John Drury: Dancing his way to health

by Sonia Straface

Like many truck drivers, John Drury of Cincinnati, Ohio has had trouble keeping his health and well-being a top priority.

Over the years, the 44-year-old’s weight has fluctuated from 400 lbs down to 350 lbs, down to 270 lbs and then back up again to 370 lbs, in a never-ending routine of dieting, exercising, and driving.

Drury has been a professional driver for 13 years and currently works for Cowan Systems, which distributes Coca-Cola products. Though the odds are stacked against him with more and more truck drivers becoming and staying obese behind the wheel, this year, he’s decided to lose the extra weight he’s been hauling around and keep it off for good.

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John Drury

Drury, better known to the Twitterverse as “The Dancing Trucker,” has made his New Year’s resolution rather public, by  announcing that to keep him motivated throughout the year, for every 10 lbs he loses, he will visit a truck stop in the Cincinnati tri-state area, recruit a fellow truck driver and do a celebratory dance that he will film and share on his Twitter page.

Though it may seem like an embarrassing task, at 6’7”, Drury has moves; he’s been dancing since he was a teenager and says it has always been a part of his life. In fact, dancing has helped him shed pounds in the past.

“I love hip-hop and that kind of dance music and as I got older, any time I got an opportunity to dance, I would do so,” he said. “As a matter of fact, I met my wife on the dance floor. So anything to do with dancing is always a positive light in my life.”

He said his weight started to become a concern back when he got his CDL in 2002, since driving is such a sedentary job. Finally, in 2011 when he reached nearly 400 lbs, he decided to join a local “Biggest Loser” contest in his hometown and was chosen as a contestant. With help from the contest, he lost an incredible amount of weight very quickly.

“I ended up losing 54 pounds in three months,” he said. “The contest got me ramped up, they provided a gym membership and personal trainer, and it helped that I am a competitive person by nature. Not to mention the fact that I had a family and two kids that I wanted to do it for as well. So that really got me going.”

During this time, while on the treadmill at the gym, Drury would hear music coming from the upper level of the space, and eventually he discovered the new Zumba classes his gym offered.

“So one day I just peeked my head in the door to see what it was all about, and it was 99% women,” he said. “And I’m a big, intimidating truck driver with tattoos everywhere. But, I got the courage to step in and start dancing and after a few weeks I felt like I belonged there and I loved it. It really helped me. It was just such a fun way for me to exercise.”

He eventually became a certified Zumba instructor later that year and lost close to 100 lbs by teaching regular classes. Though he enjoyed teaching the classes and helping people lose weight with dance, he said that Zumba got a little too constricting for him in terms of music selection.

“Zumba is 80% Latin music and 20% hip-hop music,” he said.  “And I’m a hip-hop kind of guy. So I eventually began creating my own choreography. Zumba can be intimidating, too. There’s a lot of steps. So I thought I’d do my own thing. This way, there’s no rules on what music I can play. So that’s what I did, I started my own class called Big John’s Dance Fitness.”

For a couple of years, Big John’s Dance Fitness was a success in his area where he would teach an hour-long hip-hop dance class for $5 a pop. Over time, however, he found it harder to get people in his class near the end of the year and had to stop teaching.

“Fitness is a funny thing,” he said. “You can’t drag people there. So I stopped teaching and went back to trucking full-time.”

At the beginning of January, when his resolution began, Drury was near 370 lbs.  His goal is to lose 100 lbs by January 2016, and to keep the weight off, he will be counting calories (sticking to a 2,500 caloric intake limit) and hitting the gym on a daily basis.

“My big thing now is no excuses,” he said. “With my schedule, I’m home every night. So, there is no excuse for not going to the gym every night. I just joined the YMCA again, and getting back on the treadmill and the stationary bike to get my sweat on. Those two are my bread and butter.”

During work hours, he says he moves as much as he can, while at home his wife helps him cook meals and focus on portion control.

“When I go to truck stops, I walk,” he said. “Instead of sitting on the dock waiting for hours, I get out of my truck and walk. Then when I’m at home, my family is my very supportive. We’re cooking meals at home and getting that portion size down. It’s simple but it’s not easy.”

He says putting himself out there and in the public eye with his weight loss journey will push him further since so many people will be watching his progress.

“Something about me just loves the camera,” he said. “It’s my personality. This video thing is going to be out there and I’m going to be exposing myself. I get excited about dancing, I get excited about losing weight and I love that I’m potentially helping someone. So it’s the perfect way to get me going and keep me motivated.”

So far, Drury is one month into his weight loss challenge and has lost 10 lbs. He has already filmed his first dance video in celebration of his progress.  To keep tabs on Drury and his weight loss journey as well as watch his videos, follow him on Twitter @BigJohnsTruckin.

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