How I switched from just counting calories to increasing my fitness workout

This is a part of a weight loss and fitness improvement series that I’m writing to share how I went from 222 pounds and unable to bike quite 20 minutes on a Peloton to 153 pounds and running 8–12 miles / day in only 18 months. I’m no superhero and I’m not getting to offer you some unrealistic story that's unachievable. I even have been on an 18-month, consistent, focused, data-driven approach to improving everything about myself from food to workouts to sleep (Aura Ring) to water intake (Hydrate). i will be able to publish tons more about the gear I used and what works, and what doesn’t but today is about how I began to supercharge my workouts. So far I even have written about the psychology of food and separately about the food services i exploit and today i'm getting to mention how I ramified my sports routines to extend consistent performance monthly . I’m not a world-class athlete and that i never are going to be (nor want to be). But I can run a 10k in sub 8-minute miles which for 52 years old and a busy, full-time job isn’t too shabby either. I can slip away after each day of meetings and put in 10 miles and still be back at my computer 1:45 later and typing away or Zooming (with a hat and still sweaty :)).

From Food to Movement

I quantified my food intake initially through Noom and later MyFitnessPal where I keep a food journal. It’s super easy to trace everything and at the top of the day it tells you not total calories but also breakdown by fat, carbs and protein (plus sodium, etc). I track my weight every morning very first thing once I awaken on a Withings Body+ scale.

Armed with food & weight data and goals I turned to increasing my exercise alongside reducing my calories. Noom had a rule that you simply could “eat 50% of all calories burned” in order that if I burned 700 calories during a day I could eat an additional 350 calories so I became extra motivated to burn those 700 calories! once I started I didn’t feel I had the time for monster workouts (and actually I wasn’t ready for it) but I found that I could use my Apple Watch to trace my walks and then everything became a walk. I became less curious about taking the subway in NY once I could walk 3 miles to my meeting just by leaving a touch bit earlier and taking calls along the way.

I stopped planning breakfast, lunch and dinner meetings and instead did walk-and-talks. I wanted to ascertain what percentage miles per day I could walk just doing the items I normally did a day . Calls were done on my AirPods and with my phone in my pocket. I became as obsessive about my daily walking targets as my food logging had become. i might meet people for hour-long hikes and not hour-long lunches.

I would plan each day around which calls I could take while i used to be walking and which meetings might be mobile. within the future"> at some point when my car was in the shop I asked my colleague Stuart for a ride home but I asked him to drop me a mile faraway from my house so I could walk the walk . I became a touch obsessive about hitting my daily targets. it had been only quarter-hour extra but i used to be happy to possess the additional mileage before supper time so I had more calories available to eat if I wanted them.

It became a life-style , a habit. Not overnight. I made small changes and locked in those habits. Then i might always search for other things I could add. it had been all about the numbers, the daily goals, the weigh-in every morning, keeping to my calories targets and not breaking my “streak.” it had been a game. i used to be gamifying myself.

I used the Apple Watch to point out what percentage days during a row I had hit my walking targets and my calorie targets and that i didn’t want to interrupt streak. I even found myself standing up in meetings in order that I could “close all three circles.”

I knew that i used to be giving over to a game, to numbers, to crazy mind games of streaks but i made a decision to embrace it. I convinced myself that if I broke streak i'd then not revisit on the horse. It’s just like the kids with their obsession with Snapchat streaks.

Then I found my next set of metrics to require me to subsequent level. After just four months I had hit my first big target getting my weight from 222 to 200 and now this number that seemed impossible once I began was now in view . 1–8–5.

I had never been ready to hit it before as 195–200 always appeared to be my yo-yo point where I’d revert back to bad habits and provides up whatever reducing diet need to me to 200. Not this point . i used to be ready for subsequent level.

The “Real Effort”

Next up in my bigger push was Peloton. I started riding again and located it exhausting. I started on my advanced beginner Ally Love rides for 20 minutes. i used to be hooked on the positivity. At a time where the planet was a continuing Trump dumpster fire of negative news I found Ally’s positivity so up lifting.

So I set a rule. i made a decision i might ride Peloton with Ally within the mornings BEFORE i might check my phone in order that i might start the day with positivity and not angst. I made it a rule with myself, “No phone until after Ally.” Then it became “No phone until after Ally, a shower and a coffee.” The longer I stayed off my phone the more peaceful my brain was within the mornings. I wasn’t getting to change the bad news, but I could delay myself from feeling mentally exhausted by it all.

This is when the facility of psychology really shone through. Having somebody telling you that “you can do it” and inspiring you to be your best self is actually infectious.

“Hit it! Quit it! And say you probably did it!” she would shout with an enormous smile on her face. I started saying it to my wife every morning. it had been a metaphor for “this isn’t so hard” and “I feel self righteous when I’m done!”

20 minutes became half-hour became 45 minutes. And there was such a lot data! I could improve my cadence and my tension and control outputs to ascertain what proportion total output I could neutralize a given time. I could compare myself to other riders or to my previous time. (Peloton published what percentage people ride each ride and you see where you rank). I didn’t got to “win” I just needed to return in round the place within the pack that I expected to for my fitness level (For me my goal was always top 20% on the bike, top 5% on runs).

It pushed me harder, it became my very own little competition with imaginary people i used to be riding against and with myself.

I became happier a day . More results a far better mindset and in fact better and better results on the size .

The a really important insight hit me. Whenever I wanted to “get into shape” i might compute with mind of a 20-year-old but the body of a 40-something (now 52) year old. I had a couple of great workouts but invariably injured myself whenever .

My Peloton instructor Matt Wilpers said there have been three things for all athletes to focus on:

Frequency > Duration

Duration > Intensity**

Only then do you have to specialise in level of effort / intensity.

His advice was this. Most folks attempt to come from being out of shape and do really hard workouts. And in fact we injure ourselves then pack up out and placed on weight again. He said it had been OK to not specialise in intensity.

** (Note that there's a sound place for HIT workouts “high-intensity training” to be mixed into other forms of workouts but I’m simplifying for those trying to enhance overall endurance and fitness)

If you’re doing 2 days / week are you able to make it 4? If you’re doing 4 could you create it 5? only you hit 5–6 days do you have to specialise in getting 20 minutes to half-hour to 45 minutes.

Frequency of labor outs matters far more than duration of workouts which matters far more than the intensity of workouts. most of the people get this backwards.

So I made it a rule I had to urge in a minimum of 5 Peloton’s / week. I had to try to to one hebdomadally (I’m on 65 weeks during a row as we speak and that i even force myself to try to to digital ones once I travel in order that I don’t “break streak.”

I would rotate between biking and running so I didn’t use an equivalent muscles every single day. Soon i used to be doing 7 days / week — some easy, some harder. Soon 45 minutes became 60 became 75 became 90. Now I can ride 2–3 hours no problem.

I started noticing that on certain rides people had much higher “output” (intensity) than I did. So I started texting friends and asking how they did it and getting advice. My cadence improved, my resistance improved, my output improved, my muscular tonus improved.

Towards the top of this era my fitness level had increased to some extent where I could start jogging outside again and that i did something I hadn’t done since i used to be 35. I started running within the mornings once I traveled and that i invited colleagues to jog with me. Because I had to awaken early i ended drinking the maximum amount alcohol in the dark . Except once I visited Lindel in Austin. But that’s a special story. And as punishment I still got my ass out and ran Lady Bird Lake on 4 hours sleep.

If my meetings were too early within the morning i might schedule one hour between our last meeting and dinner and rather than checking my phone or sending needless Tweets i might get during a 40 minute run then 20 minute shower. I started making my as many of workouts social as I could.

I felt amazing.

Then I made an error which caused me to plateau for 60 days and begin to ponder whether I had hit some intractable floor. I had stopped using Noom. I figured with the workout machine I had become I didn’t got to track what I ate any longer . I figured that my fitness would now carry me forward to the new me. i used to be between 185–190 pounds and that i figured this must be the 50+ floor. Nobody returns to one’s college weight.

“I’m 51 now so I’m not alleged to be but 190 pounds.”

Except that an easy Google search told me that the proper weight was for a person who was 5'10" (ok, ok, 5'9", well, it depends who’s asking) and it said 144–176. Shit. How was I in such fine condition and that i was still 10–15 pounds above the perfect weight for my height???

My big insight was this:

When our workouts increase we give ourselves “license” to eat more because we feel we’re earned that. The calories you eat often exceed the calories you burned. You can’t outrun the fork!

I came up with an idea . And everything changed

My Life Goal

I went back to foundational stuff. i noticed by then that just running or biking or walking but not listening to what I ate was an excuse on behalf of me to not be disciplined about food because, well, i really like food. I noticed that after a run Stuart would eat a bowl of fruit at Pret-a-Manger while i might order oatmeal, alittle sandwich, a restaurant latte AND fruit albeit we went on an equivalent run together. If I ran within the morning i used to be using it as an excuse for why i used to be allowed to order dessert at the restaurant after dinner.

No more. i used to be ready for subsequent level. and admittedly Covid had just started and that i thought, “I guess I even have to line an unrealistic goal like hitting 175.” I hadn’t done that since my 20s. I never dreamed of hitting 160 (let alone 153).


I decided to urge back to watching the “calories in” and switched from Noom to MyFitnessPal (MFP). Noom was great for getting me into the proper state of understanding why I made bad food choices but now i actually just wanted the simplest , most effective way of tracking what I ate.

MFP features a huge database of foods so typing in what i used to be eating was super simple. And it's a Universal Product Code scanner, which saves plenty of your time .

I found out weekly goals and a date by which i used to be getting to hit 175 (“yeah, right!”). I pushed myself to eat dinner earlier — usually before 7pm, stop drinking alcohol and stop eating after i used to be through with dinner. I created a rule of my two “cheats” after dinner. I could eat up to three popsicles (30 calories each) and/or one bag of microwave popcorn (100 calorie pack) and that i ate them right after dinner so I’d stop eating early. I started chewing Trident sugarless gum after this small snack as a “rule” that i used to be unable to eat anything after I had the gum. It became another gamification. I told myself if I broke the rule even once then the rule didn’t mean anything and it might lose its power. So I never let myself break the rule. it had been like Matt Wilpers telling me, “you didn’t happen here for 45 minutes just to blow your diet within the final 15 minutes!” I had to yell it into my very own ear.


By the time i used to be 185 I had subsided fearful about telling people i used to be trying to be healthier because by then it had been quite obvious. I had already lost 35+ pounds and it showed. So I started lecture my brother , Matt, about weight and my goals. We agreed to be accountability partners. i might take a screen grab of my daily goals in MyFitnessPal and send them to my brother.

I would send him the log that showed “daily calorie goal, total calories consumed, total calories burned” and I’d send him a touch note like “I drew the road today — no cheats!” or “I quite imploded and ate an excessive amount of licorice so I forced myself to ride an additional half-hour this afternoon.” It felt very nice to possess somebody else to be accountable to even thought truthfully it had been really just accountability to myself and that i was hacking it to make an external pressure to be my better self.

I got comfortable telling my brother my weight so hebdomadally I’d send my weekly log and that i became hugely motivated to possess somebody to send a graph thereto showed my burden by 2.2 pounds! It became addictive. kind of just like the Dopamine rush you get once you share an excellent photo on Instagram and every one your friends “like” it.


By now daily walks and rings in Apple were not ok . I needed harder goals, I needed more ambitious workouts, I wanted to tear through more calories so I could hit my weight targets. i used to be mentally and physically tough. i used to be able to compete. But how?

I discovered a feature on Peloton that had a monthly leaderboard. you'll enter challenge where you'd automatically log your miles and days ridden (or run) against any of your friends who joined the challenge. i made a decision in May 2020 to hitch the riding challenge so I gave up running for the month and decided to place myself on a 31-day biking challenge. Me against any punk who thought they might beat me on the bike!

I’m sure none of them were really even listening but I created imaginary competitors in my mind. Sincerely. My favorite opponent was Andrew Peterson. Why? Because he’s such a damn good rider. Every ride of his he’d ride further and harder in each half-hour of a ride than I possibly could. But I had an idea to “beat” him. i might just ride longer. I’d set my alarm and awaken early before work to urge a 90-minute ride in and that i knew he rode within the afternoons. My plan was to wear him down. to form him log in a day and think “crap, he put in another 30 miles!” By the time he was riding i might sneak back right before dinner and I’d get an additional 20–30 minutes in in order that I could get another 8–10 miles.”

Yes. i'm weird. Yes, i do know he wasn’t really listening in the least and didn’t even know i used to be riding. But I knew that the sport I played worked on ME. I needed a competitor to beat and that i didn’t want to lose this imaginary competition in May and that i set a goal of winning for the month and losing wasn’t an option. I even have to admit that some people did notice. I started getting texts from some friends saying “damn, you’re putting on plenty of miles on the Peloton this month!” (which only fueled me more because i assumed “see, people are watching the race!”).

My wife thought i used to be totally mashugana and that i mean it. i might tell her about my decide to awaken early and make Andrew wince when he saw what percentage miles he was getting to need to ride to beat me for that day. My plan was to demoralize him before he had to ride so he wouldn’t even dare attempt to go further. No, I never told Andrew any of this until perhaps now.

On May 31st the competition ended. I won. Not by tons , maybe 20 approximately miles but i used to be able to ride from 9pm to midnight that night if I had to so as to remain ahead.

I was so pleased with what I had achieved on the bike that month. My legs and lungs moved to an entire new fitness level. i used to be so pleased that I went out and purchased myself a replacement road bike and promised myself that because the weather was recuperating I’d get out and ride more outdoors.

I didn’t do a screen grab thereon exact end of month but within the middle of May you'll see what this obsessive activity and game I played (with myself) did to both my workout regime (727.7 miles between April 23 — May 22 or 24.2 miles / day.) which excludes all of the running and lifting i used to be doing.

This obviously isn’t Olympic-level biking but as you'll see it did burn a further 31,000 calories during this month or quite 1,000 / day and since i used to be holding myself accountable in MyFitnessPal and not just “eating anything I wanted because i used to be understanding so hard.” i used to be gamifying both calories in and calories out. Here are the results during that period as measured on MFP and sent to my brother within the middle of June, 2020.

I couldn’t believe it. 190 had become 185 then 180. once I started my obsessive Peloton burst i used to be already below 175 and 6 weeks later I had approached 160. 10% of my weight in 2 months with none crazy diet. i used to be ready for my next big challenge and set of tools.

That’s once I discovered Strava. And everything changed again. Strava has become my Mecca. it had been next-level community. it had been next level data and statistics. it had been next-level leaderboards and challenges and progress. Strava got me outdoors again and social again (with masks or Buffs) and made me connected to the physical worlds again.

But I’ll save that for subsequent post. This has already gotten long enough.

I just want to go away you with one final thought …

The hardest exercise decision is 1 vs. 0. Starting vs. not. Once you begin , doing the work isn't as hard as you imagine. As I type this it’s 4pm and that i promised myself I’d get during a run before dark. So I’m close to head out (and thus not check for typos, sorry). I did an equivalent thing yesterday late afternoon.

Ok. I did it. I’m back. Took my 18 minutes but got my butt out the door and on some hills.

I never desire starting. But because I don’t want to interrupt streak I always do. I start out by telling myself I don’t got to go far or hard, I just got to go. Once out it’s always easier to travel a touch further or a touch harder than my pre-exercise brain wants to check in to. Frequency matters! And Strava is that the tool that helps me gamify my frequency. I’ll explain why within the next post. except for now, here’s my Strava trophies for today, I only pushed myself for PRs a few of segments.

Oh, and now I can really enjoy my dinner tonight !!! Below is my current tally on MyFitnessPal with calories remaining. Yes, i actually do that a day .

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