Week 119: Reality Can Be Frustrating

Social media, blogs and the like are usually a method for people to show off the highlight reel of their life. When you follow somebody on Instagram or Facebook or just read their blog you usually only see a curated version of things they want to brag about. Sometimes a blog may just be somebody’s woe is me complaints or rants but usually you just get the best of their life.

My goal with my blog is to help people achieve their big goals. If I just talk about the most positive aspects of that process I am doing an incredible disservice to my readers and may actually be hurting instead of helping. So this week’s post isn’t about all the fun, positive parts of my journey. This week is a different message.

Sometimes reality in a fitness journey is frustrating. There are times when this new healthy and fit life doesn’t seem to be going the way I would hope. And that is just reality.

This week I saw the memory of social media of when I achieved my 50 pounds lost milestone just 2 years ago. I shared it and celebrated that I lost 50 pounds in just 100 days. I was super excited and felt unstoppable back then. Every morning I would step on the scale to see just how much weight I lost since the previous day. I would always lose and was just melting away – thus the name Operation Melt.

The fast daily progress during my weight loss journey was amazing. Every day I would hit some new low weight, some new exercise milestone or some other achievement. It felt great and I became pseudo addicted to constant, measurable progress. This is just how my competition-focused brain is wired. Unfortunately that level of daily success is absolutely unsustainable. Fast progress and daily achievements are a thing of the past. And that sucks!

Starting with my weight, which I know is just a number, I am not exactly where I hoped I would be right now. Once I hit my low weight at the end of last year (194) I decided that I was going to maintain in the 189-199 pound range. Unfortunately that has turned out not to be practical for my body. As I started building more muscle mass my lowest practical weight is a little higher than I expected.

My maintenance weight is closer to 200-201 pounds which is still 125 pounds lower than where I started. It is healthy and I am proud of it. But it isn’t where I wanted it. Plus I feel like my weight goes up a pound overnight if I just look at a salt shaker because I am very sodium sensitive from a weight perspective despite consuming over 140 ounces of water per day (a sign that I am at my lowest healthy weight). This is all super normal, it is reality, it is nothing to be frustrated about but that isn’t how my brain is wired.

I logically knew that the weight loss was unsustainable but maybe I wasn’t as emotionally convinced.

As I have talked about many times I became a runner through my weight loss journey and have learned that I love running – I also love long (4+ mile) walks. When I first started running I was predictably slow but I kept getting faster and faster. I got consistently into a 9:00 to 9:30 per mile pace. I was expecting to get to a consistent 9:00 or faster pace for 5k and 10k runs. That has turned out to also not be the case. I am not getting much faster as I am running. There is nothing wrong per se, this is healthy, but that doesn’t feed my hunger for achievement.

Increasing my running speed is going to require a committed effort and it will be slow. When I impatiently try to force myself to get faster the result tends to be pain. Overdoing things in attempt to achieve a quick victory is a recipe for disaster. So much so that I fear that I may have given myself a foot injury, potentially a stress fracture, just a few weeks before my next half marathon.

On top of not speeding up in my runs I have also taken a break from ramping up my weight lifting capacity. I need to focus on correcting some things with my lifting form before going back to ramping up the weight. If I don’t do this I could injure myself and that isn’t what I want. Pausing on ramping up weight to ensure I stay healthy is the smart, safe, right decision but it doesn’t help feed my achievement hunger either.

Through my fitness journey to date my body has changed. I have see a significant increase in muscle size and tone. I have seen a massive decrease in my size. I continue to see my body taking shape and am happy with my progress. But as you can imagine, I tend to focus more on the problem areas that I don’t’ make me as happy. Those are the areas I see by default.

Yes I am happy and proud of my progress. Yes I am living my healthiest life ever. Yes I love where I am. But my love of rapid progress with self improvement still tends to dominate my emotional brain. So that means that reality can be a little frustrating.

Week 118: Why I Believe in My Vision

I just finished a run that I really didn’t feel like doing. I thought it was going to feel crappy. It, in fact, felt a little crappy. I was up too late last night. My nutrition wasn’t good yesterday. I didn’t drink enough water before I went out. I was still a little sore from Friday’s run. Plus I waited too late to go out (after sleeping in) and the sun was up and a little too warm.

If I knew it wasn’t going to be a good run why did I go out?

I am running my next half marathon, the Columbus Marathon, in less than a month. I have a goal of finishing with a time faster than my last half marathon. I am way less likely to achieve this goal by sitting on the couch and not trying.

This idea is at the core of the vision statement I built for Operation Melt: creating a world where no goal dies of loneliness.

I almost had a different life story. I was on the way to an early death because of not taking care of myself. I was 325 pounds, had undiagnosed high blood pressure, high stress, poor nutrition and a slew of other things I have since corrected.

Making the situation worse is that I watched this happen with my dad. I watched him live his entire life dramatically overweight. He developed diabetes and he had to have a back surgery caused in part by lack of movement. He was confined to a walker and a scooter and he was only in his 50s! Then I watched as he faded away over a few months of going back and forth from the ICU to a skilled nursing facility due to some unexplainable illness followed by aggressive hospital-acquired infections. This all led up to those final moments when I was in the room as he finally faded away from the world at age 59. I was on this same path though not as dramatically as him.

My weight had always bothered and embarrassed me. Growing up as the fat kid you get picked on and bullied through your childhood. Then you grow up and it continues in much more subtle ways. You become very sensitive about it because it dominates your life. Will that chair support my weight? Where can I find new clothes that fit me? Why did I eat all of that?

For years I wanted to fix my weight but I never did. I was on a path where the goal of fixing my weight almost never had a chance. I almost didn’t even try.

When a goal that is important to somebody is never even attempted that goal dies of loneliness. I want to help stop this from happening. I want to stop it for myself and I want to  help others give their goals the attention that they deserve.

This doesn’t mean that every goal will be a success. Failure is ok. It is respectable to set a goal, give it your best effort and fall short. It isn’t fun and it doesn’t feel good to fail. But it is definitely better than never even trying.

I finally chose a different path. I chose to give my goal life and I achieved and exceeded it. Now I am living my healthiest and happiest life and I couldn’t be more proud that I did. By choosing not to let this huge goal that seemed completely out of reach die of loneliness I also proven to myself that I can do anything. That makes me unstoppable!

Do you want to be unstoppable? Join me in building a world where no goal dies of loneliness.

Week 117: New “Normal”, Too “Normal”

I spent some time this week analyzing my running so far this year. My hypothesis was that I am running less frequently or shorter distances and am slacking a bit. I was speculating that this was why I wasn’t reaching my speed goal so far this year. My logic was that I wasn’t running enough to keep improving.

The results of my analysis: I am wrong.

I am not running less. I average about 30 miles per month of focused, non-race running time minus any treadmill runs. I excluded treadmill runs because I tend to do those about once per week as a warm-up for my weekly personal training sessions and I tend to experiment with run/walk intervals so that would skew my results. I also excluded the miles upon miles of exercise walking that I do every week (15+ miles this week alone).

So why did I think I was slowing my frequency and distance. When I include races and treadmill runs I am averaging about 10 miles of running per week. How did I think I was slacking off?

It is because this is my new normal!

When I first started running it was out of character for me. It was always new, different and a stretch for me. I was always excited when I could run a mile. I thought it was a major accomplishment. But this is in the past and the newness has worn off.

Each week I run nearly 10 miles, I have a personal training session where I push myself to keep increasing my weight-lifting capacity and I walk at least a half marathon distance per week in exercise walking. That is a lot and it is more than most people do. But, in my mind, I thought I was trailing off because new normal feels too “normal” for me now. I have improved so it feels more comfortable than it used to so it doesn’t feel like I am doing anything impressive.

The lesson I learned this week: I judge myself very harshly for getting better despite the fact I am still killing it.

I let negative self-talk and self criticism fool me into thinking I wasn’t doing a good job.

So what can I do (and you do in your own journey) to counteract this? How does somebody continue to see the reality that what they are doing is, in fact, impressive and not just slacking off? To start with I know I need to purge phrases like “I only ran 5 miles” and “my run was pretty slow” from my vernacular and celebrate my continued commitment to my goals instead. I also need to stop assuming that I am doing less work simply because I am adjusting to my new “normal” in my fitness life!

Finally, embracing the way my head is wired, I need to keep looking at the data. I need to not let the runs just get intermingled with the other exercises. If I want to keep improving I need to pay particular attention to my running history. If nothing else it will stop me from making gut-feel hypotheses that I am not working hard!

On a related note the Columbus Marathon is just 7 weeks away! Not sure if I am ready but the calendar stops for nobody. I know I will finish, I know my time will be decent, I know that it should be better than last year (this will be my 7th 13.1 run in just over a year) but will it hit my stretch goal and be faster than the Cap City Half?

Thanks so much for reading and for your support. I sincerely hope that my experiences and my tips can help you achieve your own big goals. If we work together we can build a world where goals never die of loneliness!

Week 116: How Am I Doing?

Every year the Columbus Oktoberfest is my favorite festival in Columbus. I love celebration of German heritage, the polka, the beer, the food and all of the other fun sights and sounds. We have been going for years but things have changed a bit over the past couple of years.

Two years ago I posted the following post when leaving Oktoberfest.

Last year I made good on this goal and I ran the Oktoberfest Meiler Vier (which is a 4-miler) and set my very first personal record, or “P.R.” The race wasn’t easy but I did it and it was a meaningful moment for me. I wrote about this in my blog post Week 64: A Proud Moment.

Well it is Oktoberfest weekend again and I ran in my second Meiler Vier race. Once again it was a PR for a race over 5k.

I thought it was an overall personal record but I had a ridiculously fast race on St. Patrick’s Day that I haven’t been able to replicate since. I don’t know why but I am not able to get significantly faster and that race was a clear anomaly.

I am seeing progress with my pace but not as much as I had hoped. It is a little frustrating but I know I am progressing. So, with 2019 nearing 75% complete, I thought this might be a good time to reflect on how I am doing with my goals.

So I looked back at my final blog from 2018 to reflect on the goals I shared at that time. Note that I also have others that are more private.

Weight

Let’s start with the elephant in the room and that is my weight. My weight loss was the focus of the first 18 months of my Operation Melt fitness journey. But the weight loss switched to maintenance at the start of 2019. My weight goal for 2019 was:

End my weight loss journey and maintain a healthy, comfortable weight between 189 and 199 pounds using the techniques that helped me be successful (tracking, good decisions).

Unfortunately my maintenance mode didn’t work for me as well as I had hoped. I learned that I was underestimating portion sizes and, in maintenance mode, I didn’t have the cushion that I had in weight loss mode to accommodate. So I saw my weight tick up a bit in the first half of this year.

Let me pause here for a reality check about my weight. Let’s start with the “tick up a bit” comment… we are talking about a total of 7 average monthly pounds difference between my December/January low point and my July high point of this year – which was during my vacation.  That is just 3% of my body weight and I have brought it back down to only being up 4 pounds on average. So these are micro adjustments.

I need to keep these weight changes in in the broader context. Being up 4 pounds versus my 131 pounds that I decreased still means I lost 127 pounds and maintained that loss.

Also there are some other facts I have figured out about my weight situation. I have gained a lot of muscle which is going to cause my weight to go up a bit and I should be happy about that.

Plus my initial goal of maintaining at 189-199 pounds may not have been practical and healthy. Given how much my daily weight fluctuates now and how much there seems to be a floor on my low weight I am very likely at my lowest healthy weight. My doctor has even warned that the 189 point may result in muscle loss and that I should avoid that.

Overall I am healthy, I am happy and I am able to maintain my weight loss over the long haul. Do I have to periodically make adjustments to stay where I want to be, yes! But these adjustments are called life and my weight is just one small aspect of my fitness and my life. Plus it is lagging measurement that I can’t control on a daily basis. So I need to focus on the things that I can control.

Running

My second fitness goal for this year was focused on being a runner.

Continue to improve as a runner by running 2 half marathons (April, October) and average one race per month with continually improving times. Get to a 5k pace consistently under 9 minutes by summer.

This is another goal where I have had mixed success this year. I have averaged one or more races per month through this year starting on new years day. I have run 6 5k races, 1 4-miler, 1 10k, 1 half marathon race and 1 solo half marathon. That has been a lot of running so far this year and that is just the races not the normal runs through my week.

I have already run two half marathons (1 formal, 1 informal) and my next race is the Columbus Marathon half in October. I also am registered for two 5k races in November and one in December and I still haven’t signed up for anything on Thanksgiving morning. So I am on track to exceed that goal.

As for my pace I am not on track to achieve the goal I set forth. Since March my average pace for my runs hasn’t decreased. When I try to run too fast I end up with pain and a lengthy recovery from the run which sidelines me for a few days. So I intentionally throttle myself to a more comfortable pace. Plus I have injured myself a bit and might have a stress fracture on my toe (but I think it is just a bruise or sprain) so that means I am slowing myself even more.

One thing I could do better with my pace goal is to approach it with more structure. So far I have said that I want to achieve the goal and then I just keep doing the same thing over and over again just hoping to get faster. I think I need to put a more structured plan in place to make this happen.

I continue to do better as a runner (comfort, posture, etc.) and I am doing better on a race-for-race basis so I am mostly happy with my pace. It isn’t where I wanted to be but that may not have been a realistic or advisable goal for this year.

Other Fitness Activities

Finally I had two other fitness goals for this year.

Build a more structured workout routine and continue to build and shape my body while setting new personal records.

Try new things including yoga, CrossFit, climbing and other activities.

I have done an ok job with these goals so far. I have increased my bench press from a starting point of about 50 pounds total to 135 pounds as my maximum so far. That is nearing 70% of my body weight which is amazing. My goal was to get to 100 pounds by June and I exceeded that goal and kept going.

Plus I am definitely seeing progress with building and shaping my body. I have made so much progress that people say that my current headshot photo doesn’t even look like me today. Plus there are lots of people who don’t recognize me at all.

The goal of trying new things has been less successful. I did yoga for a few weeks but then skipped a couple of weeks due to snow storms causing cancellation. Then I just didn’t go back and probably need to. I still want to try spinning and CrossFit but it just hasn’t been a priority for me.

My Story

Finally I have made progress through this year with telling my story and helping others. I have had a couple of small-scale coaching opportunities to help people achieve their goals. So that has been positive but my telling of my story has been even better,

This year, really just a few short months ago, I launched my book. While the sales have been a little slower that I had hoped it is selling. I just hope my readers are getting some benefit from the book. And there are still some surprises coming.

On a related topic my change in my day job has also helped bring my story to life. I am legitimately using project management to help people live their healthiest lives every day. So I am working in a position aligned with my calling. How many people get to say that?!

In summary, with 2019 almost 75% done, I am very happy with my progress versus my fitness goals. I am also happy with my progress with many of my non-fitness goals. But I still need to finish strong!

How are you doing with your goals this year? Are you happy with your progress so far? Let’s keep focused and end strong so we can work together to build a world where goals never die of loneliness!

Week 115: My Story is Not About Weight Loss

So what, a guy loses weight through diet and exercise, how is that a story?

I know this is what some people think about my Operation Melt journey, my blog and my book. People lose weight all the time and it is usually (not always) just about math. Eat fewer calories than you burn through exercise and you lose weight. Why is my story unique and why should you care?

My story is not about weight loss, it is about personal transformation and that is why it matters.

Yes I lost an impressive amount of weight in a short time. I feel better physically. I can run a half marathon, deadlift my body weight and, soon, bench press my body weight. My heart is in great shape and my blood pressure is self-regulating versus using medication. I am in the best health of my entire life. All of that is true and I am proud of all of it. But that isn’t my story.

What I am most proud of is that I succeeded with a goal that I had essentially given up on ever being able to pursue. I almost gave up on a goal before even trying because it was too hard. I had no confidence in my ability to succeed. I was so intimidated and scared of failing that I almost let my goal die of loneliness.

Instead of letting my goal die of loneliness I made a different decision. I decided to try. I decided to apply lessons I have been teaching people for most of my adult life through project management, leadership development and mentoring. I chose to go all-in and walk the talk and have faith in the outcome.

I decided to have a little bit of confidence in myself.

This is where my true story lies. My story is that it is within your power to choose to build a different life when your current life isn’t working for you. It is also about learning to live by your own playbook instead of following somebody else’s rules.

Will my project management based approach work for everybody? I like to think it will but maybe not. On the other hand my broader story is universally applicable. You have power over your own life and it is time to create your own proud, inspirational story. It is time to take that first step and give yourself the chance to succeed versus deciding that your goal is too hard to even try. It is time to stop letting your goals die of loneliness.

Is there a chance that you will fail? Absolutely! But wouldn’t you rather have some confidence in yourself and give yourself a chance to succeed? Even if you do fail wouldn’t you prefer to say you tried and that you gave it your best?

The results of my story aren’t just physical. There were many unexpected benefits that I experienced and continue to experience every day. One of these unexpected benefits is that I am way more confident in myself and my ability to succeed at anything that is important to me. I have more self-confidence than I have had in 20 years.

Some of my new-found confidence stems from unlearning some bad behaviors. I had let the world teach me to doubt myself and my abilities – that was learned behavior! I let the world tell me that I had to follow a certain playbook of continually climbing the corporate ladder with no focus on myself along the way. I let the world tell me that I was just my job, I was just a doer and that my voice didn’t matter.

That old me is gone and the new me has choices and great power. I am going to be myself. I am going to tell my story. I am going to sing my song. I have a calling, a philosophy and a process that makes it successful.

Most importantly I am going to make an impact on the world by helping others learn to do what I did. And that doesn’t mean that anybody else has to lose a single pound. Not all goals have to do with health and fitness but all goals deserve a chance.

Does this sound like a story of weight loss to you?

The best part is that you can have a similar story. If you try, if you take the risk, if you have confidence in yourself you can also succeed at building your best life. I sincerely hope that my story can help you. I know that we can all work together to build a world where goals never die of loneliness!