How Marathon Runner Mark S. Found Next-Level Health

When we hear about Fitbit users who’ve reached their goals, we love to share the news! Mark S. surpassed his goals— beyond what he even thought possible! Here is Mark’s success story, in his own words.

Mark-Sands-edit“I never really considered myself an athletic person. As a child, I regularly overindulged in sugary soft drinks and fatty foods. Portion control was nonexistent in my house. I tried to get into several different types of sports, but my weight held me back from truly enjoying them. I was teased by my peers. To make things worse, I saw little value in trying to do anything about it. I used food to comfort my overwhelming anxiety. As a freshman in high school, my weight was at its highest: 220 lbs. with a 42” waistline. I was 16 and officially obese.

Then a series of events occurred that changed my life forever. One of them was the loss of my father due to brain cancer. He wasn’t terribly out of shape, and he never did anything to get healthier. This motivated me to start improving my health.

Fast-forward to college graduation: I’d lost 40 pounds and 8” off my waist. I was stronger, faster and had more endurance than ever. I began to pursue a career in law enforcement and became even more focused on becoming fitter and healthier. I needed to be at the top of my game to combat the high stress of the profession, as well as the life threatening situations I might face on a daily basis.

I was hired by a local sheriff’s department, and during the police academy I developed a love of long distance running. A year later, I ran my first official 5K road race. Three years later I ran my first marathon. Throughout the last 12 years I’ve run over 60 different road races. But, my true love has always been the marathon.

Fast-forward to college graduation: I’d lost 40 pounds and 8” off my waist. I was stronger, faster and had more endurance than ever.

My first marathon took me almost five hours to finish. I spent the next 10 years running races, training like crazy and devoting myself to finishing a marathon in less than four hours. I did everything I could to reach that goal. Holding me back was my diet, portion control and weight. When you run long distances, you discover that you can eat a lot of garbage, be fairly sedentary when not training and simply get away with.

As I approached 40 years old, I decided that I needed a change. But honestly, I didn’t know what it was. Then a friend of mine purchased a Fitbit. After hearing about everything it could do, I thought that maybe it might help me become the distance runner I’d always wanted to be. I was intrigued.

On April 15, 2012 I purchased a Fitbit Ultra. That tiny little tracker was the spark that ignited an enormous change in my life. At the core of my success is the concept that when a person tracks and records something related to their fitness or health, they can change it for the better. Using the Fitbit online dashboard, Aria WI-FI Scale and trackers made it simple for me.

Before using the Aria Scale, I rarely tracked my weight or body fat. Now I take readings every day and compare them over any time. It sends all of my data wirelessly to my computer. I don’t have to lift a finger. It’s become a great tool to discover trends in my weight, body fat and show positive progress.

Similarly, before using Fitbit trackers, I wasn’t very active when I wasn’t training. Because I was already exercising, I figured being active outside of training didn’t matter. I was wrong; it does.

Now I walk more so does my family. Instead of sitting in the living room watching mindless TV, we go for walks on local trails.  Plus, my tracker is a great tool for my training. Gone are the days of handwritten exercise logs and calculators. I  have all of the training data I could ever need at my fingertips. And I’ve been tracking my sleep and improving it.

The motivation and support I’ve received from the online Fitbit community is incredible. I’ve met other distance runners, traded training ideas and created wonderful friendships. The badges I’ve earned encourage me on a daily basis. It’s made fitness fun.

Things changed quite a bit after getting my Fitbit. I lost 20 lbs. and am slimmer than ever. My waistline decreased by two more inches. In 2012, I finally completed a sub-four-hour marathon. In 2013, I challenged myself to run at least a mile a day for an entire year. I’m still going strong over 400 days later. This year, I’m going to attempt to run my very first ultra-marathon and Fitbit will be there every step of the way.

A Fitbit won’t do the work for you. But it gives you the tools and motivation that you need to make your own success story.”

Want to celebrate your health and fitness victory with others? Share your success story for a chance to appear on the Fitbit blog!

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30 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Thanks for your story. It’s inspiring to this “former one and done” marathoner. Making me think of picking it back up again.

  • I think a fitbit pedometer is brilliant.
    Have been using one since sept 2013 ad as I like to burn a certain amount of calories per day its awesome for that. If in the afternoon I find that I have not burnt enough for the day, which is at least 2000 then I can do extra activities to boost it up.:)
    Love how you get a reminder on email as well if battery is getting low.
    Also have found the service immaculate!!! Cannot fault it. If I have a problem it is resolved within 24 hours.
    Would recommend to anyone:)

  • Great story..I find the same thing with my fitbit force. I love being able to track everything without lifting a finger. I hope to be able to run a 5K one day. That is my goal.. I am just not a runner but would love to do it.
    Best of luck in your Ultra Marathon.

    • Try the website. They have programs for 1mile, 5mile, 10K, 1/2 marathon and marathon. I found it very easy to build up stamina. I was tired of wishing I could run to just doing it. The feeling is very liberating and empowering for this 60 year old.

  • Thank you for the encouraging blog. I lost my fitbit In Jan. ,always had it hooked on my pants very snug,when I changed clothes it was gone . I was so upset searched all over, never found it I had to have another one arrived this past week. When I opened the package I caught myself grinning like a mule eating thistles!!! I just think it is awesome to have it do all what it does.

  • These are all wonderful stories, but do you have any about someone like me? I weigh over 270 lbs. my ankles are swollen and hurt, although I do walk, but not nearly as much as I should. ( I’m hoping the fitbit will help to motivate me. I jogged in place tonight, getting about 100 steps in a minute. The steps were recorded, but not, I’m afraid, any active steps. I was hoping that if I could do that 20’tmes a day, and get the credit for it, it may spur me on to bigger and better things. But it didn’t happen. If there is a way to jump start those active points without having an asthma attack – or a coronary – i think I would be ready to give it a shot. If anyone can help me, I thank you I’m advance – big time! I’m waiting for suggestions !!! Thanks everyone”

    • Don’t worry about active steps yet! Chart your progress over time and do a few more steps everyday to keep you motivated. Before you know it, you will you will be hitting 2500, then 5000, then 10,000 — and some of these will be active. Just try to move a little more today than you did yesterday! You’re doing great! The first step is the hardest!!

    • Donna, I wouldn’t worry or even focus on active points. Just work with the total steps you take each day. Figure out what you are doing now in a weeks time and then try to increase it by 5% or so each week. In the process you will be moving more and that is what counts not active minutes. I never pay attention to the active minutes.

    • Donna, I too had swollen ankles and all my Doctor said was to walk and drink more water. So, I started walking to “Leslie Sansome at Home Walking DVD”. These DVD’s are great! You can exert yourself as much as you are able to, and slow down your speed if you are struggling and getting tired. You start out walking 1 mile in 15 minutes….then when your ready you increase to 2 miles in 30 minutes and then 3 miles in 45 minutes. I am able to track “30 Active Minutes” on my fitbit when I do the 3 mile walk. It measures how fast your feet move in a minute’s time. I have my fitbit set at the 10,000 step goal with a mind to get in atleast 6,000 steps (I have a office job). I find with the 3 mile walk I easily surpass the 6,000 steps and now work towards 10,000 a day. I love it when my fitbit says that I only have so much to hit my 10,000 step goal. Then I get up and walk in a spot in front of the TV until my wrist vibrates….love it!!

    • Hi Donna! When I got my fitbit I wanted to max out on everything. Eventually you will. Be proud that you have started to become more fit. The active steps will come before you know it. I started a competition with myself. Walk 10,000 steps. Then 12,000. Then 15. Before you know it, you’re walking more than faster. Then your active steps will be there. Good luck.

    • Hi ,
      you need to start slowly, when I begun walking I could only walk for 20 minutes without aching. I have rheumatoid arthritis and the pain and stiffness is a challenge. I am now walking for 45 minutes everyday . Focus on making walking a habit, and doing a bit more every day. You will be astonished with what you achieve.

    • Start walking even if just a few blocks at first, every week add a few more before long you’ll be walking miles if you keep it up. I started a year and a half ago and have lost over 100 lbs., I put my fitbit on first thing in the morning and it stays on until I go to bed. I started walking just to the corner and back and now I’m up to 5 miles every day plus more when I can get some hiking in. Hope this helps and GOOD LUCK!

    • Hi Donna,

      I’m in the same boat as you! Weight is nearing 280, swollen ankles, don’t walk (or exercise) as much as I should and thought getting a FitBit would help with the motivation. I was disappointed at first because it seemed a lot of my steps were not being counted. It’s been too cold/snowy/slippery here to walk outdoors so I promised myself I’d walk in place during commercials while watching TV in the evening. Maybe it had something to do with the movements of walking in place so not all my steps were counted, so I now hold the FitBit in my hand and swing my arms as I march in place and all my steps get counted now! Plus my arms get a good workout and I think I get a bit more cardio in there too! I try to beat my previous days’ step total–even if it’s just by 1 or 2 steps– so it keeps the challenge going for me. I wish you much success and the important thing to remember is to not give up. Easier said than done I know, but good things aren’t going to happen otherwise!

      • Hi there KittKattKate,
        I’m a retired TaeKwonDo owner/instructor, and I didn’t quite know how to keep my weight from going up again after retirement, which happened just before the holidays.

        My daughter Katie Rose is always my inspiration. At the age of 27, she joined Weight Watchers. That was the same year I got my new right hip. She helped me lose 10 lbs. before I even went into the hospital, just by cooking inspired “low points” dinners for us all to eat. I could not exercise at all, in fact I was teaching from a wheelchair!

        After my surgery I diligently performed all the exercises that the Physical Therapists gave me.
        Then I got to go to Dan the man and after 8 weeks of wonderful P. T. , I could walk up stairs again, heaving my once 220 lb. body up the stairs. After that, I was free to walk and dance and march to all my fast songs and that’s how I got down to my present weight of 155. But it is my Fitbit One that challenges me, every single day to walk at least 10,000 steps a day. On my best day, I got to almost 30,000 steps walking uphill back to the Westin from a USC rally down at the end of Navy Pier. Of course I danced to the music of the full USC marching band.

        I’ve lost one fitbit and I felt so lost without it that I went to Best Buy and got another. By the way, I’m so worried about it that I wear the One inside my sock. Believe me it counts every step. Summer here is so hot, I may still have to wear socks just to hold my fitbit!! I’ll be 60 this year and I have arthritis in my hands, feet, elbows, shoulders and spine. So this challenge can be done no matter what the obstacles. Best of luck, and never stop marching!


    • Hi Donna,
      I was 183lbs at one point and decided to just start walking a short distance, after a week I found myself saying I can go a bit further and further. Watch what you eat, I suggest joining myfitnesspal which can also connect with fitbit and track what you eat, on there it will automatically tell you how many calories you should be consuming in a day. Try to eat healthier, I started off with the 17 day diet, protein protein protein, will keep you full and you wont want to eat or snack as much. I ate lots of chicken, salmon, tuna, vegetables and some fruit, I didn’t eat a lot of bananas as they are high in carbs but they do give you energy. Hope this helps a little. If you do join myfitnesspal let me know what name is and I will add you to my friends list. good luck

    • At most I weighed 240#’s I started walking before I purchased fit bit and walking at my own pace- 1st goal was to walk 10 min everyday, then 10 became 15, 20, 30,40- One year later AND w/a lot of dieting/portion control I was at my goal weight (not a number but within a healthy BMI). After purchasing fitbit My goals have changed I want to be able to Run/Jog everyday so same method as my walking I incorporate run/jog with my walk every day to build endurance. if you do too much and injure yourself motivation quickly dissipitates. if you go slow and steady you will reach your ultimate fitness goals.

      hope this helps! GOOD LUCK

  • Love this story. Thank you for posting it. Very inspiring to me. I have always wanted to run. Just now started at age 60. I love it and cannot wait to hit the road. I am even getting brave enough to run in the rain, here in the Pacific Northwest. Running my first 5K in May. I have discovered the Fitbit motivation helpful, also.

  • Donna….I would say start by taking a stroll around the block. Count your calories and focus more on getting your steps first. The active minutes will come! Don’t sweat the active minutes. You are doing great by just starting something! Keep your head up and keep going!!

  • I’m in the same shape as Donna and having a real hard time making my dream come true, lose a hunded lbs! I’ve only had the tracker about a week.

    • Stick with your fitbit and add some other tools too. myfitnesspal is a great application that will help. It works with your fitbit. Those two things help me stick to my plan and meet my goals. I lost 10 lbs in a week. I know it was fast but it was holiday weight so it came off easy with the tools and products I use. You’ll see results and that will keep you motivated. You’ll meet your goals in the right amount of time and you will transform your lifestyle along the way.

    • Marmie,
      You’ve taken the first step….just take the next one….then the next one.
      Walk around the block and breathe in the fresh air.
      When you come back and see how many steps you’ve taken and the calories you’ve burned, pat yourself on the back.
      One day at a time, that’s the key….be consistent.
      Do something everyday.
      You can do it!

  • Thank you so much for sharing your story. I have also found the Fitbit to be extremely helpful and “keeps me honest”. I have always hated exercising but the stories from other Fitbit users keeps me motivated. You should be so proud of what you have accomplished and the example you are setting for your family!

  • Donna,
    You have made the hardest 1st step by reaching out! I had a hip replacement several years ago and during the rehab my PT suggested getting a pair of Nordic Walking Sticks. You can get them at any sports store now. I have seen them at REI and also Costco. When used per the directions (you can YouTube directions too) they increase your calorie usage while decreasing the stress on your hips, knees and ankles. I suggest them for everyone!

  • Thanks for the Inspiring stories. My Fitbit is with me daily and keeps me focused. The Fitbit support is great. If you have any issues they work with you regardless of the problems such as user errors.

  • Hi, I am a 47 year old father of 4 boys and 2 granddaughters. I have been struggling with obesity since the very early age of seven. In 2005 I hit my lowest point in life after going through a company lay off with a management job that I had held for over 15 years. At that time I weighed over 375lbs and at only 5′-7″ in height I looked like and felt like a total slob. After my lay off I soon discovered what it was like to be discriminated against by prospective employers but at that time I had very strong sales skills and a prior-proven management track record that helped me land another job with a very big company. Almost immediately as I entered this new company I could tell that I did not fit in. At one of the first national meetings I discovered that out of about 800 co working attendees I was the ONLY member of senior management that was over weight. I knew right then if I was going to survive in this job then I had to do something about my weight.

    FAST forward 9 years till present time and I can tell you that my weight loss has been on a rollercoaster of a ride. I have had two bariatric surgeries the first being the “LapBand” and the second was the removal of the defective “LapBand” six years into it and then getting a Gastric Sleeve surgery performed at the same time. NOW I know that many people have their own opinions about weight loss surgeries and that some people view this as the easy way out. Well I can tell you from someone who has experienced it first hand they are wrong. ALL weight loss procedures do one thing, they provide you with a tool to help you loose weight. If one is not ready to commit a total life change including both mentally and physically they will FAIL. Sure they may loose possibly hundreds of pounds in the beginning but in time most of the people will gain it all back and then some if they did not change their complete lifestyle. I can even bet you that most people on here reading this now personally know somebody that fits right into this description.

    I myself was ONE of these people. Even after spending tens of thousands of dollars out of pocket on these surgeries and experiencing the ups and downs with my weight loss I had never committed myself both mentally and physically until earlier this year. In March I stepped on the scale weighing 260 lbs. I was disappointed to see once again that my weight was packing back on and I decided it was time to start the change in me. First thing was to work on my poor eating choices and by cutting out the hi calorie liquids. Then the next step was to start exercising. To me just saying the word “exercise” brought back terrible memories as a child who was never able to do any outdoor activities without breaking down in minutes. So this year on May 13th I made a commitment to myself to join a gym for a one month trial. I committed to my wife and kids that I would work out no less than 5 days a week for that month. WHAT happened next completely blew me away. I discovered for once in my life something that I was addicted to other than food, “EXERCISE”. I found that after just two weeks into it I was becoming so addicted that it was taking over my mind where I could not think about anything else. FAST FORWARD five months and I am presently down to 208 lbs which is the lowest weight I have been since age twelve. I have become incredibly fit for once in my life. I walk on average seven miles a day and still work out in the gym “my second home” for at least two hours each day during the work week. Now on the weekends I devote my time to getting my family and kids outside! We love to hike the local parks and nature trails. Last week I even took my two youngest boys to Six Flags amusement park and rode just about every ride including every ride that I could never fit on before. My kids where actually complaining at the end of the day around 9:00 pm that they were ready to go but the park did not close till eleven and I was still wanting to ride more rides.

    So where does my Fitbit come into all of this?? It is my accountability partner. I use it daily to keep track of my mileage and I use the screen shot feature on my IPhone to take a picture of it to share with friends and family on Facebook. I have even met new friends that like to compete with each other on meeting and exceeding our exercise goals. Exercise is the difference. It is what will change your life. In the end its all about the decisions we make in our lives. My decision was to change my life and to be alive if God is willing me to be for another 40 years..

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