We're kicking off a new series called Fitness Friday! Each Friday we'll feature a real-life, inspiring story of someone who has changed their life from inactive to healthy. I think you'll be really inspired by today's feature!

Matt is 26 and lives with his wife, Lindsey of 3.5 years in Greenville, SC. They hope to adopt a child in the next year. He is a branch manager for a local bank and you can follow him on Twitter.

Sarah: What motivated you to start losing weight and exercising?

Matt: Three factors primarily: one, was a diagnosis of pre-hypertension (high blood pressure) at age 23. My doctor had me on blood pressure drugs and warned me I might have to take them the rest of my life. Second, I began to notice that the pants which had fit me all through college didn't fit so well anymore! Finally, and most important, was the quiet encouragement of my dad. He took up running in his late 40s for his health and had even gotten into racing a little. It occurred to me that I couldn't conscience a world where my own dad could outrun me. Plus, he seemed to be enjoying it so much that I figured I'd should try it.

Sarah: How did you and your dad help each other?

Matt: Well, we live 700 miles apart so chance to actually run together are pretty unusual. But I can tell you, every time we are in the same state on a weekend we are looking for a race to run together! For example, this summer we are planning to do Grandma's Marathon in Duluth, MN. Also, we text each other often about workouts. We both have to get up between 4-5 am on weekdays to get a run in before the day starts!

Sarah: How long did it take you to reach your goal weight?

Matt: I started my running career at 240 pounds. A fitness challenge at work inspired me to watch my diet and keep up the exercise. Within 15 months I had dropped from 240 to my target weight of 165 - I guess that works out to about 5 pounds per month.

Sarah: love the healthy weight loss! 

Sarah: You have some impressive and inspiring marathon and half marathon times! Share them with us!

Matt: My first three marathons were anything but impressive in terms of time goals (but I had fun!). I really hadn't built up the physical stamina to run that kind of distance so I ended up walking much of the last 6-8 miles. Then in October 2011 a training plan with much higher mileage finally got me ready and I ran a 3:04:35, just 25 seconds faster than my Boston qualifying time. In that race, I was running with the 3:10 pace group until mile 14 when I decided I was going to go for broke and see if I could make up 5 minutes on the last 12 miles and I did!

My half marathon PR came just a couple weeks ago at a local race. It was 1:23:35. I'm pretty happy with that but I definitely feel like I can improve.

I've also done a couple of ultramarathons - one 50K and one 24-hour run. Both were very low-key events with about 80 runners in a state park. Those were surprisingly fun. Not a lot of pressure to finish in a certain amount of time, and you can really enjoy nature and companionship with other runners.

Sarah: What do you love about running?

Matt: Where do I start? I love being able to get out an enjoy the world on foot. I love the fact that I've made friends with runners all over the country. I love beautiful sunrises enjoyed in solitude on the trail near my house. I love the thrill of toeing the line at the start of a race, full of anticipation about what will happen over the next 3 or 13 or 26 miles. I love my volunteer work as the social media guy for PACE Running Magazine (on Twitter @pacerunningmag). I love coming in from a hard training run knowing I've left it all out there. I love being able to clear my head before or after a busy day at work.

Sarah: In order to drop the weight, you had to not only start running, but also change the way you eat. What is your plate today vs before?

Matt: I worked in foodservice at the university I attended, and that meant all-you-can-eat buffets three times a day. Nice for a college kid on a tight budget but not great for my waistline! Since then, I've become much more concerned with eating unprocessed foods. We live less than a mile from a great little farmers' market, and we probably shop there more than we do a regular grocery store. I limit my meat consumption and have really grown to love some "unusual" vegetables like zucchini, eggplant, and avocado.

Sarah: So many people are looking for a quick fix when it comes to their health. What would you say to them?

Matt: It's not going to be quick. Almost everything in life that's worthwhile takes time, effort and patience. The most important thing is to write down your goals and your plan to get there. Nobody is successful by thinking "You know, I'd like to be healthier." You have to have specific goals and a detailed plan on how to get there.

Sarah: What are your goals for 2012? 

Matt: I spent a good amount of time on New Years' Eve 2011 writing out what my goals would be for the coming year. Here are some of the running-related ones: sub-2:50 for a marathon; sub-1:20 for a half marathon; run 3,000 miles total, and enjoy every day of it. But the one I'm most excited about is this: help at least 3 other people get started with running so they can enjoy this sport that's become such a big part of my life.

Thank you Matt, for sharing your incredible story with us! We hope this encourages others to take that first step- literally- and start embracing and living a healthy life!


peace, sweat, love: life