Whenever I run into people who’ve not seen me in person since before the pandemic, they are surprised at how different I look today. Personally, I don’t see it, until I go looking for photos of myself before 2020, and then look at more recent photos. The differences are quite remarkable.
For some context, here’s a picture of me from WCEU in Berlin in 2019, next to a picture of me in the same shirt at the start of 2022, next to a picture of me from March 2023.
FWIW I hate smiling for photos, exactly because my eyes squint shut and I look like I’m half asleep, which I was that morning, after the Codeable experts dinner. 😁
I won’t go into the reasons for my decision to loose weight (it wasn’t related to the pandemic, the timing just coincided) but I would like to share how I managed it, for anyone else interested in the details.
I would also point out that this is not fitness advice, it’s just what worked for me, and it may or may not work for you. It is worth giving it a try though.
Essentially, my weight loss/fitness achievements of the past three years boiled down to a few things, consistently doing some form of cardio vascular exercise, supplementing that with weight lifting, and watching what I eat. However, the key element in how I did this was less about the workouts/eating plan, and more about the setting myself up for success before and after.
I’ve tried various different types of exercise programmes and routines over the years, and what ended up working for me was a combination of 5km runs and weight lifting.
For the runs, the beginner programme that I recommend time and time again is the Couch 2 5k. It’s really easy to start and follow, and there are apps for both iOS and Android that will guide you. My recommendation is to start as slowly as possible. Work towards safely completing each level of the programme, even if you have to repeat weeks. Every time I tried to rush onto the next level before my body was ready, I’d end up inuring myself. Take it slow, and build consistency. It took me 2 years to get to a point where I can run non stop for 5km.
Running however is not enough to promote fat burning. Time and time again I’m amazed at how adding weight lifting to a workout plan speeds up the process. Given that time was also a consideration, what I ultimately found worked for me was a 3 day push/legs/pull routine. Hat tip to my friend at Delicious Brains Iain Poulson who introduced me to this routine, it’s been the most effective way I’ve built muscle in a long time.
My workout consists of 6 exercises per day, 3 sets per exercise, up to a maximum of 12 reps per set, or to failure, which is ideally the last set. Each day I try and do at least one more rep overall than I did for the same exercise the previous week. When I can do 12 reps on each set, I increase the weight.
I don’t track calories, but I what I do is limit the food that I eat every day. At night my wife or I usually prepare a balanced meal for the family, which includes protein, carbs and vegetables. So during the day I’m very strict about what I eat.
Every week day, my wife and I prepare my food for the day:
- Overnight oats for breakfast
- A protein shake post workout (I usually train early or mid morning)
- A toasted sandwich with some celery or fruit for lunch
- A mid afternoon snack
- A pre dinner snack
Those last two snacks are either a protein snack bar, or rice cakes and cream cheese (which ever one I didn’t eat mid afternoon)
Every. Single. Day. Of. The. Week.
And yes, it does get boring. However, it does prevent me from over eating, and I can watch what I eat without having to weigh things or count calories.
The other changes I made was to not have seconds after dinner, and to try not to eat anything after 8pm. There’s no special trick in play here, I’m just trying to make sure I limit my food intake to only what I need, not what I crave.
I also replaced all milk with a non dairy option, and I drink my coffee black now.
You know that old saying “If You Fail to Plan, You Are Planning to Fail”? Well, it’s applicable to all things, including weight loss.
Every night, I make my overnight oats for breakfast, and pack out my lunch box and protein shake ingredients, along with the mixer. If for whatever reason I forget to make the overnight oats, I have a single goto breakfast I pick up from a local coffee shop.
I pack the same lunch every single day of work. I have two specific breakfast options on the weekend, for some variety, but I stick to them.
I pack my workout/running gear and leave it next to my bed, so that I don’t have to go looking for it in the morning, or forget to pack it if I’m running late.
I made sure to get a cost effective but decent set of wireless headphones, and kept them charged.
I purchased a Fitbit Versa to keep track of my runs and my workouts. Recently I was able to upgrade this to a Garmin Vivoactive. The tracking is for my own purposes, to see how I’ve improved over time.
When running, before I got the Fitbit, I purchased a running phone belt, and placed that with my running gear. I run to a running playlist, that I still listen to to this day. It keeps me motivated, and has the right songs at the right moment during my runs.
I use the same playlist for my workouts, but switch to a more “heavy” playlist about halfway.
I’ve used the same 2 playlists for 2 years now.
I have a Google sheet which contains my weight workouts for each of the three days in the week. It contains the workout, current weight, and reps for each of the three sets. I also have alternates on that sheet, should a weight/bench/machine I want to use not be available.
I’ve been using the same routine for the last 2 years.
At the end of the day, planning and building a consistent routine are what got me here, helped me keep the weight off, and I’m fitter and healthier than I’ve probably been my entire life!