Sean Dooley, a 37-year-old data analyst and marketing consultant from Cincinnati, Ohio, shared with Men’s Health how he used different workout styles and disciplined eating to lose a life-changing amount of weight, going from 427 pounds to 195 pounds.
Growing up, I was in decent shape. At university, I played football and rugby. But as I moved into a sedentary adulthood, things sort of spiraled. There were small things I struggled doing that I sort of wrote off (like clipping my toenails and bending over to tie my shoes), but they were really symptoms of a bigger problem.
I never was under any false pretense that I was not in shape. I always knew I could be healthier, but the circles I ran in for work made me feel like I was doing just fine. I had a lot of acquaintances that I could say were in “worse” shape than me, so I was never motivated to fix anything.
But the big turning point was really two things combined into one. The first was when we had my daughter. When she turned three years old, she started commenting on how I didn’t play with her. The more she mentioned it, the more I realized getting down on the floor with her to play wasn’t something I did often. Then in late May 2018, we went to Florida for a Disney/Universal trip. I wasn’t allowed to get on a ride at Universal. It was life altering. I knew at that moment I needed to make a change.
I started by going on a diet, incorporating a high-protein low carb (mostly Keto) diet. I knew at my fitness level and size that trying to jump into both a diet and exercise change would be hard. I like to say that I formally started “the lifestyle change” in late November 2018.
In March 2019, I started to incorporate fitness into my lifestyle. Struggling with knee pain for years, I needed a workout that was low impact. And that’s where rowing came into my life. When I played rugby at university, we’d conditioned with the rowing team quite a bit. Rowing was an activity I always sort of liked. But, getting back into it after not doing a ton of physical activity was a challenge. But I started rowing at my local YMCA. It was usually for a 20 minute warmup prior to lifting, with a 10 minute cool down to finish. I wasn’t fast, and the meters didn’t rack up initially—but it was a start.
I knew what I could do previously, so I had to reset my benchmarks. The good thing was that rowing felt great on my body due to the low-impact nature, and I started to see some of the pounds drop off. The rowing workouts got easier and easier. As I saw the writing on the wall in late 2019 with COVID, I took the opportunity in February 2020 to purchase my own rower.
My routine is pretty varied. In a week, I typically work out six days a week (with Monday as a rest/active recovery day). I row when I get up in the morning each of those days for 20 minutes or 3,000 meters, whichever is first (usually 20 minutes). Then every Tuesday and Thursday I swim for a 45 minute session. I was also introduced to the CITYROW GO on-demand platform for rowing workouts. But it also offers hundreds of HIIT, endurance, strength and even yoga classes. That platform actually introduced me to yoga, so I now also do hot yoga 4 to 5 days a week, schedule permitting. I also alternate between running and cycling.
My diet has adjusted as well. Now, that I’m closer to my goals, I’ve moved to a more holistic, natural diet—lean protein, no sugar, etc. I still mostly avoid processed carbohydrates and get nearly all of mine from root vegetables. I have also implemented 16/8 intermittent fasting.
This health journey has made me a better dad, husband, and employee than I’ve ever been in my life. While I’ve still got a ton to figure out, a ton of the weight is gone, both literally and figuratively.
Overall, I have lost 232 pounds.
Feeling better about my health has really made me able to focus more on other aspects of my life, and has helped me find a happy center.
Thanks to rowing, fitness is now something that enhances my overall life as opposed to a chore that I feel like I have to do. Rowing is for everyone. It can really be intimidating getting started, but the workout that it provides with little stress on your joints is effective and thrilling.
As told to Emily Shiffer
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