How Skydiving Changed My Life - Scott Jones

by Scott Jones | D-13317 | Winter Haven, Florida

Recently, I returned to skydiving after a 19-year hiatus. When I left the sport I was a 6-foot-tall, 185-pound young man and returned as a 6-foot-tall, 224-pound middle-aged man. Much of the change in my weight reflected a change in my body composition. I put on 20 pounds of lean mass; however, I also added 20 pounds of fat. These changes definitely affected my performance. Most men my age can relate to that few pounds they need to lose. After all, the average American is more than 23 pounds overweight. The problem was that my new body put me on the DZ as “that guy.” You know, the guy with the ballistic fall rate, the guy who always goes low, the guy who everyone groans about when they see him walking up for dive organization. I wasn’t prepared to be “that guy” when I returned to the sport, and it was emotionally challenging. 

I was frustrated, not only with myself but with skydiving in general. I was ready to quit when I met Bob Byrne at Skydive City Zephyrhills in Florida. He was in charge of the FurtheranZe camps, which are designed to improve your technical skills. Bob’s philosophy was that everyone should fall at the fastest fall rate ... Yes! After the first FurtheranZe camp, I was hooked and skydiving was addicting again. I traveled to Z-hills from Wisconsin several times to jump with Bob at Skydive City and eventually moved to Florida. I quickly progressed to a level that had me interested in 4-way competition. Although I had nearly 800 jumps, it was the first time I wanted to compete.

In November 2013, I was invited to try out for Team FurtheranZe XP (a 4-way team based at Skydive City) and made the cut. However, during our first pass-the-rock meeting, where you can say anything constructive without interruption or consequence, Bob told me that to be competitive I needed to cut 20 pounds and get remedial tunnel training (i.e., no more “boxman”). 
Cutting weight was not a new concept to me. As a competitive barefoot water skier, I dropped my winter weight each spring in order to compete on a national level. I had lost my drive for competitive barefooting after herniating two disks in my neck and after having several orthopedic surgeries due to injuries. When I lost my need to get into ski shape each spring, I put on those 23 “average overweight American” pounds. My interest in 4-way competition was the motivation I needed to get back on track.

Within 10 weeks I dropped to 212 pounds, and one year later I am at 202 pounds. I’ve tried every diet in the book and a few I made up myself. However, the only way to really cut weight is to burn more calories than you consume. I measured and weighed everything I ate then tracked my calories with an app I downloaded to my iPad. I also bought a body monitor to track my calorie burn. (If you decide to go this route, invest in a good armband model not just a bracelet that measures your steps.) Interestingly, during one of our tunnel camps the Bodymedia armband showed I burned more than 5,500 calories in one day! Like most people who want to lose weight, I went to the gym regularly. But I also added a daily three-mile walk and found myself doing crazy things like parking at the far end of a parking lot and pacing back and forth while talking on the phone, just to get in more movement each day. My new motto is, “Eat less, move more” (also the title of a great YouTube video).

The biggest difference in my weight management now as compared to my life before competitive skydiving is that I have to maintain my weight year-round for my team. No more winter weight or yo-yo dieting for me! It’s an ongoing commitment to make good choices about what I put in my pie hole. As an adult, only you control what goes into your body. I make daily choices, deciding whether to spread a tablespoon of butter on my breakfast toast or save the calories for a beer that evening. To those who can relate to my story, I encourage you to believe that you can achieve your personal weight goals, but it takes motivation and self-discipline to get there. For me, skydiving was the motivation I needed to live a healthier lifestyle again. 

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