How an Overweight Dad Overhauled His Life—and Lost 110 Pounds

John Bauer weight loss
 Courtesy John Bauer


The Guy: John Bauer

Age: 50
Home: St. Charles, MO
Occupation: Asst. Prosecuting Attorney
Height: 6’ 4”
Starting weight: 345 lbs.
Current weight: 235 lbs.
Total weight lost: 110 lbs.

Outside of an unsuccessful stint on his tennis team, about the closest John Bauer got to being a high-school athlete at Mendota (Ill.) High School was being a mathlete. Throw in the fact that he was overweight, was in French Club, sang in the choir, played clarinet in the band—well, it doesn’t take a high school diploma to figure out that the jocks weren’t especially kind to him back then.

PE classes were especially bad.

“It was horrible,” Bauer says. “I hated gym class. The gym locker was the worst place in the building. I was teased more behind my back than to my face, but I know it went on.”

Bauer continued to pack on the pounds in college and law school. He took some trips to the pool and fitness center, but not enough to come close to offsetting the bad eating habits.

“My college diet was awful,” Bauer says. “I did exercise some, but never did anything high-energy or aerobic. It was never something that I made a focus, and that continued through law school. I started a habit of drinking insane amounts of Diet Coke, and I remember making bowls of cookie batter and eating that in law school. It was almost useless to work out.”

After getting married and having a child, he had reached 345 lbs. When he saw a picture of himself with his first daughter in 2002, he finally woke up to his weight problem.

“I remember seeing pictures of me holding her and seeing how small she was and how huge I was,” Bauer says. “That was the impetus—seeing how out-of-shape I was.”

For the next decade, though, his weight loss came in fits and starts—losing 80 lbs. on Weight Watchers, and then bouncing around between about 250-290 lbs. But, in 2011, he tackled his first 5K run—“jog” is the more accurate term. Then he got into weightlifting to fix a back problem. In 2013, did his first 10K and got serious about nutrition.

His first rules? “I cut back on Coke Zero to two per week, quit eating after 7 p.m., and tried to eat clean 90% of the time. I went super-high protein. The diet stuff just clicked.”

He ended up ditching the diet soda and dropped 60 pounds, down to 208 pounds. Then, he was introduced to triathlons. And so, in his late 40s, the former band geek started to feel like an athlete for the first time.

“My trainer gave me a training plan, and all of a sudden, I had this challenge, and I loved it,” Bauer says. “It was something never in my wildest dreams did I think I could do. My first triathlon was a 500-meter swim, a 22-mile bike and a 5K run. It was the hardest thing I had ever done. I almost passed out. I was so proud.”

Bauer’s Triathlon Workout Plan

That sprint triathlon was just the beginning. Bauer hired a triathlon coach and in 2015 finished two half-Ironman (70.3 total miles) races, completing his transformation from high school nerd to a badass assistant prosecuting attorney and jock.

His workouts for the triathlon during the spring/summer/fall are a mix of the three disciplines, with three days each of swimming, biking and running, including a weekend-long day of “brick” work, following a bike ride immediately with a run to mimic the triathlon race day.

  • Monday: Swim
  • Tuesday:
    • Weights (morning)
    • Ride (midday)
  • Wednesday:
    • Swim (morning)
    • Run (midday)
  • Thursday:
    • Weights (morning)
    • Ride (midday)
  • Friday: Run (morning)
  • Saturday: “Brick Work”
    • Open-water Swim (if available)
    • Ride/Run (usually 3-4 hours total)
  • Sunday: Rest day

Bauer’s Weight-room Workout Plan

When triathlon training goes on hiatus during the winter, Bauer returns to the gym to focus on lifting. Five to six days per week, Bauer gets up at 3:30 a.m. and heads to the gym by 4:30. He’s bulked back up to about 235 pounds, but he thinks the weight workouts will help his triathlon times.

“I’d never done heavy weightlifting. Never done deadlifts. Never done a squat before,” Bauer says. “What has amazed me is my endurance has actually improved. I’ve gone swimming and running and feel like I have much more endurance than before.

“Right now I’m focused on perfecting the form, not being focused on comparing myself with others. I can’t squat nearly as much as my friends. But I’ve found a real enjoyment in learning about it and how to do it right to avoid injury. A lot of people say triathletes shouldn’t lift heavy, and I will back down in the spring, but my running and cycling will really benefit from my work in the weight room.”

  • Monday: Chest (bench and auxiliaries)
  • Tuesday: Legs (hamstring-dominant)—back squats and auxiliaries
  • Wednesday: Back and traps (deadlifts and auxiliaries)
  • Thursday: Arms
  • Friday: Legs (quad-dominant) including front squats
  • Saturday: Back/chest
  • Sunday: Always off (family time)

Weight Loss: Beyond the Triathlon

In the spring, Bauer plans to return to triathlons. He’s also been getting into mountain biking, trail runs, obstacle races, and rucking. He’s now working toward becoming a certified personal trainer to take on a few online clients.

“I think my wife gets whiplash every time I come up with something new,” Bauer says. “She’ll look at me and say, ‘You’re not the man I married.’ She’s joking, but it’s true.”

At some point, he would like to tackle the full Ironman, but right now he’s choosing to spend more time with his family attending school athletic and fine arts events of his two daughters and son instead of putting in the time and miles necessary to finish an Ironman.

John Bauer weight loss
Bauer hits the gym six days a week. Courtesy John Bauer

Still, with a pair of half-Ironmans under his belt and a buff physique, Bauer confesses to feeling a bit of schadenfreude in going back to Mendota for class reunions and seeing some of those jocks who teased him in high school now overweight and out of shape.

“I admit I’ve had those moments, but you’re not going to stay motivated on revenge,” Bauer says. “And, I don’t believe in motivation—I believe in discipline. Motivation is fleeting. There are a lot of days I’m not motivated to go to the gym, [or] to eat well. It takes discipline.

“And, you don’t want to wish bad on other people who have let themselves go. Plus, nobody is themself when they’re in high school. A lot of people have changed, physically or personally, over 30 years. One of the things that motivates me is that I get messages on Facebook from people back in high school who tell me that I inspire them. I never dreamed that I could inspire anybody.”