Larry Brooks had been a football player through high school and college and was athletic well into adulthood — in fact, he was a power lifter into his mid-40s. But by the time he hit his mid-50s, a busy decade of all work, no exercise and drinking as many as 35 cups of coffee each day took its toll. In December 2009, after a bout of pneumonia, the geologist from Keller, Texas, found himself with a 54-inch waist, 40.3% body fat, total cholesterol of 325 and a $300 monthly bill for Lipitor, three beta blockers and other drugs. He weighed 341 pounds.
"My doctor urged me to exercise and change my diet," said Brooks, now 58. "But I didn't get scared enough to do anything until I saw two words on my medical chart: 'Morbidly obese.'"
But what to do? Biking and jogging hurt his knees, walking was too boring and a good diet was too hard to stick with. Feeling hopeless, Brooks was just days away from having his stomach surgically reduced when he saw something on TV that shocked him: Shay Sorrells on "The Biggest Loser" riding her Street Strider.
"Watching her determination blew me away," he said. He cancelled his surgery and bought two Striders (one for himself and another for his wife) for $2,000 each. Fifteen months later, his waist size has shriveled to 36 inches and his weight is down to 216 pounds — 125 less than his peak.
Brooks was not a natural on the device. "At first I was as wobbly as a drunken sailor and couldn't go five blocks on it. In five minutes my legs were on fire."
But by the end of the week, he'd strode a total of three miles and lost 17 pounds in the process. His daily one-mile loop around the neighborhood grew to three loops, then five, then 12, which he now completes in about 40 minutes. On weekends, he'll cover the distance of a marathon (26.2 miles) in about an hour and a half. Only sub-50 temperatures keep him off the Strider.
"I love the mobility, the calorie-burn, the no-impact and the fact that you can lose yourself in being active," he said. "It looks like I've been working out with weights — my quads and triceps are cut better than when I was lifting."
A better diet also sped up the transformation. Excited by his newfound fitness, Brooks began following a natural-food program that eliminated processed carbs. "I thought to myself, 'I'm kicking butt in the neighborhood. Why put crap in my body?'"
The result: His total cholesterol is 130, his resting heart rate is 58 and his body fat is down to 18%. He is within striking distance of his target weight of 195 pounds.
Even better, Brooks has been off all of his meds since June. "My doctor was shocked," he said.
Most important, the Strider helped Brooks rediscover himself. "I love leaning into the corner like I'm skiing and going down hills at 52 miles per hour," he said. "And I love planning all the new stuff I have do, like riding a bike and running."
Those activities are necessary for Brooks' big goal when he turns 60: finishing an Ironman triathlon.