Looking at Ivan Alonzo's Instagram account (opens in new tab) now, you wouldn't believe he ever had any issues with his weight. You'll be even more surprised that he achieved his mind-blowing weight loss results and became a Zwift-endorsed athlete not by being too regimented, but by allowing himself to enjoy the process and being healthy in general.
“People that I've met within the last few years find it hard to believe that I haven’t always been this way", says Ivan, "Being healthy has taken over my life the right way.”
Zwift Academy (opens in new tab) athlete Ivan, who went from running a 4:30 marathon to 2:57 and getting his Berlin Marathon 2021 (opens in new tab) qualifier, is a Texas-based husband and father of two young children. Ivan describes himself as a “runner pretending to be a cyclist who occasionally pretends to be a triathlete”.
“I try to be as active as I can; I very much enjoy it. Whether it's running, cycling or just being outside, it's definitely who I am now.” Since beginning his athletic journey, he’s lost nearly 100 pounds (45 kilos) and has completed several races among various distances.
How did he do it? We sat down with him to find out.
Slow and steady wins the weight loss race
For a person who trains for hours every day in his 30s, you would think Ivan came from a sports or athletic background, but this couldn't be further from the truth.
“I grew up not being involved in any sport or athletics. It wasn't something that I wasn't exposed to, it didn’t interest me”, says Ivan, “Up until my mid-to-late twenties, I was living the single life, going out with buddies, having beers, following a poor diet, much like what everyone else does when they’re at this age. I was over-indulging myself.”
But things were about to change, albeit not rapidly at first. “It wasn't until I was at my heaviest, about 250 pounds (113 kilos), where it just occurred to me. I realised I was pretty big, as big as I've ever been. Maybe I should do something about it.”
And something he did. Without being aware of just how well he tackled the issue, Ivan introduced incremental changes over time so he could maintain the results for longer. “What allowed me to be successful and make any progress was just making gradual, small changes.”
“My initial thought was that maybe I should be a little more conscious and instead of going out drinking with my friends five-six days a week, maybe cut back one or two days a week." And with that, Ivan made his first step to becoming a happier, healthier person.
“I wasn't very regimented or strict: if I stuck to my plan, it was great, but even when I didn’t, I wouldn't beat myself up over it", he adds, "And in about six months I lost about 40 pounds (18 kilos).”
Of course, weight loss is one thing, but you also have to maintain it, and that's where movement comes into play. “I introduced more physical activity into my life, thanks to my wife", Ivan explains, "She used to run almost every day. To spend more time with her, I used to join her on these daily runs, which were three or four miles long (5-7 kms) at a time. At the time, I thought, “Man, that's nuts.”
But he persevered. “I'd run out 10-15 minutes then run back and sit at the park and wait for her to finish up her run. I had the same mindset as before: maybe I'll try this a couple of days a week. If I do it, great, but even if I don’t, that’s still fine. I'm not going to feel bad about missing or not doing it.”
Sure enough, the results proved his methods correct, once again. “Another six months go by and I lost another 40 pounds (18 kilos). At that point, I started to be even more active. I signed up for races, first shorter distances, then half marathons and even triathlons. Another year later, I lost some 15-20 pounds (6-20 kilos).”
How times have changed
When asked how familiar was he with the triathlon scene before, something he's fond of now, Ivan said: “I had zero experience in it; it never interested me. When I started, I was much more relaxed and flexible.”
Needless to say, things have changed significantly since then. Nowadays, Ivan has a training plan and follows it to the T. “I’m like most runners, I like to have a plan in place and follow it through. You find what works for you, and you keep doing it. You keep repeating that forever.”
This approach is partially the reason why he felt a bit apprehensive about a coach telling him how to train. Which – funnily enough – is precisely what happened when he was drafted as a Zwift Academy athlete: “I remember having a call with coach Terrance: it was the first time I've had a coach. It was strange to allow someone else to tell you how to exercise. Before, I did it all on my own.”
“But then we had a simulation run, and it was great. It was a 21-mile (34 km) run, and I felt fantastic, the pace was exactly where we wanted it to be, nutrition was on point; it definitely set my mind at ease that I'm doing the right thing”, Ivan adds.
Ivan goes on: “[Zwift] set us up for success. We have no reason not to be successful: they gave us all the equipment and support you might need to be the best athlete you can be. I was provided with a TV, Zwift membership (of course), a Woodway treadmill, a full suite of recovery tools and products, Garmin watches, Adidas running shoes and gear, you name it.”
How does a Zwift athlete’s day look like? Mix full-time work with some childcare and sprinkle lots of training sessions on the top. Yes, it's pretty intense, but not impossible to adhere to, as long as you're determined enough (obviously).
“I’m doing nine to 10 hours of running per week right now", Ivan explains, "It was about seven and a half to eight and a half hours before I started getting ready for the Berlin Marathon 2021.”
Although he's getting ready for a marathon, his training is not just running with some more running: “I try to cycle as much as I can: I do two or three rides a week and also try to cram in a gym session or two every week. I had to cut back on gym a bit so I can recover properly, though.”
How does he find time to train so intensely with family and work?
“I'm fortunate enough where my schedule allows me to be able to have breaks. For example, I'm travelling tomorrow and will be away for the weekend, so I won’t be able to train. But today, as soon as we hang up, I’m going to have a 21-mile (34 km) run on my Woodway. And then, as soon as I'm done with that, I'll finish off my day.”
Love your gear
Is gear essential to get better at running and cycling? No, but it’s nice to have the proper equipment so you can focus on your training. Ivan uses the following gear:
“I have a Wahoo Kickr Bike (opens in new tab) for indoor training. I also have an Argon Nitrogen road bike and an Argon TT bike too. I use a Garmin Forerunner 945 as well as a Garmin Running Dynamics Po and the HRM Pro heart rate monitor to keep track of my workouts.”
Practice what you preach
His main tip for people who would like to achieve similar results? "As basic as it sounds, it's just consistency and flexibility. You have to create a routine that's sustainable."
"Otherwise, you're going to burn out, whether that's because of the diet side of things or the workout side of things. You don't want to do something that ultimately you're going to end up hating or not enjoying after a couple of weeks. Big changes don't happen overnight."
Listen to Ivan. He went from being 250 lbs (113 kg) and generally not the healthiest guy to becoming a Zwift athlete and running a marathon under three hours. As a matter of fact, he is planning on running the Berlin Marathon under 2:45. Considering the work he puts in right now and the support he gets, it's definitely not too far-fetched of a goal.
Fancy trying the Zwift Academy yourself? You can sign up for the next season here (opens in new tab).