2.4 mile swim.
112 mile bike ride.
26.2 mile run. An entire marathon.
All in under 17 hours.
For even the most distinguished athlete, an Ironman race is an impressive feat. For someone who hadn’t run a mile in years until last summer, it’s even more impressive. In fact, it’s seemingly impossible.
Justin Herman doesn’t believe in impossibility. Not anymore, at least.
A father of four (most recently, a pair of twins), Justin is gearing himself up to compete in Arizona’s Ironman Challenge on November 21. He has this entire year mapped out for training and competing in smaller races leading up to the big one, ensuring his body has both adequate rest periods and periods when he’s pushing it to build endurance.
It’s hard to imagine that less than one year ago, Justin was waking up significantly heavier and unhealthier to a shocking realization: If he didn’t do everything he could now to change his lifestyle, he wouldn’t live long enough to see his kids have their own kids.
So he dusted off a borrowed pair of running shoes and hit the pavement.
Then he did it again the next day.
The following day, too.
Every day got a little bit easier. Half a mile turned into one mile which turned into two which turned into a 5k which turned into a 10k which turned into a half marathon into a full 26.2 miles.
Now, 50 pounds lighter, he’s got his own two feet to thank for carrying him along the road. He can also thank ChopFit, which he found via an Instagram ad and uses to cross-train while working out from home.
After having ChopFit CEO Jon Spillman on his podcast, Justin really resonated with the brand’s mission to move often, move with purpose, and to create a community of folks who share that belief.
In fact, it was his community — namely, one friend in particular — who convinced him to compete in the 2021 Ironman. “I was ready for something to sink my teeth into,” says Justin. “I was ready for my wife to see something different from her husband than what she’s seen the past few years.” It was with that motivation that drove him to say yes. Now that he’s officially in the race, the training has really begun.
Justin’s first big milestone came in February when he completed his first full-length marathon. After taking March to recoup, he’ll resume training this month through the summer, when he’ll complete his first half-Ironman over Fourth of July weekend. That race falls on the anniversary of what Justin calls his “physical awakening”. He’s big on milestones and marking the moment.
After a brief rest period following the half-Ironman, he’s running a marathon in Huntington Beach and completing a large bike ride in September.
“The bike is daunting. There’s a true science to it. It’s also the longest portion [of the race] by far,” says Justin.
He’s preparing for it with a bike and a trainer at home to cycle on that tells him power, distance, cadence, speed. Otherwise, he does road biking to imitate the pavement of the race.
Justin was a lifeguard for years, so he feels confident about his swimming ability. He’s currently training breaststroke and freestyle but hopes to have a front crawl fully developed by race day to keep up with other strong swimmers.
The final step includes a taper through most of November leading up to the big race on the 21st in Tempe.
Now, despite what most might think — the Ironman being one of the most grueling races in the world — he’s not competing to win.
He’s doing it for everyone that has ever thought they were too far gone to come back and better themselves, physically and mentally. He’s racing for his kids and his wife and for anyone that needs to join him on this journey to see the ability in themselves.
“It’s easy for you to believe in yourself. If you have a little bit of confidence, that’s compounding interest. With every little milestone, that becomes more interest. When someone else believes in you, though, that’s an angel investment in confidence. ChopFit was that angel investment in confidence. They started a domino effect of other people believing in him and they made investments — financial and personal and emotional — in me.”
Not only is Justin running for himself, his family, and those around him, he’s working with the Ironman Foundation to help build back towns and communities who have sustained hardships in the pandemic era. He’s collecting donations, too. The names of those who donate will be written inside of his tri-suit.
“This community I’ve built with Ironman is what has taken me from the weekend warrior to being able to do this and compete at an elite level,” he says.