About two years ago, I wrote Developer Fitness: Getting & Staying in Shape. There’s not a synopsis for that post other than this:
- I didn’t like where I was,
- I wanted to return to a weight at which I was happy,
- I did some work,
- I reached my goal.
In my early-to-mid twenties, I was a runner, and that was my primary form of exercise. I participated in 5Ks, 10Ks, and half-marathons, but as life changes so go our habits. Sometimes, at least. And that was the case for me.
So the motivation for writing the post two-fold:
- After being self-employed, working from home, and learning to adjust having two children around the house, I gained enough weight to be as heavy as I had ever been.
- I found that during the time I went from wanting to lose weight, I discovered a genuine interest in fitness. Granted, this looks different for each person, so perhaps it’s better to say that I have an interest in my level of fitness. Thus, I wanted to document what I’ve been doing and what works for me.
I’ve wanted to write a follow-up post ever since but the time never felt right as I was still figuring out what I wanted to write. But I’ve finally gotten to a point where I’ve learned enough, and I’m comfortable sharing more information.
A Short Disclaimer
But first, a few things:
- Whenever a male writes about losing weight after having children, it’s easy to roll eyes and say “Yeah, but women have…” I’ll state it here: I believe women are the stronger of the two sexes (ask any of my friends how often I claim that), and I don’t mean to compare to imply anything other than that. I’m talking about something that happens to coincide when we had children and how I aimed to adjust my own fitness. Nothing more. 🙂
- Fitness for those who work in our industry – or who have desk jobs – can be hard to come by. We work long hours sitting (or standing) at desks, and when we’re done for the day, the last thing many of us want to do is to get physically exert ourselves after the exhaustion that comes from thinking through problems all day. The thing is, this is not unique to our industry.
- I’m not a health professional. I’m an average guy who has done some reading on some things and have began to understand what works for my body type. I’m not a personal trainer, nor do I claim that what I’ve used worked for me will work for you.
- I do think there are certain things we can all do to help ourselves, more on this later, but whatever I do isn’t necessarily great for everyone else and vice versa.
- Fitness isn’t a “reach your goal and finish.” It’s more something I incorporate into my life has become something I try to do every day (or as much as possible).
And with that said, I’m happy to share what I’ve done, the progress I’ve made, and my goals, but I also want to be clear that I know this won’t work for everyone.
None of the links or programs mentioned here are affiliate links, I’m not a member of any group, and I’m not trying to sell anything. I’m only sharing what I’ve done and what works for me.
The main reason is this: Fitness is important. I know people in our industry who both struggle with it and who have an interest in it. I know people have suggested things try and people who have asked what works.
So to continue something I wrote about two years ago and to help contribute to another side of our industry (much like others talk about mental health), I’m writing this post.
It’s long and covers a lot of material, but I hope that it provides some insight on something that will help you find an aspect of fitness that helps you become a healthier version of you.
The most important thing to understand about how I approach fitness is that I am for “functional fitness.” That is, I don’t aim for one specific thing anymore.
Sometimes I run, sometimes I lift, sometimes I stretch, sometimes it’s yoga (though not as much as it should be), sometimes it’s HIIT, sometimes it’s Tabata, and sometimes it’s classic body-weight only exercises.
Ultimately, I want to be able to live a long and healthy life. I want to be able to keep up with my kids as they grow up, and I want to feel younger than 40 whenever I turn 40 (which is no time soon, so cut it with the jokes).
So picking up where I left off in the last post, I entered a bit of a maintenance phase at the end of 2015 to carry me through the end of the year.
Holidays are a dangerous time for fitness because you can do some damage to your progress. I’m not saying I don’t indulge in the usual holiday treats or anything, but I want to balance my progress with the hectic schedule that comes with everything from Halloween through New Years.
I think most of us know that part of developing any new habit is to find some source of accountability.
Sometimes, using a calendar works. Other times, having a daily or weekly reminder works (that is, whatever works for you). I also think having a person be an accountability partner is a good idea.
Then again, none of these are new ideas.
Before heading into 2016, I’d never really had an accountability partner. I’d normally worked out at home and just logged my workouts. But my cousin just happened to want to begin working on his fitness, so we opted to be accountability partners.
Here’s the problem: We live over an hour away. So to help keep one another accountable, we did check-ins via video and audio messages and sending pictures of our worksheets and pictures of ourselves now and again (though none of those will show up on this site 😶).
That said, don’t underestimate the ability to find accountability from people that aren’t in your immediate vicinity.
Before looking for what programs I was going to do, I wanted to figure out what my ultimate goal was going to be.
For as long as I’ve been into any working out, it’s always been about running or aerobic activity. I’ve never been one much for just weightlifting or anything.
Simply put, I don’t have the body type that’s the type to show “bulk.” But I decided that I wanted to get stronger (without losing the ability to run or jump), so that’s the goal I set. To achieve that, I took 2016, divided into quarters (since each quarter is 90 days) and planned to use the following programs:
- P90X. This is the first version of the P90X program that came out, and I opted to go for strength. This means I went with the classic program (versus, say, the lean version) and worked through it. Sometimes it was 10 pm at night but I was determined to follow the calendar [again].
- P90X+. P90X+ is a lesser known add-on to P90X. It’s not really a full-on program all on its own. Instead, it’s meant to be mixed with the original P90X. It has some great additions that push you a bit further such as intervals, but the overall production is a little lower, the cast a little smaller, and fewer breaks per workout.
- P90X2. This is by far the most well-produced, well-rounded workout. If you go all in and get four medicine balls, a foam roller, and a stability ball, there’s a ridiculous amount of progress to be made. This is primarily focused on adding core strength, well-rounded fitness, balance, and possible size if you’re able to achieve it by properly tracking your workouts and the progression of weights. By the time I finished this program, I was in the best shape of my life. I couldn’t necessarily run as far as I once could, but I could still run a 5K, and pull-ups with a vest, push-ups on medicine balls, and going from a crane to a headstand were all possible.
- P90X3 + 22 Hard Corps. Since the last quarter of the year is when Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years are – as I mentioned – a challenge to keep the workout going, I opted to double-up on the shorter workouts. This meant I took the strength workouts from P90X3 and coupled them with the rest of the schedule for 22 Hard Corps which is a lot of cardio (even on the strength days, in my opinion).
I will say that 22 Hard Corps is more of a boot camp style workout that does not have the stereotypical gym setup. Instead, a lot of it takes place on a military base, in a hanger, and places like that. It’s a cool set, sure, but it’s secondary to getting work done. And if you’re looking for a good boot camp program all on its own, I recommend it.
By the time I began to head into 2017, I was ready to begin trying to add size. But that will have to be a follow-up post since this is primarily focused on improving my initial level of fitness.
When it comes to tracking my progress, I go old school. I don’t look to apps to help keep track of my progress over a given exercise, a routine, or anything like that.
I do use one to track nutrition, weight, and all of that fun stuff but I’ll talk about that more a bit later.
Instead, I simply stick with the provided worksheets that come with the programs I use. If a given worksheet didn’t provide enough of what I wanted, I’d make additional notes to get it right.
By the end of the year, my weight was going back up a bit. This was a bit of a bummer because I’d focused so long on actually losing weight. Then again, muscle weighs more than fat, I was getting stronger, and I was watching what I was eating.
This isn’t to say there wasn’t some increase that I wish hadn’t happened, but it comes with the territory of having to make constant adjustments based on what you’re doing. It’s a perpetual learning process (at least, that’s how I see it).
Ultimately, I had to take the additional weight that comes with the territory and go with it.
This is definitely the hardest part for me (and maybe so for many of us). It’s not that I eat a lot of junk food – in fact, I’m not a huge fan of junk food – but I also have room to improve in the vegetables I eat.
If anything, I’d say I’m meat, potatoes, and fruit. So, as I started back in 2015, I continued to stay away from alcohol and eventually cut out all other drinks except water and coffee. And yes, with coffee I still have [fat-free] creamer. I just can’t drink it black.
First, I’m not one to use supplements or anything like that, but I do take vitamins. The four that I take on a daily basis include:
- Multivitamins. They are good in that they help reach goals for all of the various vitamins we’re supposed to get. I don’t see this as like a “magic pill” but more of a, you know, supplement to what we’re already eating.
- Omega 3 fatty acids. These help with regulating the immune system and with working as an anti-inflammatory (which is great if you’re working out your large muscle groups).
- Vitamin D. This is good when you’re doing a lot of running, cardio, or high-intensity work primarily because it helps to increase bone density. Even if you’re not focused on that type of workout, it still never hurts to absorb a little more calcium.
- Pro-Biotics. Primarily, these are good for fighting off bacteria and other things that can make you sick. This isn’t to say you are going you aren’t going to get sick, but it certainly helps boost the immune system.
Next, as I began to focus on the types of workouts I was doing, I was beginning to pay attention to the percentage of macronutrients I was putting into my body as well as the type of vitamins.
Macronutrients break down into carbohydrates, fat, and protein. Depending on the type of workout that you’re doing for a given period of time dictates the number of macronutrients that you should consume. I can’t say here what you should take, but I can provide some information on an app that’s great for this later in the article.
I try to achieve these daily but realistically speaking, it’s hard especially when your protein has to increase. So I do the best I can to get within a 3% range of each of these. For those who are curious, cutting carbohydrates is the hardest. They are simultaneously that which gives you energy, and that which can result in fat.
Finally, I make a shake every single day. Usually, it contains almond milk, protein, some greens (remember, I don’t like vegetables), maybe chia seeds or flax seeds, greek yogurt, strawberries, peanut butter, and other things like that.
And no, it’s not all that in a single shake. I mix it up to keep it less boring. I’d say protein is key to making sure you feel full after having a shake. In terms of having a snack during the day, I’ll usually eat some type of granola or plain almonds.
I hesitated to include this particular section because I’m not someone who really gets into a particular brand of clothing nor do I think you need anything fancy to get out and, say, go for a run.
I also don’t I think you need any particular type of shorts or shirt for weight training (but don’t wear khakis or, you know, jean shorts – and I’ve seen people do it).
The only things I recommend are:
- compression shorts,
- a good pair of shoes.
I used to work out in nothing but Vibrams, but as I varied up my workouts, I opted for a pair of cross-trainers. I can’t say which are the best for you as there are a lot of factors that play into this.
The best advice I can give is to find a local fitness store and have them evaluate your feet. They’ll likely have you run on a treadmill, monitor your pressure point, measure your arch, width, and talk to you about your goals.
It sounds like a racket to make money on shoes, and I’m sure some places do that, but if you find a reputable place (and you may need to ask around), then I think you’ll find a pair that suits your needs.
In terms of the equipment that I use, I don’t have anything like a bench or anything for traditional bench presses.
Instead, I use adjustable free weights, medicine balls, and pull-up bars. Though not everything is available, some of the equipment that I have is listed here:
- Wall-Mount Chin-Up Bar
- Adjustable Dumbbells
- Medicine Balls (2x8lbs, 1x10lbs, 2x12lbs)
- Medicine Ball Tree
- 12″ Plyo Box
Over time, using things such as dumbbells or the medicine balls help to make things like push-ups more effective as they can give you a deeper range of motion as well as require that you strengthen your core to maintain stability.
This is where things get fun for the techie-types. I’ve gone through the ringer when it comes to devices. Years ago, I was using an original FitBit, and I was also using the Nike+ fitness band that synced with the device that fits in your shoes.
Now, however, I’m primarily focused on monitoring my heart rate and monitoring my movement. I’d argue that heart rate monitors are the best way to measure your performance and how many calories you’re burning.
The Wahoo Tickr
To that end, I’ve found the Wahoo Tickr to be a great heart rate monitor. It identifies when you’ve connected it, you can double-tap it to mark certain points in your workout or your run (like identifying stretching or a split), and then it’ll sync with the mobile application.
If you’re looking for something to track steps or movement, then anything from FitBit is not bad. I’ve used the Flex 2 because I wanted something waterproof, my wife uses the Alta, and other friends and family uses the Blaze. All of them do a pretty good job (and I like that the Blaze and the Alta HR can monitor your heart rate).
Recently, however, I’ve settled on Apple Watch Series 2. At first, I wasn’t all that impressed by the watch. It felt more like a remote for my iPhone which was the last thing that I wanted.
But when I decided to use it for:
- moving music to the device,
- moving podcasts to the phone,
- using the heart rate monitor,
- using the activity monitor,
- using the breathing exercises,
- taking advantage of it being waterproof,
- and minimizing notifications so not to duplicate the phone on my wrist, it’s hands down the best fitness wearable I’ve tried.
As far as heart rate monitoring is concerned, I think that having something around your chest is more accurate that your wrist, but based on my experience and other articles I’ve read, the heart rate monitor on the Apple Watch is pretty accurate. And, for now, that’s enough for me.
Another thing about the Apple Watch that I like is the notifications to breathe throughout the day. It sounds silly, but in the time I’ve had it, I’ve noticed my average resting heart rate has decreased.
Doing a lot of cardio – be it HIIT or running – will help do that, knowing that you’re being more mindful and disciplined about it as well seems to help maintain focus and a level of calm. Of course, some of this could be self-fulfilling, as well, and I’m not above admitting that.
Apps & Other Devices
Regarding apps, there are a few I regularly use to help with accountability, tracking fitness, logging running, and to help with workouts when I’m not at home.
- Clips is great and a lot of fun for making short videos for recapping my workouts to send to anyone I’m using
- MyFitnessPal is what I use to track nutrition. I use it daily and it I find it especially helpful when counting calories and macronutrients (though more of the latter than the former these days). When I wrote my original post, I was counting calories but I don’t mind a little more flex here and there.
- Nike+ Run Club. This used to be Nike+ but it comes standard on the edition of the Apple Watch I have (and I used it on my phone prior to that). It’s a good way to continually track miles, distance, GPS, etc. if you’ve had data stored in Nike+ for years. (Though the standard running app on the Apple Watch isn’t bad, for the record.)
Finally, I’m also a fan of Mac DVD Ripper Pro. After I purchase whatever program I’m about to do, I rip the main exercise (or whatever I’m about to do for the next few weeks) and then put all of them on a first generation iPad.
Then I take that iPad with my wherever I go. It doesn’t need wireless; it doesn’t need apps, it just needs the Videos app to load the video and then play my exercise.
Of course, if you’re traveling for a while then you’ll naturally need to bring a charger. And if you’re used to using weights, then resistance bands are something else to carry with you.
But that’s it for any applications or additional devices I can recommend.
What Can We All Do?
Regarding fitness, we’ve all got our goals. Some of us want to lose weight; others may want to gain weight, some of us may want to improve our aerobics, others of us want to add size or strength or both.
Whatever the case, there’s no single right program that I can recommend. I suggest doing a bit of research on where you, what you want to achieve, talking with some people who have had success in their goals, and then moving forward from there.
If there were any advice I could give to people looking to cut out excess weight quickly, it would be this:
- Drop soda and alcohol. You’ll likely find that you lose 10 pounds as long as you couple that with a bit of activity.
- Cut out fast food. This is another way to easily remove 10 pounds as long as you couple it with dropping soda and alcohol and including more activity. (If you find yourself on the road a lot, go for something grilled, fruit, and water.)
- Regarding activity, walk for at least 45 minutes. I think a lot of places say to aim for 30 minutes, but 45 is just a little bit more, and it’s a good time to get disconnected, or listen to an audiobook, or listen to a podcast, or whatever.
- Try a standing desk. I’m not saying this is something you need to do for the entire day, but use it when you need to get through tasks like email or blitz through a list of minor tasks that will take 30 to 60 minutes. If that doesn’t work, just get up and do a couple of laps around the office.
- Drink a lot of water. I can’t overestimate this. At first, yes, you’ll have to use the restroom every hour, but as you get used to it, then your body will adjust, you’ll start to crave water, and the need to use the restroom frequently will decrease.
This list could go on, but these are the baby steps I always recommend to those who ask how things have been going over the last few years. Again, these aren’t going to help you shed lots of weight fast.
But they are a good place to start that I’ve found to be universal to everyone (and by that, I mean in talking with others and in reading various blogs, research articles, and so on).
Is There More?
Sure! Like I said at the beginning, fitness is something that has to become part of your life versus a goal that you want to reach and then move on to something else.
For a portion of this weekend, I spent some time planning out on what I’m going to be doing from this month to September (and I’m looking at a custom P90X2 + Insanity Max:30 hybrid).
I’m not one much to blog about this topic, to post too much about this on Instagram, or to tweet too much about it, but it’s something that I have found an interest in doing so maybe I’ll share more about it in the months to come. Or maybe I’ll wait another few years. 😏
But for now, I thought having an update (nearly two years later) would be worth it. And perhaps something here will help you get to where you want to be or help you start moving and losing whatever extra weight you don’t want.