Or, at least, how I am losing weight and getting fitter.
First off, the disclaimer: I’m not a personal trainer or fitness expert. I’m a bit of a recluse these days, so when I do see people that I haven’t caught up with in a while they all ask me what my ‘secret’ is to losing the weight that I have. There really is no secret: eat less, exercise more… This is easier said than done though. The tips below are what I have found to work for me with my personal goal of initially dropping a bunch of fat from my person. Once the body fat percentage drops I will be aiming to add more strength/muscle mass, and eventually work toward some fitness goals such as mud runner events and charity / fun run type stuff.
If I can get results then anyone can. Here’s what I did:
Make a plan / routine / program
- There’s little point in reinventing the wheel when it comes to exercise programs, and unless you have a personal trainer to put a plan together for you then it’s usually easiest to go with a ready made package. Under advice from Seeton_ I went with P90X2. The good thing about the P90 series is that it comes with a schedule of workouts to follow for the whole 90 day program. Also, even though you want to punch Tony Horton in his chiselled jaw for making everything look so easy, he’s a pretty entertaining guy. This was important in keeping me motivated in the early days.
- Start reading up on health / fitness magazines. I subscribed to Men’s Health magazine which not only has a range of workout routines (important for when I finish up on the 90 day P90X2 program so I can start to create my own workouts) but also a bunch of great recipes and motivational articles.
- Motivate yourself by looking to your ‘idols’. I don’t really mean ‘idols’ in the fanboy “I soooo want to be like mr. xxx” sense, more like something to work towards. If you want the crazy low body fat of Ryan Kwanten or massive intimidating traps like Tom Hardy as Bane, do some googling and find out what they do. Make note of any diet or workout tips and build an Evernote database or something.
- Make a diet plan. The easiest way to do this is to use a smart phone app, and I’ll go into this further down the page.
Stick to it
- Make time for your health. I have a family with 2 kids, study externally at University, and a full time job with 2 hours of commute time a day – but I still find the time for 1-2 hour long workouts a day. You have no excuse.
- I fit my morning workouts in at 5am. I’m used to this now, but for a lot of people becoming a ‘morning-person’ is a steep learning curve. Help that curve by forcing yourself to get out of bed – I moved my alarm clock into my ensuite bathroom next to a pile of my workout clothes so I literally have to get out of bed and pretty much step into my gym shorts to turn the alarm off.
- Change behaviours to avoid temptations. These are the little things that all add up at the end of the day:
- Don’t carry any loose change on you so that you aren’t tempted to buy that little chocolate bar mid-morning.
- If you go for a walk and you know that it goes past that delicious smelling set of snack bars and bakeries, take a different route (or see above and don’t carry any cash on you)
- Swap your cola of choice for the no-sugar variant (Coke Zero or Pepsi Max) – a can of full calorie Coke takes 90 minutes to run off at 6 km/hr.
- Plan ahead. If I know that I’m going on a food and booze bender later in the evening, I’ll try and squeeze in a Zombie Run or a quick P90X Kenpo session to offset the impending kilojoule-fest. Don’t be afraid to have a blowout day every now and then though.
- Make your goals realistic and movable. Don’t set yourself crazy expectations, but if shit happens in life then don’t feel bad about resetting your goal posts.
- A good way to work towards a the larger goal (e.g. lose 10 kg) is to set smaller goals that you can knock off each couple of days (e.g. do 5 more jumping jacks today)
Write everything down
- Exercises – Reps / weight / bands / any issues you have. The P90X / X2 programs I mentioned above are great because they come with worksheets that you can use to record everything. Another great motivator is to sign up with Fitocracy and start keeping track of your workouts in a kind of fitness-social-media-RPG environment. It’s also a great place to chat with other like-minded people to keep you on the straight and narrow.
- Calorie-counting used to be a dirty hyphenated-word, but now that we are in the age of smartphones it’s easier than ever to keep track of your kilojoule intake. This was absolutely vital for me – being accountable for every piece of crap that I put into my mouth outlined exactly how much crap I was eating and helped me put a stop to it. Use an app with a big database of foods and preferably a bar code scanner. I use ShapeUp Club, but mates of mine use My Fitness Pal with great results too. These apps will also keep track of your body metrics and your daily exercise and adjust your intake budget accordingly.
- This is a funny one that I read somewhere that’s based on the age old weight loss tip that if you eat slower you’ll shed kilos. The theory is that your brain is a little slow on figuring out when you are full, so if you eat fast enough you can overeat without even knowing it. For westerners, using chopsticks to eat foods will force them to fumble through their meal at a much slower rate hence allowing them to know when they’ve eaten enough. Not sure how effective it is, but the other upside is that you spend more time actually enjoying your food as opposed to scoffing it down.
Take less measurements, but do them twice
- Things change on a daily basis – hydration, pooping, fatigue – and there can be a fluctuation of up to a few kilograms of body weight every day. Muscle also weighs more than fat, so choose wisely which body metrics you want to measure your success with. Once you choose your metrics make sure you measure yourself at the same time of day, with the same equipment, in under the same conditions i.e. weigh yourself on your bathroom scales after using the toilet on Sunday mornings, wearing shorts and a tshirt.
- Take two measurements over consecutive days, take the average. Remember, you are aiming for long-run goals; don’t be de-motivated by backward steps every now and then.
The more the merrier
- It’s easier to motivate yourself when either you have someone to push you on, or just someone to shoot the shit with about your last workout. Seeton_ was the man responsible for getting me onto the fitness wagon, and every working day we will share war stories from the zombie apocalypse or how much we want to punch this man in his smug, fit, face.
- You don’t have to be the ‘salad’ guy at social events alone if you have someone else that understands your lifestyle.
My results so far (Warning: Fat guy photos below)
- Stop here if you don’t want to see my own personal fatty photos, but I think they are a good indication of what can be achieved in a short amount of time.
- Data taken from ShapeUp Club (12 weeks, 5300KJ / day, P90X2 workout program)
- Body fat dropped from 48.1% to 34.9%. Photos taken at 0 weeks, 4 weeks, 8 weeks and 12 weeks.
The journey continues
I’ve come to the end of the P90X2 program, but this is only the beginning of my healthy lifestyle change. I’ve started reading books, articles and other people’s activities on Fitocracy to tailor my own workouts in the future. For now I’ll get started on the original P90X program until my body fat percentage drops a bit more (target: 25%), all the while working on strength programs and then looking to build more muscle mass.
I’m always interested in talking to people about their own success stories and what has worked for them, so Tweet me or leave me a link to your own blog in the comments. I hope some of the points above help people in their own journeys to better health, or better yet motivate people to change to a healthier lifestyle.