Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Phases of Fitness

In a little over a year, I’ve managed to shed 50 pounds.  I’ve reached a level of fitness I’ve never experienced before.  It’s pretty awesome stuff.  The funny thing is, I’m only getting started.   

I hear a lot of “How did you do it?”  I think most people want to hear some miracle product was involved or that a special pizza-and-chocolate diet got me where I am now.  Sorry, all.  It was nutrition and hard work.  Nothing else could put me where I am now or get me where I’m going. 

For those who want the real skinny (pun intended), here’s how it happened. 

A Personal History

Metabolically speaking, I had a charmed childhood and adolescence.  I burned calories without bothering.  In fact, I was underweight, not reaching 100 pounds during high school.  I ate without care and gorged on junk food.  Exercise?  Not if I could avoid it. 

Had I looked closely at my parents and their pictures as children, I would have seen the same thing.  It was when they reached their late twenties that the weight came on.  The same happened to me.  By the time I married at the age of 29, I was 135 pounds.  Entrenched in bad diet habits, I kept eating and the weight kept coming. 

By the time I got pregnant 10 years later, I was up to 175 pounds.  I tipped the scale at 205 when my son was born.  I dropped the pregnancy weight plus a few pounds, dropping to 166.  Over the next 2 years, I rocketed back up to 196.  My blood pressure started to get ugly and I knew I was in trouble. 
Horrified by my weight, I allowed very few pictures of myself to be taken. 
You can get an idea of how bad it got by the size of my arms in this shot.
I am also wearing my wedding band on my pinkie because it no longer fit my ring finger.

I took up walking three miles every other day.  I also got into kettlebell workouts.  I kept an eye on my caloric intake.  I was thrilled to get down to 150 pounds and looked forward to weighing even less.  My author picture at the top of this blog was taken at that time, so you can see I looked halfway decent.   Here's another picture taken around this time period:

Then I had a really awful winter during which I fought back-to-back rounds of strep throat, ear infections, and bronchitis.  I came close to pneumonia.  I spent almost two months flat on my back.  Exercise fell by the wayside.  Once I got better, I did not go back to it.  In no time I was eating crap again and not working it off.  I went up to 185 pounds and became a size 12. 

The First Phase:  Couch to 5K

Just before ringing in 2013, my hubby said, “I need to take weight off.  I’m going to try this running program called Couch to 5K.  You in?”

Running?  Me?  I hadn’t run since the one-mile requirement in middle school.  Just chasing my son a few feet left me huffing and puffing.  Was he kidding? 

Yet I knew from experience that when one spouse is trying to lose weight, the actions of the other spouse can make all the difference.  I wanted to be supportive, but I had the distinct feeling I wasn’t going to last long at this running thing.  Still, I said I’d try.  We set off to achieve our goal of completing a 5K in 9 weeks. 

Good heavens.  I thought I’d fall over and die that first day.  The program starts with running 1 minute and then walking 90 seconds and alternating until 30 minutes are up.  It didn’t sound so bad until I was actually doing it.  I was in hell.  At the end of that first session I told Peter, “Let’s never do this again.” 

But we did.  There was much grouching and grumbling, especially from me.  Then one of my knees blew out with only two weeks left until the goal of running 30 minutes straight was achieved.  Peter kept running.  I settled for walking when I was able.  Two months later, I started running again.  This time I got within one week of running 30 minutes when the knee went again.  Another month of recuperating went by. 

By that time I loved running.  Yes, as hard as it is to believe I am writing this, I LOVED running.  I couldn’t wait for that bad joint to get to the point where I could do it again.  When I could, I cut my running from three times to twice a week, hoping to avoid another blowout.  It worked.  Late October, I ran five kilometers.  I continue to run twice a week, and I’m now working on cutting my time down. 

The Second Phase:  Fitbit

 Around April of last year after seeing good results from our 5K project, Hubby was pretty gung-ho about taking off weight.  He researched and found the Fitbit.com site.  It measures progress for those who join, aided by gadgets that count steps, calories burned, and miles covered.  We both opted for the Zip device to measure our daily numbers.  The site also issued challenges to walk 10,000 steps/5 miles a day.  It tracked what we ate.  It told us when we were over our calorie budgets for our weight-loss goals. 

On days I didn’t run, I made sure I walked those 5 miles.  Weight was peeling off me now at a safe, steady pace.  Fitbit also prompted us to count calories.  Peter was definitely not in the mood to fudge his numbers.  (Fudge!  Oh, nevermind.)  He bought a food scale and measured everything to the gram.  He took over all the cooking because he knows what a lazy ballparking creature I tend to be.  How’s that for a perk! 

The Third Phase:  Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle

By the end of the year, Peter had met his weight-loss goal.  I was about 8 pounds away from mine.  Things were looking rosy, but I was beginning to worry.  What came next?  I’d conquered the 5K, trimmed down to a size 6, and I was soon to hit that magic number of 130 on the scales.  I know me...once I made it to my goal, there was the danger of saying “I’m done!  Pass the wings.”  Then I’d be back where I’d started, or worse. 

I started looking around for motivation.  I knew I needed to get into some strength training to be really fit.  I don’t want to look like Ah-nold the Governator by any means, but I did want to tone up.  At the tender age of 46, I’ve got those old-lady droopy arms and a lower ab pooch from having a 9 lb, 6.6 oz child nearly 8 years ago.  I still have work to do. 

Searching around led me to the book Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle by Tom Venuto, a trainer and bodybuilding pro.  I found a lot more than just tips on bicep curls.  This was a whole fitness program that hits the four main areas of getting fit:  motivation, nutrition, cardio, and strength training.  It’s become my bible for fitness. 

I’m already seeing results, though I’ve got a way to go before I hit my new goals.  That underarm flab is disappearing, as is my baby belly.  My abs, arms, and legs are actually showing some definition after less than a month of being on this program.  I’m wearing size 4-6, depending on the designer, my waist is down to 29.5 inches, and I’m at 25% body fat, which isn’t that bad.  I’m excited to see what happens in the next few months. 
Bathing suit ready!

The Take Away

I’m glad Peter pushed me into getting started with that Couch to 5K, though I thought it was the most horrendous thing in the world for the first few weeks.  Doing just that one thing created a domino effect:  gains in that area led to trying another level of fitness, then another, and so on...and now I feel like I qualify as a fitness junkie.  Had I done everything all at once in the beginning, I think I might have given up a couple of months into training.  But adding one thing at a time did the trick.  I didn’t get overwhelmed and found myself actually motivated to push to the next level.  I’m even planning to ask for a gym membership for my birthday.  Who, me?  Hell yeah!


  1. So well written and so very true. Not only have you and Pete benefited from this journey, but you have been an inspiration to other like my wife and me.

  2. You and Pete inspired us to do what we already knew we had to do. Randy has lost about 50 lbs and I am down 16. Still have to keep the momentum, but it is so worth feeling better and looking better!