Escape Velocity

Help me raise $500 for the homeless through the charity Back on My Feet.
escapeThe term “escape velocity” is most known as it relates to science and planetary orbit. It has a lesser known, more wonky use in the world of economics, specifically in regards to liquidity traps and the efforts to rejuvenate a depressed economy. I propose adding a third context to which the phrase can be applied: fitness and weight loss.

I vividly remember the feeling of helplessness about my health. A trip to the gym was the exception, not the rule, and it never seemed to make a dent. Even if I went to the gym three times in one week, there was very little evidence of any benefit. On a micro level, it is very hard to notice any changes derived from one week of increased activity.

I developed a deep dislike for the people who advocated a healthy lifestyle. I thought they were lucky, that some combination of genetics and an accommodating job allowed them to pontificate about things that just were not practical for someone in the grind of a challenging career. It was not a healthy attitude, but it prevailed above all else, as I embraced a bitterness towards people who put their fitness as a priority.

My dad had warned me about that exact attitude people exude. He had lost significant weight between his high school years and the year he met my mom. He said that people would ask him if he was not taking care of himself, as if his greater focus on fitness (and subsequent loss of weight) was somehow a detriment. What they really were implying, as he explained, was a projection of their frustration with their own health. At the time, I thought that perspective was ridiculous, that people had legitimate gripes with the hand they were dealt.

I now realize that I projected my frustrations about my health onto others. Now, I never publicized such thoughts, as they were never solicited. I had them though, and they were unforgiving. Ironically enough, I still felt pressured by others, whether it be at a lavish client dinner or eating lunch at the desk in a team room, in such a way that I felt that I was the victim of such projections. I remember trying to pass up a dinner or forgoing a drink and getting the burden of a thorough guilt trip.

This pervasive discontent, in which I was mutually angry at my own fitness and dismissive of others’ priority on fitness, was in no way a healthy lifestyle. I remember my parents on a number of occasions recommending I go for a bike ride (my favorite activity) and my own stubbornness to not partake specifically because of the fact they suggested it. I recall a friend offering to help me incorporate a tailored workout plan into my summer, given his work with Temple’s men’s basketball team. I did one workout and never took him up on repeated offers since. These instances were not when I was a rebellious teen. They were within the last few years.

Escape velocity is the “the lowest velocity that a body must have in order to escape the gravitational attraction of a particular planet or other object.” In the context of astronomy, it’s literally how fast you must go to get out of the orbit of a planet, moon, or other object. In the context of recovering economy, it’s the point at which the economy’s “training wheels” can come off, in that monetary and fiscal stimulus have sparked the engine of a growing boom that leads to more jobs and higher incomes, thereby increasing prospects for even more growth.

I consider escape velocity in fitness the point where you no longer notice the effort in getting to the gym or logging your calories, where such habits are more noticeable when they are not completed, rather than when they are undertaken. It’s the habit-forming, subconscious expectations that are very hard to establish but are tightly binding that build the confidence needed to continue a workout.

It’s when hiccups do not derail you, when impromptu changes don’t demoralize you, when nonlinear weight loss doesn’t discourage you. It’s when you begin to trust what for so long seemed so foreign and silly: the idea that fitness does work, that sticking to a plan will beget results, that these people who study fitness know a thing or two applicable to your own body.

Last Friday I did a heck of a workout. Then my watch’s data was corrupted, and all the results of that effort were lost. If that happened last month, early in my training, I would have had a panic attack. I was still frustrated, but I knew the range at which I had burned calories, and I made a point to log it outside the website.

Two Saturdays ago, I went to Fox and Hound after an awesome hike, and decided to eat a bit more than usual. I had no idea that a Fox and Hound Burger was almost 1,600 calories. Such a meal, plus fries and unhealthy appetizers, could have left me dejected back in January. Instead, I went home, ran for two hours on the treadmill, and then went out with friends to the bar.

Three weeks ago, I noticed my weight would stagnate during the early part of a week after a productive weekend. I had no idea the cause, but it was very frustrating, given my caloric deficits were not stagnating. I kept at it, trusting the “system” only to see later the successful loss of weight. I later learned water weight had a part to play, and I kept moving forward.

Things don’t always work out perfectly, and so far I have been able to maintain my steady caloric deficits without a “lost day”. At some point, I’ll experience one of them, and I’ll have to accept it and move on. But I feel much more empowered to do so today, than I ever did a month or two ago. I would have closed up shop and given up.

Giving up certainly isn’t the right way to go about it. But it’s hard-wired into my mind when the activity is new and difficult. Once you get going, and you stay with it, the activity, no matter how difficult, starts to feel familiar. I’m not talking so much the actual running or lifting. I’m talking the walk out the door, and the trek to the gym.

My habit now is to get back from work, put on something for dinner, and while it’s cooking, run to the bedroom and change into workout clothes. I fill up my water bottle, I grab my earphones, I charge my iPhone, and I get my lock for the locker. I eat dinner while watching a show, and I give myself 30 minutes from when I finish the meal to get out the door.

Such a routine is something I avoided so well for so long. I remember sitting on my couch debating when I would leave the apartment, only to never get off the couch and consider the day a lost cause. What’s weird is that such a feeling was not in the distant past, so I can vividly remember how I rationalized the lack of action. However, now I see such inaction as foreign, in that my body and mind are expecting the effort.

I tell myself I’m not out of the woods just yet, that any deviation from the schedule could land me right back on the couch of no escape. Although I am starting to realize that as much as my watch and calorie journal help, my habits, my appetite, my routines are all becoming self-sustaining. As much as I used to crave a large lunch or a greasy breakfast sandwich, I now look forward to a light lunch or a breakfast full of fruit.

I’m becoming that person whom I loathed for an uppity attitude but envied for a healthy lifestyle. In short, it’s working and I’m becoming a happier, healthier person.

Advertisements

Mental Victories

Help me raise $500 for the homeless through the charity Back on My Feet.
In sticking with this fitness plan, I have found that 90% of my motivation comes from mental “wins”, no matter how incremental actual progress is. For instance, I consistently lose two pounds a week, which is right at the limit of healthy weight loss. So from one week to the next, the swing is not large on the scale, but I consider increments of five to signify progress. If, for example, I’m in the “upper” 180’s, my goal over the next two weeks is to get into the “mid-180’s” before dropping to the “low-180’s”. In every step, it’s easier to keep going when I can bucket my weight into certain ranges that are less about the exact number, but more for confidence building.

The other great motivator, which again is completely arbitrary, is dropping the tens digit on the scale. I just dropped, for the second time in this fitness plan, the tens digit on the scale. It no longer reads 18- , as it now is in the 17- “weight class”. As silly as it is, given it’s still only two pounds less from the previous week, it makes a difference. It allows me the focus and doubling down of my efforts, which keeps me waking up to hit the gym. I’ll continue to push to go through the cycle of “upper” to “mid” to “low” for these next ten pounds.

What I did not expect already is needing to buy a new belt. I just bought one in January after the prior buckle wore out. Related to the belt issue is the fact my pants I just bought in November are about three inches too big. Again, these are not bad problems to have. They are friendly reminders that I can actually do this.

Additionally, now that I have a strong baseline of fitness, I have begun varying when I go to the gym. Usually, I do evening workouts, but now with morning workouts, my day feels that much more accomplished. Even though I will probably end up with around the same total burn for the day, I come into work and the rest of the day not worried about “hitting my numbers”. In effect, it makes the day much more about doing whatever I want / need to get done outside of hitting the gym. I also think, although I do not have enough statistics to back this up, that working out in the morning is raising my metabolism for much of the morning and afternoon. If I work out at night, I believe I still have that metabolism boost, except not too long after I am going to sleep (and therefore reducing my heart rate / energy level.

Along with morning workouts is the mental belief that I have all this cooped up energy from a good night’s sleep, so I tend to do more in the same amount of time in the morning. It is almost if all the details of the day weigh on me in the evening, whereas in the morning life is much simpler. It relates well to what I have found about my profession of consulting, where the hours may be long, but your mornings are much more “protected” than your evenings. That it is to say that nine times out of ten, I will not be expected to be doing work prior to 8:00 am, but it is very likely I will need to be up until midnight if there’s an urgent deadline.

The below graph represent’s this morning’s workout. Aside from the heart rate, which never seems to get the max heart rate recorded (161bpm), there’s plenty to read into. And just the ability to view such information is helpful in keeping up with the workouts. It stimulates my interest and allows me enough tools or gadgets at my disposal to approach the data from different angles. It’s almost like a safety net of information to keep me from getting dejected if I begin to perceive the several months ahead as insurmountable.

022314

Hate the Pronate

Help me raise $500 for the homeless through the charity Back on My Feet.
I pronate…severely. I also strike with my heel often. Frustratingly, when I’m on the treadmill, I cringe at the idea of running, as I know it will be a constant battle to execute correct. To be honest, I’ve always been a a terrible runner. I mean, I have been easily one of the worst at running properly, especially when there is no end goal. It is one thing if I am trying to catch a ball, or run after a someone in a game. It is a completely different animal to run for the sake of running.

Oddly, I love biking. It feels like a complete escape, in part because it takes half the time it would to run to get lost. I say “get lost” in a literal sense, as I, when I lived back in the suburbs, prided myself on finding ways to get completely lost and in a location I did not know. Those moments, where I could ride in curiosity with no predetermined idea of where I was going, were the most satisfying. They became rarer and rarer the older I got, as I learned pretty much every backroad within a 30 mile radius of my parents’ house.

So to tackle my running problem, I started looking to my own enjoyment of cycling. I have always enjoyed the hills, as I would “dance on the pedals” as Phil Liggett would say, against an ever-steepening gradient. I realized that this same feeling has come to me over the past several weekends where I have hiked up steep, snowy hills.

Tonight was the first night where I took those same principles and applied them to the gym. I raised the incline and began to sprint. It was exhilarating and exhausting, in the best way possible. I also realized that it absolutely forced me to run the right way, on the balls of my feet with long. It helps that I have support shoes (Asics), but in all honesty, it took raising the difficulty and the gradient to get the burn and engagement in my running that I effortless have in biking.

Below you can see that my heart rate today (last synched at 9:50 PM) was much more consistently elevated given this change in my workout. The only time where the same sustained effort is evident is on the weekends (hence my three hour hikes with my dog). Looks like I found a new way to keep improving my fitness.
022014

As an aside, the actual maximum heart rate tonight was around 161 bpm (a far cry from when I could do 180+ sophomore year of college), but this chart is meant for trending, so it is not going to reflect outliers. 

One month in the books

Help me raise $500 for the homeless through the charity Back on My Feet.
As of this past Saturday, February 15, I have completed one full month of the activity monitoring / fitness plan. So far, I have dropped my BMI (Body Mass Index) by 1.9 and my weight by 11.10 pounds. I have increased my average number of steps from 4,000 per day to 11,000 per day. On an average weekday, I am burning 2,700 calories, where previously I was burning no more than 2,200 a day.

I am now waking up closer to 6:30 AM, vs the previous 7:45 timing, and I’m going to bed regularly at 10:30 PM in contrast to my previous 12:30 – 1:00 AM timing (usually mistakenly on the couch). My sleep score has risen around 4% on average, and the number of interruptions per night is now at maximum (and rarely at that) just once. In the past, it was regularly two or three.

My calorie composition has also changed during the weekdays, as I consistently run about a 55% Carbohydrate, 25% Protein, 20% Fat makeup of my calories. I previously was trending at a 53%, 18%, 29% breakdown.

Going forward, I need to decrease my carbohydrate percentage, relative to protein, and I’d like to keep my fat intake at about the range I have established. I will need to up my overall calorie consumption, which is going to require a parallel increase in activity to keep the 1,000 calorie deficit I have established. In fact, as I have been losing weight, my results for each workout are, as expected, less than what they previously were. So I have had to compensate with varying my workouts and extending my time in the gym to still hit certain thresholds.

Saturday itself was a good example of needing to compensate for a higher caloric intake: I had gone out with friends for dinner, and before I knew it, I had consumed 2,766 calories for the day (and not the best mix of to carbohydrates to protein to fat). Having already done a hike in the morning (yes, it’s a ritual now with my dog), I elected to hit the treadmill after dinner for two hours. The end result is that I had burned 3,849 calories over the course of the day, maintaining the 1,000 calorie deficit. I also realized for as good as Fox and Hound’s burgers are, they essentially are their own day’s worth of food.

The below graphs shows that I essentially had to double the amount of exercise, resulting in quite a bit of soreness the next day. The peak heart rate was when I was hiking uphill in two feet of snow that had yet to be traversed. So while every step was itself a chore, I knew it would produce results.

feb15

With one month down, I am happy to report significant progress. I am right at the upper band of what is an acceptable range of weight to lose over the course of a month. I know it will become more difficult as my metabolism fights the consistent calorie deficits, and as my body becomes more efficient from all of the exercise. My hope though is I should have a decent gauge of those changes in my fitness tracker. I am shooting for a consistent loss of ten pounds each month, so I should expect, by the Broad Street Run, to have lost forty pounds. It will not be the end of my training, only an important inflection point and goal to propel me into the spring and summer months to finish up my weight loss efforts.

Thanks for reading.

Fundraising Update!!

Help me raise $500 for the homeless through the charity Back on My Feet.
So I have some awesome news: As of today, once everything settles, I will have just surpassed the halfway point ($260) of my fundraising goal ($500). There are some kinks to work out that are keeping my donation page from updating the progress, but below is a breakdown of everything to date:

1) $110 from generous donors!
2) $125 from my firm for healthy habits.
3) $25 from my registration fee.

As it stands now, #2 & #3 will not be reflected in the Active website’s goal tracker. Frustrating, but essentially Back On My Feet uses Active as one of its many intermediaries (in addition to checks, gift cards, etc).

Another awesome perk, but not applicable to my $500 minimum required to be raised, is:

My firm has agreed to provide a grant following the race of a match up to $500 of whatever I raise to the day of the race. Essentially, I still need to raise $500 (or now $240 left) by the race (technically three days later but within that week), and then within the next quarter I’ll receive a matching donation up to $500. So, between the Back on My Feet requirement of $500 raised by May 7th, and the $500 matching that my firm will provide a few months later, at minimum $1,000 will be raised to help the homeless for my entry into the Broad Street Run!!!

Pretty awesome if I say so myself. THANK YOU TO EVERYONE, whether you’re just reading, or donating.

Please donate and keep reading!!

The Quirks of Training

Help me raise $500 for the homeless through the charity Back on My Feet.
In many of my previous failed attempts to get fit, I became disenchanted with the whole process all because of one thing: the weight scale (no, unfortunately not the one pictured here).old-school-scale For what seemed to be completely indiscriminate reasons, the scale would produce a figure that seemed to dispute any and all efforts I had made during the week. I would venture to guess it is one of the most commonly cited issues people face in sticking with a program.

My own experience this time around has provided some interesting context. Using my Basis B1 watch and MyFitnessPal, I know exactly (within a margin of error) what my caloric deficit is each day. And given that I am coming up on one full month of training, I am starting to see odd patterns in the weight scale that confirm how frustrating it can be.

My rule of thumb for the weight scale is the following: Weigh myself officially every Monday morning. Weigh myself sporadically a couple times during the week (also in the morning to limit external factors such as meals and water weight). Log each one, with Monday being understood as the weight I reference as the “standard”. In the interim, document the caloric deficit I achieve each day, as well as the makeup of the calories consumed.

Based upon the consistency of my caloric deficit over a full week, I would expect gradual weight loss between official Monday weigh-ins. Instead, I have seen a pattern where I drop the two pounds by Thursday or so, according to the unofficial weigh-in. It really freaks me out, as I am not trying to overdo it. But each time, I have stuck to the plan, continued the same caloric deficit, and come Monday morning, I read the same weight I saw Thursday, thereby easing my concerns. It is hard to explain, as I keep up my water intake consistently each day. I have a two theories, though:

  • Water weight may fluctuate much more during the weekend when I am doing much more activity and eating more. During the weekdays, I get the same deficit as the weekend, but I am eating less and working out less (a product of working at a desk for the majority of the day). Subconsciously, I may be drinking more water, even though I tend to think I am not doing so (or the foods themselves tend to include more water than I realize). Additionally, while my weekday workouts are more regulated, in that I do weight training and treadmill time at a gym, it is my weekend workouts that are much longer and organic. I have been doing three to four hour hikes on Sundays and shorter hikes Saturdays. I have no idea what effect that has.
  • My weekday calorie composition is stellar, whereas my weekend calorie composition is only decent. I wonder if there is more weight retention when the food is not as lean. Yes, I know, this question sounds pretty intuitive. It still is worthwhile to figure out on my own, with my own results to analyze.

I cannot say for sure what is happening, but I have been paying close attention to the trend, which has repeated itself for quite a few weeks. My initial thoughts were that I was going to have to scale down my training, if I ended up burning much more than the two pound range a week. And the mid-week unofficial weigh-ins had me convinced such an adjustment would be required. However, each time, it seems like the circumstances have adjusted themselves to keep me in line with my program.

As an aside, it is a nice exercise to re-calibrate my fitness tracker every other week to adjust down my weight (and subsequent assumptions in calculating my BMR). I could do it each week, but I tend to think a two week window keeps me from over-reliance on the scale.

Emerging Patterns

Help me raise $500 for the homeless through the charity Back on My Feet.
As the weeks have progressed, I am now developing enough of a “fitness history” to see understand my routines. I also can see, week over week, what my general patterns are. For instance, here is a heat map of my calories burned over the past two weeks:
heatmap

Weekend hikes with my dog dominate the longest of the dark shading, representing the most sustained activities involving substantial calorie burn. It is also easy to see that my success rate at getting up for a morning workout is pretty abysmal.

This type of details helps in identifying patterns I want to keep or grow, and others that really need to go. For instance, you can tell that I skipped a workout last Tuesday.

Fun aside, based upon the below heart rate for this past Saturday night, you can tell that I was engaging in some pretty mean (read: embarrassing) dance moves:
heatmap2

My biggest takeaway from this information is I need to find a way to drop the habit of sleeping too late in the morning. That, and I could do for more consistency in the evenings as to “when” I work out. Some of that, however, is really dependent on job commitments.

Day #24 – An Update

Help me raise $500 for the homeless through the charity Back on My Feet.
I have been logging my caloric intake and burn for 24 days now, and I have found success, both in achieving predicted weight loss, as well as changing many of my habits.
Here’s what Day 1 looked like:
day01basisday01myfitnesspal

For reference, here is what Day 22 looked like (“yesterday” is listed as I pulled it Thursday):
day22basisday22myfitnesspal

It is important to note, that although Day 1 was meant to be a baseline to reflect my usual habits prior to training, I was already substituting soda with orange juice. Regardless, I have since replaced most juices with water. I’ll have an orange juice once or twice a week, just for variety, but I focus primarily on fruits and vegetables for those nutrients.

Regarding the differences, I would not put too much stock into the heart rate from Day 1, as it was the first day after a full charge of my Basis B1 watch that I began wearing the device. It, for the first few days fluctuated around 68bpm, before landing in the 50’s. As you can see, I do go over my “target” as this target is mainly what I would eat if I am completely sedentary. In such an instance as Wednesday (Day 22), if I see that I will approach around a 3,000 calorie burn, I tend to up my caloric intake to make sure I’m not overdoing it. If anything, I think I under ate yesterday, given the amount of exercise I undertook.

In terms of overall caloric expenditure, my total net calories by the end of tonight (since Day 1 on January 15) will be a deficit just around 29,300 (I will not know until tomorrow morning the exact figure), which amounts to just over eight pounds lost over the 24 day period. Generally accepted thought is that you should lose no more than two pounds a week, which I am on track to do, given this information.

So far, so good. When it comes to habits, I am still struggling to consistently go to bed at 10:30 PM and rise by 6:20 AM. As I had mentioned in prior posts, my Basis B1 watch gives me target habits to achieve, and over time those habits become more and more ingrained in my daily routine. Below are my habits and their current progress:

The “Don’t Be a Sitter” habit is pretty cool, as it keeps you aware of the very real dangers from being stationary at your desk for too long. “Torch More Calories” may be at a point now where I up the total calories I need to hit, although I want to be careful in that I do not inadvertently overdo it. In conjunction with that habit, I am debating raising my “Step It Up” habit to 10,000 steps, which is generally recommended. I have been hitting that number without much difficulty, but as you could see above, my norm prior to this fitness plan was something around 4,000 steps a day.

So in general, things that used to be more difficult and work have become much less difficult and almost subconscious. I now only go to places I can correctly count the calories (and their makeup), so I have moved away from some of the more generous portions at say a Coventry and to specifically light sandwiches at Potbelly’s (Skinny Hammy) or Au Bon Pain (this can be deceptively hard, given most of their menu is over 500 calories a serving). The walk time also helps, and I do my best to take a few minutes away from the desk to eat the lunch.

The makeup of the foods I eat also is less glamorous: Day 22 I had two burger patties & ketchup via the George Foreman Grill. Sometimes, I will include a Lean Cuisine in addition. That night (#22), I had a banana at the very end of the night before going to sleep, as I was still hungry (I listed it as breakfast so the whole meal would be captured, as snacks is a separate line that will make the list longer than what I was able to screen grab).

I know not all of this is achievable when traveling. I specifically remember the stories of five consultants squeezing into a ford focus to go to a lunch spot to pick up, haphazardly, and go, only to stuff our faces in an absolute rush while working. I’m lucky now to have a good team that respects and trusts that the work can get done without an absolute abandonment of healthy habits. My hope is that I can get enough habits going and potentially enough time at home to do so, prior to having to get back on the road. We’ll see how that goes.

Markers of Progress

Help me raise $500 for the homeless through the charity Back on My Feet.
In my last post, I explained that I had trouble determining what was success the last time I really focused on my fitness. Without a definitive determination, I undervalued the progress I had made and eventually regressed to a point that eliminated all my previous gains.

I think it is important then, to explain what I am doing now, in this attempt, to clearly define progress over the next several months.

My difficulty with simply relying on weight is that depending on a number of factors, such as time of day, or meals consumed, one’s weight fluctuates enough to limit its effectiveness in terms of daily monitoring. Rather, if you rely on a scale, it is probably best to only weigh yourself once a week, every week. Otherwise, you’ll become obsessed with things that appear to be improvements or setbacks that may be completely unrelated.

My own impatience prevents me from limiting myself to just a weekly measurement of my progress. I have a tough time trusting “the system” of waiting a week at a time between weigh-ins. So alternatively, I need a more minute frame of reference, preferably daily.

Good news: between my Basis B1 watch, and MyFitnessPal calorie journal, and a spreadsheet, I can keep myself occupied enough to stay engaged and on track with my training. Sure, I do record my weight weekly, but to satisfy my appetite for immediate information, I rely on the below approach to keep me sane.

I created a chart that derives an average of the calories consumed versus burned, and extrapolates what that trend would serve to do over the course of several months. To account for swings in either direction regarding my net calorie trend, I created four alternative scenarios as well. It allows me to see what impact an increase or decrease in calories from the average would have on my goals.  All I have to do is update the below table for each day, and the formulas do the rest (e.g., constantly revising the average based upon actual data, so I cannot cheat and assume a much better average than what I have historically performed):

calorie log

In addition to that chart, I have two others, one of which I will share here (click to enlarge), which translate the calorie deficit into pounds over the course of the next several months. The green trend line is my current path, and where the lines all diverge is where actual data is succeeded by the estimates. The Y-axis is pounds lost, the X-axis is the date. The trend line titles such as “Trend – .5k” equates to 500 calories less than the current trend per day.

trendloss

I will continue to monitor the results, and make adjustments to the models if I realize my assumptions are a bit too rosy (or harsh, for that matter). We shall see what the chart looks like come the Broad Street Run. It is important to note that I am not limiting this effort to the run itself, as I have a target goal in mind that I will continue to chase into the summer. Wish me luck.

Defining Success After You Fail

Help me raise $500 for the homeless through the charity Back on My Feet.
Back in the spring of 2008, my sophomore year at college, I dropped around fifty pounds working out mornings, afternoons, and evenings. It was a brute force approach: I did at least an hour of biking each workout and thirty minutes of weights. I weighed myself weekly, but I just became entranced in the routine. I had no social life that spring, as I was rarely out with friends, given most nights I fell asleep by 9:00 PM. My roommate at the time was supportive given his own interest in fitness. It also helped that the college lifestyle allowed for this commitment to be a priority.

07c 08c13c
The above approach was effective but in no way efficient. I ate plenty of carbohydrates, I never really “logged” my progress, and quite frankly, I never realized how much progress I achieved until years later when I looked at photos from that time. Friends would comment, but I always felt I was far away from some magical goal. The reality was the complete opposite: I had done everything I had hoped to accomplish, but I had no real commitment to determine what exactly my goal was.

As with most weight loss, you eventually burn out, or feel comfortable easing out of your routine. For me, I delayed some of the eventual regaining of weight when I went to France, as the portions were much more reasonable than back home. That lifestyle, however, was limited to six months, and over the course of my senior year, and especially during my first year of my career, I gradually regressed. It was especially pronounced when I was traveling non-stop right out of college: unlimited expense accounts, fancy dinners, long hours, and little incentive to leave the hotel room all accelerated the weight gain.

I ended up traveling for the better part of two and a half years, miserable with the way I handled the schedule. Every once in a while I would attempt to start a healthy routine, only to relapse and resign myself to a hotel bed and room service. Unfortunately, those habits, once I was no longer traveling, persisted, with the new excuse of a two and a half roundtrip commute each day to and from work.

I improved my habits with bike rides from Conshohocken to Center City for work at least two times a week during the spring, but before long it was one excuse after another as to why I would not continue the effort. A sampling: My computer would need to be transported, I was not sure if it would rain, I would not get home until nine. So in September I moved to the city, and had no reason not to be healthy in my activities. Or so I thought. The truth is, when you’re unmotivated, you find ways to avoid even the most convenient opportunities. With a gym effectively two blocks from my apartment, with a one and a half block commute to work, I somehow ended up spending more time lounging than ever before.

Finally, this past December, I went to an event my firm holds for recent promotes, and it really stressed health and satisfaction in life. Sure, it in the end was a work event to reward all the years where those two goals appeared less important than the deadlines that came and went. But I took it to heart, and I wanted to figure out what I could do so that I could look back at my mid-20’s with a smile, rather than regret about my fitness and personal self-worth.

So I had to grapple with some facts:

  1. The college lifestyle has an expiration date. If you want to prioritize working out, you have to do so around another priority: earning a living.
  2. This is going to suck. There is no way around the frustration that comes with getting up in a snow storm and going to the gym. It happens, it is meant to dissuade you, but it is a necessary evil.
  3. It will not get easier. The easiest time to lose weight and get fit is when you are not fit at all. You lose weight easily because you have so many inefficiencies in how you operate your life. That progress will gradually be harder to achieve.
  4. The first month or two will feel like a waste. You will not feel like you made much progress, you will still notice the imperfections that frustrate you, and you will feel like it is a pointless exercise.
  5. No one is going to be more invested in your health than you. Your loved ones love you, but they also do not want to hurt your self-worth. The fact is, only you can truly take ownership of your fitness.
  6. The people closest to you will experience the negative effects of the routine such as being busy or eating less enjoyable foods. They also will not recognize the changes as they see you too much to make the distinction.
  7. The habits you form will take time to change your fitness, which in the moment will feel like an eternity. The reverse is true if you give up. You’ll breeze by the days, weeks, and months, only to realize at the beach that “winter you” was selfish and now “summer you” is embarrassed and depressed at the result.
  8. Life gets in the way. There will be easy “outs” at every corner. Friends will unintentionally attempt to derail your progress. It happens. You will have unexpected cheat days. You also will be the only person to correct those moments by being flexible in how you maneuver your schedule.
  9. You will succeed, but you will never know it unless you figure out what it is you actually define as success. Is it weight? Is it form? Is it aesthetic? Is it your BMI?
  10. This does not end once you achieve your goal. It gets harder as you get older to make such radical changes to your life. So, once you cross that finish line, whether literally or figuratively, you do not stop. You adapt and change to a routine that solidifies maintenance and consistency.

I failed at that final step. I have been out of breath and I have been ashamed of my fitness. I have looked at my past success and wondered aloud at how I could have not realized what I had and how I let it slip away.

Let’s be honest. I’m 25, almost 26, and if I really want to maximize my enjoyment of life, when I’m not married, when I’m living in the city, I need to develop habits now that promote energy and activity. I remember those moments where my inactivity and lethargy were exposed. I never want those moments to happen again.

13summer