How I Broke Through From Fat to Fit

It's surprisingly simple, but not easy

“The decent method you follow is better than the perfect method you quit.”- Tim Ferriss

During my school years, it was easy to stay in shape. For one thing, my young metabolism thrummed like electronic dance music, making it extremely difficult for me to put on weight — good or bad. During my sophomore year in high school, I played defensive end on the junior varsity at the impressive weight of 132 pounds. The guys who started ahead of me each weighed 165. I had time to work out and access to equipment, so all I had to do was show up and do the stuff. I was skinny but solid.

Tape measure, measuring tape, waist circumference, tale of the tape, fat, fit, fitness

Too many of these around the middle? Time to get moving!
(Photo by Peter Belch)

A few years later, I was working and married with a son on the way. The free weights and stationary bike that lived in the “spare” bedroom went into the attic as the no longer spare room became the nursery. The (I thought) temporary break in my training discipline did not cause me to change the way I ate. And about that same time, my Techno/EDM metabolism switched formats to dubstep. In a relatively short period of time, I put on a bunch of weight, reaching my all-time max of 207 pounds. I wasn’t in football shape — I was football-shaped.

The tape doesn’t lie

I didn’t know my weight until the company held a health fair and I got the news that not only was I 207 pounds, but at 25%+ body fat, I was clinically obese. Of course, I did what any of you would do on hearing such unwelcome news — I attacked the methodology and went into deep denial.

The stairs don’t lie

A few months later, I transferred to another manufacturing division in a product development role. Part of my work was to evaluate the results of the various trials I commissioned. This entailed carrying samples to the lab on the plant’s third floor. I began to realize this was a problem when I’d arrive on the third floor, sweating, out of breath and unable to speak for several minutes. So much for denial.

I joined the Y

Our house was less than a mile from the local YMCA, so we joined and I tried to work out with weights as I had done before I had fallen into such disrepair. I couldn’t get through a workout without getting nauseated. I now know this was postural hypotension — the pooling of blood in my lower extremities and away from my brain.

I tried aerobics and didn’t die

My good wife, a nurse by education, suggested I work on cardiovascular capacity before getting back into the weights. This was something of a challenge since the time at which I could work out was the most popular time for treadmills and bikes, so I was never certain I could get the work I needed in the time I had. She suggested I try an aerobics class. I protested that aerobics was for women, but tried a beginner class. To my astonishment, I could get through the hour without dying.

I found a twice-weekly class that incorporated weights and added a third class plus a session in the weight room once a week. A year later I had dropped 39 pounds without making significant changes to my diet.

The next chapter and the ones after that

After I got rid of the extra weight, I trained and began teaching the same weights-based class that had helped me. I taught the class twice a week for four years, introducing circuit training and supersets into the class. Having to train others provided all the motivation I needed to stick with it, so when we relocated, I began training at home – a practice I’ve continued to this day.

If you’ve been reading this blog a while, you know I recommend kettlebell training and calisthenics — particularly push ups and pull-ups. Circuits and super sets of these exercises will help you build muscle and good health more efficiently than the hours I used to spend in the weight room. The main thing is to commit to a regular plan and follow it. Chart your progress and prepare to succeed. Yes, you’ll miss a day here and there. Get back to it and keep going.

Part of being the best possible version of yourself is caring for your body. In an upcoming post, I’ll share some of what I’ve learned about eating as part of optimizing health. Meanwhile, what are you waiting for? Drop and give me twenty! Then twenty more…

So how about you? What is your plan for getting or staying fit? Share your successes or failures in the comment section below.


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic. Bring your best manners, please.

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