Part II – Run Forrest Run
Let me begin by breaking the suspense, I have never run a marathon or a half marathon till date. So sadly, no victorious selfies on Facebook. For that matter, I haven’t even run an organized 5k or 10k. However, my fitness journey did begin with running, a whole lot of running. My fitness train has had two major stations till date. It was a superfast express from 127 to 114kg. Then the gradual slide from 114kg to 103kg. Finally broke the 100kg barrier to my current form. Note that, I am intentionally calling it ‘current form’.
Armed with very little foresight, I am more the ‘Find the tiger first and then look for a weapon’ kind. It doesn’t work for everyone but that is the only way I know how to make it work. Retrospective introspection of my fitness journey shows a mixed bag of both, good and bad decisions. But wisdom gleaned over time taught me that avoiding bad decisions is not the goal but continuously learning and fine tuning your approach is. I will try my best to convey all that I have learnt over time. Before I start, fitness, much like food, offers a wonderful array of options. Choose a cuisine you understand and, more importantly, one that you are comfortable with. You don’t want to end up with Pasta and a avial on the side. Take my word, though individually brilliant, it is not a good combination. What you are about to read is what worked for me and not a secret recipe.
Lesson 1: A little exercise is better than no exercise
The first mistake I made was budgeting an hour a day for exercise. For that meant, many a day when I woke up late I ended up using the ‘ I don’t have enough time’ card. I am a lazy person. An extremely lazy person. Each time before I had succumbed to my laziness, but this time around I was desperate and determined. I decided that I am not skipping my morning exercise for anything. Even if it is only a 15-minute walk. Soon I realized that it was only the initial inertia that I had to overcome. Most of the days when I had convinced myself that it will be only a 15 minute walk I would end up clocking close to an hour working out. All without compromising any other aspect of my life. I was still spending time at home. I was still reaching office at the same time. I only had to get started. Once it was routine, I made it work.
Lesson 2: Log your progress
Be it food or my workouts, I started logging them from day one. It has evolved from a scrappy notebook to a digital log but its purpose remains the same. For me, it acts as a motivator and a gauge of progress. Everyday religiously I used to log my meals, weight, the distance I ran and my timing. Any day that I didn’t work out was left blank. Another wonderful attribute of mine, along with laziness, is being obdurate. Usually my pig-headedness is channeled towards awesome things like which side of the sofa I get to sit on or where I leave my towel after bath. I decided to channel that into something a tad more useful. It took sometime but all those blank entries started bothering me. Similarly, with respect to food, the application used to budget for the amount of calories I can consume based on my goals. Any day I indulged was marked in red. I can’t lose to a machine now, can I?
Lesson 3: As they say for everything these days, ‘Gamify’ the experience
A little into the journey I realized that I needed to make it fun to ensure consistency. The first challenge that I set for myself was to better the distance I had covered in the previous week. Of course, I failed at times. But the feeling of failure spurs you on. It is no longer just a missed workout but a defeat.
Soon I started competing with others. The ‘Nike run’ application has a feature where you can create groups. At the end of each week it shows who covered the most distance that week. The same was also aggregated for a month. That meant a failure in the first week usually ended up with me working extra hard for the rest of the weeks to make up. Fortunately, in my group, there was a marathon runner who used to cover 160–180 kilometers per month. That is nearly 25km of running per week. It became an obsession for me to beat him. It took some time coming but the feeling of elation, when I did best him, made it all worth it. And by that time running had become a habit.
Lesson 4: Don’t fall for the ‘Oh, you have lost so much weight’ remark
The one comment which often sidelined me from my fitness schedule. I feel it is the worst compliment to a person who has lost weight. I used to feel like Superman, like the one with a capital S on his tee, whenever someone observed this about me. This feeling accumulated overtime is dangerous . It always ended with reckless indulgence. Now I have learnt to keep reminding myself of the end goal. The one trick that has worked for me is wearing something that is one size too small for me. A day spent in a shirt which I have to scrape off myself at the end of the day negated any inclination towards recklessness. Don’t get me wrong here. My intent is not to stop feeling good about myself but to not lose track of the goal.
Lesson 5: Invest emotionally in your workout regime
I don’t know if this is something is applicable to all but it did wonders for me. The one thing I did right at the beginning was to dedicate this whole crusade to my dad. It ensured my intrinsic motivation stayed up. It gave me the push on days when I felt lazy. It allowed me to stay determined. Additionally, the fact that I haven’t done anything spectacular in my life helped. All this fat was my chance to inspire. It was a chance for me to make my dad proud and show my son that anything is possible. I am sure you can find ways to stay emotionally invested in your fitness. Probably for your children or parents or spouse(s).
Alright, that was how the runner in me originated. But soon I realized that fitness goals change. It was not about running anymore. It was not even about losing weight anymore. What did it change to? More importantly why?
I will end this post with an imaginary conversation between the runner version of myself, referred to as ‘Runner’ and the present day me – ‘Trainer’.
Trainer: “Oh, you have lost so much weight!”
Runner: “Yes. I run bro”
Trainer: “Only running? What about resistance training? Do you have a schedule for your muscle. groups?”
Runner: “I lift weights but no schedule, that is for body builders. I just want to lose weight.”
Trainer: “Mmmm. Alright what about your diet?”
Runner: “Of course modified my diet bro. I have given up white rice, sweets, chocolates, ice cream and in general anything that gives me joy in life”
Trainer: “How do you manage to sustain it then?”
Runner: “Cheat days bro. I kill it on cheat days.”
Trainer: “Alright, do you account for your Macros?”
Runner: “Say what?”
How I lost my X factor – My journey from XXL to L(Part II) was originally published in Hacker Noon on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.