Monday Morning Inspiration | Russell Hiller’s Story

Happy Monday morning friends!  How many of you are enjoying having thePresidential Holiday off from work today? How many of you still have to work and are suffering from a ‘case of theMonday’s?’  Whatever your work status is today, if you’re in need of motivation to start your week off right, look no further.
Fitness Ridge guest Russell Hiller, shares his story with us today. Russ has completely transformed his life based off of only two weeks at Fitness Ridge.  His transformation is not only incredible, it’s tremendously inspiring.  Russ has successfully applied what he has learned at Fitness Ridge into his everyday approach towards life.  In just over one-year, Russ has lost 153lbs.  We hope you enjoy what Russ has to share as much as we do.
ByRussell Hiller
OurCrap Can Grow a Garden
“It’s amazing how God can redeem our mistakes.  At any point, we can choose to start making something meaningful out of our lives, no matter how badly wethink we’ve screwed things up.  Flowers have always grown out ofdirt.  What is ours, then, is the choice to stop believing we’ve made toobig of a mistake, that we’ve ruined our chances forever.  These are just excuses to keep doing the stupid things.  At any point, if we are willing and if we want it-our crap can grow a garden.” – Donald Miller
Formost of my adult life I have been a rule-follower.   Perhaps embedded in me as a college athlete,during my paratrooper days as an officer in the U.S. Army’s 82ndAirborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C., and my faith.  Followauthority.   Obey orders.  Do A, B,and C and expect X, Y, and Z to happen.  Do such and such, don’t do suchand such, and expect a blessing for being good and doing the right thing orpunishment for doing the wrong thing.
Earlyon, I did not have weight problems.  Ienjoyed running, skiing, the outdoors, and exercise as a lifestyle.  I completed a full 26.2-mile marathon, anddozens of other races and competitions, and confidently approached life. I had the world by the tail and was well connected with others.  This mind-set worked well for me for years.  Until it didn’t.
As we grow older and wiser, and different life events come at you, one comes to findout that doing A, B, and C doesn’t always lead to X, Y, and Z.  Adversity,in my case, led to disillusionment and withdrawal in some aspects, and creepingweight gain.  Unconsciously, perhaps I chose to disconnect and pursue my own agendas as a way to “measure up.”
The pursuit of a guys ‘dream-life’ of big-time sporting events in my free timebecame a focus or distraction.  A way to ‘measure up.’  World Series,All-Star Games, Super Bowls, NBA Finals, Final Fours, Stanley Cup Playoffs, USOpen, Wimbledon, Masters, Olympics.  Been there. Done that.  Prettyresourceful and mostly done on the cheap.  Completed tours of all majorleague baseball parks as fast as they were building new stadiums toconquer.  Dozens and dozens of college football, basketball, NBA, andminor league baseball games and stadiums all around the country.  Mostlywith others in tow, but many times not.  It didn’t matter.  Stillgenerally following the rules, but seeking control of my own agenda.  Allthe while, letting my health and what I really wanted out of life get out of control.  I had lost my way.

The ‘lost’ Russell Hiller

Oh,definitely had multiple short-lived New Years’ Resolutions toward health, but seemed like two steps forward always led to three steps back. Inconsistency and no real lasting progress, but did start walking in 2007 andrunning again on a regular basis in 2009.  Have always been fond of stories of redemption and comeback, especially drawn to these types of storiesplayed out in movies and TV.  While watching NBC’s “The Biggest Loser” in2009-2010 I saw an ad for The Biggest Loser Resort at Fitness Ridge and started investigating the possibility.
At the time, the only location was Utah with Malibu to be opened that fall.  Utah was booked solid for many months, but I kept the thought in the back of mymind.  Some friends of mine from home spent a couple of days hiking at Zion summer of 2010 and stayed in St. George and did a favor for me by driving out to Utah facility to check it out for me.  They came back with the greenlight of approval.  Family health circumstances intervened and delayed anyaction, but once that was cleared up, I looked toward the start of 2011 as the time to start my move towards actually living a healthier lifestyle.
OnThursday January 6, 2011, having finished my year-end financial reporting obligations at work, I stepped on my home scale in the morning and began myjourney.  It read 343lbs.  Sigh.  “Maybe I’ll start on the following Monday,” I initially thought.  But the scale spoke back, “Start today.  Start now!  Whatever it takes.”  Before noon, I had signed up for a portion and calorie controlled fresh and local meal service, and put down a deposit for a one-week stay at  Fitness Ridge Utah.  The earliest they could get me in was JULY, but I asked to be put on a wait list to come sooner if space opened up.  I was seeking answers, and sooner rather than later.
So thereI waited, and went about the beginning of 2011 in much the same way as someprevious New Year’s, with resolutions towards health, but I stuck with it and actuallysaw progress.  Focus on health, get my eating in-check, and try to get back in shape well enough to do a 5K at the end of March.  Small, but doable goals at the time and maybe, just maybe, I’d be able to finish a 10K bythe end of the year.  I just wanted my life back.   I wanted to obtain the running and activelifestyle of my youth.  But with a long road ahead, and one I initiallyhad to face, as in previous years, mostly alone and on my own.

Inmid-February, I received a call from Fitness Ridge letting me know a week had openedup at the end of February through the first week in March.  I immediately accepted, cashed in some frequent flyer miles, and with excitement and anticipation (and not knowing a soul) I showed up to Fitness Ridge.  With an initial assessment weight of 311lbs,a drop of 32lbs since the beginning of the year.  I wanted answers. I wanted change.  No fears.  Leave my ego at the door.  Again,participating, but under the radar, observing and taking it all in, whilegetting to know others.
Toward the end of that week, I was minding my own business, trying a few new thingshere and there, when a couple of rhetorical questions and observations by one of the Utah staff members, hit me like a bolt of lightning.  In a dazeinitially, but with the new-found clarity of a prodigal son that finally foundhis way, I felt as if I was just launched forward into the next chapter of mylife, and going after and pursuing what I really wanted.  Somehow, I feltthat this time it was going to ‘take.’  My world was rocked.  This experience was the most significant thing I’d done in many years as an adult.  After years of numbness I began to start feeling again.  Whenyou feel, you heal.
Then I was invited to come back again as the week came to a close, and I agreed on the spot.  Perhaps I would need another refresher if my progress got stuck later in the summer or fall.  Besides, the week fondly reminded me of thesummer camps I experienced as a camper and counselor of my youth.  My weight at the close of my week at Fitness Ridge was 305lbs, a drop of 6lbs, lessweight loss than originally anticipated, but again encouraged by staff.  Afrightening mountain to continue to climb ahead (original goal weight of 220lbs)was broken down into do-able steps, but this time with a solid plan learnedfrom Fitness Ridge.  Not to mention built-in support from newfound friends andfellow sojourners.
Iworked that plan.  And thrived!  Connections and mutual encouragementwere established on Facebook.  Maintaining connections from Utah became important.  I needed to encourage others and I needed to been couraged.  This I did.  Further consultation and homework revealedto me that more connections were essential to my (and anyone’s) continuedsuccess (in anything).  It was something important I had forgotten or abandoned from my past.  I was most healthy and alive when I was inconnection with others.  Therefore, I began taking pro-active, connectivesteps.
I completed a 5K three-weeks after returning from Utah and joined a local running program that connected people of all fitness levels into running groups. As I ran more and connected more, my 5K times started dropping; I was gettingsmaller and 3-mile runs were turning into 4 and 5-miles.  Within weeks my ambitions and possibilities expanded and I started thinking that I just mightjoin a training group for a Half-Marathon to be completed by the end of theyear.  To make it fun, I chose the Half-Marathon in Las Vegas inDecember.  On the same day, May 31, 2011, I made two other major commitments;I registered for the Las Vegas Half-Marathon on the first day registrationopened, and I confirmed registration for a September 18-25 weeklong stay at Fitness Ridge
Formany reasons, felt drawn to the California location instead of Utah as the nextright thing, or step for me.  Primarilyit just worked better to make my next Fitness Ridge visit in conjunction with traveling with family friends to watch their son play soccer at an area university priorto my arrival.  The next day, June 1, I began a runner’s boot camp. My weight was now 262.6lbs.
In order to accomplish something big and extraordinary, I knew that sacrifices and adjustments had to be made.  The heat and humidity of summers in the South was coming on and I knew that mentally I had to put myself in the best possible situation to succeed.  The adjustment made was to get up consistently early in the morning to meet up with local runners at 5:30a.m. before the heatgot unbearable.  This meant going to bed earlier.  Whatever it takes.  The principles learned at Fitness Ridge were working and I was seeing progress.  At the beginning of the fourth week of boot camp, I pulled my hamstringrunning hill repeats.  It was my first major setback and adversity since leaving Fitness Ridge.  I couldn’t runfor 3-weeks.  My coach told me to focus on what I ‘could’ do, and not on what I couldn’t do.  During this period, I relied on Fitness Ridge principles: I did the “treading” workout consistently, focused on exercising my core, monitored my calories, and consumed less than I burned.  I faithfully did my rehab exercises, all with a goal toward getting back on theroad as soon as I could.
This period of injury rehab was really my only plateau in my journey back tofitness.  After three-weeks, I was back running with my groups, and ourHalf-Marathon group started mid-July.  July 23, 2011 I hit a majorbenchmark after a morning 3-mile group run, my current weight was 243lbs, signifyinga 100lb weight loss since the beginning of the year.  Took me 6 1/2months. 198 days to lose 100lbs.  What did I do to celebrate? Instead of food, I joined other runners in the only local late afternoon 5Kscheduled that summer, and I participated in another 5K that same day.  Marking my first 6-mile day in over 20 years.  And PR’d my time.
With my second week and visit to Fitness Ridge coming up in less than a couple of months,my focus shifted from looking at the Resort visit as a ‘refresher’ to get methrough a plateau, but rather a refocus of direction, goals and next steps;with a goal of hitting my goal weight of 220lbs either before I got there orwhile I was there.

So Irevved it up.  August 8th after a group run I was interviewedby the local FOX affiliate on their morning news program for a story featuring localrunning groups.  I was down 109lbs for the year.  6-mile trail runwith a couple falls, a memorable scene indeed.  7 hot sweaty miles at OleMiss prior to the football home opening game.  By September 14th,the day before my flight left for LA, my total weight loss hit 120lbs,mirroring that of Ben Davis of Do Life.  Who had produced a well-watched Internet video of his 120lb journey, done primarilythrough running, which had been very inspiring to me.  That morning, somemembers of my morning running group joked that I didn’t need to go to Fitness Ridge anymore.  I really started feeling closer and more connected withthat group, the Village Runners, at that point.
On to LA…an emotional 8-mile run from UCLA campus to the Santa Monica beach andalong the Pacific Ocean.  Something I envisioned and planned forweeks.  Done.  Arrival at Fitness Ridge for my second full week onSeptember 18th.  My initial assessment weight of 226lbs was accompanied with exclamations of “Holy crap!  You’ve lost crazyweight!” from  staff members.  This encouraged me more and I approached my week  with a sense of power.  Finding myself this time in the advanced and fastest hiking group was a joy.  I received”mystery” flowers delivered right before leaving on our first hike.  I had no idea who sent them and the suspense while on the hike was interesting and fun.  People started calling me Flower Boy in my group and I was kind of sweating out the mystery until we returned.  Turns out, the flowers came from members of TheVillage Runners back home in Birmingham who were pulling for me during my timeout in California, endearing me further to my group.
A truly memorable second visit to Fitness Ridge ensued, this time getting achance to speak to the rest of the guests about at-home success with theprogram, and a whole new set of friends.  41-miles of hiking/trailrunning/treadmill running in 5 days with 9-miles on my half-marathon schedulelooming the final Saturday morning.  It would be my longest run to date inover 25-years and my legs were dead.  But encouraged by new friends and staff who believed I could do it, I drove down to the beach and knocked the miles out, logging 50 total for the week.  Back at Fitness Ridge with new found friends, we celebrated all of our mutual accomplishments that week.   Goals and dreams with extended afternoon conversations on the deck.  Fitness Ridge had a Pandora station (GavinDeGraw) as our soundtrack, playing “Over My Head” by The Fray and “Good Life”by One Republic among other selections.  It was a perfect day.
Myfinal assessment on Sunday September 25th had me at 214lbs, losing 12lbs on the week and blowing through my goal weight of 220 set at the beginning of the year.  The staff recommended me to shoot for a range of 195lbs-205lbs as my next goal and suitable landing spot.
I flewback home Monday and got up early to run with my Village Runners early the nextmorning.  Only two weeks since the previous group run and people remarkedhow visibly thinner I was, especially in the face.  What an encouragementthat was!  I went out and did the morning 5-mile run about a minute/milefaster than I had previously.  I really did have that much improvement from Fitness Ridge as they challenged me faster and faster on the treadmills.
10-miles. 11-miles. 12-miles.  Then I was ready to pull the trigger early on myfirst Half-Marathon in Greenville, SC.  Another Half in Birmingham with mypeeps three weeks later, and then the original intended Las Vegas Half two-weeksafter that.  3 Half’s in 5-weeks by the end of the year.  I was aHalf-Fanatic!  Something that was not even on the radar or imagined priorto going to BLR.  As 2011 came to a close, I moved below 200lbs and intothe 100’s for the first time since the late 1980’s.
And so it was an epic year.  My life, outlook, goals, and possibilities changedin every way possible.  I decided to change my life and live a betterstory.  My two-separate weeks Fitness Ridge have been foundational in my success.  I know that people can succeed on the program with a lot of weight to lose, even if they only have the time and/or resourcesto just come for one-week.  I did it.  And the backbone of at-home success really rested on 40-60 minutes of consistent exercise 5-6 days aweek.  And eating less than you burn.  Making necessary adjustments.  And connecting with others, not isolating.  It’s as simple as that.  I cannot emphasize enough how special my time at FitnessRidge, the staff at Fitness Ridge, and the friends met at Fitness Ridge have contributed to my well being.
As 2012 has commenced, my latest weigh-in after a local 10K race was 190lbs; aloss of 153lbs in little over a year.  My goals have shifted more fromweight loss towards running, and accomplishing numbers and taking more leaps(risks) in this leap year.  Saying ‘yes’ more than saying no to opportunities and challenges.  Helping others in their journey towardsfinding their passion.  Running a full marathon again, not as a”bucket-list” deal since I’ve already ran a full marathon a year ago,but just because it would be a memorable scene in my story.  And Iwant to focus on creating more memorable scenes.
“Yourpresent situation is merely a reflection of your past decisions. It has nothing to do with the future you can create for yourself.  In each moment, you have the opportunity tocreate a bright, bold, new future and it’s limited only by the restrictions youimpose on your own thoughts. Dream big, believe in your unending abilities anddare to live the life you imagine.” – Bruce Fowler

The ‘new’ Russell Hiller (today)

Cheers tohealth in life!