Photos courtesy of Jordan Cota
After a long 10-hour work day, where it sometimes seems like the days and nights blur together, a recent Springfield College graduate fights the urge to drive straight home and relax on the couch. Instead, Jordan Cota gets into his black 2008 Cx7 Mazda and takes the extra 20-minute drive to Planet Fitness, where those final 10 pounds are calling his name.
“The gym isn’t a five-minute walk away anymore like it was on campus,” said Cota. “The extra drive is challenging to do [after a long day], but I look at the gym now as a place to unwind and burn off any stress from the day before going home.”
Home is now in Poultney, Vt., although Cota spent the majority of his life in Springfield, Ma. He works as a guest service representative at Stowe Mountain Resort, but his membership at Planet Fitness is where he feels most productive.
Cota’s 6’ 2’’ tall frame now looks like the average in-shape person on the treadmill. But knowing where this brown-haired, brown-eyed grad stood a year ago is what makes most people find him anything but ordinary.
Cota has shed 102 pounds since December 8, 2010.
“I was working at the PE desk of the Wellness Center when I just decided enough was enough,” Cota said. “It was time I get back in shape and have more energy and stop making excuses for myself.”
Ironically, the Wellness Center was Cota’s first excuse when he first started working there. “[It] used to be my main reason for not working out because I was there so much to work, the last thing I ever wanted to do was stay longer and work out.”
Excuses had been a long-time struggle for Cota. He played football, golf and skied in high school; but being active did not necessarily mean being in shape.
“I was an avid outdoorsman. I have always been on the heavier side, but never to the point that I wasn’t able to keep up with others around me.”
Cota attributes being overweight to having poor eating habits. He struggled with insecurities over his weight.
“I usually just played things off by trying to be the funny guy,” Cota said.
When entering Springfield College, those insecurities did not disappear. Stereotypically labeled a “jock school,” it is hard to blend into a crowd full of incredibly fit students and athletes.
“I felt a little out of my element,” Cota said. “It was also a little demeaning to my ego looking around at most of the male population and seeing how in-shape most of them were.”
There was no better reason to get in shape than the plain and simple truth: he wanted to have more energy, confidence and happiness. He wanted to be healthy. So on Dec. 9, 2010, his journey began.
He first changed his eating habits, eliminating anything fried, and cut out snacks and desserts. He limited his carbs, ridding of pasta, and stopped ordering take-out. He started eating more fruits and vegetables as substitutes. He never ate past 8 p.m., and he never missed breakfast.
Cota worked out on campus six days a week. Working there was no longer an excuse why not to work out; instead, he began taking advantage of those resources by asking other employees and professional staff for dieting tips and new workouts to try.
He wanted to lose 20 pounds by winter break, with a goal of losing 60 pounds in total.
“I knew it would be a big challenge going home after two weeks and having all the holidays,” said Cota. “But I knew that if I slipped up that early on it, it would be hard to get back on track. I didn’t even tempt myself, so I had no setbacks.”
His workouts consisted of weight training combined with running or using the elliptical, with some occasional swim workouts.
By Feb. 2011, Cota found another form of setting goals to help motivate him. He signed up for a half-marathon, which helped him gradually build up his weekly mileage until the race came in May.
He weighed himself after every Thursday morning as a way to see progress and keep his motivation high. For the first 15 weeks, Cota was losing around 25 pounds every five weeks. His goal of 60 pounds was reached, so he worked towards 75.
Cota trained for another half marathon in August, which was moved to a 5k because of Hurricane Irene. He ran another one in November.
Once 75 pounds was reached, “Why not go for 100?” Cota said.
His current weight is 185 pounds, with hopes of losing just ten more until he’s at his ideal size. In 14 months, he still has not eaten fast food. He prepares and cooks his own meals at home and is training for his first full marathon in May. On top of running 35 to 40 miles per week, he is still lifting and doing abs consistently.
The results Cota sees and feels are exhilarating. The most apparent is his confidence.
“I feel absolutely great. I’m full of energy and living a healthy lifestyle,” said Cota. “My self-esteem is through the roof.”
Cota wants to continue training for marathons and other road races with his sights set on doing triathlons. Instead of always focusing on numbers and losing weight, he can finally just focus on being active, healthy and happy.
His set of advice for those now trying to lose weight:
“Think about the future and envision the new you,” Cota said. “Get into the mind-set that you are doing it for yourself and no one else. Sticking with it makes the end result life-changing.”
Cota is now looking for a job in the recreation field that will allow him to create programs for youth to make them more active by playing outside rather than playing video games. He wants to help fight the obesity epidemic while being an inspiration to others.
“If you asked me a year ago if I thought I would be at the point I am now, I would have never imagined,” Cota said. “I kind of see myself as a new person and that I’ve been given a second chance at life.”
He sits backs and thinks about what he just said. He realizes he was not given a second chance — he created it himself.
Kelly Foley may be reached at email@example.com