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How to overcome obesity with training and dedication

When we talk about sports stories, we usually imagine stories of great champions, people who have reached the highest levels in their discipline, recognized throughout the world. Among these athletes stand out as Lionel Messi, suffering from a disease of the pituitary because of many problems in development: in his case it was precisely his extraordinary talent to facilitate the treatment: Barcelona football decided to finance the medical costs for his treatment, today he is one of the most acclaimed and highest paid players in the world. Then there are those athletes who begin their sporting activity as each one of us could do, but thanks to their talent, and an unusual consistency, they manage to achieve unimaginable results.

Marco didn't win, he didn't even make a time worthy of note, he didn't take medals or certificates, he arrived, no matter how much later than the first one, what mattered was that he had arrived.

This is the case of Rossano Galtarossa, the Italian rower who has not only won every important competition in his sport but will leave an indelible mark in history, participating in six Olympic Games, winning one and achieving medals in another three. If the dictionary could give definitions through images instead of words, probably the photos of athletes like those just mentioned would be among the top of the list.

Marco and a program to overcome obesity

Once the stories of the great athletes are over, the magic also ends and you find yourself in your daily life, made up of races to get to the gym, and bags left in the car to prevent distractions from skipping the training of the day. If it is true that the medals, the success achieved by wriggling between the difficulties, and the notoriety achieved, are things that inspire and make you dream, it is also true that there are people who in their small way manage to achieve results that will not change the sporting history of world, but will certainly improve their lives, and who’s stories may inspire others.
This is the case of Marco, a fictional name to respect his privacy. His sports history began with a phone call in the weight room of a sports center like many others, someone at the reception desk asked to speak with an instructor: she was Marco's mother. A mother who wanted to know the instructors to whom she could entrust the health of her son: a very shy 28-year-old. His very closed character had led him to flee from social relationships, to lock himself up inside the house and, as often happens, to take refuge in food. Years and years spent in this way led Marco to develop severe obesity, at 180 cm tall and weighing 160 kg his BMI was 49.4 kg/m2.

Step 1: Overcoming shyness to get started

About a couple of days passed from the conversation between Marco's mother and the fitness staff of the center to his first entrance in the gym. Leaving the house to go and train in a sports center during rush hour, many people in a foreign environment, that was his first challenge. In the gym, not in a personal studio, not in a private room, Marco trained like anyone else. He would need a personalized programme, but he couldn't afford it. This was the purpose of the call his mother made to the trainers: "If you can, pay extra attention to my son". An unnecessary request, as a trainer is there to train anyone who relies on his experience and professionalism, not just those who pay for private lessons.

Step 2: coordinating the team in the gym to meet Marco's needs

It was time to start training but there was initially no need to emphasize special protocols, to give advice on bpm or weight percentages to be used, in the first stages of training the priority was to earn Marco's trust. The instructors agreed: one of them would come off the gym floor to talk to him and the others would cover the weight room. This is how Marco made his first kilometers on the bike recline and treadmill. The first 2 workouts a week passed quickly and the results in terms of weight loss began to show.
At first, it was easy: an obese person, who had never trained, may expect to see some effect from participating in any physical activity and reducing his calorie consumption. All the trainers knew it, Marco didn't, he didn't expect to improve simply by chatting and cycling in the gym. The needle on the scale began to move, as did something inside him.

Step 3: stimulating Marco's proactivity and interactions

Can I train 3 times a week? That was his second goal : to go to the gym, not by imposition received but because he started to like it and it made him feel better.

It would have been beneficial to have the support of a nutrition professional but not being able to afford this, his mother tried to follow advice received here and there, but without having precise and personalized directions. A serious problem but the objective had to be reached: it was necessary to collapse circumferences and kg on the scale, one could not give up.

In the meantime, Marco started to talk more and the people who were training in the gym at the same time were witnesses of how that shy boy started to come out of his shell, they noticed his improvements and encouraged him to go on. A couple of months before, he had entered that weight room as invisible and now, he spent the first 10 minutes saying hello to everyone he met. To some maybe it seemed like a waste of time, but Marco was training to feel better, not to win a race, and in his case, talking to people meant feeling better.

Step 4: working on strength

Work with overloads began slowly, mainly aimed at improving his posture. The initial difficulties were not because of the weight of the dumbbells but because of the inability to perform certain movements correctly. Neuromuscular training, improving proprioception, training the kinesthetic apparatus because function follows movement. There is no need to train muscles in isolation: you must learn to perceive your body. Everything was made easier by Marco's desire to train every day, so the programme would vary between metabolic and postural training, and then that of strength. Walking for 30 minutes was no longer a problem and going for walks outside instead of on the treadmill came by itself.

Step 5: Circuit, strength and cardio training

After about 6 months, the circuit training began, alternating strength exercises with cardiovascular activity. The training sessions increased gradually in intensity and calorie consumption. Marco’s posture continued to improve and the needle of the scale to go down, not as fast as at the beginning but under Marco's clothes began to appear the first forms given by the muscles. Outdoor walks became a healthy habit and a flyer brought to the gym attracted his attention: a city running event of 10 km. Marco had never covered 10 km at once before, but work at intervals trained him for the distance, increasing the energy expenditure of the various sessions: his wellness objective perfectly matched the training needed to participate in that race.

Training results and the birth of Marco 2.0

The training progress continued and after almost a year Marco had lost about 80 kilos. Passing the card at the turnstile of the gym a photo appeared on the computer of the receptionist, but that was no longer Marco. A new photo was needed to replace the old one, not to enhance a "simple" physical change, but to enhance the evolution, a new Marco was born, or as he said: a Marco 2.0.
The day of the race arrived, and Marco was behind the starting line, far behind: the first rows are for the fast runners. He had never raced in his life and even on that day, he walked. He didn't win the race, he didn't even make a time worthy of note, he didn't take medals or certificates, but he finished the distance, and that was what mattered.
At the time Marco crossed that finish line, the winner was probably already at home, but his goal was not to race, it was not even to train every day, or to lose more than 80 kilos, and yet he did all this. His initial goal was simply to get better, and he managed to achieve all of these other things because he had reached his initial goal a long time ago.

We often look at the great champions with a hint of envy and a sense of helplessness, without thinking that anyone who wants to can really achieve their goals, because as Bill Bowerman, one of the greatest coaches in the history of athletics, said: If you have a body you are an athlete.

Marco's parents still thank the trainers for what they did, but the effort, the sweat, the commitment to achieve those results were only thanks to Marco. His change started slowly and continues even today, he will never get on the podium of an important race and he will probably never be an expert in any sport, his victories will not be certified by medals but by something equally important: by feeling better.
Marco's story is a story like many others, a story of life and sport, made up of simple gestures that have led to exceptional results. We often look at the great champions with a hint of envy and a sense of helplessness, without thinking that everyone can really achieve their goals if they want, because as Bill Bowerman, one of the greatest coaches in the history of athletics, said: If you have a body you are an athlete.

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