Outie Like 5k’s!

Guess who has two thumbs, no shoes, and finished his first 5k last weekend? Well, a few people, but more importantly:

THIS GUY! (And this guy’s wife, too!)

I will admit, I was hesitant to sign up for a 5k.  I have been running 3 miles for a few months now, but it has always been so tough for me. Being a geek, I have a perfection complex about the things I commit to. If I was going to run the race, I wanted to be as prepared as possible, running 5k at warp 9 without breaking a sweat.

The problem: I really haven’t committed to running. I do it because I know I should, but I go for weeks at a time without a run, and I’m quick to cut a run short if I’m “not into it”, i.e. LAZY.

But, I went ahead and signed up for this race, and it rocked my balls off (figuratively)!

It was a beautiful day. Sunny and about 50 degrees at the start of the race. I met up with my buddies Greg and Jeremy who were also running the race. Both of those guys are also in the 30+ pounds lost in 2010 club.

Nerds 2^2 Ever!

Jeremy (on the right) was rocking his Vibram Five Fingers as well. We were the only ones wearing VFFs as far as I saw.

And before I knew it, the race had started. I loved running with friends (I have never done that before). Especially friends that run just a little bit faster than I do. I ended up and pushed myself a little harder to keep up with them. I didn’t stay with them the entire time, but just that little extra bit of chase improved my best time by 3 minutes. Which leads me to the finish:

I think I won!

I came through at 28:51, rocking my VFF Bikilas, and feeling good (Much better than the guy who came through vomiting about a minute before). I was really happy about my time. I could have gone faster if I pushed myself harder, but being my first race, I was more worried about finishing it without walking than how long it took me.

I was even more proud of my wife who finished in 34 minutes (and had only run 3 miles once a few months ago, and that was on the treadmill). Go Titsworth family! Yeah my last name is Titsworth… you got a problem with that?

I know everyone told me this, but it didn’t sink in until I jogged across the finish line: RACES ARE ADDICTIVE!

I can’t wait to sign up for more and keep running, improving my time, and going longer distances. I missed the sign-up for the trail race that was this upcoming weekend, but there are 10+ races coming up between now and Christmas. The one I’m most exciting about is the Krispie Kreme challenge, where you have to run 2 miles to the donut store, eat a dozen donuts, and then run 2 miles back within an hour. Sounds gloriously painful :)

I wanted to give a quick shout out to a few of the people who pushed me to keep running (even though they might not know it):

  • Jess over at Half of Jess for talking me into getting VFFs and for killin a half marathon in hers.
  • Brandon over at A Healthy Dad for making me realize I can run faster (that guy runs fast for someone who weighed 290 just 10 months ago)
  • Steve at Nerd Fitness for reminding me that nerds can have a six pack other than Mt. Dew.

Thanks guys! I suggest everyone follow them on twitter and check out their blogs. Good stuff, fo sho!

Hopefully, this is just the beginning of my running journey, and I’m sure I’ll keep you updated as I keep at it.

I’ll leave you with a few more images from the event:

VFF buddies

The running fam

After the Race (and a sleepy baby)

When the Cat’s Away, The Mice Will… Write a Lot of Blog Posts!

Image courtesy of foskarulla on Flickr

You may have noticed that I have been writing more these last few days. Partly, that’s because my wife and my sister packed up all of the kids, 4 total from 10 months old to 7 years old (God, give them strength.), and took off to the beach.

Only one ER visit so far during the trip!

So I am wifeless, kidless, and have extra free time on my hands. But mostly, I’ve been writing more because…

I’ve been feeling really inspired lately.

The weather is nice, the air is fresh, the world is getting colorful again. But for me, there are three primary reasons that I have been feeling so good. I thought I would share them with you.

1. I’m almost there

Image courtesy of Evil Erin on Flickr

It is hard to believe, but I am nearly at the end of my planned weight loss journey. All I have to do is “just tap it on in, tap, tap, tappy.” Last December, I set out a three phased plan to lose weight:

  • Starting out: I started at 236 lbs. (Boo this weight!)
  • Goal 1: Be down to 220 lbs by April for my fraternity’s annual graduate dinner. Check (though I gained 3 pounds from the dinner and Pabst Blue Ribbon that weekend)
  • Goal 2: Be down to 200 lbs by September for my 10 yr high school reunion. Check (and the old high school honeys couldn’t keep up with my tootsie roll)
  • Goal 3: Be down to 190 lbs by New Years Eve so my wife’s birthday present can be ABS (And back abs, ’cause there’s a Situation up in here)

Really, I didn’t know what I should set my end weight goal to be. I ended up and chose 190 because it was a good even number on the upper end of the “Normal weight” BMI chart. (Holy shit! I just realized I am in the normal weight range on the BMI chart!) I knew that would get me to a point where I would really be able to assess my body and reassess my goals.

Do I need to drop 10 more pounds?
Do I need to start training for a strongman competition?
Do I look like a tool being so skinny and need to start going to Mickie D’s again?

I wouldn’t know till I got there… Well guess what? I’m 3 lbs away from 190!

I’ll write up a bigger post when I finally get there, but for now, I’ll move onto Inspiration #2

2. There are soo many good books out there

Image courtesy of luis de bethencourt on Flickr

I have tried to stop watching so much TV lately. In case your wondering, September is NOT a good time to stop watching TV. But after a late summer TV binge where I watched a whole season of True Blood, Mad Men, Fringe, and 3 seasons of Stargate SG-1 (Only 234 Stargate seasons left to go!), I decided books should move to the top of my priority list.

I wanted to share some of the one’s that have stuck out. You may notice that they are all non-fiction and pseudo self helpy. That is why I’ve been so inspired.

  • Rework (by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson) – This book really changed my perspective on how I go about my work. It’s raw and minimalist and all-around amazing. The book link is to amazon, but even if you don’t buy or read this book, please check out Signal vs. Noise, the blog for the company that that the authors run… incredible stuff.
  • Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard (by Chip and Dan Heath) – Wow, I’m must be all about multi author books. I am only on the second chapter of this book, but the book’s introduction is so impacting that I had to go ahead and mention it.  They use an analogy for the psychology of change that has completely tangibilitated the whole subject for me (it’s so good, I made up a word for it). The introduction is available in the Amazon preview, so if you have a few minutes, go read it. You will not be disappointed.

But I haven’t just been inspired by the good ol’ bounded paper books. There have been some epic e-books out in the wild. One of my new favorite things is reading e-books while I workout on the elliptical machine. I’ll hop on there late at night, and get fully absorbed in these books. An hour later, I realize I’ve burned 700+ calories and by brain has just been filled with wonderful knowledge and motivation. Here are two that really hit me.

  • Fearless Health (by Matt Gartland) – I think I have mentioned Matt before, but this *FREE* e-book is spectacular. It came out in August, and sat on my virtual nightstand for a while, but I finally picked it up, and I am really glad I did. The book is directly targeted at your mind and it’s role in becoming vibrantly healthy… and it doesn’t miss. Check out this book and Matt’s blog Healthy Lifestyle Design!
  • Rebel Fitness Guide (by Steve Kamb) – You all probably know by now that I’m a huge fan of Steve and what he does over at Nerd Fitness. This book does not disappoint. It not only gave me motivation and inspiration, but it lays out a clear exercise and eating plan that will lead you to become, well, a bad ass. I will admit I don’t follow his plan religiously since my wife and I take classes at the gym together, but if I missed a class at the gym, I attack his plan with a vengeance. (Is it odd that I go to a gym called Empire Fitness, but I actively train to be a part of the rebel alliance?)

And lastly, I just bought a bundle of minimalist guides from some of the pros like Leo Babauta of Zen Habits, Everett Bogue of Far Beyond the Stars, and Adam Baker of Man vs. Debt. This package was put together by another awesome author, Karol Kajda of Ridiculously Extraordinary. I’ve been a outside observer to most of these minimalist blogs and authors, checking out their blogs now and again when they had a viral post, but this package was too good to pass up. The package contains 17 books for $27! Some of the books I was already thinking about buying anyways at their full price, but at $1.50 apiece, I couldn’t not click.

Check out the 17 Minimalist Guides sale here, it is only available for two more days (stupid limited time offers and my inability to not fall for them). I can’t wait to dig in.

3. I am actively trying to better myself

I mentioned in my last post that I am trying new methods to meet some of the lifestyle goals I have been having problems with. I am still only two days into it, but I can already tell the Geek Into Shape Goal Board is keeping me focused and honest.

I woke up this morning with a bad craving for a Pumpkin Spice Latte  (did I mention I love the Fall), but I was able to withstand the urge because all I could think about was that little yellow post-it note that says: “NO $4 COFFEE”. So instead of going to the coffee shop, I worked out for an hour. Two birds, my friends! Two birds!

Here is my progress so far:

First progress report

Back to the Grindstone

Well, now I’m off to do manly things like mow the yard and clean out the garage (my Wife gives me chores, you know).

I would really appreciate it if you would share some of your recent  inspirations with me in the comments section.
Do you have any good book recommendations?
Am I missing a new fall TV show that I shouldn’t be?

How I Plan to Master My Life (One Pesky Goal at a Time)

Image courtesy of margolove on Flickr

It’s time for me to change how I attack my goals.

Why, you may ask? I have definitely been successful with my primary goal — losing weight. But there are still some pesky lifestyle goals that I cannot seem to get solid footing on:

  • Not eating out during lunch (but everyone is going, and it’s Greg’s birthday, and the boss will be there)
  • Stop buying $4 coffee (but it’s so damn good, and I’m so sleepy, and the barista is sooo hot)
  • Go to bed at a reasonable time (but I’m in the middle of a raid, and I need to catch up on blogs, and Caprica is on the DVR)

I know how to achieve these goals, but I can seem to make it happen. I always seem to lose focus due to the daily grind. And I’m tired of it.

It’s time to make a change how I attack my goals!

I have been ranting on and on about how Agile Software development methodologies have benefited my overall health and fitness mindset. The premise is very simple: focus on action toward your goals rather than over-planning, and set small, incremental goals intended to add up to your long term goal. This is what I have been doing, and still no luck. But I just realized I haven’t tried to incorporate one of my favorite aspects of Agile Development into my new healthy lifestyle — the focus on information radiators.

I first read about information radiators in the book Agile Software Development: The Cooperative Game. An information radiator is a clear and easy to access display of critical information that is used to track progress towards an end goal. The genius of the information radiator is that it provides a clear visualization of how you are doing against your goals. It should be the first thing you see in the morning and the last thing you see at night. Now, I don’t know nuthin ’bout no fancy psychology, but having that constant visualization of progress helps provide immediate focus to what needs to get done.

Aha! An information radiator is what I’ve been missing!

So I decided to try an experiment, and build my own information radiator. I call it my Geek Into Shape Goal Board.

I thought I would take you on the journey with me – building the board, setting goals, and tracking my progress. Hopefully this will give me the clarity and the focus each day to overcome the little unhealthy devil sitting on my shoulder. If it works for me, maybe it will also be what you are looking for. So here we go…

Step 1: Choose your information radiator

I thought about a few ways to do this. I wanted to go cheap, so buying a giant white board like I use at my job was out of the question. I initially planned on just painting an empty wall I had in my bedroom, but the Mrs. just laughed at my face when I brought that idea up to her. So, I decided to go with a nice, simple cork board. I used a standard black frame cork board that I got from Target (here it is on Amazon)

Step 2: Choose your methodology

Since my goals are so focused on day-to-day activities (and since my board was only 22″ wide), I decided to set up daily goals, based around a week-long tracking period. I plan on setting four goals each week. As I achieve each daily goal, I will “mark” that goal as completed by advancing the goal (like a progress bar). At the end of each week, I will assess my progress, possibly modify my goals and/or add new ones, and start fresh for the next week.

Step 3: Design your goal board

Now that you have your information radiator and you have set your methodology, it’s time to get creative and have some fun designing you board. Here is what I did:

Initial Goal Boards Design

With this setup, I gave myself a cool header, and my main progress chart is sort-of like a weekly calendar. I left some space in the middle for (what I consider) the most important piece of the board – my motivation.

Geek into Shape Goal Board With My Motivation

Step 4: Set your goals

The next step to finalizing the Geek Into Shape Goal Board was to set my goals for the week. When I designed my board, I left enough space for 1.5″x2″ post-it notes to track my goals.

Writing down goals for the Geek Into Shape Goal Board

Since I could fit four goals on my board each week, I took the list I mentioned at the top of this post (I promise to go to bed early tonight. I promise to go to bed early tonight. I promise to go to bed early tonight.) and added a fourth goal of working out for 45 minutes or more for 6 out of 7 days during the week. Here is what my final board looks like:

Final Geek Into Shape Goal Board with Goals

Step 5: Place your information radiator

I decided to not place this on the free wall next to my bed, like initially planned. I realized that I normally haven’t even come into consciousness when I mosey past that wall. So, since I am trying really hard to meet these goals this week, I decided to put it somewhere more visible to me:

Placing the Geek Into Shape Goal Board

Step 6: Track your progress

To be continued…

I am so excited to try this new method. It puts these goals that I have set for myself right out in the open. Each morning, my goals and motivation for achieving these goals will be staring me in the face, refocusing my mind, and beating down any urges I might have to sabotage progress.

I’d love to hear what you think. Would a constant visualization of your goals, your progress, and your motivation help you stay focused? Do you like my board (I do)? Please leave a comment with your thoughts!

Fitness Mind Hacks Part 2: How Programming Helped Me Lose Weight and Become Healthy

Code Monkey want a better body. Code Monkey way too fat.

As I mentioned last week, it only took a few key changes to drastically change the way I approached and, more importantly, conquered my fitness goals.  These changes had nothing to do with learning about the the latest fitness and diet trends — I already knew all of those. The changes had nothing to do with joining a gym or buying fancy equipment — I had tried both. No, my problem was all mental, and mostly due to a lack of confidence and a lack of hope. I didn’t believe that I could tackle the monstrous project called “health” because I didn’t have the skills or experience.

Image courtesy of juco on Flickr

Well, all of that changed when I took a new approach to how I thought about fitness and diet and health. Small mental changes, little fitness mind hacks, that helped me relate my fitness journey to other aspects of my life that I was successful at. I would have to say the biggest of these mind-hacks was when I realized that I could treat my fitness related goals like I treat my software development projects.

It amazed me how closely aligned the processes I use every day when I write code or plan my software development project were to the process for losing weight and setting goals. I’ll admit it wasn’t a huge leap to make this correlation, it seems obvious in hindsight, but it was this minor mental mapping — software development to fitness — that kick started my weight loss and kept me delivering on my fitness goals.

Here is exactly how programming and software development helped me lose weight and meet my goals:

1. You need a good development environment

Image courtesy of John Wiseman on Flickr

As every programmer knows, you need a good development environment to get things done. Without the proper environment, you’ll often find yourself limited in your capability to move forward or spinning your wheels trying to get started because of too many options.

Finding the perfect environment is a can be a little bit of a task in itself.  Take the time to look at your options. The environment you choose should easily mold with your personal style, taste,  and experience.  Like choosing a software development environment, you don’t want limit yourself to the status-quo or what the “pros” say you should use when choosing your fitness development environment.

Explore, experiment, and like Goldilocks, find one that is “just right”.

Here is my mini guide for fitness development environments:

  • The minimalist environment (This is the style for all of you vi and gcc’ers): You don’t need a fancy gym membership or exercise equipment to get you where you need to go. You understand that you only need two things in this world to get into shape: you and gravity – and those things are always available.
  • The DIY environment (This is for the “best tool for the job” coders): You realize that there are some great tools that exist to help you meet your goals, so you buy a few weights and some resistance bands and you maybe even splurge on an exercise bike. But with this method, you are not limited or constrained on what you do. You build your own environment based around only the things you need.
  • The virtual environment (This is for you… virtual environmentalists?): Like the DIY environment, you have a hodge-podge of tools at your disposal, but you have an specific environment you are aiming for as a part of your end goals, so you really try to set up your training environment to match.   If you want to be a fighter, you enroll in a martial arts class where you learn critical skills you need or buy a punching bag to hang up in your garage. If you want to be a rock climber, you build find or a training wall.
  • The fully integrated environment (This is for you Eclipse and Visual Studio users): With this method, you commit to a place that offers the kitchen sink when it comes to fitness. I’m talking about a good, ol’ fashion, all-purpose gym.  You need weights – you got ‘em. You want aerobic classes – they offer those too.  You want tanning beds – most of them surprisingly have those as well. Even though you may have to pay a premium for it, you have just about everything you need in one nice, consolidated package.

For me, it was a combination of the all of these environments that got me where I needed to be. The fully integrated environment helped me figure out what was available and mold my training path. The DIY environment helped me supplement the areas that the fully integrated environment lacked. And the DIY environment allowed me to workout wherever I happened to be sitting or standing at the moment.  One, none, or all of these environments might work for you. Take time to try them all and see which gives you the best results.

2. Just get Started

Phot courtesy of ColtahMang on Flickr

The most important thing I have learned in software development is that, sometimes, you just have to get started. You can spend hours researching the “perfect” ab workout or developing a detailed 48-month fitness plan, and never move a muscle. The unfortunate thing is that there is no perfect plan. Like in software development, you can spend all your time trying to figure out the perfect framework, or the best libraries for the job, but sometimes the best way to figure it out is by diving straight in.

Start moving. Do anything. Run. Walk. Pop, lock it, drop it. It doesn’t matter – just do it.  If you need to refine you workout routine later, as you read about optimal methods for your specific goals, you can. But just get moving today.

3. Always be agile

Photo courtesy of Garrettc on Flickr

A while back, I wrote about how to Agile development practices applied to health and fitness. The concept of Agile Development comes with a host of methodologies that keep your development paths clean, quick, and versatile. Here are a few of those methods that I used to drop pounds.

  • Use short iterations for your goals: Of course you have a long term goal (40 pounds, run a marathon, etc.), but the best way to meet your long term goals is to set many short term goals that build up to your long term goal. The time frames should be short and and the goals attainable. For example: If you want to lose 50 pounds in 6 months, set a goal of 8-10 pounds a month and then forget about the big goal. Each month, put all of your focus on the short term goal. Sprint towards that goal as fast as you can.
  • Do daily scrumsEach morning, ask yourself the following questions: What have you done since yesterday? What are you planning to do today? Do you have any problems preventing you from accomplishing your goal?
  • Allow time for reflection: At the end of each sprint, take some time to reflect on the previous month. Did you meet your goal? If you didn’t, why not? Reassess your next month’s goals. Maybe something has changed – a new long term goal or a new long term deadline – that might change your short term goals.

There are so many support groups that have this model built in already. Use them. My favorite is the 28 day challenge on the Nerd Fitness message boards. Each month, you set 3 goals that you are pushed to meet within 28 days. Each day (or week, or never, your choice), you post your progress — what you did the day before, what you plan on doing the following day, how you feel, etc.  At the end of each challenge, you have a week to share and celebrate your results. If you didn’t meet your goal, there is a whole community of people ready to help you work through what you need to change and motivate you for the next challenge.

4. Use Design Patterns

Photo courtesy of Grant MacDonald

As in any field, there are problems common to all software development projects. For these problems, people have built general, reusable design patterns that can be adapted to your specific goals. Keeping a good working knowledge of some of the most common design patterns can save you time during your development. Instead of focusing on a secondary problem, you can just focus on the core business logic.

The same is true for fitness. If you have a specific goal in mind, chances are, someone has had that goal to and met it. If you are lucky, they wrote the method they used down and put it out into the public domain so you can just adapt their plan to you. You might know these as training plans. Here are a few of the fitness design patterns that I have used:

These patterns can give you a big head start towards meeting your goals, but don’t feel you have to follow these plans word for word. Remember we are all different. Use them as a guide, but you will know when it is time to start building your own custom pattern. Remember to write it down and maybe you will have your own pattern that will act as a guide for others.

A few more quick mind hacks

There are a dozen more little hacks I use, most of which are too small to give a deep discussion on, but I thought I would quicklymention a few of them.

  • Always refactor your code - You should frequently reassess your workout routines and try to remove inefficiencies and isolate the things that are working. We are all busy people, if you can get your workouts down to the most efficient components, then you will save time and get more results for your effort.
  • You’ll always benefit from better debug logging – Always keep a record of what you do. When you get to the end of your sprints, you might need to look back to remember what you have done. You need to write down all of your core stats (weight, mileage, pounds lifted, etc.) each day as well as your emotional and physical state. Did you lift more during the week you got more sleep?
  • Set up good regression tests – As you meet goals and set new goals, do forget you go back and test your overall fitness levels. If you successfully ran a 10k and set a then new goal to be a backup dancer for Usher, make sure you don’t lose your ability to run a 10k. At the end of every fitness sprint, you should pick a few things that will test your overall fitness ability. Use your old goals as your regression tests.

Conclusion

Applying good software development practices to my fitness life really helped me feel like I had control over my destiny. I knew all of these processes worked. They have taken me from a white screen to a complex application many times before. Thinking about my fitness goals as just another software project gave me the confidence in myself to complete it. I hope this will help some of you too.

I’m interested in what my fellow software developers think.

  • What processes in your daily life as a code monkey have you applied to your fitness life?
  • What processes can you apply?

Let me know!

Come on baby, it’s my birthday!

Photo courtesy of Christophe Verdier

Well folks, today is my 28th birthday, and I have never felt better about getting older.

Just a few facts about this year.

  • I became a father of two, Hudson was born in November.
  • I gained 15 pounds this year (sympathy weight from my wife’s pregnancy).
  • I lost 30 pounds this year (against all sleepless-night odds)
  • I can now run a 5K (though I haven’t done an official 5K)

But the biggest thing this year has been my change in mindset

I really feel I have broken that weight roller coaster that I have been on.  The last six months have been the longest period of sustained weight loss I’ve ever had.  I have changed my thought process of weight loss and dieting. I have squashed some bad habits and started some good ones.  I have re-started this blog, which has been a big help. And I have found a good support community online (twitter and the Nerd Fitness Forums).

Even though I’m a year older, I feel better than I did ten years ago. I exercise more, I eat better, I’m more content, and I’m not hung over 80% of the time.

I’m really looking forward to what my 28th year of life will bring.

**UPDATE!** As I mentioned earlier this month, I am only asking for healthy presents. Nothing that will distract me from my goals, only help them.  So here are the results! Thanks to my wife and the parents.

More pictures are posted over on my wife’s family blog, check them out if you are interested in seeing pictures of my cute kids!

In other news…

Check out my guest post on Nerd Fitness

In case you missed it, I had a guest post published on Nerd Fitness this week. It highlights 9 different sports and activities that allow you to be a geek while still getting a good workout in.  It was fun!  I like interacting with a new audience and Steve over at NF has definitely done a good job building a community up.

Geek Into Shape Podcast

If you are reading this, then you are probably aware that I just launched a podcast.  I am really excited to keep working on this project.  As a huge podcast nerd, I love the audio medium as a way to spread news, tips, and advice.  I hope to deliver some high quality and content-packed bits of information over the next few months.

So subscribe to the podcast feed or check it out on iTunes if you want to get the latest episode direct to your audio listening device.

One thing I am looking to do with this podcast is make it a community effort, so if you have any questions, suggestions, ideas for a segment, or would like to send in a segment of your own, please contact me.

Future Posts

As always, I am working on other more posts for this blog, so stay tuned!

October Weight Loss Update

This has been a spectacularly crappy month for me.  I ended th month at 267 lbs which puts me at a 1.2 pound gain!  The month started off with a week of vacationing and overindulgence.  After vacation I didn’t jump back on things like I should have; so I basically just maintained.  Just look at the graph.

 

October Weight Loss Update

October Weight Loss Update

Losing weight is going to be hard these last 2 months.  It’s getting colder, and I really won’t feel like running in the freezing temperatures.  I’m going to give it a go though because losing weight is all about momentum.  I’m sure the holidays won’t do much to help, but I can be good on the non holiday days.  I need to finish this year strong!