a year of losses and gains

For just over a year now, I’ve been working to improve my health and fitness. I’ve been pretty public about my weight loss and about the improvements to my overall fitness levels, often measured by how fast I can run and for how long. Because I believe my journey may be of encouraging assistance to others, I’m writing to share what I’ve learned over this past year.

photograph of the author at 235 pounds

This is me at 235 pounds. I could fit into size 38 pants if I sucked my gut in. I suffered from pretty intense acid reflux, sleep apnea, and back pain.

This is me at 170 pounds. I have a hard time throwing anything away so I still have some 32 waist pants from 20+ years ago when I was last that size. They’re a little baggy on me now. After over a decade of daily omeprazole use, I quit taking it over seven months ago and am completely free from all symptoms of heartburn and GERD. I am free from back pain and ever since I hit my first goal weight back in March, I’ve been able to ride a regular bicycle. That’s something my lower back hadn’t allowed in years. My family says I still snore, but I no longer frighten anybody as I don’t sound like I’ve died mid-snore any more.

My first target weight of 185 seemed ridiculously optimistic. I had battled to get to 225 from 235 over the previous year and was on the verge of accepting that as my middle aged reality. When I defeated that target before Valentine’s Day I set the final goal of 175, based on my height, body type, and performance goals. I’ve been maintaining that target weight since achieving it in March. I now tend to fluctuate between 165-175, depending on my hydration levels.

I keep a record of every activity that elevates my heart rate into or beyond my aerobic threshold. This chart captures the daily amount of time spent in such activities, although nearly all of the specific activities involves time in multiple heart rate zones which often range from resting all the way up to spurts of max HR. I build between 1-2 days of rest into each week. Rest days are not captured in this chart.

Much of my exercise involves human powered travel in one form or another. When I’m stuck with indoor training, I record zero miles. My outdoor mileage sources, in decreasing order of mileage, are biking, running, walking, paddling, and swimming.

I have a family history of ulcerative colitis. That plus a steady diet of excess consumption, and my inability to effectively deal with external stressors, first landed me in a gastroenterologist’s office in the winter of 2013. That visit resulted in my first colonoscopy before I even hit 40. To say I was the youngest person in the waiting room for that procedure would be an understatement by several decades. 

Just over six years after my first colonoscopy, I was forced to find a new gastro doctor as the first one had moved their practice out of town. I’d had a concerning flare up and the novelty of talking about internal butt cameras had long since worn away. This guy had the most direct bedside manner I’d ever experienced. I forgave myself for silently thinking he was fulfilling the stereotype of asian-american doctors, because I figured I had liberty for such thoughts, given my own hyphenated-americanism. As I sat there and stroked the egocentrism of my silent bigotry, the doctor punctured my reverie:

“You’re overweight.”

I stammered (and I don’t often stammer): “Well sure, a little, but compared to the average American I’m still on the smaller side, right?”

He gave a quick shake of his head. “You’re going to continue to experience these symptoms as long as you remain overweight.”

“So what do you recommend?”

Admirably, he didn’t roll his eyes or sigh. “I recommend you lose weight. Or, you can continue to take more meds until they don’t work and then we’ll find you different meds. But that will only cover the underlying causes, which are all aggravated when you’re overweight.”

This post-colonoscopy conversation took place in August of 2019. I took the good doctor’s words to heart, and spent all of August, September, October, and November in steadfast commitment to working my way back into running shape. This involved a combination of walking and very slowly jogging. I couldn’t afford to jog more than twice a week without risk of aggravating my knees and back or giving myself an overuse injury to the usual suspects of plantar fasciitis, iliotibial band syndrome, or sciatica. Each of these have messed up prior midlife flirtations with fitness.

Have you ever seen a clapped-out old pickup truck struggling under the combined mass of its driver, passengers, and truck bed full of junk? That’s pretty much how my feet, knees, hips, and back felt whenever I ran more than a couple of times a week. This sucked, because I knew that if I could just run on a consistent basis (read: more than twice a week) I could lose weight and keep it off. I also knew I was too heavy to run on a consistent basis without hurting myself. This was my November 2019 action research question: How can I lose weight relatively quickly and safely in order to get down to a body mass that would allow me to run without blowing something out? 

I call the answers that I found and have since proven the Gospel of Rhythm. Check back next week for what I’ve got to say about that. And, I’ll share the resources I found beneficial for my own learning and progress, as well as a few example weeks from my training logs.

4 thoughts on “a year of losses and gains

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