouraged. So it seems like you really have a unique perspective that could help an awful lot of people along that.
Gary Stotler: Yes and there in no ninety-day fix on anything. One thing that drives me crazy is these people like Jillian Michaels that are like “Oh I can fix you in ninety days” because no you can’t. You don’t know what it’s like to be 400 pounds get yourself off the couch. You have been physically fit for all of your life like and that’s the understanding that I hope that they bring to people is look I’ve been where are you are if not worse and I put myself on the top one percent of weight loss and I put myself on the top one percent of running by taking little bitty steps every single day rather than just saying I’m going to get off my couch and go around five miles”. Because unfortunately it’s not that magical and it doesn’t work that way.
Dr. Segler: Yes exactly. Alright so for somebody approaches you let’s say somebody calls you up and says “Okay look I’m going to lose some weight and I’m going to start running”. What is the one piece of advice you would offer to a listener who just wants to lose some weight and wants to start running?
Gary Stotler: That’s a great question! When somebody calls me up and says that I’ll ask them twenty five questions to find out what their true goal and their true motivation is because we have to look at what’s really driving these people. Like if they want to run a marathon, I wonder why they want to run a marathon and most of the time like all of us want to look good in a swimsuit. But that’s not what’s going to get us off of the couch. We want the energy to play with our kids. We want the energy to be better, also at work. We want the energy to be with our spouse while with our kids whatever it might be.
But I guess had to boil it down to what piece of advice if you want to lose weight it would be to take that step off of your couch and just for thirty days set a time whether it’s six o’clock in the morning or six o’clock at night and go out and walk for twenty minutes. For thirty days and just for twenty minutes, every single day for thirty days because what’s going to happen is if you get in the habit, I can teach you to get into the habit of walking for twenty minutes at same time every single day, I can teach you whatever else we need to do you to get you where you want to go. Because it’s all about that habit building and it’s all about that first step. And what I find with people is that thirty day challenge to get out of their couch for twenty minutes turns into been getting off of their couch for a half hour forty five minutes or an hour. Even long before we get to that thirty day mark because they realized that twenty minutes isn’t a lot of time to get outside and twenty minutes is simple. If can’t find twenty minutes in the day just cut out your favorite TV show.
Twenty minutes feels so good to most people and most people can walk one mile in twenty minutes. So like “Wow, twenty minutes. I’m already out here and I feel so good. Why don’t I just keep walking until I’m tired or walk until I’m done” and the next thing you know an hour goes by and walking you don’t physically exert yourself to the point where you wake up in the morning your soring, you’re tired and don’t want to do it again like “Wow I feel rejuvenated. I feel better. I have more energy”. So they have that confidence to go out for that second day and body.
When we track this, the people that do it every single day for thirty days have a much higher success rate than the people that do work for three days and then skipped two days and then do if for a day and skip a day and then do it for four days. It all about building that solid habit on something simple and my favorite quote from Jim Rohn is “What’s simple to do is also simple not to do.”
Dr. Segler: I tell people that all the time. It is the best quote ever because it is true. He says that I mean I can still hear his voice every time I think about it “It is so easy to do and so easy not to do”. It’s true! It really is and it sounds silly when you say it but its absolute truth. I mean it doesn’t take a huge amount of effort like Jim Rohn talks about he said “It doesn’t take much effort to walk around the block”. It has to start somewhere, it really is about that first step. So what’s the best way for listeners to get ahold of you? How can people reach out to you if they want to talk to you about coaching in terms of getting to be more active? If they want to hire you for speaking engagement or connect with you. What’s the best way for listeners to reach you?
Gary Stotler: So you go to my website https://outrunyourexcuses.wordpress.com/. There’s a speaking tab and you can contact me through there. You can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can find me on Facebook and Instagram. You can call me, the number is 303-661-7780. Text me, you contact me, I will reply back. I can fly across the country. I’ll actually be in Orlando next week for something and yes I’ve got time and I’m here to help. So let me know how I can help you and let’s connect and let’s get you where you want to go.
Dr. Segler: Alright that’s fantastic! We will put all those links and your phone number and all that stuff on our show notes here so that people can reach out to you that can connect with you and they can get on the right path.
Gary this has been fantastic. Your story really is incredible and it’s been great having you as a guest on the show today. So really and truly thanks for coming on the show today.
Gary Stotler: I have enjoyed it more than you know. Thank you so much for having me.
Dr. Segler: Alright my pleasure!
If you have a question that you would like answered as a future addition of the Doc On The Run Podcast, send it to me PodcastQuestion@docontherun.com. And then make sure you join me for the next edition of the Doc On The Run Podcast!
Dr. Christopher Segler is a podiatrist and ankle surgeon who has won an award for his research on diagnosing subtle fractures involving the ankle that are often initially thought to be only ankle sprains. He believes that it is important to see the very best ankle sprain doctor in San Francisco that you can find. Fortunately, San Francisco has many of the best ankle sprain specialists in the United States practicing right here in the Bay Area. He offers house calls for those with ankle injuries who have a tough time getting to a podiatry office. You can reach him directly at (415) 308-0833.
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