I named this site “Tempo and Cadence” in reference to my love of cycling. In reality, this site serves to chronicle my overall efforts to get in shape. Running, biking, hiking and eating healthy all are at the core of my training.
As a student
Throughout much of my youth, I struggled with weight, as it had fluctuated over the years. During middle school and high school, there were years where I would come into class in top shape and others where I had regressed. It was not until my sophomore year of college when I really went after my fitness. In the span of my sophomore spring semester (2008), I lost around significant weight through crazy workouts and little attention to diet. I felt great and accomplished, however I had no real gauge of my overall progress or how I would maintain my new physique.
The summer following sophomore year, I enjoyed eating whatever I wanted and living off the physique I had worked so hard to attain. I had zero appreciation for what these old habits would do to my body. I was spared the harsh reality when the following January I went abroad to France. My diet and exercise while studying abroad postponed the day of reckoning. I conveniently stayed in shape and did not think much of it.
Following my semester abroad, I began a six month internship that began to gradually undo all the success I had tirelessly worked to achieve. I then came back to Penn State for my final semester before graduation. I had started to notice my weight was once again an issue. However, it was not until I graduated and spent the summer prior to starting my career that I wondered out loud if I needed to get in shape.
Starting my Career on the Road
I distinctly remember in August of 2010 telling a suit tailor that I would be getting into shape soon, once I started my career. His response was skepticism as he talked me down from buying anything in anticipation of weight loss. I expected to be working in Philadelphia and I had a whole vision of how my career would begin.
Like a shock to my system, I was immediately sent on the road, for what would become the first three years of my career. With expense accounts and long hours, with wining and dining, and with no warning as to the level of self-restraint required, I accelerated my weight gain. From fall of 2010 to December of 2013, I was not just overweight, I was becoming obese.
I was miserable and angry at my circumstances. I also was not sure what was the right plan of attack to break the bad habits. I considered a number of options, but each one was not nearly convincing enough to do. Along the way, I had several “false starts”.
The Failures before Success
I had hit the gym at the hotels, I attempted to watch what I would eat. I would even try biking from a midpoint between my parents’ house and the city to get to work and back for a couple of weeks. At one point, I made it a point to hit the gym for lunch each day during the summer of 2012. In each instance, the effort needed felt herculean, but the results never seemed to appear.
With my own frustrations around travel and long hours, I had little incentive to improve my fitness. Even with serious health risks attributed to obesity, I could not muster up the energy to make even incremental changes in any sustained way.
What I felt
I was out of breath after long walks. I felt pain when I tried to run. Most weekends I would desperately wish to go and be active, only to find excuses that appeased to my lack of fitness and overall energy. I was ashamed each summer and I hated shopping for clothes. I watched as my waist size continuously increased over time.
I had rarely had a positive self-image, when it came to photos appear on social networks. I naturally would un-tag myself or limit settings so that only I could cultivate my appearance. Even when I was in top shape sophomore year of college, I did not fully believe it. So my mentality only worsened as I gradually gained weight. Friends would wonder why I would remove my mention from their photos. It was not because I did not enjoy being seen with them, rather I was upset with my own appearance.
As 2013 was coming to an end, I was reflecting more and more on where I was. Although I had been promoted that year, I felt a combination of resentment and relief, rather than excitement and elation. My reasoning was in part due to my concern about my weight: the prior performance year I had sacrificed so much in health, sleep, and happiness to earn the promotion in 2012, only to be delayed a year for factors outside of my control. I felt all that work and sacrifice only made me unhealthier and unhappier.
So while 2013 had shown to be a more positive experience, I still was dealing with the effects of all the travel and poor habits. I also realized I was only a few months from turning twenty-six. While still in the heart of my mid-twenties, I started to ask myself: am I just resigned to being a bigger guy?
For the longest time, I did not believe I was meant to be a “bigger guy”, but over those three years, I learned that such an identity had slowly came over me. Comments like “big guy” and “eating well” were not lost on me. The more frequent they occurred, the more they burned in my mind. I became very depressed with my fitness and my appearance.
When It Clicked
After a trip to Disney for the New Year’s celebration, I wondered what actual resolution would be attainable. I had subconsciously discarded the notion of getting in shape. I realized though that this decision was not one I ever wanted to make and was one that would validate the “bigger guy” mentality. It felt like a nail in the coffin if I were to just completely embrace being unhealthy as I was entering 2014 and about to turn 26.
I researched some fitness trackers purely out of curiosity. I also talked to my soon to be running partner, who had signed up for the Broad Street Run. She suggested that I do so too. I was almost insulted. She knew how much I hated running and how out of shape I was. Why would I ever want to do such a thing?
Again, I realized the subconscious decision to be so defeatist was in no way one I ever wanted to make. So I played with the idea. Almost like putting your hand near a fire, I fully expected to get burnt. I signed up anyway. I agreed to raise money for a charity to guarantee my spot in the race. I also realized I was backing myself into a potentially unsafe corner.
Reality Sets In
When I pushed submit, and confirmed my entry into the Broad Street Run, my heart sank and I felt goosebumps. I knew that there was no way around this decision. I also knew I had no excuse, no plausible out to not train. Unlike cycling, which I love, I could not “fake” running form. I could not make it ten miles without significantly improving my fitness.
I ordered and received my Basis fitness tracker by January 15th. I put on the watch and downloaded MyFitnessPal to my phone. I started reading about fitness and getting my feet under me. I began using my gym pass that was dormant most days. I built a makeshift tracker on my computer to record the delta between intake and expenditure.
The First Month
When I initially began my program, I was very pessimistic as to my chances for success. Being able to intimately recall the several false starts over the years did not help my cause. In some ways though, I felt empowered as I had put my feet to the fire. The Broad Street Run, scheduled for May 4, 2014, was not going to be cancelled. And I still had many months to go before the big day.
I decided to start sharing my story, which was a tough choice. Putting yourself out there can be embarrassing. It can also be reassuring. I just was so worried that I would give up in my effort that I felt the only way to protect against laziness was to feel accountable to people who care about me. I began this blog by the end of January, and I posted on social media updates to keep my honest.
I also told coworkers early in the process. I remember some of the skepticism, which I understood was well deserved. It’s hard to be committed and it is why some studies say over ninety percent of New Year’s Resolutions go unfulfilled. I got that it would be very unlikely that I would succeed. I almost bought into that probability as an inevitability.
The Next Two Months
As my progress began to compound, I posted regularly just to keep up a level of mental stimulation. It was one of the worst winters ever, and the fact that snow would never end (on top of freezing temperatures) weighed heavily on my daily struggle to get to the gym. I also did not feel like my overall physique was changing. Although the scale showed improvement, I did not feel successful visibly. I continued with the effort, but I knew the constant time on the treadmill and continuous reliance on my earphones were wearing thin.
Late April to the Broad Street Run
When I hit the thirty pound weight loss mark, I had finally passed a threshold where was hard not to notice the visible change in my fitness. The weather also changed and the prospect of warmer weather and summer trips down the shore did not seem so distant in the future. Now I was running along the river and finding serious gains in my speed and progress. I also was switching out clothing at a rapid pace, meaning real physical changes were finally occurring at a noticeable clip.
The run itself, which could have been a serious problem had I not improved my fitness, was enjoyable. We went at a pace that my racing partner set, which was a complete reversal from my original expectation where I would be the lesser prepared teammate. The day went well and I felt accomplished and refueled in my motivation to continue.
Post Broad Street
With the run in my rear view mirror and spring finally in full swing, now is not the time to stop. I am continuing towards overall fitness goals that will take me through most of the summer. The first is to achieve a healthy weight, which should occur by mid-June. The second is to hit my target or ideal weight, which will not occur until late August or early September.
Keep reading as I update my progress throughout the spring and summer!