As I have mentioned many times, one of the greatest blessings of our active/running community is the people you may never meet. Andy Clarke and I have both been members of an annual running/fitness group. Over the past five years I have watched Andy’s wonderful sense of humor, his great smile and the unabashed way he supports everyone in the community. He is one of the first to offer support and a positive comment. He reaches out and encourages people not only to be active, but to chime in for accountability and fun. He has a 1,000 watt smile, is crazy active and an incredible inspiration. I love seeing his daily posts from Zumba classes to lifting weights and everywhere in between. Please enjoy learning about my wonderful friend Andy Clarke.
Andy shares his life with his beautiful bride and their two grown children in Connecticut. Prior to our current lifestyle adjustments, he and his wife enjoyed spending time with friends and Andy loved putting time in at the baseball diamond during the spring and summer. By day he is a Financial Institutions Underwriter for Chubb Insurance and by early morning and night he is Andy Extraordinaire, working out, lifting weights, walking, dancing and lighting people’s lives up.
Growing up Andy stayed busy and fit, playing multiple sports. As he grew older, he remained active playing softball and baseball on local leagues and found himself, by his mid-thirties, in the best shape of his life. He was following a great eating plan and working out like crazy. Unfortunately, life got in the way and with a new addition to their family, Andy found himself working a regular sedentary job and adding two to three extra jobs to make ends meet. His lifestyle changed and he found himself picking up bad eating habits and gaining significant amounts of weight. He also developed sleep apnea, which contributed to the cycle. Andy would eat unhealthy food trying keep himself awake. At 48 years old Andy found himself weighing 525 to 550 pounds.
In 2008 life began to change as Andy started a new job with a fitness center on location. Making a commitment to himself, his wife and his children Andy started back on his fitness journey. Starting slowly, he worked to complete five minutes of walking on the treadmill. His size added extra challenges, but Andy persevered. He would work on cardio and lift weights, first on machines, working to get as many muscle groups involved as possible, and then moving to free weights. Gradually Andy added additional strength and cardio classes from local gyms, modifying as necessary. He began to see improvement.
Fast forward to today and Andy has lost 125 to 150 pounds, dropping below 400 this fall for the first time since starting this journey. He embraced his work environment and found it easy to keep active every day of the week. In the morning, Monday through Friday, he did a cardio warmup and lifted at the office gym. Most afternoons included treadmill walking, elliptical or a Zumba Class and the weekends were Dance Cardio or Zumba. With the new social distancing requirements and the necessity to work from home, he has needed to be more creative. Still trying to keep at least two workouts a day, he has found great YouTube workouts that include cardio and core, adding stair pushups, bodyweight squats and will be adding some resistance band workouts to help with the lack of free weights. As weather permits, he will be walking outside as well.
As with any fitness journey, Andy has and does face challenges. At one point a person at his fitness center made the environment difficult to withstand. Not wanting to give up, Andy found other fitness outlets. He has fought issues with his knees that have meant adapting to walking and using an elliptical more. One of the biggest challenges Andy faces is the extra, loose skin and major skin flaps on the sides of his chest and waist from his weight loss. It will be necessary to remove the extra skin surgically, as it will never go away with exercise. When Andy can have it removed it will immensely help his ability to continue to be active. In addition to helping with self esteem it will reduce his weight and overall size.
Being active has allowed Andy to see many changes in his life. He is happier and it has helped his relationship with his beautiful bride. One of the greatest impacts to his healthy lifestyle has been the ability to stop medications for Type 2 diabetes, cholesterol and high blood pressure. Now he is just able to take supplements to assist with those issues.
Celebrating his 60th birthday in August Andy has wonderful memories tied to this journey. Last year, he completed the Boston Marathon 5k without having to cut the course and in typical Andy Extraordinaire style he spent the weekend cheering on other runners. His second favorite memory is when he dropped below 400 pounds for the first time since 2008. He has been able to continue to pitch in his baseball league and improved every year of Run the Year.
Motivation is an important component for all fitness journeys. Andy’s personal dedication and desire to stay fit is a driving force in his ability to stay active. Finding groups such as RTY and then being able to lead a RTY Fitgroup has also helped. It is important to him to lead by example, do everything he can to stay healthy and be a positive influence on the many who look to him for support. By leading with his heart and positive spirit he touches lives daily and in turn is blessed by those very same people.
There is never a perfect time to begin a fitness journey and Andy’s advice is to realize that getting active is a mental game. There can be 1,000 excuses not to start, but when you are mentally invested in yourself it is easier to take the first steps. Find your motivation, why you want or need to be active and keep it front and center. The physical aspect will get easier, but the mental can be difficult even when the physical ability is there. He recommends treating yourself with kindness. You may slip, miss days, not eat right all the time, but always pick yourself up and keep going. Accountability is a definite positive. Having somebody who is counting on you, and knowing you are counting on them makes the difficult days easier. Andy has a young man from work, 26 years old, that he lifts with daily. It helps Andy stay motivated to keep up with someone 33 years his junior.
Andy has learned it is imperative to make time for yourself first and stay healthy; without your health you are no good to anyone. Life is difficult and throws curve balls often, you must be ready to adapt, stay focused and overcome.