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by Ashley Gangloff

January 8, 2009

"Plan your work, then work your plan"

Intimidated by a big goal? Not sure where to set the bar? Al Prescott of New England Masters began swimming at the age of 32 when he weighed somewhere between 260 and 280 pounds. He made a promise to himself: "I'm going to do an Ironman."

In high school Al weighed in at 170 lbs. In college Al ‘s weight jumped to 200 pounds, and 10 years past college Al had gained another 60 to 80 pounds. "Something had to change," said Al, who began to think, "If I train for triathlons, at least I'll be healthy."

So, with no prior experience, Al laid out a plan to accomplish his goal. "A wise person once said, ‘Plan your work, then work your plan,' so that's what I did." Al looked at the calendar and decided that it would take five years to accomplish his Ironman goal. His goals for each year, beginning in 2000 and ending with an Ironman in 2005, looked like this:

2000- learn to swim well
2001- complete an Olympic-distance triathlon
2002- run a half marathon
2003- complete a half Ironman
2004- run a marathon
2005- complete an Ironman

"My theory was, if each step looks manageable, then I should be able to proceed to the end. Of course, invariably any plan changes when reality strikes. I had one foot surgery and one knee surgery, but ultimately I completed the Iron distance race in 2007. Not bad," said Al.

After completing the Ironman race in 2007, Al has continued to train in the pool and compete at swimming competitions across the country. "It's funny, when I started, I was a triathlete who really liked swimming, but somewhere along the way I became a swimmer who liked doing triathlons." So why has swimming been so easy for Al to stick with throughout his quest for a healthy lifestyle? "I got really lucky and found a Masters group that just totally rocks. We all just love hanging out with each other and that makes it really easy to train," Al shared about his workout group, Minuteman Masters.

Though Al is happily maintaining a fit and healthy weight and lifestyle now, it wasn't always his intuition to remain positive. Al shared his struggle: "For years I made excuses about my weight, even early on in my five-year plan, I said things like, ‘Well, its hereditary, lots of folks in my family are overweight. Maybe I have a thyroid problem.' I'd go on and on."

From 2000 to early 2002 Al still weighed roughly 280 pounds despite his increased exercise. "I was in denial," said Al, and he continued, "I even joked about the fact that my cholesterol was off the chart at over 300." It wasn't until Al suffered serious health issues that he got serious about his goals of being fit, living healthy and becoming an Ironman. "Finally, my triglycerides went up, and my uric acid got so high that I started having gout attacks. One attack was so bad it landed me in the hospital emergency room. My doctor finally said, ‘Look, we can put you on all the drugs in the world, but why don't you just lose weight," Al remembered of his emergency room experience.

In May of 2002, Al made a dual commitment to his exercise plan and decision to change his diet. "I started tracking everything," said Al, and went on to explain how he evaluated his caloric intake with the amount of exercise he was doing and eventually found a perfect balance between exercise and diet.

It has been five years since Al has committed himself to, well, himself. With 2008 wrapped up and 2009 well under way, Al will begin to set new goals and lay out a new plan. Al, who was once known as "Big Al," is yet another example of the thousands of U.S. Masters Swimming members who commit to living healthy and living well.






  • Weight Loss