Since my last post about losing weight, several people have asked for more details about my diet and exercise programs. There’s really not that much to tell, but here goes. Let me start by saying that, according to the experts, I’m pretty much doing everything wrong. For example:

  • I skip breakfast and, usually, lunch.
  • I snack between meals.
  • I don’t pay any attention at all to whether calories are from complex carbs, sugars, or even fats.
  • I exercise way above my recommended heart rate.

Yeah, oh well. If anything I say should be considered advice, it’s this: figure out what works for you. I don’t think there’s an approach to diet and exercise that works for everybody, or that everybody can stick to. If I’ve been successful, it’s primarily the result of just being aware. I’m aware of what I’m consuming, of how hungry I feel, of how my body feels when I’m exercising.

OK, I said I only had one piece of advice, but here’s a second bonus piece. Don’t obsess over this stuff. Sometimes I just can’t resist the temptation to have a cheeseburger or a candy bar. Sometimes the idea of exercising is just too horrible to contemplate. So I eat the cheeseburger, or I skip the exercise session, and I don’t even feel guilty. It’s just what my body needed at the time, and the next time I’ll do the “right” thing.

My exercise program is really pretty simple to explain. My machine of choice is the stairclimber. It’s not an actual StairMaster because those are ridiculously expensive. I got a Diamondback HRT 1000ES, which they don’t sell any more, but the 600ES (not the 1100ES) seems to be the current equivalent. The reason I like the stairclimber is that it’s the only kind of machine I’ve tried that both provides an intense enough workout and doesn’t make me feel like I’m knocking the breath out of myself all the time. I’ve always hated running because it never seemed like my stride and my breathing matched properly. For me the stairclimber just provides that balance.

I generally exercise three times a week, most often M/W/F. I do it either in the late afternoon or in the evening, as my schedule allows. I know it’s supposed to be better to exercise in the morning, but every time I’ve tried it in the past I’ve had a really lousy workout (or half of one) so I don’t even try any more. I exercise for 24-60 minutes, generally trying to increase the duration each time; when I get up to 60 I drop down to 24 at the next intensity level. The actual rules I use for when to increase or decrease the duration or intensity are kind of complicated, mostly to give me something to think about while I’m working out, and there’s no point in describing them here. The important thing is that I do slowly ratchet up the difficulty, and I pay attention to how my body’s reacting. I have good days and bad days; mostly I take advantage of the good days to step it up and tough out the bad ones to stay even, but if I really feel bad I throw out all the rules and quit early. I just pick up where I left off next time. I’ve gone from about 450 calories in 24 minutes to 1400 in 60 since I started exercising again.

That’s really about it. As I said, I do just about everything wrong…but it seems to be working. When I’m in shape I’m faster than just about anyone on a hiking trail, and I’m in better shape now than I have been in at least nine years…possibly ever. On my last hiking trip I was going very fast on some very challenging trails, I did some extra up-and-down looking for the missing members of our party, and I still felt like I had plenty of gas left in the tank. If that’s not a definition of real-world fitness I don’t know what is.