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Keys to Success!

One of the questions that I asked myself along my Journey is; What is different this time? Why do I feel so good about what I am doing and things are working so well? This page summarizes some of the techniques I found valuable on My Journey in addition to this page the concepts in Motivation and The Journey are also very important.

The Keys on this page fall into 3 areas: Mindset, Nutrition, Exercise

Mindset
I set long term and short term goals when I began my Journey, I recorded them in a journal I kept in an Excel spreadsheet along with my progress. I kept my goals to myself because when I told others where I wanted to go they generally tried to convince me I was crazy. The closer I get to my goals the less crazy I seem. I fine tuned my goals as I progressed on the Journey but was less flexible with my goals than I was with my plan on how I would get there.

I was on My Plan, conceived and designed by the person who knows me best (me), fine tuned by me. You get the idea, you can only stay on someone else's plan so long then you ditch it because it it doesn't fit you. Who is going to tell you what to eat the rest of your life? You will! You need to be driving the bus, not be a passenger on someone else's bus (not even my bus). I developed my plan around foods that I liked and that were excellent sources of nutrition. My exercise sessions use exercises I enjoy and are fun for me. A bad plan that is your plan is better than a professionals plan, because it is yours, you can change it, you can fine tune it.

I became very aware of keeping a balance between sustainability and satisfactory progress. Keeping the journey sustainable is very important, because as long as you are making any progress and feel OK, time is on your side. There were times when I got too aggressive with cutting back on food and began to feel like giving up, I also had times where I ate too much, made little progress, and again felt like giving up. This balance point is a fine line and is an important part of being in control.

I kept a journal and recorded progress, thoughts, weight and measurements. The foundations of my book and this site were laid in my fitness journal. Part of the records are the pictures that you see, it is hard to be discouraged when I look back and see how far I have come.

I linked my success or failures to changes in behavior, progress in exercise ability and making continuous improvement. Weight has become less important than waist size, how my clothes fit, did I stay on my eating plan. Weight is a fickle measurement and I would assert that most weight loss efforts end by stepping on the scale and not seeing expected numbers come up. I weighed myself once a week, and that was probably too much. Fat comes off slowly, my weight will change dramatically but fat is generally not going to come off faster than 1-2 pounds per week. Remember weight loss does not necessarily equal fat loss.

Another thing I came to understand is that there are some things you can control and some things you can't. I can control if I am getting up to exercise, I can control if I am planning my meals and tracking my progress, I can basically control if I am becoming more or less fit. What I can't control is what changes happen when, I need to do the right things and my body will work on where it needs to and get around to the areas I want to see progress in. Burning fat off your body can seem like watching grass grow, there doesn't seem to be much progress day to day. If you are fertilizing and watering and doing the right things it will eventually happen.

I learned to think long term, investing in exercising and considering eating as fueling my body instead of short term thinking (entertaining my mouth).

I continued to research and fine tune my nutrition and exercise plan to continuously improve.

Nutrition
I began early in my Journey to eat small meals several (6or7) times a day. If you  would rate hunger level on a scale of 0 to 10 where 0 is starving, desperate to eat and 10 is absolutely full (can't eat another bite), I would try to keep my hunger between 3 and 5 (narrow range on the hungry side of middle). I stopped my old habit of eating until I felt full(6 or 7), because 30 minutes later I would feel very full (8 or 9). I began to be able to judge how much I should eat to feel satisfied (5) about 30minutes after I was done. Eating frequently is also important to keep your metabolism up and to help prevent your body from consuming muscle for energy. Don't skip meals!

I counted my calories to make sure I was not getting too much food energy or not enough; too much and you make no progress, not enough and you get too hungry. Counting calories is tedious but necessary because I really never learned how to eat the correct quantity of food. One of the quirks about me is I don't need to have a big variety of foods from day to day. I eat pretty much the same thing daily but I rotate different foods into my daily plans. I will have weeks when I have potatoes and Yams about every day and weeks when I won't have any. This keeps the calorie counting simpler. I use an Excel spreadsheet to enter the number of portions of foods that I commonly eat and it totals the calories and grams of carbs, fat and protein.

I try to eat more fuel foods (carbs and fat) in the meals early in the day and have a higher percentage of Protein in my meals at the end of the day. That being said I would have some protein at all meals and wouldn't stop eating carbohydrates until 3 hours before bed. Early in my journey I would stop all eating 3 hours before bed but I found I slept better if I had an omelet or other high percent protein snack before bed. The worst thing you can do if you want to lose fat is to eat high fat, high carb foods (cookies, cake, ice cream) right before bed.

One of the mistakes I made early in my journey to avoid dietary fat was cutting way back on my protein consumption. Protein is important to provide the building blocks for ongoing cell replacement. Your body stores fat (obviously) and carbohydrates (glucose stored as glycogen) but it does not have much storage for protein, I eat some protein about every 3 to 4 hours through the day.

My nutrition plan with protein and carbs is a little unusual but not way strange, I am probably off the deep end on avoiding fat. Most of the last year I have eaten around 2000 calories a day, for a large guy that provides a decent calorie deficit. I have probably averaged around 250 grams of carbohydrates a day (50% of calories), 200 grams of protein (40% of calories), and about 20 grams of fat a day (10% of calories). Most experts recommend less protein and more fat, I think that's fine, they can eat whatever they want, this is my plan! Actually my theory is that I want to eat protein at a 25-30% level of what my normal calorie intake would be and I want my body fat to provide the operating fat for operations of the body. One of the funny things that has come out my research and fine tuning is that even though I am dietary fat phobic I take a fat pills (fish oil) every morning to supplement omega 3 fats.

Exercise
One thing that I need to remind people I talk with about what I am doing is where I am now is not where I started.  People say sure you are fit you are a stair running, resistance training, exercise freak! That is where I am, in December of 2002 I had a very weak back and could get out of breath bringing in the groceries. I began my exercise program very slowly, and gradually increased everything about it. I began with 3 blocks stacked in my garage giving me a 6" step, and stepped up and down for 10 minutes. I gradually increased the time, height of the step, added light weights and resistance bands. My step aerobic workout is now 45 minutes (1 side of a 90 minute cassette) I generally use enough blocks (same blocks) to give a 10 or 12 inch step. I lift weights, pull on bands, flex other little torture machines, dance and really act like a fool, it is great.

To add some variety after a couple of months of stepping I got out my NordicTrack skier and began spending 10min - 15min - 20min (you get the idea) until I worked up to 45 minutes on the Nordic track. I have a tread mill that works well for holding clothes, I do not enjoy it nearly as much as the NordicTrack which is challenging enough to keep me focused on what I am doing.

I mostly try to do aerobic exercises but one workout that I included at the advice of a friend was an exercise ball, I had seen these things in the stores and couldn't figure out what they were about. I got a resist-a-ball which included a video and began working with it. The routine really kicked my butt (at least it was sore), but after a while my back pain went away. The ball is a great way to strengthen your trunk (back, sides, abdomen, shoulders and chest) even though it is not really a fat burning aerobic workout it makes me much stronger and capable for the other exercises I do.

Other exercises that I do include some that I have just sort of come up with (playing around) like step chin ups (pictured on the left). This is a lot like what we called cheating on chin ups in grade school. The idea is to use your big muscles to move your body up and down a lot. I will do these 16" steps while pulling myself up for 15 minutes at a time them move on to another exercise, then come back for 15 more minutes. I will do over a thousand of these in a work out session, each time lifting my body weight up and down 16" (that is a lot of work, force X distance). Another exercise I enjoy but am pretty bad at is inline skating. This uses your big muscles and can be fun. I participated in a inline half marathon in the summer of 2004 and plan on skating more in the future. One thing I will recommend is WEAR A HELMET! (I can be such an idiot!). My inline skating reminds me of a wise saying - If at first you don't succeed, don't try skydiving!

Then of course there is stair climbing, which really suits me pretty well. The way I figure it I have the heart, lungs and legs of a 340 pound man, I'm like a mid-size car with a Cummins diesel drive train, I may not be real fast but I can pull pretty well. I train for stair climbing at Eagle Center which is also my church, I am very thankful for a great place to train that is so close to my home.

Another thing I get asked is, When do you find time for all this exercise? Remember I have a demanding job, wife and 4 kids, church activities, house, dogs and vehicles to take care of. My solution is getting up early in the morning to exercise. I began getting up a half hour earlier than normal, now I'm generally up at 3:30 or before. On the other end of the day I go to bed earlier so there is some sacrifice of time with the family in the evening. There is a bonus here, I used to sleep 9 or 10 hours a night and would drag myself through the days. I now sleep about 6 or 7 hours a night and am almost always up before the alarm goes off. I have a ton more energy through the day and am more productive and generally in better spirits. When asked about time I remember what my dad would tell me when I said I didn't have time: "You have time for everything you want to do."

I believe that exercise and eating go together, when I eat badly my workouts suffer, I just don't feel like working out after I have eaten with bad judgment. This makes for a death spiral, I over eat, so I say forget exercise, so I feel bad, so I over eat  and it goes on. On the other hand good exercise drives good healthy eating to fuel the works. I have a sign posted for myself in my office:

You worked too hard this morning to screw up your day with sloppy eating.

I built my workouts around my strengths (strong legs, good lungs) and what I enjoy. You are welcome to come run steps with me but feel free to find what works best for you.

Another key to Success is determination, a friend of mine writes a column for a local paper and wrote this article on determination that refers to my Journey, I thought it was a very good article.