FREDERICK, Md. — Many people who want to lose weight find it hard to stay motivated, but one Frederick pilot found inspiration in the chance to fly in a plane some enthusiasts fondly compare to a Ducati or a Lamborghini.
Alton Marsh, of Frederick, was determined to lose weight in order to write an article about flying a North American P-51 Mustang, a classic fighter plane, at a flight training school in Kissimmee, Florida.
He had dreamed of flying in the plane since he started out as a pilot, he said, because the machine is renowned for its speed and power.
“I spent a year losing weight so I could fit in the back of this P-51. I had previously been in a P-51 in the back, years ago, and I remember sitting with my knees almost under my chin the whole flight. And then, since that time, I had gained 40 pounds,” he said.
Before the writing assignment, Marsh weighed 239 pounds. Since his weight loss effort began last year, he is now down to 195 pounds. If he hadn’t lost that weight, he said, he may have had to cancel his flight.
The control stick jutted into his stomach about an inch, even after slimming down, so he may not have been able to steer properly if he had been 44 pounds heavier.
“If I had been heavier, and couldn’t get that stick all the way back, I don’t think it would have been a good idea for me to fly,” Marsh said.
Maneuverability was essential. His article was about a flight school, where business jet pilots learn to recover from “unusual attitudes” — pilot lingo for the plane or jet being upside down, pointed straight up in the sky or otherwise in an unstable position or discombobulated.
He lost the weight over six months with the help of a strict diet and exercise. Then it became a matter of maintenance.
He completely cut out mint chocolate ice cream sandwiches, which he used to eat daily. He cut out red meat, fried food, bread and baked desserts as well. Dessert now, when he treats himself, consists of berries or grapes.
He also cooks at home more and avoids restaurants that serve calorie-dense food.
Marsh’s trainer, Jenny Foit, said he is very good about portion control and very dedicated to his exercise program.
Marsh takes classes with Foit about twice a week at North Frederick Sport and Health. He trained using a program developed by Navy SEALs called Total Resistance Exercise. The two also run as part of his training.
“He’s extremely receptive to whatever I would give to him,” Foit said. “It was really fun to work with him.”
Foit said she was proud of the pilot for his dedication.
“He would go out on his own and run a 5K and beat his time.” she said. “I was so impressed with him constantly challenging himself.”
Now that his P-51 flight is over, Marsh has had to find some other way to keep on track.
He has found that reporting his workouts to Foit helps, he said. Even when he does not have class, he emails her about his fitness accomplishments for the day.
“You always have to have somebody watching you, somebody to tell,” he said.