How I Discovered Consistent Personal Health Through Iterating
Ah, childhood memories...
I grew up eating quarts of ice cream with my dad while watching hockey games on the couch. I remember after playing sports, my mom would take me to the Taco Bell drive through and I'd order ten tacos. TEN! I MEAN, COME ON! (Love you, Mom.)
As you can imagine, I really didn't learn the basics of personal health growing up. Of course, being involved with many sports, playing on the playground, and having a metabolism the speed of a cheetah, it didn't seem to matter at the time.
I started working in Corporate America in 2013. Enter desk job, sitting for many hours, sedentary life style. Yep, you guessed it - I kept eating tacos and blew up like a balloon. 50 pounds later, I was no longer the fit athlete, I was struggling to put on my size 10 jeans; I was in trouble.
So I turned to what any sensible person would do, I looked to diet and exercise. What I found was "Lose ten pounds in your first week!" with Nutrisystem, and "Cut all carbs!" with South Beach. I found articles about "booty-buster" workouts and saw my friends posting about the half-marathons they ran over the weekend. To an unsuspecting and immature ice cream eater, this is what healthy is... right?
Pumped and motivated, with pictures of a flat belly and a perfect butt dancing in my head, I bought kale, lean meats, and hit the pavement. DUN DUN DUN.
After two weeks of intense dieting (mostly starving), and running 5+ miles a day (okay, let's be real I was walking most of it), I was still 50 pounds overweight. I was exhausted. I gave all I could give. Bewildered, I adjusted my original thought: "This is what healthy is?!" *sigh*
I couldn't stay. I went back to my old behaviors.
I'll be honest, this cycle continued for a good three years. It pains me to write that. Ugh.
Okay, enough of the sappy stuff. Here's the cool part: I found something that works. I feel like shouting it from a roof-top because I know there are, probably millions, of people out here like me who just need to start somewhere. CORRECTION: STAY SOMEWHERE.
The secret is iterating.
See the map below? That's my neighborhood. My hood, if you will. The red route is the path I chose to run during those first two weeks of weight-loss inspiration. It was 5+ miles, and it would take me over an hour to complete. I dreaded the thought of coming home after a full work day to this. I loathed how it took another precious hour away from my day.
Somewhere in the past year, I put the ideas I practice with teams at work, into my personal life. You see, I'm a scrum master. I help software development teams split huge projects into smaller, bite-sized, pieces that we iterate on. For example, instead of a team delivering a software program at the end of a year, they would deliver working pieces of it every two weeks.
I made the connection that my endeavors to be a half-marathon runner in two weeks was just not reasonable for me. That 5-mile loop was not something I could really commit to. It was too big.
What wasn't too big though, was that smaller blue route on the map (look again). It's .75 miles around, and takes me 15 minutes to complete at a walk-run pace. I still work up a sweat by the end, and I'm in a fat burn mode for an hour afterwards. The difference between the blue and red route, was that the blue one is reasonable for me - every single day.
Mentally, I find it so reasonable that it's not worth skipping. Dare I say I even look forward to it?! It's become another routine like brushing my teeth or taking a shower. I complete it even when I'm sick, by just walking it. Sometimes, I feel extra motivated and run it twice!
It's been three months since I started iterating my workouts. I've lost five pounds and have toned my legs and flattened my stomach (yeah, I'm working on eating less tacos too). It feels so good to finally be consistent with my personal health. Over time, I plan on making the distance longer to match what my next "reasonable" means.
My hope is that you can use this tool to make exhausting challenges more possible for you. Is there something in your life that you can iterate?