Fit for the Road
Owner-operator is walking, running, biking and swimming his way to health
Come September, Roadrunner Transportation-leased owner-operator Glenn Keller will haul through his first sprint triathlon — half-mile swim, 18-mile bike, 4-mile run. And to think, just six months ago Keller weighed upward of 300 pounds. He’s one of seven chosen to be part of CNN’s Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge, now in its third year taking selected participants through the training stages toward a goal of better overall health and personal accomplishment. Having begun his training in February, by early May Keller had already dropped 35 pounds. And that wasn’t his only health improvement.
Last year, the 56-year-old got his first one-year conditional medical certification due to his blood pressure being elevated. After his renewal DOT physical this year, he’s back on two-year unconditional certification and he’s feeling better than ever, he says.
“This has been crazy,” he says about the Fit Nation program thus far. He’s talking mostly about the five-minutes-of-fame dynamic. His hometown of Burleson, Texas, held in his honor a Get Going With Glenn 5K on May 5. Reporters have been tracking him down for stories. It’s even gone so far as folks recognizing him on the street. “Is that him? Is that Glenn Keller?!”
With Fit Nation, Keller says, he’s finally gotten needed attention back to himself. “I was taking care of everything but myself,” he says. “My truck gets serviced every 15,000 miles, the car every 3,000, but I wasn’t taking care of myself.”
The operator’s just happy for the extra incentive to succeed in a goal that is something of a tall order for the 5-foot-6 hauler. “I’m shooting for around 200 pounds,” he says, regardless of results of the triathlon competition. “I can’t go back to 300 pounds.”
He’s definitely hurdled the barrier of understanding his weight’s origins. He well recalls being in his mid-to-late 20s just starting out trucking and thinking nothing of it to lump loads himself and make a few extra bucks — and getting in no small amount of exercise. “Then I remember the days of coming into the truckstop all hours of the night” after a long run and hitting the buffet, only to lay down immediately after, he says. “Pretty soon it’s ‘Where are the lumpers?’” They want to charge $200 for the heavy lifting? No problem.
It wasn’t laziness, of course. We all know the financial incentive to run more miles, and for Keller what exercise lumping freight could get him was quickly gone entirely.
Keller became an owner-operator the day the Federal Building in Oklahoma City was bombed. He bought his first truck, an early 1990s Freightliner FLD, when transitioning from running as a company driver with Freymiller. In OKC to take the keys to his new business, he remembers the visible shock of the explosion rattling his motel room’s door.
It wasn’t his last close brush with disaster. Keller, born and raised in New Orleans, La., evacuated to the Dallas-Ft. Worth area before Hurricane Katrina devastated his lifelong hometown. Thankfully, it spared his house — just off Canal Street near downtown — but the ruin of the city in the storm’s aftermath discouraged him from returning.
Today in Burleson, in addition to his trucking business, he operates Making a Difference Ministries. Through the organization he donates clothing and other items to the poor in his area in Texas as well as in and around New Orleans.
He also conducts through the ministry a live prayer-request line three times daily wherever he is, just his way of reaching out to help people where and when he can.
With Fit Nation, he says, he’s finally gotten needed attention back to himself. “I was taking care of everything but myself,” he says. “My truck gets serviced every 15,000 miles, the car every 3,000, but I wasn’t taking care of myself.
“I’m blessed, at my height, not to have developed Type 2 diabetes or having to go on blood pressure medications.” Following a diagnosis of sleep apnea 10 years ago, Keller is already saddled with a CPAP machine that “goes everywhere with me,” as he wrote in one of his Fit Nation blog posts. “I’ve been unable to go anywhere without it for years.”
When his weight loss really gets going, it’s possible to escape the sleep apnea condition — provided weight gain is the primary culprit in the condition. Keller’s CPAP machine recently went down, he says. Without it for a brief time, he felt sufficiently energized by natural sleep to, during the Healthy Trucking Association’s Healthy Trucking Summit in Atlanta in April, take another sleep test that confirmed he still had the apnea condition.
All the same, he’s hopeful getting to 200 pounds will allow him to cast off the yoke of the machine.
He’s got “75-80 pounds to go,” he said in May. Wish him luck.
Keller’s training regimen
Getting in the necessary exercise to train for a triathlon isn’t exactly easy for Glenn Keller. CNN producers, he says, were up front with him — and he with them — about such difficulty from the get-go. “I wonder if they’ll ever let another driver” go through the program, he jokes about his scheduling.
Since he’s so often away from home hauling between Texas and the East Coast, every Monday his trainer emails a schedule for him to keep to throughout the week. “It could be a 30-minute jog one day,” Keller says, “30 minutes on the exercise bike the next.” He gets swimming in when at home at a nearby public pool.
Out of practice with his breaststroke, working with trainers to get his technique together has seen Keller drinking “my fair share of chlorine lately,” he says. Here’s a little tip, too: If you run around the perimeter of the parking lot at the big Atlanta Petro, “it’s exactly 3.1 miles,” or 5 kilometers. It was just perfect training for his first 5K run in May (see main story).