So there are a lot of new people on the interwebs, looking for direction. Motivation. An assurance that they CAN DO IT. Well, let me offer my story in bullet points and summaries. Here is a succint version of couch potato to hot potato in 3 years. Maybe it’s just a self masturbatory exercise, but maybe it will help someone. So, I pontificate.
Weight: around 265
Fitness Level: Walking a mile was doable but hurt my body and I’d be out of breath, two miles would probably make me collapse. Daily life was tiring. I’d email instead of getting up and talking to someone a few offices away or refrain from getting up to get something from the other other room I needed if I was on the couch. One flight of stairs winded me.
Smoking: Pack-a-day smoker
Diet: Half portion controlled micro meals and soups, half trying to eat “healthy” at restaurants and cut out fried foods (trying for 1200-ish calories per day, rarely succeeding). Typical meal would be either a marie calendar’s microwave meal or a campbell’s chunky soup. Or soup and salad and a muffin at Mimi’s.
Exercise program: 3 times per week of either DDR on light mode (usually for 30 minutes, but sometimes when I was mad at work I would do upwards of 2 hours) or Yourself!Fitness (PS2 game that tested your fitness and gave you workouts, either a 15 or 30 minute segment).
Verdict: Believe it or not, I lost 30 lbs in a matter of a few months and then sorta plateaued once things got stressful (job changes and moving). The plateau happened because I went back to eating… well, not as bad as I used to, but not very well. Not that I was doing that great a job of it before (tallying some of those “healthy” restaurant meals up with calorie counts now that I know better – and half were still over 1k calories) And stopped making exercise a priority when things got hairy.
Weight: around 235
Fitness Level: Not hugely better (I didn’t see it working out), but I’d say my energy levels were definitely increased. Daily life was not so exhausting. I could have a normal day without just wanting to die at the end of it.
Smoking: had cut back to half-pack-a-day smoker
Diet: 1200-1500 calories per day minus some weekend splurges. Typical meal would be a wrap or a sandwich on light bread/tortillas, diet microwave meals or soups, tortilla or pita pizzas, and sides of light italian salads or veggies with spray butter.
Exercise: 20 minutes on the eliptical 3 times per week (worked up to 30), 15 minutes of general bodyweight strength training 3 times per week (pushups and crunches on the ball, tricep dips, leg lifts, etc)
Verdict: This was huge for me. I started sparkpeople.com and just did what spark told me to do for a month. I lost 8 lbs and I was hooked. I remember thinking back then, “How am I going to keep up with all that exercising?” Little did I know… heh. 28 months later, I’m more addicted to it than I was to caffeine back then. It was a great way to start small, and perfect for someone who didn’t WANT any specific dietary requirements. However, through having a BANK of calories, I learned that a plate full of veggies and other good stuff was way more filling than say, pizza. I finally started learning how to make low calorie substitutes for things I was craving (thus the pita pizza and some of my best soups were born).
Weight: around 220
Fitness Level: leaps and bounds better – I had just spent the last month renovating our new house, and all but the last week before move in, kept up with my regular workouts. Could have never done that before.
Smoking: still probably about half a pack a day but whittling down
Diet: attempted 1200-1500 calorie per day, but realized it was the holiday season. Pretty much the same as above.
Exercise: had just lost access to a gym but gained a lot of space to do it at home, so I moved to 30 minutes of Dance Dance Revolution 4 times per week, and worked my way up to 45 and sometimes added a 5th day.
Verdict: I was amazed that I was able to continue my program through a huge life change (moving into the house, losing the apartment gym, losing the ability to pop home for lunch, etc), but it just worked. I had increased my exercise due to the fear of the holiday season, but honestly, I barely indulged and I lost about 12 lbs between Thanksgiving and NYE. I discovered that no matter what changed, it would still work. I made use of my huge house instead of a gym. I learned how to eat healthy eating most meals out. I learned that a little more eating just meant a little more exercise. And I started to look at myself in the mirror and see the makings of hawtness. I did lose track of strength training for a while which was less than bueno but baby steps.
Fitness Level: I accomplished a huge milestone. I ran around our local track 4 times without stopping. And then pretty much collapsed. But I ran for the first time in probably 15 years. And it felt gooooood. I was hooked. Anything daily life ceased to be an issue here on out.
Smoking: I was probably down to a quarter pack most days, maybe 3 packs a week.
Diet: Still trying to stick near that 1200-1500, and not doing too badly at it. Making fruit and veggies and water a priority. Had to learn to lose weight still on not only lunches out everyday, but also catered crunch food dinners. But I made it work with strict calorie tracking. Typical meals were pho, turkey meatloaf, salad bars, sandwiches, or whatever else I could order off a restaurant menu that was under 500 or so calories.
Exercise: We started crunch at work, so I got over my fears of the treadmill and started using the crap-ass work gym. I did on average 4-5 days per week. A typical week might be – short interval run and weights (probably about 15 mins, my sprints were about 5.5), medium run (2 miles-ish at around 5.0) and weights, long run (3 miles OMG!), and some DDR and more weights.
Verdict: Weight loss kept speeding along, and I really got hooked on running. It’s odd back then, I never thought about run/walk intervals, I just kept pushing myself to run as far as I could without stopping. I’ve never been a fan of run/walking. I find it hard to start again once I walk. I’ve had to introduce it into my intervals for .05 mile just so I get used to it (if I have to stop and tie my shoe or for a water break in a race). I was finally starting to get into exercise for the benefits of it itself, not just as one more thing I had to do to lose weight. Started finally being able to get into some old college clothes and just all around feeling powerful.
Fitness Level: I was able to run a few miles without stopping at a reasonable pace (I’d say at my all out, closing in on 10 minute miles for a mile or 2). Most of my dumbell exercises were 10-12 lb weights.
Smoking: Probably about the same – quarter pack per day, maybe 3 packs per week
Diet: I was in the gym more so I started needing to eat more, aiming for about 1300-1400 minimum. Just about the same as above but with homecooked healthy dinners instead of takeout.
Exercise: I finally joined a gym after finding out we were losing our office gym. One example program when I went to 4 day weeks (after getting used to 5 days a week) was day 1/3 30 mins running, 15 mins arc trainer, and full body weights, day 2 was 60 mins run and yoga, and day 4 was 60 mins DDR and yoga.
Verdict: I stalled for a bit and then started to lose again after I instituted the 4 day weeks. I was feeling pretty rockstar and fit. It was a *stressful* winter though so it took me forever to chew through about 5 lbs, but I was seeing improvement with both my weights and my running so it wasn’t so bad looking back (although back then, not losing weight was a TRAVESTY).
Fitness Level: Was good with the 10k distance around 10 minute miles pushing it HARD. 5k was around 9 minute miles also pushing it to the max. Increased a lot of weights (grabbing 15 – 25s for most exercises) and reps. For the first time, toyed with the idea that I felt athletic.
Smoking: 1-3 per day, minus some weekend nic-fests with the booze.
Diet: Aimed for an average of about 1500 most days (1300 weekdays, 2000 weekends). Moved work locations, so I could eat at home again so we were back on the wraps and sandwiches and homemade food at lunch and homecooked dinners like grilled chicken potatoes, and veggies or fish tacos.
Exercise: Half training. At it’s peak, 2 days of 5 mile runs + weights, 1 double digit long run, 1 3-4 mile tempo run + weights, one hour cross training, and two days of yoga. Yeah, it was too much training. I realize this now. But it did the trick!
Verdict: And this is about where my weight loss stopped and I started getting more caught up in training. I started the 3 month crazy ramp up from 10k to half marathon distance and found my love of running. I think I *might* have underate during training (and my body revolted with some binges and practically dragging me to the fridge for any easy carbs I could get). I did prove to myself that if I put my mind to it and put in the training, I could do anything, which was better than any crazy weight loss I could have accomplished.
Weight: 155 still
Fitness Level: recovering from 13.1 miles. Feeling fit but enjoying a break.
Smoking: 1-2 per day minus weekend nic-fits with booze. Two packs a week max. Maybe 1-2 days a week not smoking.
Diet: Trying to up my calories to match my activity. Most weeks, an average of 1700 matched well with what I was doing. Weeding out some junk food snacks and replacing it with good fats and protien. Allowing more healthy calories. Same type of meals but added snacks like pistachios and sunflower seeds and started loving the protien bars in the mornings.
Exercise: Just aiming to get some activity per day, 6 days a week. Some days, it was a run. Some days, dance class. Some days, weights. Some DDR and yoga. Sometimes it was fun roller skating. Burning on average about 2500 per week just doing whatever the hell I felt like.
Verdict: I feared that after this break I’d never run seriously again. But then I started training short distances and finally bested my junior high 1 mile record (7:50, now my fastest is 7:17) and got a 5k PR of 26:31, I realized that I’d be ok.
Weight: 155 (see a pattern)
Fitness Level: I am an athlete. I don’t snicker or cringe when I say this. It is SRS BUIDNESS!
Smoking: 1-3 per week, minus weekend nic-fits with booze. Maaaayyyybe a pack a week max, usually closer to 1/2. I don’t smoke more days than I smoke.
Diet: No longer tracking calories. Today’s food – protien bar, leftover homemade chili for lunch, pistachios, nectarine, and a bag of carrots and pea pods for a snack, homemade beef stew and some salad for dinner, and probably a hershey kiss for a sweet treat after.
Exercise: Training for another half more sanely. 3 days a week HARD running, 2 days a week milder cross training (weight/cardio circuits), and yoga.
Verdict: This is something I can do for the rest of my life. I eat what makes me feel good, and what fuels me to put in the training I need to accomplish my goals. There is allowance in my daily life for moderate indulgence – I might have a drink or four on the weekend. I might eat a piece of particularly good looking cake. But generally, I have leaned that I operate best on lots and lots and lots of high octane premium grade fuel. And keeping the tank topped off with the good stuff allows me to do things like run 8 mile at 8:50 pace.
So you see, it can happen. Without completely shocking your system, you can go from lump on a log to bonafide athlete gal. In 2007, I was winded walking up a flight of stairs. In 2010, I plan to run my first marathon. I don’t eat perfectly, I still drink, I eat (lean) red meat, and *shock-and-awe* I still haven’t completely quit the smokes. Wherever your fitness level is at – you can get to where you want to go and miles beyond it with just a little stubborness and dedication. I leave you to create your own self-masturbatory life experiences. Commence!