Yorker sheds weight through triathlon training
- Chris Doemland lost 70 pounds in a quest to train for a triathlon and recover his past athleticism.
- After rolling an ankle, he used an AlterG treadmill at the practice to keep training to finish the race.
Chris Doemland had had enough.
The 32-year-old former York College swimmer and swim coach had gained some weight over the years. At 230 pounds and a decade removed from his glory days as a student athlete, the West Manchester Township man decided to get back into shape.
"I was concerned about my health and just wanted to make some healthy decisions,” he said.
It started with adopting his former lifestyle again. He started eating better and swimming again. Then he decided to train for a sprint triathlon, a shorter distance of a race that combines swimming, biking and running.
"The goal was not at all the triathlon when I started," Doemland said. “I’d been an athlete my whole life and wanted to challenge myself.”
So in the fall, Doemland completed the Keystone State Triathlon’s super sprint distance in 59 minutes and 37 seconds. According to his official results, he also placed first in his age group, and in the process of getting there, he shed 70 pounds from his 6-foot-1-inch frame.
Training: The journey to that sub one-hour finish time almost came to an end before Doemland made it to the finish line.
Doemland, now a wellness coach at Martin Foot and Ankle in York, said he was swimming two hours every other day and alternating running and biking every other day to get ready for the challenge: a quarter-mile swim, 9-mile bike ride and 2-mile run.
Sprint triathlons are varying short-distance versions of a full triathlon, which is a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run.
About a month before race day, the athlete said he was running on a trail when he came down the wrong way on his right ankle. So he did what most runners do at first — ignored it.
“It just got progressively worse,” Doemland said. “It’s devastating, because you’ve put in so much time and so much work and effort.”
However, ignoring the pain didn’t make it better. His doctor eventually diagnosed him with a sprain and said the running portion of the race he’d spent months training for was “a no-go.”
"You put in all this work. There’s already the nerves and the jitters. To have this type of news, it was difficult to deal with,” Doemland said.
Getting to the finish line: Suspended inside a weightless treadmill bubble, Doemland spent the last month before his sprint triathlon using a specially designed anti-gravity treadmill before and after work. Found in physical therapy and sports medicine offices, the AlterG treadmill costs more than most cars — between $35,000 and $75,000 — but can be used to amplify training for athletes and recovery after injury. Physical therapy offices such as Doemland’s use the treadmill in therapy. By taking the pressure off joints, it allows users to walk or run with less effort.
Users step into neoprene running shorts that are zipped into a collapsible bubble that's attached to a treadmill. In addition to speed, they can adjust how much of their body weight is supported by air. Up to 80 percent of a user's body weight can be supported for a run that feels more like floating but still leaves room to reap the rewards of cardio.
“Having the machine did give me hope to continue training,” he said. “It was painful after, but not as bad as (I was) expecting.”
What’s next? After months of training and a month without hitting the pavement, Doemland took to a trail at Gifford Pinchot State Park for the run portion of the Keystone Triathlon, finishing the 2-mile run in 13 minutes and 53 seconds. His 59-minute overall finish time, including transitions, qualifies for competing at the Olympic distance in Nebraska next August, but he said it will take some convincing and saving to get there. That distance is a nine-tenths of a mile swim, 27-mile bike ride and a 10-kilometer run.
“I’m toying with the idea of going. I just have to convince my wife to go as a family vacation to Omaha, Nebraska,” he said.
Next up on the born-again athlete’s agenda is the York Marathon in the spring.
"I've also got my eye on a half Ironman," Doemland said.
That race is a full triathlon, with 140.6 miles total of swimming, biking and running.