Throwing Your Weight Around

Matt Velasco gets fit for life

E & SS Instructor Sara Woodward and student, Matt Velasco

At the age of 15, Matt Velasco still wrestled and rode his bike to work at a fast-food burger joint. By the time, he graduated from South St. Paul High School, he had quit the wrestling team, traded his bike for a car and ballooned from a hale 180 pounds to a perilous 260.

Today, at age 26, Velasco is holding steady at 144 pounds (at one point he was down to 139) with the goal to actually gain weight and level out at 155. His made his journey to wellness on his own with no professional guidance and little encouragement. In fall 2010, he enrolled in the Exercise and Sports Science program with plans to earn his A.A.S. degree and launch a career as a fitness counselor. Velasco is driven to pass on what he learned during his quest to drop more than 120 pounds. His days of dining at mega-calorie burger restaurants are long gone.

“I got into management right away and that meant free food—as much of it as I could handle,” said Velasco about his time working in the fast-food industry. “I didn’t have the self-control to avoid overeating.”

Active and extroverted as a child, Velasco lost his self-esteem and became unhappily introverted as his weight increased. His first move to change things involved quitting his fast-food job and cutting out soda pop—in his case a brand that contained 46 grams of sugar in a single 12-ounce can. Using positive mental imagery, regular exercise and common-sense nutrition, Velasco reached his target weight.

“I got into management right away and that meant free food—as much of it as I could handle. I didn’t have the self-control to avoid overeating.”

During the process, he gained an unshakeable appreciation for exercising sensibly, paying close attention to what he ate and focusing constructively on his ideal body weight. He believes dwelling on your own negative feedback is one way to stymie progress.

“Matt came to our program because he wants to inspire other people who want to lose weight,” said Sara Woodward, the college’s exercise and sport science instructor. Woodward pointed out that the fitness industry Velasco will be joining is much different from the one that generated the Jane Fonda aerobics craze of the 1980s.

“We are far more high-tech today,” she said. “The training fitness professionals offer is much more sophisticated and specific to individual goals. We can focus on people seeking cosmetic or health-related assistance. We also train athletes for performance in such specialized areas as agility, speed and power. We can train based on the biomechanical demands of a particular sport down to individual positions.”

Woodward reported that fitness consciousness needs to begin early in life, noting that physically active children are more likely to be physically active as adults. She explained that any fitness regimen needs to cover both cardiovascular and resistance training while steering clear of fad gadgets. She also said that exercise regimens as a rule should begin with a wellness evaluation.

“We are far more high-tech today. The training fitness professionals offer is much more sophisticated and specific to individual goals.”

“Our program is now offering the New Leaf Metabolic Assessment to students, staff, faculty and community members,” she said, adding that the assessment is a simple, two-step process, one offering personalized details about a person’s caloric requirements and fitness level along with a direction to proceed for achieving performance, health or fitness objectives.

For Matt Velasco, those objectives are no longer personal, but universal. “People ask me how I lost the weight and it makes me really happy to share my experience with them,” he said. “I’m proof that with the right motivation it can be done.”

With fitness pros like Velasco and his fellow students in the pipeline, no one has to go it alone.

To learn more about the Exercise & Sport Science program, please contact:

Matt Velasco: Before 260 pounds (2003) | After 144 pounds (2010)

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