By Tom

A view of the Atlanta Ocean from Tybee Island

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

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:

  • Chart everything that I was eating.
  • 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.

    Developer Fitness: Getting Back To and Staying in Shape was written by Tom. Check out additional articles on the full blog at Tom McFarlin.

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