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Changing Everything: The Exercise

Last week I spoke about food. If you missed it HERE it is. Now let's talk exercise.

The basic rule of thumb in weight loss is you have to burn more than you take in. So diet change can only do so much. I needed to add exercise but knowing my limits I needed to find a way to slowly get into it. I'm going to discuss some of the mental elements behind everything next week but this was by far the hardest mental aspect of everything. It's so easy to tell yourself "I'll start doing that tomorrow."

My dad has always been a big cyclist. When I was a kid my brother and I had mountain bikes and would frequently ride whether it be on a trail with my dad or just around the neighborhood. Yes we even took them off some pretty sweet jumps. So naturally my mindset was on getting back into cycling. I got a road bike that I rode on occasion but gave up because I always felt like crap. Then I got a mountain bike for Christmas one year and was excited to give that a go. I could go maybe half a mile to a mile before needing to slowly pedal home in agony. This element of failure and knowing how I looked doing it made me embarrassed to go outside to workout.

I decided to purchase an indoor stationary recumbent bike. It would be a way to get going without feeling embarrassed and then hopefully transition from indoors to outdoors. It sounds pretty lame I know but that's what I wanted to do and it worked. I put hours and hours of time on this recumbent bike, usually watching in-car video and races while I rode to stay motivated. I would aim for an hour and sometimes ride longer. At this stage it didn't take long to see some weight dropping. It was light cardio and I could tell my body was changing after just a few weeks.

After a couple of months I decided it was time to go outside more to workout. I was getting bored being inside anyway. I started hiking every single day. Nothing crazy but a couple of miles on a trail by our house. The goal was to sort of "prep" for mountain biking again. Or at least attempting it. It wasn't cardio but at a brisk pace it was doing something.

Eventually I decided it was time to get on my mountain bike again. My first ride was rough. I rode probably two miles and felt like dying. I literally had to lay on the ground for a good ten minutes after those two miles. The world was spinning and I was borderline going to throw up. My legs burned like mad. I was in love though. I knew this first ride would be the hardest but the challenge was on. I knew if I kept at it I would get better, faster, and enjoy it.

I got into a daily routine, actually an obsession, to ride every single day. I got quicker, I added distance, and I started losing weight even faster. It started falling off. I was enjoying the cycling so much it just became a hobby and something I enjoyed instead of a tool to lose weight or become fit. That was now the added bonus. This is key in any exercise program. If you don't enjoy it, you're not going to stick with it. There's nothing wrong with giving up one routine for another if it means you'll stick with it. Or even going back and forth. I hate jogging but I do it occasionally as it just works different muscles.

Today I mountain bike, ride a road bike on occasion, some very short jogs, and still hike. I also do some light weight lifting and other "no equipment" type exercises to try and work out different areas. I still have weight I want to lose and fat I want to burn off or convert to muscle. It gets harder and harder to lose these last few pounds but I'm more focused now on the overall health picture versus losing weight. Also adding weights and muscle building can sometimes even slow down weight loss or maintain weight where it is as you build muscle.

One of the hardest parts, even today, is finding what fuels me and what kills me. Some days I feel like the king and I can just tear it up then other days I feel like I'm tagging dead weight around. Some of it is mental and some is my hydration, food, etc. I am sure.

I am by no means the fastest rider nor can I go the longest. So far the longest I have ridden on my mountain bike is twenty-two miles. Considering two miles almost killed me at the start though I'm pretty happy with that!

My exercise story is pretty basic in that I found something I enjoy and can stick with it. I'm also lucky to have trails right outside of my door so I can ride frequently without the hassle of loading bikes up and going somewhere. The only downside I have to working out is it's so obsessive that I may get depressed or feel bad about myself on days where I may not be able to fit a ride in or an indoor workout.

So that's really about all I have on exercise. I knew I needed it, I found what I liked, and forced myself to continuously stick with it. It's easier said than done but that's what I did. Next week for the final entry I'm going to run through some of the mental aspects of everything. I mentioned above the little voice in your head telling you to start something tomorrow, or maybe it's not indulging in your favorite sweets, or giving up when you have a hard week. In my opinion all of this entirely boils down to the mental game.

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