Paul Bucich, 38, of Ahwatukee, Arizona was your average active and athletic child growing up. It wasn’t until later in life that he fell into a string of bad habits that led him to put on a considerable amount of weight. Habits like watching television most evenings and consuming too much alcohol before and after meals sent his weight over 200 pounds, which came with some serious consequences.
Paul began to gain weight while in college thanks to heavy beer drinking and no longer participating in sports. Landing a desk job after college only further solidified his unhealthy lifestyle. At his heaviest, Paul weighed 210 pounds, but he wasn’t friends with anyone who exercised so it didn’t seem like a big deal.
Then in 2009 on a routine doctor visit Paul found out he had unusually high blood pressure for a male in his mid-30s and was prescribed high blood pressure medication. Paul had only taken this medication for a few months before he and his wife were challenged to a weight loss competition by a few of their family members. The prize was $400 and Paul wanted to win.
In addition to changing his eating to fit the 4-Hour Body diet, Paul also quit smoking and became more active. By the end of the competition, which lasted from April-May 2009, Paul was down 30 pounds, had completely given up cigarettes, and was off of his high blood pressure mediation. From there it was a slow but steady climb toward better health.
“I exercised after that and I did some cardio and started running. I couldn’t run more than 30 seconds when I started,” he said. “But if you push yourself pretty soon you’re running a minute, walking a minute. And then you’re running fast and jogging for a break between intervals.”
Although Paul was working out more frequently, his diet still wasn’t in check, which led his weight to yo yo between 180-200 pounds. It wasn’t until all of the elements came together – a clean diet, limited drinking and more challenging workouts – that he got below the 175 mark.
When Paul reached 170 pounds in late 2011, he was ready for a bigger challenge. He’d already run several 5Ks and a half marathon at that point so he signed up for an Ironman competition and started working toward that goal.
One month into training he purchased a bike and before the competition arrived he’d ridden nearly 6,000 miles in addition to logging 1,000 miles on foot. By the end of his training in November 2012, Paul was at his fittest ever, weighing just 152 pounds. He finished the competition in 11 hours 16 minutes, which put him in the top 25 percent of finishers.
While he’s quick to admit Ironman competitions aren’t for everyone, he felt personally ready for the challenge. “There’s only so many miles you can put on the treadmill. There’s only so many hours you can sit in spin class,” he said. “I’d been doing that for a few years so it was just a way to take the next step and push myself.”
Paul realizes there are plenty of cyclists and runners out there who are faster than he is, but that’s not what’s important to him. He focuses on his own abilities and his own goals instead. And he firmly believes that there’s an activity out there for anyone, they just have to find it and keep at it.
“Any sport that you like, if it’s something you enjoy, fantastic,” he said. “Go play soccer, it’s a great workout. The key is to find something that you like that challenges you.”
Since finishing his first Ironman just earlier this month, Paul and his wife have signed up for a marathon in February 2013. The couple just welcomed their third child, so Paul’s main goal right now is to help his wife train for the half.
To ensure they’re both race-ready come February, Paul plans to keep the family on their regular routine of going to bed early so there’s still plenty of time to train and spend time with each other during the day.
“I do all my training in the morning, so last night my boys and I went to bed at 8 – that’s our usual bed time,” he said. “And today I got up at 3 and I was at the gym at 4 doing my stuff. And that’s the way it’s always been. That way I miss none of the time with my family. My wife gets her alone time after 8 and I have my alone time in the morning. I’ve traded my evening TV for morning workouts.”
Though Paul is extremely disciplined at this point in his health journey, he still keeps a little wiggle room for sanity’s sake. “Every Friday night is pizza night with the family. I have no beer during the week and keep my diet clean. When it’s Friday, as long as I’ve gotten in all my workouts, I have a couple beers and my pizza,” he said. “That’s my reward for getting it done during the week.”
Since initially adopting the 4-Hour Body diet when he first started losing weight, Paul has stuck with it and made modifications so it fits his lifestyle. It already included foods he enjoyed like chicken, hard boiled eggs and black beans, so it was easy to stick to. He typically eats four meals throughout the day, all of which are fairly low in carbohydrates. For dinner he has something grilled – fish or chicken – and a salad.
Though the 4-Hour Body recommends no dairy, Paul occasionally puts a little cheese on his chicken or cream in his coffee because he enjoys it and isn’t fanatical about it. He became more lax with his diet before the Iron man competition and gained a little weight, so he makes adjustments as needed to trim back down.
“I adjust as I need to,” said Paul. “For Saturday rides, which peaked 120 miles and a 6 mile run, I had to consume more. You can’t do that on a super low carb diet, so I have some whole grain pasta on Thursday night.”
“I liked Fittit because I learned a lot about lifting and diet there,” he said. “It taught me about the correct exercises to do, so though I started with an inefficient system Fittit taught me the right routine.”
In addition to running a marathon with his wife in February, Paul also hopes to focus on getting his whole family more active. He plans to coach his kids’ soccer and baseball teams next year so he can spend more time with them. He has other races planned as well and eventually hopes to qualify for the Boston marathon in addition to his rigorous everyday routine.
For those who struggle with their weight or fitness routines, Paul offers this advice: “People just have to find a diet that works for them. A diet you can stay on is a diet for you. I had no idea I was an athlete,” he said. “But there is an athlete in everybody, you just have to find the right sport.”
Paul also encourages people to find their motivation. For him, it was his family. “I did Ironman for my wife and family. I was just a guy trying to impress his girl and be a role model for his kids,” he said. “Every time I went faster or further it was because of them. When I was done with the race I gave my wife the medal. She earned it as much as I did. If you have the right motivation you can do anything.”