Three-decade trucker Francis Junto advancing in Mr. Health and Fitness competition

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Francis Junto running road race and the Freightliner he pulls in today
Pennsylvania-headquartered DGH Logistics driver Francis Junto pulls in the near-brand-new company Freightliner pictured, with more than three million safe miles and three decades trucking in his rear view.

DGH (Dutch Gold Honey) Logistics OTR driver Francis Junto has been these last couple of weeks advancing up the ladder toward being named Mr. Health and Fitness, an online-hosted competition in which men (women, too, in a separate affair) share their stories of health and/or body transformation. The public vote has been open since May 7, and 30-plus-year veteran trucker Junto is currently among 20 competitors still standing in his group.

Public voting to determine just who will advance to the next round, eliminating five of the competitors, is ongoing through today, May 23, at 9 p.m. Central time. 

Junto shared this link to where you can vote for him -- rules note the public can cast a vote once a day for their winner of choice. (There's an option to buy extra votes, too; competition rules note a minimum of 25% of net proceeds from those purchased votes go to a childhood-cancer support/research charity.) The ultimate overall winner will receive $20K and be featured on the cover of Muscle & Fitness magazine. 

Junto's not the kind of muscle-bound body builder you'll see featured often enough on the cover of that one, that's sure. He's 5'7", and slimmed down to between 170 and 180 generally today from the nearly 200 pounds he was carrying on that frame just more than a decade ago, when a journey toward better health began for him.

He was about two decades into his trucking career, 45 years old, pulling for the private fleet of the Harley-Davidson motorcycle company out of York, Pennsylvania. 

Francis Junto carrying a concrete bucket"I could sling some weight around" in the gym at the time, said the former Marine. Harley-Davidson plants all "have the equivalent of a Gold's Gym in them," certainly did at the time, anyway, he added.

When it came to cardiovascular conditioning, the OTR driver (York to Minneapolis, Minnesota, was a regular run for him then) got a bit of a wake-up call from his regular doctor. 

"You're a heart attack waiting to happen," she told him. "Your cholesterol is like a pinball machine," certainly not aided by the fairly sedentary OTR lifestyle and diet. "She wanted to put me on this medicine" to help control those levels, he said, but it "messed with my liver. Before you know it, though, I started walking" regularly. Next thing you know "it was 5k runs, and 10ks, and half marathons." 

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Junto's board showing some of the races he's runHe's finished 10 such halfs today, as this image of a board at home makes clear, likewise three Marine Corps marathon events. Junto's done all of it "while trying to get a truck up and down the road. This profession doesn’t lend itself to a healthy lifestyle. You’ve got to work at it."

He credits all that for the fact that he's still with us all today. As he told the doc at the time, "I’m not ready to check out at 45." Now 57, he's running the roads in more ways than one. His routes for DGH, where he's been now for five years, take him to the Northeast and New York City mostly. He certainly spends less time laid over than in years past -- the work put into health is a little easier home in Pennsylvania more often.

The truck Francis Junto hauls with today, backed into a dockYet he still packs his running clothes, shoes and the like in the truck, and "people think I’m insane," in some instances, he said. "I’ve run six miles in the South Bronx, right by Hunt’s Point," for instance. "I’ve been doing that kind of thing for years," taking advantage of time, delays on deliveries, to get another kind of work in.

As noted, health is something you have to really work at, and work hard, to make it a matter of routine, a real part of your life. "I try to get to the gym" or run at least "twice a week," Junto said. "That’s the kind of schedule that you need to come up with." 

Junto and his physical therapist friend, Dale, "run religiously every Sunday morning," he added. Through the workweek, with DGH today "I know my schedule a week in advance, but it’s all different start times" day to day.

Trucking doesn't exactly make routine exercise a given, but Junto stresses for others that "it can be done," he said. He's living proof, on the diet front as well. "Truck stops aren't helping the situation" of general health out on the road with the dearth of sit-down restaurants, fewer and fewer in recent years. "I pack all my own stuff" foodwise, he added.   

You "really have to push yourself" to make it work, he said. But work it can, if you put in the time and effort, if you put in the work.

Junto's married with two kids, two grandchildren and another on the way. "You want to do it for them," he said, though ultimately any pursuit of better health is for the single most important thing you have: your life. 

Here's wishing anyone on that path the best of luck putting the work in, the same to Francis Junto in the contest. You can cast a vote for him via this page. Now, maybe I can get away from the desk for a a half-hour's worth of a three-miler myself. Happy trails. 

[Related: The problem with 'work-life balance' for small business owners

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