Couple of weeks ago I said I’d start running again. I found some time to squeeze in a few runs and it felt great to be back. I’ve been meaning to write about fitness for a while now and I’m doing that now.
But what’s a fitness post without a before and after pic right? Here you go.
That’s from before. Circa 2016.
This is from now. Circa 2019.
Let’s rewind a bit more. I was an asthmatic kid and although I played a little football and table tennis I wasn’t very good at sports. Towards my late 20s, I’d become extremely unhealthy. I was drinking almost everyday, smoking quite a bit and sleeping very late.
When I turned 30, I decided to change things.
I knew this was going to be tough for me because all my previous attempts at getting fit had failed. Mainly because I’d usually set a 3 month goal or some such time bound activity. But this time around, I took a really long view of fitness. I decided to slowly integrate it into my lifestyle rather than force it because I wanted results in 3 months.
This post about the “Persuasion Diet” by Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, made a big impact on me. The idea is to stop working towards goals and invest your time in developing systems. Read that piece alongside this one about practice and genetics and you’ll have a nice model to think about fitness.
In the last 4 odd years, I’ve gone down from about 80-82 kgs to a steady 70-72 kgs these days and I feel a lot stronger and happier.
Since I was no longer bound by time, I decided to take things slow. This made it easier for me to form habits and stick to it. I’m listing down a few things that worked for me.
🥃I cut down on drinking. If I was drinking everyday, it was now down to once a week or a fortnight.
🚴🏼♂️I started cycling to work once or twice a week on the days I managed to start before the traffic got worse.
🍜I started eating more protein and less carbs. This doesn’t mean I gave up on carbs. Just increased protein intake.
🏃🏽♂️I started running once or twice a week. This helped me build a good foundation for what was to come later. Good shoes are important.
🍽I started eating healthier. This meant cutting down on sugar and eating more fruits and vegetables.
👓I started reading up on fitness and watching some Youtube channels. This is super important.
You could come up with your own list of habits and take it from there. And you don’t have to do this all at once. Because if you do, you’ll probably make it too hard for yourself and quit altogether or worse yet, injure yourself. I’d take one thing, do it for about 3-4 weeks, then add the second thing and so on.
Running has been core to my fitness journey. I’d run a few days and do some strength training to get better at running. You could pick another sport and tie your training around it. I feel better this way because I was constantly getting better at one thing and getting fitter.
The big overall idea is to keep a calorific deficit on a daily basis. I did this by eating smaller meals, drinking lots of water, cutting down on high calorie foods and snacking healthy.
I also found out my maintenance calories. Here’s a calculator that helped. Once you figure that you, start eating under your maintenance calories and add some light exercise. Make sure you warm up and stretch well to prevent injury. I can’t stress enough on how important it is to avoid injury.
Running has a lot of science to it. But the easiest way for me to get started was by using the Nike Run Club app. I bought good earphones and comfortable shoes. Shoes are super important. Asics is my current favourite.
In my first week, I couldn’t even run 1 kilo meter. By the fourth week, I was up to 5 kilo meters. The Nike Run Club app has some good guided runs and it taught me how to breathe right, pace my run and listen to my body.
Hydration is a whole different subject. So I won’t go into details here. But it’s important. Drink lots of fluids after your run and also between your run if you are training for more than 45 minutes.
Sleep and rest
Your body grows stronger when you rest. The growth hormones do their work while you sleep and your muscles are rebuilt while you sleep. Do not sacrifice sleep for anything else. Aim for 8 hours or so. It also helps you be more productive in your waking hours.
Once I had built up a decent amount of endurance, I started hitting the gym. Anyone who is into fitness will tell you that steady state cardio like jogging won’t help you lose weight and look better. You might also lose some muscle and become “skinny fat.” This is true. You need to challenge your muscles for them to grow. But before you hit the gym, it’s good to build up to a place where you are able to prevent injuries.
Weight training gives you a huge boost in your first year. And no, women don’t need to worry about looking ‘muscular.’ Because that’s not how it works.
I still spend most of my time learning the techniques. It’s not important how much you lift. But it’s important how you lift. A perfect dead lift with manageable weights will do a lot more work than a deadlift done in terrible form.
For almost over 2 years, I never made a social media post about getting fit. It was my secret mission and everyday, I felt like I was becoming a “better version of myself.” My first Instagram post about running was when I did my first 10k. Usually, when you post on social media, people will say nice things and you will feel gratified. It somehow affects my will power to really make a difference.
Eating right is important as well. In fact, it's a lot more important than working out. In my case, I started switching unhealthy snacks for healthy snacks like fruits and such.
Once I started weight training, I started using a protein supplement to meet my daily protein goals. Pro tip: Every fitness star on Instagram will hawk some product or the other. Do not fall for it. Do your own research.
The important bit about nutrition is to start learning more about the food you eat. You might become obsessed with reading labels at first but slowly, you will get a sense of what’s good carb and bad carb and good protein and so on.
👉🏾PS: Nike didn’t pay me to write this piece