January 06, 2023 4 min read 4 Comments
Jerry Applegate went from looking like a linebacker to looking like a sprinter. His daughter, herself a champion sprinter, suggested he get in the game.
By Ray Glier
Jerry Applegate, 61, found a vertical in very horizontal Florida to train on. It is the causeway (FL-421) from Port Orange to Daytona Beach Shores and it has a gradual climb of 320 meters to carry cars over the intracoastal waterway and for boats to pass safely underneath.
It is scenic, but Applegate cared less about the scene as he made the grueling run in 60 seconds. This unrelenting, non-erodable stretch of cement is where a stoutly-built man, a hefty man from Kentucky, turned himself into a pretty decent 400 meter guy in just three years.
This is not based on a true story. This is a true story. Some of it, or all of it, can happen to any of us, if we allow it.
Five years ago, Applegate weighed 230 pounds and maybe should have gone by Jerry Applebees for the restaurant chain. He ate well, but that is not the only reason he was overweight.
Applegate is an entrepreneur and he ran a variety of businesses. Jerry also coached his daughter, Karis, to a Division I track scholarship at Morehead State (60, 100, 200). Jerry simply didn’t have time for himself to get fit.
The work and the weight obscured an athlete. Applegate, who grew up in Tollesboro, Ky., has always been pretty athletic and had some quick twitch to him. But work and family were priorities.
One day, Karis said to her father, “Dad, you should compete.”
“There’s nothing out there for me,” Jerry told her.
Then he looked on the internet.
“Oh, my gosh, it’s everywhere!”
‘It’ was Masters track & field and a switch was flipped. Applegate had a purpose and he had the know-how after coaching at Mason County (Ky.) H.S. and training his daughter and working with another teenage phenom in the area.
He flipped himself upside down.
Applegate now weighs 160. That’s right. He lost 70 pounds. That;s his racing weight for for the USA Track & Field Masters Indoor Championships in his home state of Kentucky by March. The man weighed 165 at the Florida State Senior Games on Dec. 10. He lost five pounds....at the holidays!
At a lighter weight, Jerry wants to run the 400 in 60 seconds or less. If he goes under 60 seconds, he might even try the World Masters Athletics indoor meet in Poland.
Jerry is not far off that sub-minute mark. At the Florida Senior Games on Dec. 10, he went 1:02.9 and took fourth in the 400. Applegate was fourth in the 200 at 28.3 and 6th in the 50 at 7.33.
In the USA Track & Field Masters Outdoor Championships last July, Applegate was fifth in the 400 at 1:03.90. He was 4th in the 100 in Lexington at 13.76 and fifth in the 200 at 28.39.
He is faster at 61 than he was at 59. Jerry is not a superstar sprinter in Masters track by any means, but what he has accomplished in a short time should resonate with us all.
This is how he did it.
Jerry’s training ground is a concrete path with a guard rail and cement divider to keep you from the onrushing traffic. The hurtling cars are not your worry. It’s that gradual climb that’s the bear. It doesn’t seem so gradual 100 meters into it.
Applegate does this three or four times a week and tries to do it in 60 seconds. He goes out at 9 a.m.
“It’s hard,” he said. “It’s real hard.”
One of the hard parts was making space in his schedule. Applegate does daily business with an ear piece for his phone. It is a permanent fixture, except when he trains and competes. He owns five businesses: a restaurant, a nightclub, and hotels. He has 30 people working for him and they need him. The earpiece is a constant blinking light.
“People always needing something,” he says.
So he takes the gizmo from his ear most times on the track…and runs.
Jerry wouldn’t be running like this if not for a lifestyle change. First, he went and got the bloodwork done when he was 235 to establish a baseline. It was gruesome.
“High blood pressure, high cholesterol, borderline sugar diabetes,” he said.
Jerry got away from the carbs. Then he worked on intermittent fasting. He has gone 72 hours on water and vitamins.
“I wasn’t tired with the fasting,” Applegate said. “I was training, working, and taking the vitamins.”
More routinely, Applegate eats only between noon and 6 p.m. Some days, he will eat four or five eggs and five pieces of bacon and protein shakes, but when the clock strikes six, he has the willpower to wire his mouth shut.
The results are plain to see.
“I was a stocky bull,” Jerry said. “Now, I’m on no medications. Nothing.”
On the infield of Wesley Chapel. Fla., track at the Florida Senior Games, Jerry pulls on his sweatpants following his last race late on a Sunday afternoon. He reaches into his bag for the phone ear piece and clips it to his ear. The work week starts on Sunday, not Monday, so he hasn't curbed every nagging habit.
Still, Applegate has re-ordered enough of his life and has found a hobby, besides being a dutiful dad and 24/7 entrepreneur.
“I need one hour a day to work out,” Jerry says. “It keeps me in shape, keeps me going, keeps me motivated. And it’s a good stress reliever.”
That’s good. All the stress is on the competition now to hold him off.
Jerry, minus a few pounds, poses with his daughter, an NCAA Division I sprinter.
Jerry and Karis show off their state track & field rings.
December 31, 2022
When I talked to Jerry in Florida on Dec. 10 he was 165. Story was updated to show Jerry weighs 160 now. The man lost 5 pounds during the holidays, which is quite remarkable to me.
December 31, 2022
Rob, Jerry is 5-foot-8.
December 31, 2022
Great story! Appreciate hearing about someone whose journey might be more realistically applicable to me. Also would be interested to know how tall Jerry is to help apply his before/after to my 5’9” frame.
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January 01, 2023
Another great story like all your others. They keep me inspired which is something I really need.