Posted on Feb 02, 2017

It happened slowly.

Chris Doemland was busy. He worked long hours and had two young children with his wife, Erin. He didn't notice as one extra pound turned to five pounds, then 20, then more.

As his weight crept up, his energy level dropped.

Even at his heaviest, he wouldn't have come close to being a candidate for "The Biggest Loser." He looked like an regular 30-something year-old guy. It wasn't what he saw in the mirror that shook up his life.

It was what his doctor told him in March: He was pre-diabetic.

That got his attention.


Doemland, now 32, had been a standout swimmer at Red Land High School, then at Albright College and York College. He's in the Red Land Hall of Fame and still shares a school record in the 200 freestyle relay, set two pool records at York College and was a member of Albright's Mid-American Conference Championships team three years in a row.

Now, less than eight years after graduating college, he was facing the threat of a disease that could affect his whole life. He wanted to be around for his kids, to take care of them at their home in West Manchester Township and be a good role model.

So he went for a run.

It wasn't one of those mind-clearing, inspiring runs. It was a painful slog, sucking wind and stopping for walk breaks. That day, he made it one mile.

He was humbled and embarrassed. He was out of shape — and it made him mad.

"This is where we are?" Doemland remembers saying to himself.  "OK. Well then, buck up. Let's go."


He started running three times a week — taking fewer and fewer walk breaks, hating the time on the road less and less.

Then he jumped back in the pool. Gliding through the water was like coming home. There was nothing else — just him and the water. He was free.

There were challenges every day.

He was still busy at work and had two kids he adored, who demanded his time and attention. So he'd go to the pool when it was still dark in the morning and run outside after the kids went to bed at night.


He overhauled his diet, tracking workouts and meals in a spreadsheet. There was no coach setting goals for him, so he learned to set his own.

He signed up for his first triathlon. Then for the Keystone State Games. Then another triathlon.

That competition was like fuel for Doemland — even if it was just competing against his own best time.

Now, less than a year from that doctor's appointment, he's lost 70 pounds. He's training for his first marathon and a longer triathlon this year.


There are still challenges, and there always will be. But Doemland's motivation — to be there for his wife and children — pushes him through. Twirling his daughter as she sings along to "Beauty and the Beast" is still one of his favorite things to do.

But now after he tucks her in and says goodnight, he'll head out the door for a run.


Lessons learned

There's not just one path to balance in health and fitness. But there were things Doemland learned along the way that were essential to his success.


  • Figure out your reason for getting healthy and keep that in your mind, always. It will motivate you on days when you're struggling.
  • Set goals. Whether they're public goals like races or personal goals you keep to yourself — they'll help keep you on track and accountable.
  • Find a support system. Tell the people you rely on what you're doing and why so they can help you along the way. Doemland credits his wife and family for helping him make training a priority,
  • Take it one step at a time. Weight gain doesn't happen overnight, and neither does weight loss. Celebrate victories, but don't dwell on missteps.
  • Judge yourself on the present, not the past. When Doemland first started to get back in shape, he was frustrated with his performance compared to where it had been in college. Once he let go of what the old norms were for him, he could focus on where he was now.

This article was written and produced by Kate Penn of the York Daily Record. 

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