Hi there. My name is J.D. Roth, and I’m the other half of Get Fit Slowly. In theory, anyhow. In reality, I’ve been pretty scarce around here for the past few months. In fact, I haven’t written about my progress here since July 9th. That’s almost nine months without an update.
No, I haven’t been gestating. There are a lot of reasons for my absence, but they all boil down to one thing: For a long while, I didn’t make fitness a priority. I seem to be back on the “get fit slowly” bandwagon, though, and I’m hoping to pop in with an update every couple of weeks from now on. To start, here’s a review of what’s been going on over the past nine months.
Run run away
When last I left you, I was training to run the Portland Marathon in October. I’d trained in 2008, but had to stop due to injuries. Last summer, injuries sidelined me again, and it made me glum. I hoped I could recover to be ready in time.
I didn’t recover. In fact, I haven’t run since last July. But you know what? I’m okay with that. I love running, but I’ve come to the realization that I need to take care of first things first. I literally need to walk before I can run.
So, I spent much of last summer learning to incorporate activity into my daily routine. I had mixed success for a while, but by September, things were humming along on all cylinders. I’d found a rhythm:
- I discovered that the 2.5-mile walk to the nearest city isn’t that big of a deal. In fact, it’s actually kind of fun. There’s a semi-secret “linear park” (which isn’t fully developed yet) that lets a fellow walk on a dirt path, sheltered from traffic, while reading a book. (Yes, I learned how to read while walking!) And if I want to walk briskly, I can do that too.
- Meanwhile, I suppressed my frugal instincts and splurged for a new bike. I picked up a Breezer Uptown 8, a bicycle built for city riding. I love this bike. It’s by no means a racer, but is instead a fantastic vehicle for running errands or doing a Sunday morning ride with friends. I’ve learned that if I carry a pack, I can ride 4-1/2 miles to the natural-food store, pick up a moderate-sized load of groceries, and ride home. It’s great exercise.
By September, I’d incorporated both of these activities into my life, and I was feeling awesome. I was walking 5-10 miles every day. My weight was dropping slowly but steadily. But more importantly, I felt good, both physically and mentally.
Alas, this three-week excursion to paradise eventually came to an end. At the end of September, I began my book project. For the next four months, I spent nearly every waking hour writing Your Money: The Missing Manual. I felt like I was chained to my desk.
At the beginning of the book project, I did take a break for the Portland Marathon. No, I didn’t run it. But since I’d already paid my entry fee, I figured what the hell. Why not try to walk it? And I did. With Mac’s help, I finished the course in 7:01:25. (My top tip for other marathon walkers: Loosen your laces midway through! The last few miles were sheer agony for me, but like an idiot, I didn’t do anything to deal with the problem. Turns out my feet had swollen, and I could have eliminated the pain by simply loosening the laces.)
Around the time of the marathon, I weighed in at 193 pounds. Over the next few months, however, that weight ballooned. In fact, during the final three months of 2009, I gained 20 pounds. I finished the year at 213, my heaviest weight ever.
How’d that happen? Well, as I said, I felt chained to my desk. I simply refused to make time to move. Because it was cold and rainy, it was easy to make excuses not to get outside to walk and bike. To make matters worse, my diet became almost exclusively Convenience Store Gourmet. Whenever I reached a stopping point (or, more usually, felt stressed), I’d walk across the street to pick up a bag of chips, a candy bar (or three), and a soda. Pork rinds, cracker jack, hot tamales, corn chips, Twix and Mounds, Mike’s Hard Lemonade, pepperoni sticks, Twinkies — this was the shit I was eating.
Basically, I’d completely abandoned the idea of getting fit slowly. I was getting fat quickly.
The year of fitness
On New Year’s Day, I set a single goal: I resolved to lose 50 pounds in 2010, dropping from 213 to 163. After some thought, I realized that perhaps I was focusing on the wrong thing. Yes, I want to lose weight. But I really want to be healthy and happy again. To that end, I dubbed 2010 the Year of Fitness.
January got off to a slow start. I began by tracking my calorie consumption, trying to avoid the convenience store (where I’d become good friends with Joe, the owner), and struggling to find something — anything! — I could do for exercise.
I ended January at 209.8 pounds. I’d lost 3.2 pounds.
In February, I made time to get back to the gym. I couldn’t believe how difficult it was to exercise. It was tough to lift weights, but walking and biking seemed difficult, too. Still, I tried to squeeze them in.
To celebrate the completion of my book, my wife and I took a one-week trip to Belize at the end of February. This turned out to be a pivotal point on my fitness journey. While we were in Central America, we were active every day. We walked and hiked. We rode horses and swam. I felt like we were always moving. At the same time, our food choices were limited. Our remote jungle lodge offered just a few options for each meal, and the portion sizes were reasonable; they didn’t serve jumbo American-sized meals.
Flying home from our vacation, I thought a lot about how great I felt after spending a week being active and eating small meals made of real food. How could I incorporate these lessons into my own life?
I ended February at 206.6 pounds. I’d lost 3.2 pounds.
In March, I took steps to put some of what I’d learned into practice. I’m again working with Lauren Muney, my wellness coach. I’m tracking calories. As the weather improves, I’m making time to walk to lunch or to bike for errands. I’m cutting the crap food out of my life by forcibly avoiding temptation. (I won’t even allow myself to go the convenience store to buy a bottle of water, for example.) I’m not 100% successful yet — I had some peanut M&Ms last week — but I’m doing much better.
I’m also making smarter choices for my day-to-day meals. I’m choosing smaller portions. I’m trying to focus on whole foods (something I’ve always shied away from because of the cost). When I do have “bad” food — such as at my bacon-themed birthday party last weekend — I’m consciously choosing moderation. And I’ve begun to attend a local CrossFit gym. (I picked a place that does scaled workouts. For example, this morning I did weight-assisted pull-ups instead of weight-enhanced pull-ups. The gym’s blog features our workouts of the day. Plus I love that Cody, my trainer, has struggled with fitness himself in the past.)
I don’t want to make it sound like I’m suddenly doing things perfectly. I’m not. But I am making fitness a priority, and it feels good.
I ended March at 203.4 pounds. I’d lost 3.2 pounds.
Getting fit slowly
During the first three months of this year, I’ve lost nearly ten pounds. (I’ve actually lost the same amount — 3.2 pounds — every month.) In the past, I would have been upset that I wasn’t on pace to meet my goal. Not now.
Will I meet my goal to lose 50 pounds in 2010? Maybe. Maybe not. To be honest, I don’t care anymore. My focus now is to create a life that makes me happy and healthy. (Though I’ve mostly described my physical progress here, I’m finding that much of what I’m dealing with is mental, of course. No surprise, right?)
I still have a lot of stressful stuff coming up. April is the Month of PR with my book and personal-finance blog. I hate PR. I loathe it. And I’m sure to feel pressure to eat crap to cope. I hope to find ways to channel this stress into more productive avenues, though.
In the weeks and months ahead, I intend to keep up with CrossFit (starting with my gym’s “foundation program” in mid-April), to learn to make healthy and tasty meals at home, and, especially, to walk and bike around the neighborhood again. I’ve signed up for Cycle Oregon in September, so I also have a big fitness goal at the end of the year.
And, if it feels right, maybe I’ll even drop in at Get Fit Slowly now and then to document my progress.