It is really the change in the way that I feel that motivates me and keeps me going
Read here below John's story and watch his video.
Goals: Lose weight, lower blood pressure and cholesterol
Success: Used to struggle to walk at a normal pace for 20 minutes, but has built up to power walking for 30-40 minutes
Late in 2010, the Heart of New Ulm Project encouraged members of the community to apply to be the next “Face of New Ulm.” In 2011, we will follow the winners who are publicly setting out to improve their lifestyles, root for them to overcome barriers they are sure to face along the way, and celebrate their successes on the road to improved heart health. John is one of the four winners of the casting call.
Prior to 2009, John Holmquist was working 80 hours a week, getting just five hours of sleep each night and was not happy with his “numbers.” His blood pressure, cholesterol and weight were all high. He wanted to be more active, but knew he would have to start slow and build strength and endurance in order to achieve his goals. He decided it was time to make changes in his life. Making time for regular exercise and asking for more vegetables at dinner are paying off for John. He is setting realistic goals. “Start where you are, not where you think you should be,” he suggests to others facing change. At first, he struggled to walk at a “normal pace” for 20 minutes, but he kept trying and gradually built up to power walking for 30-40 minutes comfortably. John continues to work towards his goals of losing weight and improving his cardiovascular risk profile.
April 2012 Update
A few months back, John Holmquist was helping his wife out with some music-related duties for an event she was chairing. As he carried in two amplifiers for the event, he noticed something surprising.
“When I was in my 30s, those amplifiers used to be really heavy and I had plenty of trouble just carrying one,” explained John. “But I noticed as I was carrying everything in — even though I had the flu and wasn’t feeling well that day — I was easily carrying not just one amp, but two. I realized that as a result of working out, I am actually physically stronger — in my late 50s — than I was in my 30s. That was a real win for me.”
John’s increase in functional strength is just one of the many “wins” of his health transformation over the last couple years. When we first introduced John as one of our Heart of New Ulm casting call winners in late 2010, his goals were to lose weight and lower his blood pressure and cholesterol.
He started working out regularly and has maintained his commitment to it. He typically does aerobic exercise five to six days a week on an exercise bike or elliptical and adds strength training exercises on four days.
Today, he’s not only stronger, but 35 pounds lighter — “holding steady” at about 200 pounds. Although he’s achieved the initial goals he set for himself, he’d ideally like to lose another 10 to 15 pounds. Yet he’s careful to make sure he doesn’t get too hung up on the number on the scale, as he knows that he’s added muscle to his frame, which weighs more than fat.
After his 2009 heart health screening, John was getting close to needing medication to help lower his blood pressure. After he lost weight, however, his blood pressure showed a “huge” improvement — from being as high as 160/110 mmHg on occasion to now around 115/75 (less than 120/80 mmHg is optimal).
His recent lab tests have also improved as a result of his lifestyle changes. His triglyceride level (fat in the blood) decreased by half and his HDL (“good”) cholesterol has improved by more than 30 percent. Despite these improvements, his LDL (“bad”) cholesterol was still slightly high, so he recently started a statin medication, prescribed by his doctor, to keep his heart healthy.
“What’s great about the Heart of New Ulm is that we’re actually monitoring and tracking these numbers,” stressed John, “whereas for a lot of people, the first inkling that they have any issues is a heart attack. That’s why I think the screening process is so valuable — it keeps you focused and involved with your heart health.”
At his follow-up heart health screening in 2011, John was pleased to achieve a perfect 10 on his Heart of New Ulm Lifestyle Score.
“The struggle for everybody is maintaining the changes. Anything that involves a ‘diet’ for any length of time is simply not going to be workable — you have to make changes in the way that you eat and live. Although I exercise a lot, it’s not as if I just can’t wait to get into the gym. It’s really the change in the way that I feel that motivates me and keeps me going.”