Seven years ago, around the time my son was born, I was badly out of shape. At 6’1″, I weighted 223 lbs. The extra pounds were spread out over my frame, so I didn’t look particularly fat, but it was clear that I could stand to lose 20 or so pounds.
I did so. Changing my day job helped; losing a 2-hour-a-day commute freed up time for the gym, and being closer to home when my son was born meant I slept better (and was thus more likely to exercise). I got down to about 200 lbs.
It’s all been undone.
The reasons why aren’t all that important — it’s a common tale of stress, family and work schedules, too little motivation, and too many excuses. The important thing is that I’ve hit 223, and I need to do something about it.
What exactly? Nuketown‘s littered with posts documenting my various failed exercise reboot attempts. I think the biggest issue over the last few years has been the Doom Hour (otherwise known as 5 p.m.). It doesn’t matter if it’s a lack of willpower, softball coaching duties, a late night at work, or family commitments, once it hits 5 p.m. it’s highly unlikely that I will exercise that day.
Not impossible, just unlikely.
The Morning Schedule
My goal is to create a sustainable morning exercise routine. I’ve been experimenting with jogging in the morning, which in my case means jogging for a few blocks, then walking for a few blocks, the jogging again. I’ve been trying out Zombie Run in an attempt to provide some gamer-inspiration for my morning runs, but we all know I’d be zombie chow if the apocalypse happened tomorrow. Although running isn’t my thing it has the benefit of being something I can do for 20-25 minutes before work.
A lower impact option is walking the dog. The short loop takes me about 20 minutes, the longer “hill loop” — which takes me up and around the College Hill neighborhood — is better but takes 30-40 minutes.
All of this implies a schedule. To pull this off, I need to get up at 6:30 a.m., 7:00 a.m. at the latest. After a summer of sleeping in until 8 a.m., this is a hell of an adjustment, but I’ve been working on it. The last three days, even after horrible nights of sleep, I got up at 7 a.m. If I can sleep soundly (and, ahem, go to bed at a decent hour), 6:30 seems doable.
Even if it’s just walking the dog for a quarter mile, I want to get in some sort of exercise in the morning. It means I’m up, I’m moving, and even if the rest of my day goes to hell I’ve done something.
The Afternoon Schedule
Assuming my day doesn’t go to complete hell, I intend swim or go to the gym. I work at a college, and in the past I’ve been able to sacrifice lunch to carve out an hour in the afternoon when I can swim in the college pool. It’s a great, exhausting work out, but defending a 1-hour block of time in the afternoon is difficult. More likely is going to the gym, where I can jog, bike, or use the stair climber. These have the added benefit of letting me watch Netflix during my work out.
It’s hard. I’m director of web development at a small liberal arts college, and I’ve found that my most productive time is late afternoon, between 3-5. That’s the time when all my meetings are done, all the emails have been answered, the reports have been written and I can focus on my own work. It’s difficult to pull yourself out of a groove once you’ve finally gotten into it, which makes my fledgling morning routine all the more important.
Less Soda, More Water
The other thing that I’ve found works well for me is cutting back on liquid calories, namely soda and beer. Having a Mountain Dew at lunch means an extra 170 calories I need to burn off. Having one at dinner means 340 calories. They’re easy calories to lose. The bigger challenge is Game Day. Geek love their soda and beer, and it’s not uncommon for me to have 3-4 sodas in a sitting with a half bag of chips and a few slices of pizza.
It’s ruinous. I’m thinking of switching to decaf coffee or lemon/lime water during games — that gives me something to drink (which is practically a compulsion when rolling dice) without adding on the calories.
These changes worked when I was 34. I don’t know if the’ll work as well at 41, but it’s a decent place to start.