Billy Skinner never really worried about his weight.
Growing up, he was the “husky” kid, but he was active and could always get around.
Yet over the years, Skinner’s weight ticked upward. He weighed 260 pounds when he graduated from high school, around 280 pounds when he and his wife got married in 1999, and more than 350 pounds by the time his first daughter was born. Then, following his father’s passing in 2015, his weight spiraled out of control.
By the time Skinner and his family moved to Kennesaw, Georgia in 2020, he weighed around 450 pounds. In his early 40s, he could no longer do things with his family because he had to frequently pause to catch his breath.
“I would get on the scale and if I saw it go above 450, I instantly stepped off," he says. "I was embarrassed about my weight for the first time in my life."
Making a Life-Changing Decision
At that point, Skinner knew he had a massive decision to make.
He talked to his family and a few friends, then met with his doctor in March 2021 to develop a plan. He scheduled gastric sleeve surgery for the following May, but before he could have the procedure, he had to show that he was committed to losing weight. Using a nutrition regimen that he and his doctor created — protein shakes for breakfast and lunch, two snacks consisting of yogurt or sugar-free pudding, and dinner at night — he shed 30 pounds before the operation.
After the procedure, Skinner’s exercise habits changed drastically. He had never exercised prior to his surgery. In fact, he struggled to walk more than 400 yards at a time. But before he could leave the hospital, the doctor made him walk up and down the halls. He started walking a few hundred steps every few hours and pushed himself to walk more each day.
At his one-month checkup, Skinner’s doctor told him he needed to start strength training to counteract the muscle mass that he would lose with the overall weight loss. He looked at local gyms and found III Nation in Kennesaw, which was on his way home from work. In June, he met with Shane Bonilla, a coach and the owner of III Nation. Skinner was skeptical at first (III Nation wasn’t just any gym, it was a CrossFit gym), but the classes fit with his schedule, and his coaches and classmates made him feel welcome.
Skinner's First Introduction to Burpees
In his first class, Skinner was introduced to burpees. Early on, he couldn’t do many of the exercises, but he worked with the coaches to scale the movements. He began strength training three days per week, and by November, he had upped that to four to five days per week. Still, Skinner was looking for something more — a way to challenge himself as he made strides.
“I didn’t want to just run,” he says. “I wanted something different.”
That's when Skinner found Spartan.
From CrossFit to Crushing a Spartan Sprint
The CrossFitter signed up for a 5K, 20-obstacle Sprint, knowing that he would struggle with obstacles that required upper-body strength. Nonetheless, he ran and built a spear for practice — and it paid off. On his first race day in Atlanta, Skinner crushed the Spear Throw and — although the Monkey Bars and Rope Climb were a challenge — completing the Sprint supercharged his drive.
At the beginning of 2022, he set a goal of completing his first Trifecta, the coveted title given only to Spartans who complete a Sprint, Super (10K, 25 obstacles), and Beast (21K, 30 obstacles) in one calendar year.
“I have always set lofty goals for myself, but this could be one of the biggest yet,” he says. “I have no doubt in my mind after completing a Sprint that I can and will complete a Trifecta.”
Earning the Coveted Trifecta Title
To train for the Super and the Beast, Skinner is hitting the gym to build his upper-body strength and working on running longer distances. He has his eye set on conquering the obstacles that he struggled with during the Sprint.
To date — just a little over one year since he first went to see his doctor — Skinner has lost 191 pounds. The journey has been driven by his wife and two daughters.
“I want to show my daughters that they can do anything that they set their mind to,” he says.
Like their father, Skinner’s daughters have also begun participating in Spartan races, having both run Kids races in Charlotte, N.C.
Since he first shared his story on social media, the Spartan community has embraced Skinner. It's precisely that community and support, he says, that has strengthened his resolve and continues to inspire him on his fitness journey.
“The wonderful, encouraging words that everyone has shared keep me pushing harder,” he says. “My hope is that I can inspire others to take the next step in their journey. It all starts with that first step.”