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Staying Fit: An Ongoing Story of Peaks and Valleys

December 18, 2018

How do you know if your friend is vegan and does Crossfit? Don’t worry, they'll tell you.

Admittedly, I've kind of evolved into that guy. Back in 2016 I posted about my attempts at losing weight. Since the end of the year provides a window for many to get away from the office, and give some thought to New Year's Resolutions, now seems like an appropriate time to share the latest.

As I wrote then, my awakening came at a physical. The doctor wouldn't sign off on a medical form due to my obesity. My absolute highest weight was in spring 2013, but by that November I was down around 60 pounds. I felt great. There was nothing dramatic about it; I just changed my diet and exercised regularly.

I'd like to say that was the end of the story, but I've ping-ponged since. By the summer of 2015 I'd regained about 25 pounds. So I got focused again, and the weight was off by the next year. Had I learned my lesson? Of course not. By the end of 2017, those 25 pounds were back on.

As I said, my two sons being in Boy Scouts and me wanting to participate in that with them was my original motivation to change. One son is now in the U.S. Marine Corps, having gone to boot camp in August 2017. Between his post boot camp and Military Occupational Specialty training, he was able to come home over the holidays. So on New Year's Day 2018, we decided to take a little hike.

The venue was Picacho Peak, which is located midway between Phoenix and Tucson in Arizona:

Sunset Vista Trail: 3.1 miles; moderate first 2 miles, becoming difficult; Travels on the south side from the westernmost parking area and goes to the top of the peak. The first 2 miles are moderate, then the route becomes difficult, steep and twisting, with steel cables (gloves are recommended) anchored into the rock in places where the surface is bare. This trail is not recommended during hot weather seasons.

Fun fact: Picacho means "peak" in Spanish. So we basically hiked up Peak Peak. Speaking of peaks, that day I learned I was not in peak physical condition.

Since we'd made this same hike a few years earlier, I figured I'd be fine. I wasn't. I ended up watching my fit, fresh from boot camp son easily reach the summit while I took a breather and took stock. I realized that, once again, I needed to do something about my fitness levels.

After about three months of dieting and weight-watching, I participated in a Super Sprint triathlon with some Scouts this past April. This consists of a 75-yard swim, a 6-mile bike ride, and a 1.6-mile run. With the memory of getting smoked by my son on that hike still fresh, I got through it without issue. In fact I felt good enough to sign up for a slightly tougher triathlon event in the fall: a 425-yard swim, a 15-mile bike ride and a 5K run.

After training over the spring and summer and doing that second triathlon, the weight has come back off, though there have been setbacks: an injury here, a junk food binge there (I refer to the latter as my "weekends of debauchery"). But overall, I feel really good. My blood pressure is down, my resting heart rate is low, and I'm always looking forward to the next backpacking trip or hike.

I'm no athlete. I don't do these events for medals, and I surely am not a threat to win anything. My goal is simply to finish, and to do better the next time. Having these events on my calendar (the next one is in April) keeps me focused on fitness, and my rewards from that are many. I have greater endurance and my clothes fit better (even some things I'd gotten too big to wear). Losing weight--and buying properly fitted shoes--helped me overcome plantar fasciitis.

For me dieting comes down to controlling meal portions while paying attention to the mix of protein, fats and carbs. I eat lots of salads, stay away from mindless snacking and avoid desserts and other sweets. I hit the gym three times a week. I work out with their special, pricey equipment, and I attend trainer-led group classes that include activities I might not choose to do on my own.

Most days at home I'll get in an intense hour of cardio on the treadmill. Varying the workouts while continually edging up the intensity allows my body to continually adjust to the demands I put on it. And (of course) I apply some technology to the matter. My scale auto-magically connects to the cloud, allowing me to compile nearly seven years' of data on my weight and body fat percentages. While there have been periods where I neglected doing the weigh-ins, checking the graphs and trends is nonetheless quite enlightening.

When I exercise, I track my heart rate, and when I run longer distances outside, I chart my pace. A tracker tells me the number of steps I take each day. Am I faster this time? Did I take as many steps today as I did yesterday? How many calories did I burn? I need to know. I need the numbers.

Of course there's no one way to get in shape. I've seen others succeed with the Whole 30 diet, Nutrisystem, Weight Watchers, Medifast and Atkins. Just cutting back on carbs can help.

The trick is to find what works for you, and to find what motivates you. I'm motivated by checking my calendar and seeing that next event, and by seeing my metrics improve. Another motivator is having people who've not seen me in a while do a double take and ask if I've lost weight. (Why yes I have, thanks for asking.)

Finally, it motivates me just to talk about this. I realize that my story may not prompt anyone to take action, but sharing it helps me. It keeps me accountable. It makes everything real. It means if you see me stuffing my face at the next IBM Technical University, you are free and clear to give me a hard time about it.

Of course I do hope all of you do what you can to preserve and improve your health. If an old guy like me can do it, you can, too.

Note--the next blog post will be January 8, 2019.

Posted December 18, 2018| Permalink

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