This post includes a lot of personal history. For me it was important to write that down as well to structure my thoughts. If you are not interested in that, just skip ahead to Situation.
How I got where I am
Way back when I was at school I did a lot of sports, more than a training / day. Given my chronic illnesses I pretty much was at peak fitness at that time. But over the course of the years at university I did build up a bit of overweight. Not enough to be a problem, but enough to not feel comfortable in my body again.
It pretty much stayed like this for several years and getting into infosec and the conferences with much food & alcohol did not really help either. But I had a rather active lifestyle, with festivals, Live-Rolplays and other physically taxing hobbies.
Four years ago, that slowly changed. A good friend and I started working out together, well as much you can work out together if you are on two different continents, and another good friend started asking me about mud runs / obstacle courses (like ToughMudder) and half-marathons.
At the same time my father was on a steady decline and slowly dying from COPD. While he did everything he could in the final stages, he did not work out or quit smoking when diagnosed, which is very important to slow down the condition. This was when I realized two things:
- I wanted to get back into shape so my future kids would get the most out of their dad.
- I was reminded of how much stress relief sports offers to me.
The motivation got even bigger when my wife got pregnant after my father’s death. I pushed myself hard in the year leading to our kids birth and during the first months after, pretty much reaching my fitness goals.
That’s when the decline started. Working out while being the primary care giver for a toddler, doing the household and job in infosec often left me lacking the energy to do the workouts. Hormonal changes (yes, men go through hormonal changes when becoming active fathers as well, probably a topic for another post) and overindulging in good food when i started cooking for the little one added to it.
Still friends kept me active. More runs, occasional workouts together, it helped keeping the overweight at bay at least.
Moving to a new home last Autumn and a lot of physical labor forced me to stop the workouts but the problem is, I never picked them up again. A Winter full of good food, a lot personal stress and a few light sicknesses added up.
When it was time to commit to fitness events, COVID happened and pretty much everything was canceled. That took away another motivation to getting back to it.
All until a few weeks ago.
Currently I’m about 6 kg overweight and about 8 kg away from where I would like to be again. My strength, endurance and agility have suffered severely since last year. My resting heart rate has gone up and my VO2max (maximum O2 uptake) has gone down. (both are still pretty average, but close to the worst measured on me)
I did get a basic checkup by the doctor to make sure nothing else is getting in the way and so far all other basic health indicators are okay. I’m just out of shape.
Four weeks ago I slowly started with a couple of workouts and runs again and two weeks ago I got back into a daily routine.
If it has been that difficult to retain my fitness and life circumstances that won’t change that much in the near or medium term future, why do I want to get back into shape?
It is important to answer that question because there have to be internal reasons, otherwise that won’t work. External reasons like wanting to “look good” and conform to the current body shape ideal or “A good person work on their fitness” will not keep me motivated through what ideally will be an everlasting routine.
So, what is my WHY?
- I feel bad and it is not only my depression (yes, sports can help a bit with that too, but that’s not the point here). I’m quickly out of breath, feel sluggish and out of balance. It is a bit as I’m not really in my own body anymore or that my mental model of my body differs too much from reality.
- I want to see my kids grow up and keep up with them. Even the 2 year old sometimes manages to push me to exhaustion and with the 2nd on the way, it won’t get any better. I don’t want to just watch them do things, I want to do them with them.
- When it is possible again, I want to get back into physically challenging hobbies, mostly mud runs and LARP. This won’t work if I don’t get into good shape again and keep that. With a busy life, I won’t have time for the intense and time consuming preparation training required otherwise.
- I have a wonderful kid and I really want to be there for as much of her life as I can.
- I really dislike what I see in the mirror. I do not want to be that beer belly kind of man.
- Being out of shape had another side effect: My ability to learn and adapt has decreased. Sure, that can also be a result of stress, but I have always performed mentally better when on a regular workout schedule.
Workout wise, there are two options. I could do two full workouts a week, starting with a warm up, then some weight work, cardio and eventually stretching. Maybe add a third day for a longer run. Or I could do smaller, daily workouts, switching the focused muscle groups around, alternating between cardio and strength.
The first option works very well if I would go to a gym. But a) I don’t have the time for a full workout on most days b) I hate gyms and the atmosphere there.
While I can reserve half an hour to an hour for workouts pretty much everyday, getting 2+ hours is hard. Especially with the second kid joining us soon and my wife getting back to work after the COVID situation is resolved or she is out of parental leave.
So I’m going with the daily workouts, which has served me well in the past too.
Long term I want to pick up a group sport again, with maybe one weekly or bi-weekly training. Mostly for socializing and further continuous motivation. But given the current situation, I’m going to schedule that for next year / next summer.
But being realistically, I might improve my fitness by working out but I won’t loose weight. Only a deficit in calories can do that and as much the daily workouts can exhaust me, they burn maybe 200-300 calories if I’m lucky. At the same time I know my appetite rises when doing regular workouts, so I most likely will take in more that that in additional calories.
That means I will also need a diet, at least until I reach the weight where I want to be.
I’m a big fan of Darebee. It is a free, donation funded site for workouts and body weight (as in using your body weight) programs. I will be alternating between cardio based programs and adding in an occasional session with my sling trainer / pull-up bar and strengths based programs and mixing in a few runs.
Currently I’m half way through their 30 days of Change program and working with the sling trainer on the pure cardio days. I have chosen this program because I have done it twice in the past and rather positive memories of it. That helped getting me motivated.
When I started to get back into shape 4 years ago, I quickly picked up intermittent fasting, more specifically the 5:2 version of it, where you eat 5 days normally and limit yourself to about 600 calories on the other days.
It worked really well for me and gave me a slow, healthy decline in weight over the time. When I had reached my target weight, I reduced it to one fasting day and kept it.
That changed when the kid went from eating mash to full meals. Now I had to cook a full meal every day and it was nearly impossible to just cook for her and not for myself too.
I’m not sure it will work this time but should be doable at least while my wife is still at home. So I will start that again tomorrow.
Why no other diet? They make me rather unhappy. Because of medical conditions I had to follow certain diets in my life and it always pulled down my mood significantly. This was the first time a diet actually improved it, so I’m kinda biased and willing to give it another go before resorting to alternatives.
I will monitor the progress rather closely, both in terms of performance indicators but also with a mood diary to make sure it does not have a negative impact on me.
There probably will be more post coming to update this as it evolves.