Developer Fitness: Getting Back To and Staying in Shape

One of the things that seems to be unique to open source is many opt to share their annual reports of their business regardless of how the business performed over the year. Others also talk a lot about their mental health – again, regardless of if it’s good or bad. And when you’re part of a larger group of people who are doing the same thing, it’s really inspiring, educational, and also prompts you to aim to be a better friend and peer. An amiable goal by any measure.

In short, it’s something that’s really cool to see even if you opt not to disclose that information yourself.

However, one thing that we don’t see as much of – not because people don’t share it, but because it doesn’t seem to be as popular to share – is the idea of developer fitness. I know people are involved in all kind of things offline. For example, I know Sean Davis hosts a number of workout contests and is also involved in a number of different sports (most recently, racquetball based on his Twitter feed). I also know that Sunny Ratilal shares his FitBit progress throughout the week giving insight into his level of activity.

Cool, right?

Anyway, the point is that I know we’re all active in different ways but we don’t blog about it as much for whatever reason. And I get it: Talking about health, fitness, and exercising is boring. Or it can be boring.  It can also be a lot of fun depending on if you’re found the right kind of workout for you (more on this later).

Getting Back To And Staying in Shape

For the past 300 days or so, I’ve been working diligently to try to improve my health and get back to the state at which I’m happy with who I am. This means that I wanted to get back to at least the state I was when I get married seven and a half years ago, if not better than that.

And that’s what the rest of this post is going to cover. I will provide a bit of a disclaimer momentarily if this isn’t your kind of post, but in the meantime, this is the gist of what you can expect.

Disclaimer

I am not a health professional and the things that I am going to share are not advice. I’m not sharing this stuff as a recommendation for what anyone else should do. I’m sharing this to be open about my own experience and to possibly have others consider the state of their own health and then seeing how they can improve their health.

I have no relationship with the applications that I’ve used, the programs that I’ve used, or the devices that I’ve used. None of what I am sharing is endorsing any particular product.

I’m not pushing anyone to do anything. This is purely, if nothing else, a retrospective on my own particular journey. If it helps someone, great; if not, that’s fine, too. This is generally inspired by those who are transparent with aspects of their personal life and this is something that I’ve opted to be transparent about, as well.

For those of who you have already lost interest in this post or who have no desire to continue reading, then here’s a nice picture of the ocean (I just got back from vacation :) for you to enjoy.

A view of the Atlanta Ocean from Tybee Island
A view of the Atlantic Ocean from Tybee Island

At this point, you may want to go ahead and a duck out (though I hope the picture made the article worth your time up to this point). With that said, here we go.

The Camera Adds Quite a Few Pounds

First, there will be no pictures of me throughout this post as I’m not particular fond of showing where I was and where I am now and anything like that. Maybe it’s just me being self-conscious. I don’t know but I don’t think it really matters that much. I’ll be sharing enough numbers for you to get an idea as to what I’m talking about, anyway.

Last April, I started noticing something about myself in pictures and it resulted in thinking:

That doesn’t look like me. At least, that doesn’t look like what I feel like.

But it’s funny how stubborn we can be, right? Maybe it was the angle the photo was taken. Maybe I just needed a haircut (like that would legitimately change the size of my face :). Maybe it was just a bad day.

Then May rolled around and we went on a vacation and I noticed that some of the clothes that I was used to wearing felt just a little bit tighter and, again, I wasn’t particularly happy with any of the pictures that I saw of myself.

Okay fine, I’ll get back into running when I get home.

Early in our marriage, I had been really active in running so much so that I was participating in 5ks, 10ks, half-marathons, and so on. My wife and I had completed a round of P90X and I’d gone on to do Insanity and both of the programs worked really well (and helped contribute to my cardiovascular health as it related to running).

But then life got busier: I started my own business, we had a precious little girl, I lost a dear family member that deeply affected me, we had another precious little girl, and things were got than they’d ever been.

To be clear, these are not excuses. As it stands, they are simply reflective of the state of life at the time. Now, whether or not I used them as excuses is another story. But as as they are listed above, they’re just facts about what was happening in my life.

Finally, at the end of October of the same year (yes, an entire five months after I disliked the first set of pictures of myself), I saw another picture of myself and recognized that something had to give because, in that picture, I did not look like myself.

That very evening, I decided I was going to make a change.

But before I did, I started to log information – take my weight, my measurements, take pictures, etc. – all in an attempt to make sure that I had everything I needed to chart my progress. I planned to change up my diet and I came up with a multistep program that I wanted to do in order to get back to a much better state.

And so I did.

But First, Some Numbers…

At this point, I weight 207 pounds (and I’m between 5’11 and 6′, for whatever that’s worth). I had to buy jeans that fit a waist line (which is normally 32″) that was larger than I’d ever had prior.

Yikes. Bummer. Oh, the negative feels.

This is the most I’ve ever weighed in my entire life. Through college, I averaged about 165 and then after college when I was focusing on running and some minor weight exercises, I got up to about 170 and was able to maintain that.

As such, I set out to try to get back down to between 175 and 170.

To be clear, I don’t think that the scale tells the whole picture of the state of your fitness (nor do I put a lot of stock in BMI for reasons that I’ll go into if you ask me). I think it also has to do with your level of agility, your level of flexibility (yoga, anyone?), your ability to lift whatever weights you’d like, your ability to run without getting winded, and so on and so forth with all of that good stuff.

I could wax poetic about all this stuff for much longer than a few sentences, but there’s no fun in that for many of us, so I digress.

Phase 1: Leaning Out

The first phase of what I wanted to do was to begin leaning out. This included two particular activities:

  1. Chart everything that I was eating.
  2. Get back into running.

So that night, back in October, I downloaded MyFitnessPal, setup my account information, said I wanted to lose about two pounds a week, and set out to do so. Then, I committed to running at least four days a week from November through January.

Over the time, I ran 96.1 miles:

Running in November
Running in November
Running in December
Running in December

And I lost a total of 22 lbs.

Weight Loss in 2014
Unfortunately, I can’t set a range for more detailed information.

But I wasn’t done: I had shaved off a few pounds and I was back in decent running shape, but I still had progress to make. My body fat percentage was higher than I’d like, my resting heart rate was greater than I wanted it to be, and I didn’t have the strength or agility that I wanted.

Granted, you can probably read the end result from the chart above (since I can’t limit it to just a few months at a time), but that’s fine. I’ll get to it in more detail in the rest of the post.

Phase 1: Post-Mortem

I didn’t let weather deter me. Granted. I started working on this during the colder months of the year in Georgia but if it was decent outside, then I’d throw on my long-sleeved Underarmor and go weather the cold (pun intended, sort of). If not, then I’d throw a show on my iPad and get at least 45 minutes done on the treadmill at a certain incline.

Between this and counting calories, I was determined to make progress however little or however much was necessary to help me get back to where I wanted to be in a reasonable amount of time (read: not as fast as possible because that has some nasty side effects as it relates to your health and your skin).

Anyway, yes, it’s nice to see the pounds come off, but it’s also tough to know that you have more work to do even if you’ve been giving it your all for a few months. But you know how it is: It takes time to put the weight on and it’s going to take time to take the weight off.

Additionally, I’m doing the things that I know work best for my body. Again, I don’t know if this is your kind of thing – I know some people hate running. That’s cool. I don’t really like doing bench presses so I opt to do other workouts (more on this later).

Phase 2: Back To P90

Once I had reached the end of 2014 and had completed the first phase of what I wanted to do, I then turned my attention to looking into workout programs. At this point, life was as busy as it had ever been between building a business, raising two kids, and all of that fun stuff.

Again though, no excuses.

So I started looking to see what Beachbody had to offer and I did this for several reasons:

  • Personally, I had success with both P90X and Insanity.
  • I like the products that they put out (even though I know they run the half-hour infomercials).
  • I wanted to see what was new on the market since the last five years that I’d last purchased something.

Enter P90. For those of you who are familiar with Tony Horton and/or Beachbody, then you may remember a program from decades again called Power 90. This is not the same thing. Instead, this is a three month program with phases of cardio, resistance, and core workouts each of that increases in difficulty each month.

It focuses on getting you back into shape so that you can move back into more advanced programs like P90X, P90X2, P90X3, and all those other fun things they offer (or that you want to do but can’t currently do).

So I bought it, my wife and I did it together, I put the running on hold, and ended up being happy with the results. By March – which we started in January – I’d lost only about one pound but my inches had really changed and I was starting to be able to fit back into clothes that I had not been able to wear in at least a year.

Because of the nature of the program, I had to put running on hold but the cardiovascular workouts that they include in the program are enough to keep your heart in shape for running.

At this point, I was still counting calories, I was still aiming to lose two pounds a week (though I clearly didn’t lose that many – just inches), and I had also started using a basic Heart Rate Monitor application for iOS. To be clear, I also have a Garmin heart rate monitor; however, I just wanted to use something that gave me a general picture at the end of each workout – I wasn’t looking to chart something on my watch, sync it to the web, and all of that fun stuff.

Phase 2: Post Mortem

This is where I think that things began to really kick into gear. I was losing inches, I was getting back into the shape necessary for doing push ups, sprawls, curls, various presses, and so on.

As I mentioned earlier, I’m not particularly interested in things like bench presses and other “gym type” workouts. I tend to favor body-weight-only exercises, though I don’t mind bringing a few dumb bells in here and there for certain moves. Though I don’t personally know anyone who does this, I know plenty of people are also all about fitness for vanity.

Since the day I got back into exercise, my goal has been simple:

I want to feel good, and I want to be the kind of dad who can keep up with his kids.

That’s it. Nothing else. You can ask my wife, my family, my parents, and so on. When people ask me why I was trying to get back in shape, those were the reasons I gave every single time.

And it’s still the reason I’m giving today.

Once I finished P90, I felt like I was ready to turn it up a notch and get back into something a little bit more extreme. I considered P90X but the length of the workouts were a little longer than the time I could allot during the day, so I continued looking around to see what was available. I also knew I wanted to bring running back into the picture even if it was just 2 – 3 miles a few times a week.

Finally, I wanted to get back to my goal weight of sitting between 170 and 175.

Phase 3: P90X3

Interestingly enough, I found that while doing P90, P90X3 was available – it was a 90 day, 30 minutes-a-day program that reflected a lot of what was covered in P90X along with new moves and exercises as well as some of the new stuff – you know, science – that had been learned in the past decade or so.

Wait a Sec…

Before I go any further, I know that some of you have negative, pre-conceived notions about these types of fitness programs and I’m sure some of you have even had bad experiences with them or those who call themselves “coaches” or “fitness experts.” I get it. I really do. By nature, I’m a pessimist and I’m a cynic so I’ve got the worst of both worlds swirling around in my head.

But I’ve had success with these programs and I know they work so I’ve opted to use them. Again, I’m not pushing them because I don’t think everyone enjoys the same type of work. Further, as I’ve already mentioned, none of the links on this post are affiliate links. These are simply the things that I’ve used and that I like and that have worked for me.

Okay, Back To It…

On top of that, I also purchased a Misfit Shine. It’s been quite a few years since I’ve had a fitness tracker and although this particular device doesn’t track movements like weight lifting or things like that, it’s great for cardiovascular movement. It’s also waterproof, so if I’m out swimming in the pool with the kids – or at the beach – then I’m also tracking my activity.

No, I don’t think all of these apps and things are completely necessary, but if you want a good picture of your overall activity level (because we’re really good at convincing ourselves otherwise) then I recommend them.

In addition to working to streamline my eating and fill in the gaps of where I once was, I also began taking a multivitamin, probiotics, Omega-3s, and Vitamin D. I know there’s a lot of mixed research about some of this – namely Omega-3s, or fish oil – that’s out there right now and I’m okay with that.

Generally speaking, the research concludes that those who are in poor cardiovascular health may benefit from them but those who are in good cardiovascular health may not benefit from them. The way I see it, it certain doesn’t hurt to take them and as the science continues to unfold, then I’ll continue to track it and make my adjustments accordingly.

The challenge with incorporating another 90 day program is that we were getting into the time of year where we’d be taking trips so I made sure that I would be able to do these workouts wherever I was, and I made sure that the people I was going with knew that I’d be spending some time each day exercising if for no other reason than because it was important to me.

If the people with whom you’re surrounding yourself aren’t supportive of the various lifestyle that you’re living or the changes that you’re trying to make, then maybe the people with whom you’re surrounding yourself aren’t the best people to be around.

But I digress.

In addition to the exercises as outlined in the program (I did the Classic variation for anyone who is curious), I wanted to keep running in the picture. I also decided the following:

  • For 90 days, I was going to have no sweets. This meant no dessert, no candy, no chocolate, no nothing. The one exception that some people may take is that I put [fat free] creamer in my coffee (but no sugar). Other than that, I had some cake for my wife’s birthday.
  • For 90 days, I was going to consume absolutely zero alcohol. I wasn’t a big drinker before, but any beer that we had in the fridge was thrown out. I had a small glass of champagne for my wife’s birthday, but that was it.
  • For 90 days, I was going to have absolutely no soft drinks. Just coffee and water.
  • For 90 days, I was going to try to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into my diet. If you know me personally, you know this is a big deal. But fast forward 90 days, and I’m having various salads with my dinner, I’m snacking on apples, bananas, oranges, etc. I’m also having various things like almonds, etc. If I have cereal, it’s Cheerios or Special K with skim milk.

I did let myself still have things like pizza or Chinese food for a meal on the weekend, but I continued to make sure I was counting in the calories in MyFitnessPal so that I’d have a picture of the nutrition (or lack thereof) that I was putting into my body.

After the first month of P90X3 (that is, once I adjusted to the program), I started to run again. Between May and August, I ran an even 113 miles. If I had a run planned for a specific day of the week and I couldn’t get it done until when it was dark, then so be it. Luckily, we’re at a stage of life right now where if I’m unable to get a run in prior to putting the girls down for bed, then I’ll go after it’s dark.

I finished P90X3 along with the final Fit Test the day that we were to travel for a week for summer vacation. Pretty good timing, huh? On top of that, my final weigh-in was at 171.6.

Weight Loss in 2015

 

I’d lost a total of 35.4 pounds.

Phase 3: Post Mortem

I thoroughly enjoyed P90X3 such that I’m incorporating it into my next six week cycle of exercises (more on that in just a bit). There were definite strength gains and there was significant weight and inches lost. I’m back to wearing what I used to wear prior at the beginning of the last few months.

On top of that, here are some of the results from the fit test before and after doing P90X3:

  • My vertical leap increases from 10″ to 14″ (I’m a white guy so go easy on me :).
  • I went from maxing out at 45 standard push ups to 57. I’m still not happy with that number, but I’ve my work cut out for me for my next round.
  • Previously, I couldn’t touch my toes but now I can stretch 2.75″ past them.
  • I increased the number of pull ups by a total of seven. Again, it’s not great but I’ve got my work cut out for me.

Finally, I ran my fastest 2.4 mile run at 19 minutes, 1 second

I’ve been really pleased with my results so much so that I’m thinking of permanently incorporating a few things into my weekly diet and exercise from this point forward.

This includes incorporating more yoga. It allows you to increase your range of motion and flexibility so that you can work your muscles deeper and more safely on other days. Plus, it’s relaxing.

It also includes completely cutting out alcohol. Some people don’t drink because of religious reasons, some don’t drink because of family history, some don’t drink because of personal history, and I’m opting not to drink because of the empty calories and of the way that I feel after I drink. I know there are plenty of arguments for why it’s okay to have a beer or  liquor every now and then and I’ll even say I’m in favor of them, but personally I’m thinking that I may be cutting that out completely.

As far as other drinks during the week are concerned, water has been serving me well. I don’t crave any soft drinks anymore. Coffee is fine, but really, I crave water.

After 90 days of no sweets, the first bite of ice cream I had [at one of my niece’s birthday party] tasted so sweet, it made me think of what it’s like when you first taste something sour. It’s not that it tasted sour, but it made me kind of contort my face a bit. I don’t really think I’m interested in going down that road again, so I probably won’t be having many sweets from this point forward.

Finally, this entire journey had me branching out and trying new things – from salads to different seafoods (even oysters which I still dislike) – and looking forward to some other opportunities that could come from this. My wife and I are already talking about getting a pair of bikes and getting into biking and going indoor rock wall climbing. I’m personally kind of interested in MMX – not fighting anyone – but just the general movements, technique, and overall calorie burn of all of it.

But at this point, I’m just rambling about interests – not results.

Anything Else?

Ultimately, I’m a fan of the programs that Beachbody publishes and I’ve found that if you stick with them – regardless of how hard they may be – then you will get results. Arguably, the hardest part is knowing what to do after you’ve completed the program. That is, where do you go from there? And that’s where having an interest in fitness – not just results – comes into play.

Over the last 300 days, I’ve found that I actually have a strong interest in fitness and its ties to the brain and overall health. In the past week and a half, I’ve been reading numerous books on the topic, I’ve listened to more interviews and podcasts than I can count, and I’m continually interested in doing what I can to feel good and to be able to keep up with my kids.

With all of that said, nothing here is prescriptive. As I’ve said, I’m not a coach, I’m not an expert, I’m not a trainer, I’m not a dietitian, I’m not a nutritionist, etc. I’m someone who wanted to lose weight, knew what he liked and what he didn’t like, and then setup exercises around that.

And if you’re interested in doing the same, that’s what I think is the most important thing you can do: Find what it is that you like, look for opportunities to pursue that, go after it with an extreme level of intensity, and then share your experience with other people.

If we, as a culture, can give insights as to how our businesses are doing or how our mental health is going, then why not how our fitness is progressing?

What’s Next?

In about six weeks, we’ll be traveling again for a conference so I’m going to be doing a P90X3/Insanity hybrid until then.

I think it’s going to be tough, but I’m also really excited about the next phase. I don’t know what’ll come after that, but I’m not particularly concerned about it either because, at this point, I know that I’ve made enough changes such that I can mix it up a bit and continue to pursue the goal of being able to keep up with my kids.

Anyway, it’s been roughly 300 days coming but this is one developer’s take on fitness – where I’ve been, where I was, and where I’m heading – so if any of you end up sharing more about this, then please don’t hesitate to share links to your own experiences in the comments.

28 Replies to “Developer Fitness: Getting Back To and Staying in Shape”

  1. Hey Tom,

    Thanks for sharing this. I’ll read the whole thing in a minute, but one thing that jumped out at me was your comment on why people share what they share, and what they share through apps and such. I’ve had this idea bouncing around that there should be a plugin for WordPress that will pull in people’s Fitbit stats and display them on the frontend of a site. FitPress or something like that. I just haven’t written much of it. But I think part of the issue with blogging about our fitness journeys is that, well, we have to blog about them because there’s no automated way to pull in relevant stats from our devices or apps, and so we have to look at the device, look at the stats, cull them together, and then write a post. By the time we do all that work, we don’t want to write the posts. Just my thoughts, and maybe one day I’ll learn my way around the Fitbit API and write that plugin.

    Also, swop branded device for Fitbit and same picture.

    1. Thanks so much for the comment, Amanda!

      I’ve had this idea bouncing around that there should be a plugin for WordPress that will pull in people’s Fitbit stats and display them on the frontend of a site. FitPress or something like that.

      I think this is a great idea and there are plenty of people who would jump at the chance to use something like this in their blog.

      The challenge is that we all use different tools and what not so it can be difficult to get familiar with what APIs are available, you know?

      By the time we do all that work, we don’t want to write the posts.

      Exactly. Like anything, it’s time-consuming and we’re already busy people. There’s a happy medium, I think, but it’s a matter of figuring out how to best incorporate it.

  2. Good stuff Tom. I’m going through something similar and it’s basically for the same reasons you are: I want to make sure I’m here and healthy enough to see things like my daughter get married and travel the world with my wife. Making some basic changes like cutting way back on the sugar intake and getting on the treadmill a few times a week can make a big different in a short amount of time. I’ll be posting my approach and results to my blog eventually as well.

  3. This is awesome Tom!

    What was the hardest change for you?

    I loved when you said that you’re excited for the future, even if you don’t exactly know what that looks like. I’m in that exact spot too. I know I’ll surpass my initial goals simply because I don’t ever plan on going back to the way I was before I started!

    1. This is awesome Tom!

      Thanks!

      What was the hardest change for you?

      Honestly, it’s branching out and trying new foods. Fruits are fine, but incorporating lunches of things like spinach with a few other things added in has been the hardest.

      I know it sounds silly, but that’s the truth.

      The workouts are always fun and I look forward to doing them, so logging progress, charting things like that, and so on was the easy part. Sometimes it was rough having to get outside at 8:30pm at night and run, but once the blood starts flowing and the endorphins kick in, it’s not so bad :).

      I loved when you said that you’re excited for the future, even if you don’t exactly know what that looks like. I’m in that exact spot too. I know I’ll surpass my initial goals simply because I don’t ever plan on going back to the way I was before I started!

      Fantastic. Love hearing that, Dan! Are you blogging your progress? IIRC, I think I saw a post of yours not long ago (or was that someone else?).

  4. Tom, this is so impressive! We started around similar times and weight (I’m shorter though, and therefore fatter!)… I started in September and was around 208. I haven’t yet cracked 180 but have hovered around a 25 lb loss for a while now. Your willingness to change your diet so much is inspiring… I think that’s my next step to lose the last ten pounds or so that I’d like to see gone.

    I love seeing your story and look forward to sharing my own soon. I intended to do so once I’ve been at it for a year. One thing I particularly have learned is that though I’ll write about it after a year, I no longer consider my goal of getting fit “finished” — it’s just a lifestyle change.

    1. One thing I particularly have learned is that though I’ll write about it after a year, I no longer consider my goal of getting fit “finished” — it’s just a lifestyle change.

      This absolutely nails it.

      It’s not about getting to a point and maintaining. It’s about getting into shape and then making the choices necessary to stay in that condition.

      Maybe the double-cheese burgers aren’t such a good idea after all (to be honest, after not having them, they kind of sound a little heavy. But I digress. :).

      The newest thing I’ve introduced into my next phase right now is getting into bed at 10pm sharp. I even have an alarm on my phone for 9:45pm so I can start getting ready.

      I know it’s super early for people like us (and it’s kind of against what our industry does), but all of the research I’ve read tends to enforce that so I’m willing to give it a try. Plus, with having kids waking us up at 7:00am or so, it helps to get that much sleep.

      I feel better, I have a better attitude, I’m ready for the day, and I’ve actually been waking up earlier than normally more naturally.

      And I’m not even here preaching a particular thing to do – I’m just saying find what works for you (that is, the collective you, not just you in particular) and go after it.

      It takes some serious focus, effort, and time but so does just about everything else we do, doesn’t it?

      1. So much this! About 3 years ago I lost 70 pounds and, though I’ll gain and lose a little here and there, I’ve been able to keep it off because it wasn’t about just losing weight, but about changing my lifestyle so I could become, and remain, healthy.

        I’ve kept a pretty active lifestyle ever since and find people like to talk to me about fitness so one of the first things I make sure fitness-interested folk hear is that yes, it will be tough at first but if you can just push through the first few weeks, you’ll start seeing results and you’ll want to keep going. Fitness makes you feel good. Some days are tougher than others but feeling strong and healthy is addicting! And then you’ll find yourself eating better because you realize that eating good makes you feel good and you need that good energy for your workouts. And you learn what it takes to burn those extra junk food calories and that it’s not worth eating. I also try to encourage people to exercise vs. just dieting. You will not only see faster/better results, but it will make you feel energized and will allow you to not have to starve yourself with crazy diets because you need food so you can have energy to exercise! No joke, I tried Paleo and had to stop because it wasn’t enough food. I needed more food! :)

        Mostly, I try to encourage people that it’s not about how you look or how much you weigh, but how you feel. You pointed out that you weren’t necessarily losing weight, but you were losing inches. Numbers go up and down. This is not what’s important. I’ve always weighed more than one would expect and now that I do strength training and have muscle, I most definitely weigh more than what’s “expected”. And don’t get me started on the horribleness of the BMI system. But I don’t want to be “skinny”, I want to be strong! I want to have endurance. I want to keep my body guessing and not sit on a computer all day. Some days this is harder than others. :)

        I don’t have kids so while (existing) children aren’t my inspiration, it was still ever so much my family. I lost all 4 of my grandparents in the span of about 2 years and realized just how unhealthy they were and how much I didn’t want to live like that. I was also diagnosed with a condition that proved why it was so easy for me to gain weight and was told if I didn’t manage my weight, this would make it all the easier for diabetes, which runs in my family. I knew the sooner I got a grip on my overall heath, the better! It was the best decision I ever made!

        Thanks for sharing all of this Tom! I would love to one day share my story of weight loss and fitness. I think one of the craziest moments for me during my weight loss journey was working out with some kettle balls. I picked up a 50 pound kettle ball and had this epiphany/crazy realization that this is how much weight I had lost. When you can hold all that weight in your hand, it just makes it so much more real and defining.

        My boyfriend is a big believer in the Insanity workout. It helped him really lean up last summer. I remember doing it with him a few times. That stuff is intense!

        Keep up the great work!

        1. Before I respond to each part of this comment, I wanted to mention that it’s awesome. I love reading stories like this.

          So much this! About 3 years ago I lost 70 pounds and, though I’ll gain and lose a little here and there, I’ve been able to keep it off because it wasn’t about just losing weight, but about changing my lifestyle so I could become, and remain, healthy.

          This is fantastic! 70 pounds – wow! How did you go about doing it? I’m curious whenever I hear success stories like this.

          And you’re right: It’s all about lifestyle. It’s not just changing things up for the sake of getting into a certain size or whatever for a time being. It’s about long term change so that you can live better, feel better, and generally have more fun in life.

          I’ve kept a pretty active lifestyle ever since and find people like to talk to me about fitness so one of the first things I make sure fitness-interested folk hear is that yes, it will be tough at first but if you can just push through the first few weeks, you’ll start seeing results and you’ll want to keep going.

          Amen. And for some, the first few weeks might be the first 3 weeks. For others, it might be the first 3 months. I don’t know – in my experience in conversations, it seems that it varies from person to person. Regardless, there is a ramp up period that I think is critical for pushing through.

          I also try to encourage people to exercise vs. just dieting. You will not only see faster/better results, but it will make you feel energized and will allow you to not have to starve yourself with crazy diets because you need food so you can have energy to exercise! No joke, I tried Paleo and had to stop because it wasn’t enough food. I needed more food! :)

          Agreed. I don’t do any particular type of diet. I’ve just been trying to branch out and try new foods, cut out fast food and other sugary drinks, and then keep my calories within a reasonable limit given my goals. Sometimes it varies on if I’m running, lifting weights, or doing something else.

          It’s all moving on the proverbial slider, but it seems to be working.

          I don’t have kids so while (existing) children aren’t my inspiration, it was still ever so much my family. I lost all 4 of my grandparents in the span of about 2 years and realized just how unhealthy they were and how much I didn’t want to live like that.

          I’m so sorry to hear about your grandparents. I didn’t know either of my grandfathers, my wife has lost both of her grandmothers (didn’t know either of her grandfathers), and I’ve lost my grandmother. They weren’t unhealthy – in fact, one lived to be almost 100 – but the point is that it hurts to lose them regardless so I hate to hear that :(.

          Anyway, I think having inspiration is key, too. It doesn’t matter where it comes from or how it arrives, it’s that you have it and that it helps to push you to be better at what you’re doing.

          I would love to one day share my story of weight loss and fitness.

          When you’re ready to share it, be sure to share the link – I’d love to read it!

          My boyfriend is a big believer in the Insanity workout. It helped him really lean up last summer. I remember doing it with him a few times. That stuff is intense!

          It’s crazy, for sure, but it works. Next year, I’m looking at doing the Max:30 workout in the second quarter of the year (yes, I’m a planner ;) but I’ve got a few other things I’m looking to do to finish out this year on a high note.

          1. I could definitely eat a little better these days and lean up some more but my fall distance running season is about to start up so that will definitely help. I’m also seriously considering joining a roller derby league so that amount of cardio will definitely help and be crazy fun! :)

            I’m with you on not necessarily dieting, but instead just being smart and healthy. It’s a lifestyle change vs. something that feels restrictive or temporary like a diet. I only drink water, unsweet tea, and coffee. I try to limit sugar as much as possible (but honestly once you realize how sluggish all that sugar makes you feel you don’t want to eat it).

            I lost weight in a variety of ways. I was constantly changing things up to keep my body guessing and trying new things. About 6 months before I started really trying to lose weight, I had joined a Couch to 5K program at work but had to quit a couple weeks in because I have a bad knee from playing sports as a child so my knee couldn’t handle running with all that extra weight/pressure on it. So, fast forward 6 months and a lesson learned, I needed to lose some weight before I tried running again. So, at first, I did water aerobics, spin class, a few other cardio rich classes, some with a little strength training. I really loved the group exercise atmosphere. After I lost about 30 pounds, I started running and I got a personal trainer to help me build muscle. Once I started building muscle, the fat really started burning. By the time the Couch to 5K program came back around, I was training for the 10K! I’ve done the 10K now 3 years in a row, each time getting faster. The program starts back up in a few weeks and I’m really excited. I’ve been working on my speed this summer since I’ve been stuck on an indoor track (too hot to run outside) and have been slowly increasing the distance over the last few weeks to get ready for distance training. Can you tell I get really excited about fitness? :)

            1. > I could definitely eat a little better these days and lean up some more but my fall distance running season is about to start up so that will definitely help. I’m also seriously considering joining a roller derby league so that amount of cardio will definitely help and be crazy fun! :)

              Personally speaking, the eating thing is the hardest part for me. I enjoy working out (and I love running), but you know what they say – “you can’t out exercise a bad diet” – so I’ve been trying harder than ever to make my diet better than it’s ever been.

              I’ll never go vegan or vegetarian or anything, but I am doing what I can to incorporate for fruits and vegeatables into my weekly diet along with the usual nuts, etc.

              I also try to have a cheat meal or two during the weekends (but I think I mentioned that already :).

              > I’m with you on not necessarily dieting, but instead just being smart and healthy. It’s a lifestyle change vs. something that feels restrictive or temporary like a diet. I only drink water, unsweet tea, and coffee. I try to limit sugar as much as possible (but honestly once you realize how sluggish all that sugar makes you feel you don’t want to eat it).

              I love tea, but being in the south (which I know you are, too), I just can’t do it without the sweet tea so I have to abandon it.

              I _do_ try to drink other things like green tea or herbal tea or stuff like that, but it’s really only when we have it around in the house.

              Water and coffee for me, mainly.

              > I lost weight in a variety of ways. I was constantly changing things up to keep my body guessing and trying new things.

              Love that – from what I’ve read, that seems to be one of the most successful ways to do it. I know I plateau’d running years ago which is why I don’t do it every day any more.

              Instead, I do it every few days mixing it with Yoga and weight lifting and body weight only stuff.

              > About 6 months before I started really trying to lose weight, I had joined a Couch to 5K program at work but had to quit a couple weeks in because I have a bad knee from playing sports as a child so my knee couldn’t handle running with all that extra weight/pressure on it. So, fast forward 6 months and a lesson learned, I needed to lose some weight before I tried running again. So, at first, I did water aerobics, spin class, a few other cardio rich classes, some with a little strength training. I really loved the group exercise atmosphere.

              I’ve never done group exercise before but that’s largely because I work out of my house and a lot of the people with whom I’d like to exercise already have their own programs or can’t fit it in during the hours in which I can (which is a perk of working from home, really).

              > After I lost about 30 pounds, I started running and I got a personal trainer to help me build muscle. Once I started building muscle, the fat really started burning.

              Awesome how that happens right? Muscle weighs more than fast and when you start building it, the fat falls right off.

              I’m just now getting interested in the science behind that so I’ve started reading a few books. Nothing worth sharing yet, but soon.

              > By the time the Couch to 5K program came back around, I was training for the 10K! I’ve done the 10K now 3 years in a row, each time getting faster.
              The program starts back up in a few weeks and I’m really excited.

              That’s so awesome! I _just_ read a story about someone who was a professional body builder for the majority of his life, but when it came to running, he damaged his knee because of the amount of weight that he was carrying on each them – even those who we see as being “fit” have to deal with those issues. Ironic, in a way.

              But having well-balanced body and being agile can really make all the difference.

              > I’ve been working on my speed this summer since I’ve been stuck on an indoor track (too hot to run outside)

              Tell me about it. I have to run in the mornings or in the evenings. I’ve done a few afternoon runs but they are my poorest ones (according to my logs in Nike+).

              For speed, have you done anything like Tabata Sprints before? They will take. it. out. of you, but the gains you can get from them are crazy. I’m a big fan of them, just don’t eat any meals before hand or they’ll come back up.

              Not speaking from experience. Just from others’ experience :). That’s wisdom, right?

              But you mentioned Insanity earlier, so if you’re used to that, you could handle Tabata sprints. If you’re interested in an article, let me know.

              > and have been slowly increasing the distance over the last few weeks to get ready for distance training. Can you tell I get really excited about fitness? :)

              Yes! I do, too. I’m actually thinking of starting something up for those who are involved in our industry and also want to focus on / chat about / share things / etc. about fitness.

              My tentative plan is to have it ready September 1st, but there are a lot of variables in play here and I’ve given myself a pretty tight deadline.

              We’ll see, though. I’ll obviously be starting it out, but I’m really hoping to get more and more people involved so we’ll see.

              Naturally, I’ll do a blog post about it when it’s ready :).

              — Tom

              1. My workout is a combination of (mostly) body weight warmup for 15-20 minutes followed by 20 minutes of kickboxing.

                For our warmups, we often do tabata timers and you can apply it to anything… pushups, squats, whatever. When I travel, I just use a tabata timer on my phone and try and do a mix of stuff… knocks out a travel workout in under 20 minutes.

                Point being, Tabata timers for any exercise are awesome.

                1. You’re right – Tabata is great for really any exercise (I’ve just traditionally used them for running in order to increase speed).

                  Do you have an iOS app that you prefer for this kind of stuff? I assume you’ve tried out some and have found one that you like — mind sharing?
                  Always on the lookout for good stuff like this.

              2. Increasing muscle while training to tone up or build some muscle is a challenge. You need to keep up the protein, about 1.5gms per kg of body weight but you have to find your own level.

                The rule generally is that as you lose weight but gain muscle the scales may not change as dramatically as they once did. Then you have to be aware of how your clothes fit Your waist should continue to slim as that’s where your main fat stores are (in your adipose tissue) but your arms, chest, legs should firm up and that’s where your new weight lives; healthy weight, muscle weight, muscle that burns energy more efficiently.

                But we should be more exact. Muscle and fat weigh the same of course (a kg is a kg after all) it’s just that muscle is more dense. Muscle occupies about 20% less volume than the same weight of fat. And that’s why you can get way slimmer without losing overall weight. And at some point you can get heavier while being thinner.

                1. > Increasing muscle while training to tone up or build some muscle is a challenge. You need to keep up the protein, about 1.5gms per kg of body weight but you have to find your own level.

                  Seriously – that plus more calories and if you don’t do a good job with keeping up with your calorie in take, then you just end up gaining weight.

                  Such a balance to be kept.

                  > The rule generally is that as you lose weight but gain muscle the scales may not change as dramatically as they once did. Then you have to be aware of how your clothes fit Your waist should continue to slim as that’s where your main fat stores are (in your adipose tissue) but your arms, chest, legs should firm up and that’s where your new weight lives; healthy weight, muscle weight, muscle that burns energy more efficiently.

                  Bingo.

                  > But we should be more exact. Muscle and fat weigh the same of course (a kg is a kg after all) it’s just that muscle is more dense. Muscle occupies about 20% less volume than the same weight of fat. And that’s why you can get way slimmer without losing overall weight. And at some point you can get heavier while being thinner.

                  This is great – good point to make and to distinguish how muscle varies from fat on your body. Where’d you grab this info from? Any particular article or anything?

                  Doesn’t really matter; just curious :).

                  — Tom

                  1. Hey, Tom

                    The diet/exercise info I’ve accumulated over the last couple of years is mainly from books I’ve purchased by paleo/primal advocates. It’s been fascinating to discover medical studies, often long term, that provide lots of solid data and conclusions to operate from.

                    A good sum up about muscle is here: http://www.livestrong.com/article/438693-a-pound-of-fat-vs-a-pound-of-muscle/

                    Of course, Google is your friend. But find the actual medical studies or try searching medical sites, JAMA, Mayo Clinic, etc. They’re everywhere.

                    Thing I’ve learned is that our base caloric expenditure is about 50 calories per hour even when asleep. So even if you slept all day you’d still need 1,200 calories for that. A modern office-bound man needs about double that for his daily energy requirements (women slightly less). The thing to note is that very few calories are required to actually function above a sleeping state, meaning our bodies are quite efficient. This leads you to the inescapable conclusion that exercising burns very few calories. Walking briskly for an hour equates to an avocado or a couple of scrambled eggs.

                    The main goal of exercise should be strength, endurance, cardiovascular health and the general feelgood benefits including stress reduction and mental stimulation.

                    Not that strenuous exercise won’t burn enough calories to make a difference but altering diet to reduce the factors that cause adipose fat to build up is probably your best strategy.

                    You’ll note I’ve manfully resisted the temptation to advocate any particular diet since everyone needs to find their own route. But paleo/primal worked for me in my head before it worked for my body. It made sense to my programmer’s brain as I had an intellectual basis to fall back on.

                    http://nutritiondata.self.com/tools/calories-burned

                    1. The diet/exercise info I’ve accumulated over the last couple of years is mainly from books I’ve purchased by paleo/primal advocates. It’s been fascinating to discover medical studies, often long term, that provide lots of solid data and conclusions to operate from.

                      That’s awesome. I ask not because I’m suspect, just because I like to know :).

                      Thing I’ve learned is that our base caloric expenditure is about 50 calories per hour even when asleep. So even if you slept all day you’d still need 1,200 calories for that. A modern office-bound man needs about double that for his daily energy requirements (women slightly less). The thing to note is that very few calories are required to actually function above a sleeping state, meaning our bodies are quite efficient. This leads you to the inescapable conclusion that exercising burns very few calories. Walking briskly for an hour equates to an avocado or a couple of scrambled eggs.

                      Yep – and the leaner you are and/or the higher your metabolism, it gets even more efficient.

                      The main goal of exercise should be strength, endurance, cardiovascular health and the general feelgood benefits including stress reduction and mental stimulation.

                      Agreed.

                      Not that strenuous exercise won’t burn enough calories to make a difference but altering diet to reduce the factors that cause adipose fat to build up is probably your best strategy.

                      For sure – exercise definitely does help but it’s a two-component system. They say you can’t out exercise a bad diet, but it also has to do with some of the genetic makeup that you have, too.

                      You’ll note I’ve manfully resisted the temptation to advocate any particular diet since everyone needs to find their own route. But paleo/primal worked for me in my head before it worked for my body. It made sense to my programmer’s brain as I had an intellectual basis to fall back on.

                      And good on you for that. I’m in 100% agreement – we have our own fitness personalities and we need to play up to that.

  5. Inspirational stuff, Tom. I’ve been overweight for most of my life and managed to shed 40ish pounds last summer. I’ve since put 30 of it back on. It sucks because I remember how good I felt before.

    Your post, your progress, and the candour of it all triggers a bit of a fire under my butt. :)

    Thanks for sharing!

    1. > Inspirational stuff, Tom. I’ve been overweight for most of my life and managed to shed 40ish pounds last summer. I’ve since put 30 of it back on.
      It sucks because I remember how good I felt before.

      First, props to you for shedding all that weight. I know adding it all back on can be tough, but _you know_ you can get rid of it again because you’ve done it before!

      The thing is, it’s gotta be a lifestyle change, you know? You’ve gotta do whatever you were doing and make sure that you stick to it.

      Whatever that was, I don’t know and I don’t pretend to know :), but I know that when we’re at our healthiest, we’re at our sharpest both physically, mentally, and productively.

      It’s such a sweet place to be that the motivation to pursue can be so strong. And once we’re there, why leave it, you know?

      > Your post, your progress, and the candour of it all triggers a bit of a fire under my butt. :)

      Go for it and do what you need to do — and best of luck, man!

      — Tom

  6. Hey Tom,

    I can relate where you were at. I’m 5’11 and all through college I was around 160-170. 2 weeks ago I weighed in at 210 with significantly high blood pressure (at age 23).

    I’ve been running every day for the past 2 weeks using Runkeeper, and I’m already just below 200. This post was really inspirational for me to keep going, even when I (hopefully) get back to my college weight.

    Thanks for sharing!

    1. I can relate where you were at. I’m 5’11 and all through college I was around 160-170. 2 weeks ago I weighed in at 210 with significantly high blood pressure (at age 23).

      It happens and it feels like it happens fast, doesn’t it? We get so into what we’re doing day-to-day that we neglect some of the most important things that we should be doing – like actually taking care of our bodies :).

      I’ve been running every day for the past 2 weeks using Runkeeper, and I’m already just below 200. This post was really inspirational for me to keep going, even when I (hopefully) get back to my college weight.

      Love it! If you ever hop on Nike+, let me know and we can friend up there. That’s the app of choice I use, though right now I’m scaling back running for some other work outs I’m doing so I may not show up for a little while ;).

      Regardless, good look and props to losing that weight, man!

        1. Alright! Adding you now :).

          Note that I’m not running as much this month as I have in previous as I’m focused on some other aspects, but I’m planning to get one or two short runs in each week.

  7. Hmm. Yup. Sitting on my ass for a living, despite having very nimble fingers, made my waist expand over an 8-year period. At 180cms and 134kgs (5’11”, 294lbs) I was in pretty poor shape. But I’d gotten away with it, too. BP was pretty good and I could still do a lot of active stuff. And the idea of losing 50+ kgs was daunting.

    But that was 2013 and now I’m down to 88kgs (down 46kgs/101lbs) via paleo/primal-type eating and exercising. Mainly veges and proteins + lots of good fats. Walking 25kms a week and lifting some light weights. Blood work is excellent. BP last check was 128/77. I’m 52.

    I never bothered with apps or diaries, etc., and only stepped on a scale once every six months when I went to see my doctor to get blood work done.

    Still got around 8-10kgs to go and I want to way-improve my flexibility, but I’m pretty relaxed about it, too.

  8. Amazing stuff, Tom!

    I’m like five to seven years younger as compared to you and 6 feet tall. Since 2012 — when I got serious about my role in WordPress community and decided to leave Electrical Eng. after graduation — I’ve learned a lot and improved a lot being a developer. Can’t say the same about my health, though. I used to weigh like 78KGs back then and only three years later I’m 110KGs.

    I keep trying to form a routine to start jogging, and I keep failing at it. This post, on the other hand, is quite reassuring about the fact that commitment does pay off.

    IA, I’m going to get more serious about this.

  9. This is a useful article for me, As a blogger I like to remain in a good shape, My belly is getting fat because of my sitting job in front of a system in office and in home with my Laptop for my blog. This article helps me to try something new for issues thank you.

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