How many World Triathlon Series races will Gwen Jorgensen win in her career?
Fitness Leads Family to Fuller Life
An exercise and nutrition overhaul has changed Ken Ramaley’s life and earned him a spot at Age Group Nationals
In five years, Ken Ramaley went from barbecue competitions and fast food to triathlons and sports nutrition products. The weight loss and his new active lifestyle didn’t happen overnight. But the decision that changed his life and his family’s did.
“Are you saving up for your daughter’s wedding?” his doctor asked.
“No, she’s only 5,” Ramaley said.
“You don’t even need to worry about it. Your life insurance will cover it,” he replied.
That honest wake-up call started Ramaley on a journey that would lead him to lose 125 pounds, get off medications for blood pressure, cholesterol, atrial fibrillation and sleep apnea and earn him a spot at the 2014 USA Triathlon Olympic-Distance National Championships this weekend in Milwaukee.
The same day his doctor showed him a graph tracking his rapidly increasing weight and blood pressure, Ramaley changed his mindset. On the way back to work, he bypassed the candy and chips cart he was a regular at every afternoon — and stopped that daily ritual for good.
“He wanted to get healthy, wanted to lose weight. And he completely revamped his lifestyle,” said Rick Kattouf II, who started coaching Ramaley during the first month of his weight loss journey. “The desire is there for a lot of individuals, but to put that in action, to be that committed to yourself and your own personal fitness, I really admire that.”
Ramaley started dropping two pounds a week, and by his next doctor’s appointment six months later, he had already lost 50 pounds.
Two months later he did the swim leg of a triathlon relay and the next year he competed in his first half Ironman. In 2013, he finally made a lifelong dream come true by racing Ironman Arizona.
“Ken never looked at the weight loss as a finish line, which a lot of people do,” Kattouf said. “Ken said, ‘Hey, what’s next? Now I’m ready to go. I’ve got this new body; let’s take it for a test drive.’”
He’s come a long way but loves this new lifestyle. What’s most important to Ramaley is the positive influence it’s had on his wife and three kids.
“I really feel like I was able to act as the catalyst for my family. And for me that’s so much bigger than extending my life by a couple years. That’s great and I’m excited about that, and I really do want to see my daughter get married,” Ramaley said. “But to me, fit dad is the bigger impact, because it’s not just my life anymore.”
His children, now ages 9, 14 and 15, were overweight, too. When Ramaley was given his first workout to jog 30 seconds then walk 90 seconds, he brought his two boys along with him — a struggle they laugh about today.
The whole family has made strides toward a healthier life and that’s the message Ramaley shares with other dads through his blog FitDad.org.
“Kids will really notice what you do, far more than what you say. And if they see you are routinely trying harder, bursting through obstacles and not letting things get in your way, then that will be how they take their life and how they make their choices. That’s what dads can do,” Ramaley said.
Just last weekend, Ramaley and his older son completed a 50-kilometer bike ride on Saturday and a 7-mile run on Sunday. He picked his younger son up from running camp and dropped his daughter off at her fast feet class at the local YMCA, where his wife spent an hour on the elliptical — activities they would have never imagined participating in just five years ago.
The changes the Ramaley family has made in nutrition and physical activity continue to bring them more enjoyment and flexibility in life. One day, Ramaley and his son decided they wanted to climb the highest peak in their home state of South Carolina.
“We decided this on a whim, went out and did it, and it was no problem at all. There was no doubt I could do it. Just throw on a pack and let’s go” Ramaley said.
Triathlon has played a big role in their new quality of life. All three kids have participated in multisport races, and the boys can now outrun their dad. Ramaley and his older son race in the South Carolina Triathlon Series, competing in five to eight sprint or Olympic-distance races each year.
Ramaley is passionate about the sport and continues to push his boundaries, having checked off bucket list accomplishments like racing his first ultra-distance race and competing in the Escape from Alcatraz.
This weekend he’ll check off another accomplishment at USA Triathlon Olympic-Distance Nationals, a championship race that athletes have to qualify for at a USA Triathlon Sanctioned Event.
“I love being around high-level competition,” Ramaley said. “It helps you raise your game to the next level. I’m very excited about that.”
To read more about Ramaley’s journey and the mental and physical challenges he’s overcome, visit fitdad.org.
A record field of more than 5,700 athletes is registered to compete in this weekend's 2014 USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships on the shores of Lake Michigan in Milwaukee. For more information on Olympic-Distance Nationals or to watch live coverage, visit usatriathlon.org/agnc14olycoverage.