I'm James Maxey, the author of numerous novels of fantasy and science fiction. I use this site to discuss a wide range of topics, with a heavy emphasis on cranky, uninformed rants about politics and religion and other topics that polite people attempt to avoid. For anyone just wanting to read about my books, I maintain a second blog, The Prophet and the Dragon, where I keep the focus solely on my fiction. I also have a webpage where both blogs stream, with more information about all my books, at jamesmaxey.net.


Friday, September 01, 2017

Five years later--A Fitness Update

Five years ago, I announced on this blog that I intended to change my lifestyle. You can read my public declaration here. At the time, I weighed 283 pounds. I had a very sedentary lifestyle. I was on my feet at work a lot, but the second I got home I was in a chair. Every now and then Cheryl and I would go biking or hiking, but it was rarely more than a few weekends each month. Back then, a five mile ride was a lot of biking and hiking two miles was an event

Interestingly, rereading my post, I had a goal of getting my weight down under 240. Losing 40 pounds seemed like an almost impossible goal, but I felt determined to go for it. Six months later, I'd lost sixty pounds. But, could I keep it off? And would the changes I'd made to my lifestyle for better eating and more exercise stick?

As to whether I could keep it off, not so much. Once I hit the low 220s, I lost the focus needed to slowly starve myself trim. I also encountered a paradox of exercise. Losing my excess weight had made exercise more enjoyable for me, but the more I exercised, the hungrier I was. I got back into the 230s pretty quickly, then the 240s, then settled into a very long, slow gain where I probably averaged gaining 1 pound a month, until I reached a new high of 273 last year.

I hadn't let most of my weight gain panic me, and convinced myself that a lot of my new weight was muscle, which, to a degree, it probably was. When I started my weight loss kick, I wore pants with a 42" waistband. Four years later, I was wearing pants with a 38" waistband. Even at my thinnest after my initial 60 pound loss, I'd only gotten down to a 36" waistband. Gaining back two inches didn't seem earth shattering.

But, still, 273 was a wake up call. In February, I went back onto MyFitnessPal, recording all my calories. I also switched mostly to low carb for my diet. Finally, I bought a scale that synched to my smartphone to track my weight daily. The nice thing about this is that the program automatically averages out my weight and graphs it each month. In August, my average daily weight was 243.8--Close to 40 pounds below my starting weight 5 years ago, and very close to my goal weight I imagined back in my original blog post. Since June, I've gone back to pants with 36" waistbands, and even these feel loose.

Do I regard my weight curve over the last five years as a positive or a negative? It would have been healthier, obviously, not to have that slow climb back into the 270s. If my weight were my only fitness metric, I might be a little worried. Luckily, it's not.

Five years ago, I'd only just started using a CPAP. Five years later, I'm still enjoying the benefits of sleeping full nights. I'm still mostly asthma free and my thyroid levels  have been steady with medication for years. My chronic health obstacles all turned out to be something that science actually knew how to fix.

The area where I made the biggest change, a sustained change with no backsliding, is in exercise. Late in 2012, I put an app on my phone called Endomondo that would use GPS to track the miles I spent walking, biking, hiking, and kayaking. This wasn't a step counter. It would only log miles if I turned it on and dedicated time to actual outdoor activity. My background activity of walking at work, around the house, or out shopping would be ignored. I had to actually be exercising for it to count.

In 2013, I logged 1017 miles. This felt like a very big deal. But, my love of round numbers made me want to average 100 miles a month. So, in 2014, I logged 1235. I beat that in 2015 with 1276, hit 1371 in 2016, and for 2017, with four months left, I've already logged 1281 miles. This total includes a July where Cheryl and I each managed to log 300 miles. By the end of September, we'll have beaten last year's total, and getting to 1500 miles this year looks like a minimum goal.

The title of my post five years ago was Lifestyle Changes Ahead. Five years later, I think I can say with some confidence that the change was successful and shows every sign of being permanent. When I saw my mother a few weeks ago, she commented about all of the adventures Cheryl and I undertake and asked if we ever just stayed home on the weekends and did nothing. The answer was no. It's practically unthinkable that we'd waste a Saturday by not using it as a platform for a big bike ride, kayak trip, or hike. These things aren't things we have to work into our schedules. They've become the default assumption of what we'll be doing with our spare time, and everything else now gets worked in around the miles we're going to travel. It's not that life doesn't throw obstacles in our path. I've had several big job changes during these last five years that have disrupted my schedule more than once. And, of course, Cheryl underwent a long, difficult treatment for cancer. But by then, our lifestyles had been so changed that she didn't have to go out and force herself to exercise while being treated. The exercise was going to happen no matter how she felt physically, because it made her feel good mentally.

I think that's the biggest insight I can give about our lifestyle change. It's a simple concept, but difficult to really understand until you've experience it yourself. The exercise has changed our bodies. We're stronger, tougher, and more resilient than we were five years ago. But, it's also changed our minds in the same direction. Exercise used to be something we'd dread. Now, it's something we crave, and we don't feel right until we satisfy that craving. At the end of a fifty mile bike ride, we're exhausted. We stink. We ache, and our limbs protest when we try to move them. And it's wonderful. Sore, tired, still soaked in sweat, we feel utterly alive. That's the biggest key to changing our lifestyle. We learned a new and better way to enjoy life.