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Run the Cedars Spotlight: Matt Reynolds

Hello fellow pavement pounders, I’m Matt Reynolds from Lebanon and I’m thrilled to share my story. May 20th of 2021 I was 437.8lbs. Certainly not proud of that in any way.  My weight at that time was approximately 35+ pounds less than prior points in my adult life. For the last thirty-five years my weight was a hinderance on all aspects of my life. Personally, professionally, mentally and spiritually the weight held me back. My weight dictated my physical movements, my mental wellness and the perceptions of others that knew me and or placed their eyes on me. I was a prisoner of my own BMI. 

Through the support of loved ones, close friends and the guidance of my PCP and the Vanderbilt Weight Loss Center staff in Lebanon, I was given the strength and encouragement to take control back of myself. I say myself because I was to blame for my challenges, I was the one that wasn’t exercising, wasn’t eating right and wasn’t in control mentally and spiritually. I was just existing, just going through the motions of life. Now I’m living life, I’m in control, I command my future. I’ve found balance in my life. My life has changed, I’ve pounded the demons of weight deep into the pavement.

Let’s talk about what let me up to the challenge of RUN THE CEDARS. When I started my journey to overall wellness back in May of 2021 I was in very poor physical shape. I was taking several medications, was always tired, miserable and tied to a CPAP machine at night. Just walking down three steps and continuing to my mailbox (60 feet or so) at the end of the driveway was a challenge. By the time I got the mail and made it back those same three steps, it felt like I had to climb a full flight of stairs. My back hurt, my feet hurt, my knees would be throbbing. Mentally and physically, I was exhausted. I knew I had to take control, take control or I wouldn’t see 60 years old. I would never have an opportunity to meet grandchildren, see my son flourish in life, celebrate the golden years with my beloved wife. I just knew this in my heart and soul. May 21st, 2021, I met with Doc Menzel and Cole at the Weight Loss Center. We clicked immediately, I made up my mind right then and there that I wasn’t going to become another morbid obesity statistic. My words to them after the consultation was “I’m in, I’m starting tonight”.  I went home with a weight loss packet and read it from front to back. The next day I started my journey. I walked down those three steps and walked right past that mailbox and headed down the street.  I made it to the end of the neighbor’s house and turned around and walked right up three steps like a champ. A sore-tired champ but a champ nether less. My diet immediately changed to a diet of high protein and vegetables. I was on my way-Day 1 in the books. Day two, day three and so on… Every three days I added 3-5 minutes to my walk. I didn’t know it at the time, but walking would be the best ingredient to my recipe of success. Cole lined up my appointments; support group, nutritionist, phycological plus other medical testing. As the days turned into weeks, the pounds were being left on the payment beneath my feet. From May 20th to October 23rd, I had walked off 142lbs of weight. I was feeling like a new man. I was eating right, exercising two to three hours a day. Walking three to five miles per day along with a pool exercise class with Marci at Jimmy Floyd’s three days per week and the other days I walked in the pool during Alex’s swim team workouts. I was now a regular at Jimmy Floyd’s and the streets surrounding my neighborhood. Can you imagine losing 142lbs and still weighing approximately 300lbs? Stay with me, I’m getting to my first 5K run, I promise. 

I mention October 23rd as a reference because that was the day, I took another step in my journey of living life to its fullest. I had bariatric sleeve surgery performed by Doc Menzel of Vanderbilt’s Lebanon Weight Loss Center. Another tool in the toolbox of life, another tool towards sustainment. Some people reading this will say, “oh that’s how he lost the weight” - WRONG, in support group we learn to deal with folks who feel surgery is an easy way out, an automatic that you will be thin. The easy way out is to just continue down the path of being an addict. You see, most don’t understand the hard work that leads up to surgery and the things that surgery requires you to do the rest of your life post-surgery. Bariatric surgery is not a silver bullet, it’s a tool. Statistically, a high percent of people who have bariatric surgery gain some, all or even more weight back in time as they fall off the lifetime program. Again, it’s a tool in the tool belt. You must commit to a life of eating right, exercising and holding yourself accountable. I know now and admit that I’m a food addict and will be the rest of my life. The difference is I’m in control of that addict, the addict isn’t in control of me. Post the sleeve surgery, my weight-loss slowed up. From Oct 23rd to April 16th of 2021 (RUN THE CEDARS) event I lost an additional 87lbs for a total of 229lbs of weight loss. Fast forward to May of 2022, and I was down 250lbs. 


Ok, back to my Cedars run. Winter of 2022 my old neighbor from Illinois who is also a recovering food addict challenged me to run a 5K. Diane is a machine, she runs several 5K’s per year and is also a world-ranked stair climber in her age group. She’s an incredible athlete who also pounded her excess weight into the pavement by walking and running. She was and continues to be an inspiration in my journey. I told “Big Sister” as I call her that I would check into it. Truth be told I was very intimated by the thought of being surrounded by hundreds if not thousands of runners. I mean like these are real athletes. What if I couldn’t run the entire 5K, what if I finished last? What if, what if, what if… I was sharing my thoughts (positive and negative) of entering a 5K with my good friend Marci, she said let’s do it. She had run numerous 5K’s in the past and was routinely hiking with me on the weekends at the time, coincidentally at the Cedars Park in Lebanon. Marci explained to me that not all people run the entire distance in a 5K, that its ok to walk too. She reassured me that I could do it and that she would walk or run every step with me. During that 4-mile hike I said “ok, lets do this, I’m in.” Marci reached out to me and told me about the Wilson County FCA - RUN THE CEDARS challenge. We signed up online, I let Diane know the good news. She as thrilled and provided me with some training tips and encouraged me to research prepping plans. To say I had anxiety would be an understatement. However, just as I pounded the weight demons into the payment, I knew I could pound the anxiety blockers into the payment as well. I celebrated my acceptance of this new challenge with a trip to Fleet Feet, different kinds of running shoes, apparel, running specialty socks, who knew. Oh boy, I had a lot to learn, but I was up to the challenge. From couch to 5K training here we go… Walk, run, walk run, walk run I was getting stronger and stronger. I was ready for my very first 5K event. Race day: my oldest sister Sherry flew in from Upstate NY for a visit and to see me participate. I still remember the morning of the run. A cool brisk day. Oh geez, what did I get myself into, look at all these athletes. Marci recognized the nervousness and said to me just run my race and don’t worry about the others around us. The start signals blasted, and we were off. First mile completed, Marci states, in less than 11 minutes. She continues to coach me, head up and breath, you’ve got this. First water point we walk and drink a cup of water, back to jogging. Halfway, WOW its halfway and I’m ok, I’m passing some folks, and some are passing me. I can do this I remember thinking. No, I am doing this. I belong, I’m a runner, I’m an athlete. My pace quickened as I was filled with joy and confidence. Next water break, we slowed and walked for another period. Get running again, I could hear my mom saying from Heaven, “get running Matthew, you can do this”. Even though the bear was climbing on my back – tiring out, I picked up my pace. Marci said “attaboy lets finish strong.” As we neared the finish line, I could see my wife and sister cheering us on. I was filled with joy and accomplishment. My goal was to finish in under 50 minutes. My time 34:57 a pace of 11:17. 

To end my story, my sneakers are my weapon of choice in life, my sneakers arm me with the strength to conquer my life’s challenges. My sneakers have strengthened me professionally, personally, mentally and spiritually. If you too need a life change, my recommendation is to head down to Fleet Feet and get measured for your weapon of choice and start training today. Let’s pound those excess pounds and or inner demons into the payment together April 8th at this year’s Wilson County FCA – RUN THE CEDARS event. 

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