Chris Palmer

Strategy, Energy, Education, & Technology

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As some of you may know, I fell into something of a fitness kick earlier this year. I cleaned up my diet, started hitting the gym, and started running. All with the goal to get back to what I weighed in High School (~185 pounds). in early November, I reached that goal.

Weight Progress

I debated writing a blog post about this (it’s far more personal than I generally am here), but I’ve found that a lot of people are curious how I did it. It’s understandable, as we live in a world full of fad workouts and crash diets. The fact is, my story isn’t really all that exciting. Regardless, if you can get anything out of this before crafting a New Years resolution, it’ll have been worth it.

Background:

In September 2012, I started a great job with Accenture. Being comfortable with most aspects of life, I didn’t think much of my fitness (I think of this as pretty analogous to the “freshman 15” that many University students go through). In February I finally stepped on a scale to find myself peaking between 235 and 240lbs (completely depending on which early weigh-in I take as gospel).

Needless to say, something had to break. I got in touch with my buddy Adam Wasylyshyn from my Students’ Union days, who just happens to be a runner, a kinesiologist, and a personal trainer. He gave me some pointers, and I immediately started crafting a plan. A plan I started two days after that weigh in and continue to this day 9+ months later.

The Diet:

So what was my plan? Like I said, it’s not a miracle milkshake cure or a magic pill. I worked out my BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate – Essentially the Calories your body would burn if you were completely inactive). Set a target net calorie (after exercise deductions) rate approximately 500-700 below my BMR. For me, this worked out to around 1500-1700 Cal/day. At this rate, I was losing 1 to 1.5 pounds per week.

mfp

Almost every day looked pretty much the same. The goal was portion control, and getting the best calories I could with my busy work schedule. A typical day looked like this:

    • Breakfast – 1 cup Special K (w / 1/2 cup skim milk), 1 cup skim milk, and an Activia yogurt
    • Lunch – Subway 6″ Turkey Breast & Ham (w/ Swiss), Coke Zero (or water), 40g Baked Lays potato chips
    • Dinner – Either a light pasta, with chicken or shrimp and steamed vegetables, or a ‘Gourmet steamers’ ready-made dinner, plus 9 Ritz crackers

Generally no beer and no desert (with exceptions). Though I would have multiple granola bars / fruit throughout the day, and yogurt and milk after most runs. If I was going to drink, I stuck to whisky (~70 calories / ounce).

The big key for me was understanding why I have failed at this before. I would give in to having fast food and consider that reason enough to quit. This time, nothing was off the table. If I wanted to eat McDonalds, I ate McDonalds. If I wanted a beer, I had a beer. The key was making sure it all occurred within my calorie goals, working out more when I consumed more.

From the Couch to the Gym to the Track

I started my fitness regime in the gym in my building. Early on, it was made up of light weight training, and 30-60mins 4 days a week on the elliptical or the treadmill. After 2 months, I began to find this boring, and my motivation was waning.

In mid-may I began running at Princes Island and along the river downtown. If anything was obvious, it was that my 5k times were horrendous, and needed a whole lot of work. Regardless, I loved the atmosphere, and I was hooked.

Total KMs

Over the course of the summer, I would run 280km, and thanks to my being staffed in London, would have the opportunity to run on two continents and in 4 cities in 3 countries. Even my leisure experiences this year are tied to running.

In early August, I ran my first formal race in 3 years. The last time I did a 5k, my time/km was nothing less than embarrassing (I had not trained whatsoever). While billed as a 5k, this race (Color Me Rad) was actually only 3km. Regardless, I managed to finish in the front 5 of my heat.

Color Me Rad

In September, I moved out of downtown, but did my best to stay motivated. That same month, I would run my first and second practice half-marathon distances. By early November, I exceeded my weight loss goals. After meeting my goals, I took the following two weeks a bit easier, but I got back into my routine in December.

Average Time/KM

Of course, this is just my experience. A one-size fits all solution doesn’t exactly exist. It’s always a good bet to secure some professional help before you get started. Regardless, if you take weight loss right down to its essence, for most of us it is really just basic thermodynamics. Burn more energy than you consume, and you will eat into stored energy. Keep that up long enough and you will lose weight.

Technology & Gamification

Last year, I wrote a long research piece for Accenture espousing the growing role that gamification is taking in the fitness realm (unfortunately this was lost along with the other blog content). When I wrote this, I had no idea how important it would be in my own journey. My platforms of choice included:

      • MyFitnessPal – MFP was by my side during the entire process. I started logging my calories before I changed my diet, and kept logging until I reached my goal weight. The MFP community was great for bouncing ideas off, sharing recipes, and inspiration. (MyFitnessPal.com)
      • Adidas & Nike – Adidas miCoach was my first GPS tracking platform of choice, and my companion for most of the year. In September I made the move over to Nike+. Nike+ has a significantly more advanced social aspect, allowing me to compete against friends from around the world. (Adidas miCoach | Nike+)
      • r/LoseIt – The LoseIt subreddit was great for inspiration. While they often get caught up in one fad diet or another, the community in general is incredibly supportive. Highly recommended if you are already a redditor, and looking for some inspiration. (r/LoseIt)

What’s Next?

Winter Gear

I plan on building on this lifestyle change in 2014. I recently signed up for the 2014 NYC Marathon lottery, and intend to run a number of 5 and 10km runs over the course of the year, as well as the Calgary half. If you would like to run any of these with me, or just casually run any other time, drop me a line.

A huge thank you to everyone who has tolerated my sometimes difficult diet, and supported me along the way this year. I likely wouldn’t be writing any of this without you.

Wishing you a Happy New Year and a most excellent 2014.

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