The long winter was rough on my fitness level and my jeans size, as I’ve noted before. When I realized two months ago that I’d gone up a size over the winter, I realized it was time to get my crap together. The problem is, it’s difficult to figure out the best way to get your crap together when you’re already working out several times a week.

For me, it’s about finding the right balance of intensity and endurance. For nearly a year, I’ve been up at 5:30 in the morning doing 30 minutes of pilates and free weights, but it was just so low intensity that about all it was good for was flexibility and casual activity maintenance. I was getting about 20 minutes on the elliptical a couple nights a week, too, but this was dramatically different to my workout back in November, when I had two solid 30-40 minute workouts through my day job fitness program every week (suspended in December), plus five days a week of pilates, plus biking to work five days a week, plus another 3-4 days on the elliptical. Good weather is good for fitness.

But if my fitness level drops, my mood and energy start going wonky, and it very quickly gets tougher to fit into my existing clothes – and we all know how much I hate shopping for clothes.

When I got on the scale a couple months ago, I discovered I’d gained a whopping 18 lbs over the winter. Seriously? I thought, in just four months? Besides the money-spend on clothes shopping (I’ve long given up hating myself over weight. It’s not so much asthetic as practical anymore), the frustration, for me, was the I just didn’t feel very good. I was having more trouble controlling my blood sugar, I was more down than usual, and I just didn’t have any energy. Going to bed at 8:00 pm sounded like a fine idea some nights. Not because I did anything exhausting, but because I felt depressed.

So, even with a modicum of fitness in the mix (30 minutes in the morning and 2-3 days in the evening), I was not at my best.

By concentrating on cleaning up my diet (oh, I do love that low-carb coffee cake, but eating one a week was a little much), I easily dropped 6 lbs in a couple weeks, but without the fitness part, I was still tired all the time, with wonky sugar, and still stuck buying new jeans.

It was time to mix up my fitness routine. The new day job was great for switching up my fitness routine, so when I started there at the end of March, I started biking six miles roundtrip. With all the lights and switcheroos, it takes about 20-25 minutes to get there in the morning and again to get home at night.

But this still wasn’t cutting it.

Pilates, relaxing as it was in the morning, wasn’t the best use of my time either. The great thing about my morning routine was that – unlike my afternoon elliptical slacking – I did it every morning without fail. So I needed something in that timeslot that was going to make the best use of my time.

See, I always put off changing my workout routines as long as possible because, of course, there are a couple days of insulin adjustment involved, and highs and lows and math and needles are always annoying at 5:30 in the morning (for those interested, the magic formula was calculating 10 carbs for breakfast instead of 12 and then rounding down the number of insulin units my meter calculated for me, unless my blood sugar is below 90 during my morning test, at which point rounding up is actually better).

So I went ahead and pulled out my copy of Jillian’s 30-Day Shred and said, “OK, it’s time.”(and if you think Jillian is like some Jane Fonda “squeeze your butt while wearing a leotard” thing, think again. Her videos are the closest thing to the tough-love circuit training I was getting at the POW gym back in Chicago, with the same immediate results).

This 25 minute cardio and strength routine regularly kicked my ass when I first got it, but I’d set it aside for awhile and moved on. So Monday morning I got up at 5:20 a.m. just to make sure I had enough time in case of sugar wackiness, changed my clothes, and got started. At the end of it, I realized that all that bike riding had indeed actually been paying off, because my endurance was much better than the last time I’d done the workout.

What I love about this routine is that the fitness, energy and endurance improvements are evident pretty much immediately. On day one I was bouncing around at 6:00 a.m. ready to start the day. By day two, I noticed a marked improvement in my bike riding and on day three the workout was already a lot easier. Last night, I noticed better definition in my arms, and this morning I stepped on the scale for the weekly weigh in and found that I’d dropped 2 lbs. Not bad for 25 minutes in the morning (and another 40-50 minutes a day of bike riding, of course, but the morning workout was the only thing I changed).

I also went ahead and took another look at my diet to make sure I’m making the best use of my calories. I made the switch from almond flour to soy flour, which has half the calories and only 4 more carbs per serving (and still less than half the carbs of regular flour). It’s also cheaper, so: win!

The last big push will be to break my new daily popcorn habit at the day job. We have a popcorn machine here at work, and I regularly eat 2 cups of popcorn as a complement to my lunch. That’s an extra 200 calories a day, which doesn’t sound like much until you realize that’s 4,000 calories a month.

It’s the little things, you know? They add up.

At any rate, this week has been bursting with far more energy and alertness, much improved sugar numbers, and a noticeable toning of my legs and arms, which has gone a long way toward improving my strength on the bike, too.

I’m still looking at trying to fit in at least two more workouts per week, preferably at the boxing gym downtown. Downsizing freed up some cash for J. and I and it looks like we’ll be able to start boxing classes next month. I figure that’s another 2 hours of fitness a week, which should be about right to get me to the level I’m most comfortable at.

It’s funny, you know, because there certainly is a genetic component to how *easily* one can lose weight. For those of us with the best of the survival genes, it’s not that we *can’t* be 150 lbs (or 185 lbs, in my case. I don’t ever want to see the tail end of 170 ever again), it’s that doing so requires a lot *more* effort than most people. In fact, I don’t expect to see that wishy-washy 185 by making these changes. What I want out of this is to get me at the fitness level I’d prefer and get me back into November’s jeans.

That’s it.

And to do that will require about 1.5-2.5 hours of exercise 5-6 days a week. That’s just how fun it is to be me. And probably another reason why I get so pissed off all the time when people assume that anybody clocking in at over 200 lbs must just be lazy and sit around eating donuts all the time. This is what it takes for me, personally, to clock in at around 200 lbs. More than that requires extreme self-deprevation of the 1400 calories per day and 2-3 hours exercise 6 days a week, and you know what? That’s not the life I want to live. I love my body. I love being big and strong and scary. If I’m too hungry to throw a good right hook, what’s the point?

I’m all about practicality, people.

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