Blink and You’ll Miss it



sir-francis-drake-hotel-downtown-san-francisco-01a2d1c11:30 PM CST, Saturday, June 4, 2016 – I’m sitting at gate K10 in Terminal 3 of Chicago O’Hare International Airport as American Airlines flight 1333 boards at this very gate for Philadelphia. It’s a surreal moment, one in which I do a double-take. Did I go on auto-pilot and book my hometown instead of San Francisco? Am I at the right gate? The answers are no and yes, as I realize it is a mere coincidence that my flight follows out of the same gate as the one to Philly.

Still, I’m sitting here finished finals and a day removed from completing my first year in business school. Everyone warns how quick it goes, and I even remember looking around at various points during the year to think beyond the moment. Regardless, I’m legitimately in awe of all that has happened within a year.

Most importantly, I proposed three weeks ago to the most selfless, caring, witty, beautiful, loving person I know. Call it a relationship upgrade from girlfriend to fiancé, but the truth is we have been inseparable since we met only a handful of months before I left for business school. It must be crazy looking in from the outside, understanding how much such a career and academic commitment an MBA program like Kellogg can demand from students. With not much of a runway to test out a new relationship in the same town and plenty to consider around geographic uncertainty, no one would balk at either of us if cold feet came into the picture last fall. Instead, it was a foregone conclusion to both of us that these two years managing distance would be worthwhile.

Professionally, I begin Monday with a healthcare startup that is helping people engage with their own health. It is a realization of my own passion ever since I did the same two years ago for myself. I will get the full-on startup experience, in the Bay Area where there’s a resident dog in the office and I can run to work each day. It’s also the follow-through from writing, both here and in my admission essays, about how much I want to affect personal engagement in healthcare. I get to do what excites me, and I get to do so with a really fun team.

Academically, I now have hit the halfway mark with a number of takeaways, across a spectrum of hard and soft skills. While there’s plenty I have learned in a quantifiable manner, much of the program is more about how to think. Kellogg does a great job of mixing the case method, experiential learnings, tales from the trenches and our own insights to provide a very tangible and well-rounded course load.

All told, what has been most impactful in and out of the classroom this year has been the relationships I’ve formed. There are really amazing people I can call good friends of mine. A bulk of them I met on the trip overseas to start this experience. Many others I’ve met through shared interests and classes. And our adventures have been memorable. I’m inspired by so many of my peers and am happy to have another year with them. It is bittersweet though to say goodbye to so many awesome second year graduating students who paved the way for my class. I’ll always be thankful for the calls at random hours to get advice, chats to learn how they thought about their career paths and even just following in the footsteps of individuals I see as natural leaders.

The past two years have produced immeasurable growth in my life. It started with my health, shifted to my career, moved into the personal and now has come full circle. I have to pinch myself from time to time. A year and a half ago I had rolled the dice professionally and personally. I sometimes liken my business school applications to a dog chasing his tail. I didn’t actually know what I’d do if I succeeded. I had to prove to myself I could make it. I knew what I’d like to do, but I also didn’t know if I was confident enough to chase that dream.

This is where Diana blushes. I said it to her father and I really mean it. If not for her, I don’t know that I’m interning at a healthcare startup this summer. Sure, I talked a good game, and by the time we had met I had already decided to move to Chicago. In fact, upon receiving the offer of admission eighteen months ago, I figured I’d need to be single if I was going to have any shot at staying true to my pursuits that brought me to Kellogg in the first place. Instead, I guess you could say I’m a case study in God laughing at the plans we make.

What I realized is that there’s something to be said for all the comforts of knowing you’re coming home to a great salary and a well-structured opportunity. It’s reassuring to know you have a network of friends and colleagues there to support you. It’s hard to uproot and be confident it’s the right choice. Had I not met Diana, I think it would have been very challenging to recruit for the right opportunity in a place thousands of miles away from home.

Instead, she’s my rock and my reminder that I can take a road less traveled. She says follow your bliss, something her mother told her father in his own career. I can go to San Francisco because I know we’re aligned, we’re each other’s other half, and we have each other’s back. I can go out on a limb, be bold and take shot at something that I have been itching to do, as we’re a team start to finish. Absent my other half, I probably would have been more cautious.

At times, I have caught myself letting the pendulum swing too far the other way as well. While I staved off a more traditional recruiting path, I find myself falling into the validation that comes with groupthink around location. If we end up in San Francisco it will be because it is right for us, not because it’s the sexiest or hippest place to be. Striking that balance is tough, but when you completely trust one another it’s worth it.

That’s pretty sappy, I know, but it’s true. And I get to marry her in fifteen months. This summer will be a great chance for us to explore San Francisco as we write our own story together. It will be a transformative time professionally, too.

I can’t pretend to know what my job title, my employer or my location will be, come graduation next year, but I do know a few things. I’ll have developed lasting friendships, learned a thing or two, developed new skills, accelerated my own career path and grown as a person. A year from now graduation will be a few weeks away, the wedding in a few months.

But today, for this one moment, I can pause and realize the dream I told everyone I wanted to pursue is happening now. The next three months will be pretty special, and like the last twelve, I imagine they’ll go by in a blink.

 

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My Second Wager



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Twenty months ago I took a gamble that would either result in public failure or significant success. I broadcasted both online and in-person an effort to dramatically change my health, to go from obesity to peak fitness. There was a high probability I would be unsuccessful, so I forced accountability upon myself.

At the time, what I truly did not appreciate was how fundamentally transformative that journey would be. My health was the first domino of many to get me to where I am today. Without taking that first step in January 2014, I do not believe I would have had the confidence to embrace change and with it, the necessary uncertainty across so many aspects of my life.

I am naturally risk averse and easily comfortable with a routine. My greatest concern is accepting “good enough” in fear of falling flat on my face. In both my professional and personal life, I had found myself in a holding pattern. I truly enjoyed my team at work, but I knew that I needed to invest in further education to sink my teeth into my career. In my personal life, I struggled to be confident in what makes me happy and embrace the priorities I have, especially if they conflicted with the path of least resistance.

All this is to say that twenty months ago I was at a fork in the road, about to turn twenty-six and not fully confident in who I wanted to be as a professional or as my own individual. Weight loss built momentum for me to own my happiness and stand for the things that are most important to me: personal growth, passion for the work I do and the embrace of family. Had I not taken that chance, my life would have been very different even today. I doubt I would be attending Kellogg or even located in a large metropolis such as Philadelphia or Chicago, and I probably would have never met my JV (“Joint Venture” as Kellogg calls significant others).

Now I must take a similar risk and hold myself accountable. During orientation, the biggest point made was, “don’t graduate with someone else’s dream job.” The timing of traditional internship recruiting, such as consulting, banking or corporate strategy is intentionally much earlier than that of entrepreneurial and start-up related opportunities. I may find myself happy with corporate strategy or strategy consulting as a career post-MBA, but I know if I do not pursue my interests in health care tech and start-ups, I will wonder what-if.

So today I’m making a new promise: I will forgo traditional internship recruiting for the established firms who come on campus in the fall and early winter. I will focus exclusively on what ends up being “just-in-time” opportunities in the start-up space, as well as the classes that facilitate entrepreneurial endeavors. It means I may become anxious in the spring when the vast majority of the class have figured out their summers. It also means I may end up on the West Coast or really anywhere, as I will be passing on the convenience that large firms, especially in consulting, provide for geographic preference.

But that’s okay. I know this because I had to make several big life decisions over the last twenty months that made me vulnerable to failure. I had to get out of my comfort zone and believe in my own instincts. I trusted myself in making hard calls about my future professionally and personally. And I’m thankful to have the support to know that even if I were to fail, I’d be back on my feet as a result of everyone in my corner. So here’s to taking a risk and trusting that I’ll be better for it.

Being Impulsive: My first Half Marathon is Sunday!


Please donate to help fight childhood obesity!

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Friends and family will tell you that I tend to over-think and over-plan. And it’s true that I’m not the most spontaneous person. However, every so often I’ll surprise myself, as I did late last week. With less than ten days before the Philly Love Run, I registered for what will be my first half marathon.

To recap: during the first six months of 2014, I lost sixty pounds. During the fall and winter I incorporated more strength training, and at worst I maintained a cardio regimen twice a week during the coldest spells. As spring has slowly emerged from the grueling cold winter, my efforts have been reinvigorated by my desire to be at my best this summer. It also helps that I am once again running in the Broad Street Run. I’m doing so for a very worthy charity, so please consider clicking on the link above to donate.

It’s not lost on me that my training may be a little backwards this time around. To do my first half marathon last minute, in preparation for a ten-miler sounds counterintuitive. So let me try to explain. Broad Street 2014 was the first ten mile run (or really any run) I had ever done. It was a midway point in a larger journey I had to take and something I’ll always value for what it helped me do for my health. One thing it also did was enable me to once again be physically agile and mentally up for a challenge. For example, I had grown accustomed to being winded during long walks, a far cry from when I could outlast anyone in endurance related efforts. I may have never been the fastest or the most talented, but before my career began, I always seemed to have the extra energy stores to keep going when most competitors were gassed. It could be team sports or simply outdoor hikes; I always felt nimble and ready to go.

The decision to register for the Philly Love Run only ten days before race day is a natural extension of my resurgent attitude and health. After last year’s transformation, I have maintained the healthy lifestyle choices that include plenty of running and cycling. And it now allows me to take on a 13.1 mile run with what has been preparation through normal weekly habits.

A good example of this is how I decided to celebrate my birthday a week and a half ago:

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Prior to this past year, it would have been a pipe dream to run anywhere near such a pace over seven miles, and even crazier to think I’d go for a run on my birthday (given how much I once hated it). Now it’s part of my routine, so much so that I can achieve such results without going into the red:

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So I’ll be running my first half marathon this Sunday and I made this decision on the spot, which is light years from the very strategic and risky decision I made January of 2014 to run the BSR three months later. It’s fun to be spontaneous (and it certainly helps to have a running partner and discounted entry).

I’ll track my pace and analytics on Sunday. Now that the Basis Peak integrates with Strava, I can get a comprehensive view of my efforts. There will be no world beating, and I won’t be trying to do a difficult pace. I just want to enjoy my first half marathon as I did my first ten-miler.

Fight Childhood Obesity – Broad Street 2015!


Please donate to help fight childhood obesity!



A year ago, I used the Broad Street Run as a motivator to get in shape. In short, it worked. I raised money for a great charity, wrote an article for a PBS-affiliate and redefined so much of how I live my life. I’ve been blessed with an incredible 2014 and so far an even more promising 2015. So much of the opportunities I now have both professionally and personally resulted from this change in my lifestyle and improvement in my health.10yrsLogo

This time around, I’m running for Students Run Philly Style. A division of the National Nursing Centers Consortium, Students Run Philly Style helps “combat childhood obesity, high school drop-out and youth violence, all while training for some of Philly’s most exciting races.”

This is a great cause and certainly something worthy of one’s support. As I did in 2014, I will be blogging my progress in training for the Broad Street Run this coming May. My training regimen will be quite different from last year, as I am working towards a more comprehensive level of fitness, across both core strength and cardiovascular elements.

There’s plenty more to come, as I will post vitals (via my Basis Peak) as well as descriptions of training, diet, target goals and other fun updates along the way.

Thanks and welcome back! – Rob

#success #broadstreetrun We did it!!!

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October Update


Six months / Sixty pounds #transformationtuesday

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It has been way too long since my last update to the site. I would not mind going back to that day, right before my family’s renewed annual vacation down the shore. Having accomplished weight loss of sixty pounds, I really enjoyed the opportunity to get to the beach and treat myself. Treating myself really meant all kinds of fun bike rides, long runs and plenty of boardwalk ice cream. I succeeded in blowing away my previous best time on a roundtrip bike ride from Ocean City, NJ to Cape May, NJ and running the length of the Ocean City beach one morning.

Fun day on the bikes in #ocnj

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Beachin it #ocnj

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Seemed like a good idea at the time to run from 34th to the longport bridge... Now the return run... #ocnj

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Upon my return to work, I really focused on just managing or maintaining my weight, so to not fall into the common trap of gaining right after achieving a goal. I also had a number of competing priorities that hopefully will result in some great news in the coming months. As a result, I had every reason to stay vigilante around my intake and exercise, given limited time and energy to expend. Two months later, I have lost a few more pounds with ease, suggesting I juggle many responsibilities without continuing what was an exhausting regimen.

As the intensity of my workouts has subsided, certain elements around my vitals have changed, most notably my Resting Heart Rate. At its best this year, my RHR fluctuated from mid to high 40’s. Without the hour and a half runs or breakneck speeds on the bike, my RHR has risen to around 51 BPM. It’s frustrating, and something I would like to address over the next month or two, as some of my commitments from September have run their course. And yes, I know I am being pretty ridiculous, as 51 BPM is still an exceptional resting heart rate.
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I have completely let my sleep schedule be ruined by pressing deadlines (non-work) and my inclination to sometimes do too much. I should address my sleep patterns in the coming weeks as well. I sometimes forget I have all this sleep data to review, as I rarely think about the watch on my wrist at night.

Interestingly enough, I was contacted by Basis to beta test their new prototype, which all signs point to being the Basis Peak. The video is awesome (and I love the driving strings in the background) and the device appears to address so many requests by users: waterproof, thin, aesthetically sharp, LED lights, Heart Rate monitoring during peak performance and integration with smart apps.

EDIT: Basis reached out to me regarding a question I had about the difference in design, specifically as it relates to charging. They provided a reasoned explanation as to a design decision to no longer support simultaneous charging of the device while being worn. The trade-off was necessary to support a true waterproof capability, one that I think makes more and more sense as I consider the opportunities. In any case, I really am excited for this next generation of their product. So I look forward to my opportunity to test it out personally and then collect my thoughts.

Side note – Because I found it mildly humorous, I realized the other day that I look at my Basis watch too much in such a way that creates awkwardness in social settings.

 

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With summer in the books, my favorite season really did feel like a blur. All the trips to the beach, the bike rides to and from the suburbs, and the late night runs on Kelly Drive have come to an end. I do plan on a number of bike rides over the next two months, while Fall is tolerant of outdoor activities. I have not been on my bike for a few weeks, the longest period since March. I miss it, and it was out of necessity that I stuck to running these past several weekends. Other commitments all were priorities and can finally be put to rest as I wait and see for outcomes in the next few months.

It’s funny too, as I have a drafted post that I never published (one of many) about how I redefined my commute from the suburbs to the city through my bike. For awhile there, I would ride every weekend 62 miles roundtrip, completing the 31 mile one way ride in ever faster times (topping out at one hour and fifty minutes). Now I recognize that these rides will become rarer as the days become shorter.

The change in daylight really is severe and I can feel the energy of Kelly Drive being sapped from what was a very busy set of trails. I will make it a point to run along the new Boardwalk on the Schuylkill, but I know that before long, no one will want to go outside. I think I may combat this inevitable turn by running during lunch. I also am considering what I could do to embrace the elements when the weather really turns. I think I could get knobby tires for my road bike or potentially fix up my old mountain bike. I will buy some thermal riding clothes, as I want to keep up the rides even as the trails no longer are maintained.

I guess I’m just so not ready to embrace the cold after last year’s winter. I also am curious as to how my body reacts to the cold, as I have found my lower body fat percentage limiting when it came to swimming for hours on end in the ocean in August. I am the type of guy who would stay in the water for eight hours at a time if I could during those August days, and now I cannot stick it out any longer than an hour and a half. My dad made a good point that it may be an even greater challenge to adapt to the colder temperatures of winter. Let’s just say I would not mind some unusual warm weather over the next month or so.

Crossing the Finish Line: 6 Month Update


Switching to Maintenance: 6 Month Update #fitness

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Wednesday marked my 197th day since I decided to get in shape. On January 15, I forced myself to think to the summer, specifically August when I’d be on vacation down the shore. So many times in the past I would be uncomfortable with my lack of fitness when on vacation. I would regret not getting my act together and then try to convince myself that next time would be different.

Today, I can say it is. As we round out the month of July, I am sixty pounds lighter than I weighed on January 15. My body fat percentage is around 11 to 12%, as a reflection of waist measurement, and my BMI sits at 23.1. Coming from 194.4 lbs, an obese BMI of 33.4 and a body fat percentage of around 30%, I now am happy to weigh 134.4 lbs and be thirty percent lighter than when I original began this weight loss. More importantly, I feel healthy, energetic and fit. The best measurement of this change may not be weight, or waist size, but my heart. My resting heart rate is a constant 47 BPM, whereas in January it fluctuated wildly between the low 60’s and high 70’s.

While I initially targeted further weight loss, I am very content at 134 and I plan to moderate my intake to gradually balance out my weight around 130 – 134 lbs over the next month. I once felt the need to drop into the 120’s, but I think that mentality was more about a fixation on a number rather than a focus on how I feel.

The past month and last ten pounds have been the most challenging to accomplish, mainly as a result of a reduction in my overall calorie needs. My Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) sits just south of 1,500 calories a day. On a weekday at work, I can safely assume a day’s total around 1,700 calories burned between breaks and light walking to and from the office. Given that I was trying to lose two pounds a week, I needed to add around 850 to 900 calories of exercise in the time spent away from work, in place of just taking it easy. This was while maintaining the very minimum of calorie intake recommended for men, at 1,400 to 1,500 calories a day. It became very taxing, as I had gone from a weight where my daily metabolism would burn through 2,000 on its own, requiring only twenty minutes of running, to a weight where I would need to do over an hour and a half of intense exercise each day with the same calorie intake restrictions. Add a demanding career and business school aspirations (GMAT & applications) and you can see where things get a little difficult to balance.

Now, as I will only allow modest deficits (at maximum 300 to 400 calories during workdays, if that), I feel already much more energetic and generally more positive. It also allows for greater freedom in my schedule and less anxiety about hitting specific targets. It will take just as much diligence for this shift to maintenance to be successful. Given that I do not want to carry any higher of a weight than I currently have, I cannot discard all the calorie logging and generally positive habits of healthy eating / daily exercise. I just can ease off the gas a little in how I go about my activity or calorie restrictions.

Given the fundamental change in my daily calorie needs, I have come to the realization that much of the expectations I once had regarding eating larger breakfasts once again or getting larger portions for lunch were a little foolhardy. I will need to approach each day as I have, like a puzzle, just this time with higher limits so that I can more easily fit three courses and snacks into my schedule.

As for my physical fitness, I am riding greater distances and faster than ever before. This past Saturday I biked to Spring City and back, a roundtrip of 70 miles. It was an opportunity to scout a portion of the Schuylkill River trail that goes to Reading, PA. My goal before the summer is over is to bike to Reading for a minor league baseball game (and then return the next day). I also have been considering a ride from D.C. to Pittsburgh for October, with a targeted timing of October 16 through the 25th. Regarding running, I use it as a quick exercise to top off the day, but I have eased off the pace, which I had steadily been improving earlier this summer. 

For my own wallet’s sake, I’ll be happy to level off now, as I have gone through four to five rounds of clothes purchases since beginning my weight loss. I had previously topped out at pants with a 40″ waist, and I currently sit comfortably with an inch to give in a 29″ waist. While the pants are easier to find, the shirts are harder, as I have landed on the opposite extreme from where I previously was, in that most shirts are too baggy. These are not the worst problems to have, for sure.

So how does this all feel? Well, I really have a hard time believing that I can finally ease off. I mentally had to commit to such a rigorous routine that now I almost feel like I’m “cheating” all the progress by stopping at 134. The truth is, I think stopping now and modestly managing small deficits is probably a better way to fight against a return of weight, than to go full speed to a final number and expect a 180 immediately. The last thing I want to do is gain the weight back, so it makes sense to start transitioning to where I no longer feel I’m taking on a herculean task.

My main goals over the next month are to enjoy the rest of the summer at a more manageable pace, to prepare and give my best in the business school applications while balancing work demands, and to figure out a steady routine I can start to ingrain subconsciously into my life. I have been so fixated on numbers, courtesy of my Basis watch, that I recognize there will be a learning curve to better understanding my own body’s results at this weight. The Basis really helped break down potential plateaus, as it compensated for and re-calibrated to my continuing weight loss. Without it, I would have probably not increased workouts by the degree to which I needed to continue at the two pound per week pace of weight loss I maintained until now.

I do want to publish a bit more on the blog, as there are some fun items to note around my lifestyle changes. For instance, I have logged more miles on my bike than many people log on their car, as my #1 mode of transportation from Philadelphia to the suburbs is by bike. It’s such a routine that I don’t even think of it as an exercise, but instead I see it as a regular commute. I also have realized that my time on the bike is like having a personal office to myself. I get so many things mentally accomplished or sorted out, and given the fact that my rides are at a minimum two hours, I tend to be more productive in that isolation than I ever am sitting in front of a computer.

Yes, my bike is now my office, as weird as that sounds. It’s the truth. I live in a one bedroom apartment and enjoy being right in the city, a block from my job. But I also love the outdoors, and specifically the suburban and rural landscape. To me, getting on the bike is like going on the porch of my grandfather and grandmother’s old cabin outside of Dubois to watch nature and relax. It might not sound relaxing, but there’s a cadence I’ve found that allows me to ride comfortably while fast enough to fly by the scenery. It’s serene and peaceful. It’s also where I end up passing right by a family of young deer, foxes, turtles, and other wildlife I rarely noticed before.

Getting on the bike, being outside and spending time being physically active are all things that I once did as a kid without a second thought. It’s taken six and a half months, but I’m finally back to doing the things that make me most happy. I plan to continue to do so for a long, long time.

Thanks for reading. 

50 Pounds Lost & Finally Healthy


50lbs gone!! Finally healthy with @basisscience #fitness

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It took 50.2 pounds, or 25.8% of my starting weight, and just over five months, but I can finally say I am no longer overweight. This morning I weighed 144.2 pounds, and my waist circumference measured 31 inches, confirming that I am finally healthy (and now at the 51st percentile of Americans!). It has easily been five years (if not six) since I have legitimately been in the “healthy” range, according to both the Body Mass Index and Body Fat Percentage. I am thankful to my family and friends who supported me in progressing towards this milestone. I also am still in disbelief.

I look back today and consider the whole effort manageable, but in reality, each individual day and week took a level of commitment and focus that I once doubted I would ever have. I did it with no shortcuts, no crash dieting, no pills, and no tricks. It was hard. It still is, really, to get out there and recognize that to really improve, I have to push myself every little bit more.

The results have not been limited to the scale: My resting heart rate is now consistently in the high 40’s, I can run seven miles at an average pace of nine minutes, and I can bike thirty miles, climbing one thousand feet in the process, in just about two hours. Across the board, I have achieved my greatest gains in actual athletic endeavors over this past two months. Prior to that point, I had been content just managing slow but steady increases in my ability. Now I can realistically push myself to competitive levels.

The downside, if there is one, is that my body needs significantly fewer calories (e.g., energy) to burn in a given day. So to still accomplish weight loss at a consistent pace, my level of intensity has to increase substantially. According to Western Washington University, a loss of fifty pounds equates to eliminating ten thousand miles of extra blood vessels. Therefore, the burden placed on the heart is greatly reduced and each pump is that much more efficient. I will gladly take this trade-off, knowing that any frustration about exertion during exercise is outweighed by the strengthening of my heart.

I am surprised by the drop in my resting heart rate: it was only a few weeks ago I resigned myself to thinking it would be a stretch, even at an ideal fitness, for my resting heart rate to sit below fifty, as it had when I was six years younger. Now it is steadily under that marker, with room to go in my overall fitness. I understand that the more I vary intensity, the higher the likelihood my heart improves. I also realize that it may not be too realistic to expect to land in the mid to low 40’s as I had at age 20.

This whole endeavor began on January 15, 2014, when I put on my Basis watch and began tracking both what I burn and eat. The watch has helped as it has readjusted each instance where I lose weight, so I am not expecting the same burn from a repetitive workout. Plateaus have been scarce because of its accuracy, and therefore I have succeeded at many points where I previously would struggle.

As for my plans to continue weight loss: I have revised up my target weight to 128 pounds, which equates to a BMI of 22 (considered “perfect” in some circles). I am not going to push unreasonably towards this goal, as I understand that the healthy range is purposely not a precise number. Sixteen pounds could be the most difficult amount of weight to lose, given how challenging the last few weeks have been to get healthy. I will play it by ear, but if there is ever a time to shoot for an ideal fitness, it is now with the most momentum and motivation I will ever have.

 

What’s Your Fitness Age?


My #fitness age is under 20, and my VO2 Max is 57. Still room to improve!

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Birthdays begin as pure celebration, but as time progresses people resent the implications of growing a year older. While there is no fountain of youth, and Picard has yet to discover the Ba’ku, it is possible to reverse the affects of unhealthy habits we obtain over the years. Fitness age, a term developed by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, is the distillation of your habits on your overall life expectancy. Essentially, if it is lower than your actual age, you’re healthier than the general population at your age; if it is higher, well then you have some work to do.

I strongly recommend checking it out here: World Fitness Level

My fitness age back in January landed me somewhere around the mid-40’s (yes, really). I have since shaved off two decades off that number to have a fitness age of under 20 (due to study constraints, mainly sample sizes of people under that age, the university does not try to pinpoint the exact age).

It relies upon weight, height, age, waste circumference, maximum heart rate and resting heart rate, among other factors. The real fun part is next: VO2 Max is then calculated to determine your maximum potential to process oxygen (the more accurate test is done on a bike in a lab for a price). This measurement was made famous by high endurance athletes, most notably those competing in professional cycling. Bradley Wiggins, the 2012 Tour De France winner, and its first British champion, is probably the most likely of the current top contenders to have actually raced clean. His successor on Team Sky, and the 2013 Tour De France winner, Chris Froome, is much harder to believe, given his super-human levels of ascension during the most grueling mountain stages. Bradley is therefore someone view worthy to reference, especially given his outward disdain for cheating and his own fallible performances over the years.

Wiggins has a VO2 Max somewhere in the mid-70’s, which suggests a terrific, but not supernatural, ability to feed his body the oxygen it needs at its peak performance. At 35, Wiggins clocked in with a fitness age of under 20 (some ballparked it at 16). My current VO2 Max is 57, but six years ago, when I was in peak shape, I estimate that I landed at 67. That was without interval training.

Come late July or early August of this year, based upon this same information and my current training program, I should hit a VO2 Max of 65. The wild card will be my Resting Heart Rate. I have always had a low resting heart rate, and right now it is at 52 (even at my unhealthiest this past January, I would rarely see it higher than 58bpm). Spring semester of my sophomore year in college, my resting heart rate was consistently between 44 and 46 beats per minute. My estimate for this coming July / August time frame is based on a 50bpm resting heart rate, which I have hit intermittently recently. I think that estimate is conservative, and I hope that there will be further gains, but given that I am no longer in the coveted prime years (18-25) I can expect a reduction in overall potential of about 1% a year. The same goes with my maximum heart rate, as our hearts slowly decrease their capacity over time.

I have no idea whether I squandered my absolute potential at this point, but I think I have a chance over the next several months to get as close as possible. I regret the fact that for three years (age 23 through 25) I allowed myself to be lazy and have the fitness age equivalent to a person in his mid-40’s during my prime. However, I’m thrilled though that in the course of four months, I have negated so much of those poor decisions. Now it’s time to see where I can go with this success and what my potential is today.

 

Forty Pounds Gone


40 lbs / 20.6% of my body weight gone since January 15! #fitness

A post shared by Robert Nagel (@robcnagel) on

Through one hundred and twenty six days, I have lost forty pounds, or over 20% of my starting weight!

At this point, I am only a month away from hitting a “healthy” weight, as determined by the Body Mass Index. I also recently began tracking my Body Fat Percentage, just to be safe. This measurement will become increasingly important as I start to maneuver through the healthy range to an ideal / optimal fitness prior to switching to maintenance. I’m incorporating this second measurement mainly to calm any concerns of overdoing it or relying too much on BMI, which I think is unfairly criticized.

It’s true that if you are a professional athlete, you probably land on the margins where the BMI is not an accurate representation of your fitness. This circumstance is due to the BMI’s somewhat crude negligence of lean muscle weight. However, as a member of a rather stationary corporate profession, I do not think I am the next LeBron James. I’ll be sure to be careful, but I honestly believe that if you work at a desk most of the day yet you disbelieve your own BMI, you probably just don’t like its implications.

For myself, the above tracker is a great reference to see how far I have come, but I am open to adjusting that end target (which I plan to). It is the absolute limit I will allow myself to lose, not the range I want to maintain. I recognize though that the range I want to maintain, if five to ten pounds more, is where I would stop, just the accumulation of water weight (as a result of no longer continuing deficits) would push me higher than that target. So I imagine when I am five pounds or so away from the end goal, I will then shift into smaller and smaller calorie deficits to account for the additional water weight in my efforts.

Anyway, in terms of other indicators of progress, I now run around four or five miles each day at an 11:30 minute pace (plus five minute warm-ups and cool-downs) during the weekdays. I have been busy with my job and studying for the GMAT, so my workouts are pretty confined to the hour mark Monday through Friday. It has its positives and negatives: I now am at a point where there is no pain pushing such a consistent pace for that continuous amount of time, but I have had to moderate how much I can expect to eat in the day due to declining expenditures.

The main reason is that my Basal Metabolic Rate has dropped significantly, given the weight loss. While it is true your metabolism rises with more exercise, it also in aggregate will fall as you shed pounds. The result of substantial weight loss is that the body needs much less energy to function, and at the end of the day calories are just stores of potential energy. I expect to hit some pretty hard walls in July if I attempt to achieve a thousand calorie deficit on a weekday.

Friends and coworkers have provided suggestions for switching to lifting and other non-cardio exercises. I am inclined to give such activity a shot, but not at the expense of continued improvements in my running form. Having come from a complete hatred of running to moderately enjoying it (while incredibly addicted to it – I have no idea how such sentiments co-exist with one another, but they do for me.), I really want to make substantial gains and not taper just yet.

As for my real passion, biking, I have made the ride between my parents’ house in the suburbs and my apartment in the city fairly routine, and something I do without much preparation or thought. It’s much more enjoyable than running, but at my current pace, a good two and a half hours one-way. It eliminates the need to drive or take the train to see my family, while delivering a good workout and an excuse to hop on the bike. It’s a weekend activity, for sure, but one that resets my efforts and feels much more like a reward than any other exercise I do. In part, I believe it is because I am 100% autonomous when using the bike to commute the thirty miles one-way and the effort is put towards an actual productive task, rather than aimlessly running (or biking for that matter) the same loop.

On the aesthetics front, I am now a size 33″ at the waist (previously a 40″ not too long ago), and my neck fits a 14 1/2″ dress shirt well (previously a 16 1/2″). Polos used to be larges and now I’m somewhere between a medium and a small (no I do not do schmediums). My biking kit probably needs to be replaced at this point and my abdominal section is maybe two months from being legitimately flat. I understand males tend to store fat in the stomach, which also tends to be the most dangerous place for fat to exist, so I expect to be in for a fight to really shape up that last area.

Also, fitting into a dress shirt is fun now, mainly because I don’t have to account for the sides of the shirt to feel way too tight. No matter what I used to do, it always felt I essentially needed the baggiest of shirts available, otherwise I’d feel constricted in the mid-section. I am still hesitant to go out and buy a whole new wardrobe, given that I have continued progress exactly as I had expected / intended. Instead, I am slowly rotating out a few shirts here and there to bridge my current physique with where I will be in a couple of months.

Regarding the blog: I renamed it since I completed the Broad Street Run. Tempo and Cadence is the name, and I’ll see how long it sticks. I just love cycling and for that reason I feel it is a decent name that is not too cliche. I will keep blogging, although as you can tell (if you read as I update), the general rate at which I post has declined. I have plenty of old draft posts that I debate posting, but I realize it’s not my best work. They were more to help me continue when it was hard to get out in the snow to the gym, or when my legs would be sore from running just fifteen minutes. When the weather is terrible, it is much more difficult to find the motivation to think about fitness.

The recent real spring weather has helped, as more and more people get outside to exercise. Generally it is this time of the year when I would start to frantically realize I had not done anything to get in shape with hardly any time before regular trips down the shore. It is a nice feeling to know I am ahead of the curve (finally) and that for bicycling season, I have had my best start ever. The negative for the blog (not really) is that I have less reason to sit inside and write.

Last thing to mention: a few weeks ago I had a column for WHYY that you should check out! Why I Run Broad Street