Journey of an Ironman

Journey of an Ironman

For some people, dreams do come true. For John Hibbard, this is definitely the case.

On Christmas Day, 2002, in Vancouver, Washington, John went outside for a walk. He hadn't exercised in several years, and because he weighed 368 pounds, he knew this would be a challenge for him. After five minutes, he was in such excruciating pain, he had to rest for almost an hour before feeling better. It was then that he realized he needed to do something about his physical condition.

Being overweight his entire life, John tried over and over again to get in better physical shape. “Every day I started out on a diet, thinking, I'm going to do this today,” John says. “By the afternoon, my blood sugar was so messed up, I couldn't stop myself from eating. And then of course, I felt like an absolute failure.”

John experienced “yo-yo dieting” for several years. As early as the fifth grade, John drastically attempted to lose 20 pounds in two weeks by hardly eating anything in order to make the weight cut-off for football. In high school, he went to a weight-loss clinic. “I lost 60 pounds and got in good shape. I kept it off for a year and a half then gained it all back,” John recalls. While in high school, John first recognized his dream of completing an Ironman Triathlon when he saw the Hawaii race on TV. His hopes were quickly dashed because he assumed someone like him, obese and out of shape, would never have a chance at such an incredible feat. The weight continued to fluctuate. “A few years later, I met my wife, and I was still 60 pounds overweight. For our wedding, I lost the extra weight but gained it all back in six months.” Around the same time, John also quit smoking and turned to food to satisfy cravings. Over the next two years, he put on another 100 pounds.

In the fall of 2001, John hit his highest weight ever, 387.9 pounds. “This number is burned in my memory,” he mentions. “I went on the Atkins diet and lost 50 pounds in two months. Then I hit a plateau. I slowly gained weight back over the next nine months.” Along with unwanted pounds, John's body also experienced other unhealthy side effects of obesity, including edema of the legs, sleep apnea, and high blood pressure. Doctors were monitoring his condition in case it worsened.

In December of 2002, John asked his wife what she wanted for Christmas. Hiroko Hibbard, an Executive distributor who joined Young Living in 1999, said that all she wanted was for her husband to get healthy. John's parents also expressed their concerns about John's health problems and had even begun researching gastric bypass surgery as an option for him. John remembers, “I was at the point of considering the surgery, but it didn't feel right. I knew I first had to give everything I've got before doing something so drastic. It wasn't for me.”

When a close friend passed away on Christmas Eve due to cancer, it was the last straw for John. With a new awareness of the frailty of life, he started his new beginning.

Goals were set and plans were made. John remembers, “I vowed I would walk every day. Even though the first walk brought severe pain, it lessened each day after. Three weeks later, there was no more pain at all, and my walks lasted thirty to forty-five minutes. I began keeping a food journal to keep track of everything I ate. I realized how much of a stress eater I was. As a software developer, work especially pushed my stress buttons, and I used to turn to food. I was able to overcome this by looking deep into myself and readjusting my expectations because most of my stress and frustration was caused by things I had no control over. Now I apply Peace & Calming® oil whenever I feel stress coming on, and it helps in a major way. I also examined and reorganized my priorities according to my new desires in life. Health and exercise had never really been a priority but needed to be number one if I was going to succeed this time. From there, I worked diligently to reduce my daily caloric intake from somewhere around 5,000 to 2,800, then 1,800 a few weeks later.”

John worked hard to replace bad foods with good foods. “My eating tips are to focus on natural foods and avoid processed foods as much as possible. I eat mostly fish, chicken, and green vegetables, and I stay away from pop and other high glycemic foods such as bread, pasta, and rice.” His exercise routine continued steadily. Each day started with thirty minutes of stretching and thirty minutes of walking on a treadmill, and then ended with a walk outside for an hour after dinner. His wife was his biggest supporter. She motivated him by teaching him to have a positive attitude toward his body and his experience. “She pointed out that I should be thinking ‘I want to take care of my body' instead of ‘I hate being overweight.’ “, The careful dieting and continual exercising went on for six months with dramatic results. John had lost 113 pounds.

With newfound determination, John remembered his dream of competing in an lronman Triathlon. He knew it would take time and effort to work up to that kind of endurance. “I went for my first run at the six-month mark. I ran for two miles, and it was an incredible feeling just to be able to run. I decided I would participate in a marathon. Being the kind of person I am, unafraid of a challenge, I ignored the fact that a base of at least one year of running is advisable. I thought, It doesn't matter how good I am; I just want to try it. To me, just showing up is a winning attitude. Because the lronman was my ultimate goal, I signed up for the St. Croix Half lronman even before I ran the marathon. I knew I could complete it. I just didn't know how fast I would be. Only eighteen weeks later, I ran the Honolulu Marathon on December 14, 2003, in five hours and thirteen minutes, much faster than I had ever imagined. And then two months before the Half lronman with very little swimming experience, I signed up for the full lronman in Panama City, Florida.”

John began to train for the swimming and biking portions of the Half Ironman, buying several books for research and enlisting the help of a trainer, while dropping more pounds along the way. On May 2, 2004, the Half Ironman had arrived. “I knew I could do it because other people did it. It really hits you, being in the ocean water. You're out there doing it. It was great. I think a lot of people who knew me were really surprised I could get to that level so quickly. It's a pretty incredible race. It was tough, but the feeling of accomplishment at the end is huge. The adrenaline rush I experienced was amazing. I completed the entire thing in seven hours and eight minutes.”

Preparing for the next big step, John continued training for the full Ironman Triathlon. Along the way, his remarkable story caught the attention of the Ironman community and even local and national newspapers and magazines, including Inside Triathlon Magazine. “I received e-mails from people from all over the country telling me that they were completely blown away that I was even attempting an Ironman in such a short period of time with my background. I had basically ten months of training. But my personality is the type not to be deterred or afraid of failure. I wasn't concerned about finishing. I thought I would challenge myself and see if I could do it.

On November 6,2004, I was standing on the beach in Panama City with 2,000 other athletes. A cannon went off, and we all raced toward the water. Throughout the race, I was reflecting back on how far I'd come and what a dream it was of mine to be doing this. It was like a party, an absolute celebration. Several miles into the marathon, a friend passed me, and I yelled ‘Have fun!' Another lady passed me right then. She looked at me incredulously and said, ‘This is fun?' ‘Absolutely!' was my answer. To many people, the Ironman is painful. I definitely felt certain levels of pain. But that five-minute walk I took when I first began this journey was a more excruciating pain than I ever felt from doing this race. When you have that kind of reference point, it's a blast. Being out there with athletes who are the fittest people on the planet was a natural high. It was an amazing feeling. My attitude was just to do my best and take it a mile at a time. I finished like everyone wants to, sprinting with my arms up. In fact, I went through so fast that my family missed me at first. Usually people are staggering through the end. My time is a bit of a phenomenon compared to where I came from, only an hour behind what would be considered an elite athlete's time. I completed the race in twelve hours and fifty-four minutes and could have run another ten miles if someone said I had to.”

To aid him in training and competing, John used several of Young Living's products with his wife's help and suggestions. […] Hiroko performed the Raindrop Technique® on John to ease his body after events.

Even after accomplishing his ultimate dream and losing over 150 pounds altogether, John continues in his quest to strengthen his body. He is currently training for two marathons and two Half Ironman Triathlons for this year and hopes to get into the Hawaii Ironman this fall. “I actually like the training better than the race,” John admits. “The race just gives you a goal to focus on. And I didn't just lose the weight to do an Ironman, and now I'm done. I am still susceptible to gaining weight, especially because I gained so much weight before. I have to be diligent in watching what I eat and in exercising. I want to keep getting healthier and more in shape by developing strong core muscles.”

When asked how he was able to accomplish so much in such a short amount of time, John relates three major things. “The first pillar for success is having an ideal, something to shoot for. If you don't have a picture of what you want to achieve, it's going to be really hard to get there. Keep that picture in the front of your mind, especially when you are being challenged and want to quit. Secondly, awareness is important. You need to be aware of what you are doing to achieve that goal; be aware of habits. For me, it was eating and exercise habits. The third is to use the community-people, books, any resource that can give information and support. Take it one thing at a time, and build good habits. The good habits will eventually take on a life of their own and give you the momentum to succeed.

I hope people can get good information about eating right and exercising and living a healthy life. Fad diets make me cringe. My wife always says, ‘He dieted his way up to 388 pounds, and then he transformed his life and lost weight.' Young Living's philosophy on healthy living supports the same thing I believe; that is, keeping track of diet and exercise. It's not an easy path, but it's possible. It's a long-term commitment, a transformation. It's not even willpower that will take you there; it's understanding. I had the willpower to lose weight, but without the understanding of how my body reacts to food and stress, I was fighting my own biology. You could give a hammer, nails, and wood to two people. They both may really want to build a house, but the one who will accomplish it is the one who has the understanding of how to do it. I'm not some phenomenal person that went out to achieve great things. I'm just an average person who learned and figured things out.”

With a new passion for life, John enthusiastically shares his experience with everyone who is interested, including interviewing for several publications and speaking for large groups. He enjoys enlightening others with the valuable information he has learned about taking care of your body and believing in yourself. With determination and the help of Young Living's products, he has been able to achieve a lifelong dream and transform his life in less than two years, finding true health and happiness.

To learn more about John and his amazing experience, visit his website at www.jphm.com.

History of the Ironman

The elite lronman Triathlon began in Hawaii in 1978 when a group of athletes created a competition to decide who is the best athlete of all: a swimmer, a biker, or a runner. The lronman is composed of three separate challenges previously held in Hawaii: Waikiki Roughwater Swim: 2.4 miles, Around-Oahu Bike Race: 112 miles, and Honolulu Marathon: 26.2 miles. What began as a 15-man challenge in Hawaii has turned into a 1,500-athlete endurance competition. Today, there are over 15 lronman races held in different countries. Hawaii is one of the hardest, with its man-against-nature elements (i.e., high winds, rough water, steep hill, a.k.a. “The Beast”). To even complete this amazing feat, one is considered to be a topnotch athlete, as the lronman Triathlon is the toughest one-day endurance race in the world.

John's Favorite Products:

  • Peppermint oil-“I used to drink excessive amounts of soda. I thought I was okay because it was diet soda, but I didn't realize there are other harmful things in there. When I first started exercising, I would put peppermint oil in water to add flavor. The peppermint oil in water helped me kick my soda-drinking habit, and now, I don't even like the flavor of soda.”
  • Berry Young Juice®-“This is the most phenomenal product. I go through so much of it, especially when I'm training heavily. I can really tell a big difference when I forget to take it, in how I run and how fast I recover. BYJ is great when training for athletic events; it's great for everyday life.”
  • Raindrop Technique®-“I am a big fan of this therapy. It's like a day at the spa and great for recovery after big races. I introduced my massage therapist to it, and now she does it as part of her practice.”
  • Peace & Calming®-“This oil helps tremendously to combat stress. When I get stressed out, I used to turn to food. Now I apply a bit of this oil on my upper chest, and I can feel myself calming down.”
  • Thieves®-“[…]The first time I used Thieves, I just wanted to test it and see how well it would work. I am now a believer.”
  • Frankincense-[…]

Please note: Berry Young Juice has been replaced by the great tasting NingXia Red

Reprinted with permission of Young Living, Lehi, UT 84043

content in brackets removed or edited by Diana Hooper to comply with FDA regulations