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« The Smoke Shack Experience | Main | 3six5: December 28, 2011 »

Fitness, Energy, Creativity and a Better Life


BY THE END OF 2011 I was tired. I was dragging and I was in need of rest from a busy, fun yet draining year. During the week between Christmas and the New Year, I pondered ways to increase my energy, knowing another intense year of projects was on the horizon.

I began thinking of my fitness level as a missing piece in becoming a more effective professional, after reading Haruki Murakami's book What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. In the book, Murakami describes the positive, critical impact running has had on his creativity, his writing career and his life.

Reading Murkami's words reminded me of early morning bicycle rides I used to take years ago. Rising at 5am to ride country roads with my friend Dave was a great way start to my day and served as a significant source of energy for my creativity and my life at the time.

I've missed those rituals and the energy. It was time to get them back.

Hiring a Trainer

For much of last year I'd been considering hiring a personal trainer to help get a workout habit established for my specific needs — but never acted on the idea. With 2012 arriving and establishing positive habits on my mind, I made the decision to contact the local YMCA and set up a free meeting with a Y-approved personal trainer.

The first meeting went very well. My trainer listened to my past successes (cycling), challenges (busy work and family life with small children) and my goals. He asked more questions, then suggested a simple plan to begin forming a workout habit to suit my life and schedule. It's been working well.

Our second meeting was a chance to refine the details of my plan — adding new stretches, activities and goals to my routine — along with a challenge to keep my momentum going. Next week I'll be challenged again and I can't wait.

Why a Personal Trainer?

It would seem easy enough to just head to the Y and start working out — but I'd always felt unsure of where to start or if I was doing things properly. When working with Y staff, never felt I ought to pester them with all of the questions I had. However, with a trainer I'd hired with my own money, I felt obligated to make the most of our time together by asking all sorts of questions.

My perspective on hiring a trainer changed when I thought of a trainer as someone I might hire in business — a front end developer, an accountant or an attorney. They're experts at what they do, just as I am at design, so it would be foolish not to take full advantage of their skills in advancing my goals.

Finally, having a neutral person to help establish my workout habit, provide accountability and offer guidance in exercise details has been great. In-between our sessions he remotely checks my workout progress, can suggest new activities and I can ask questions, all via email.

Two Weeks In

As I write this, I've reached the 2 week mark of making regular exercise a priority, I'm feeling the best I have in years. I'm feeling more energetic than ever before and have found myself getting caught up on a few projects that had become dormant at the end of 2011.

I've established an earlier bedtime, so I get up early for workouts, before my wife and kids wake up. Oddly enough, this entire morning routine has become a great time to think and ponder, a side benefit I hadn't expected.


Exercising 4 mornings a week has had another positive side effect: watching what I eat. Since I was tracking the time and calories burned in exercise, it made sense to get back into using Lose It! on my iPhone to keep track of the calories and foods I'm eating.

It's fascinating to capture what I'm eating each day, watching the weekly trends and comparing the impact food I eat has on my energy levels. Having a place to easily record food and exercise wherever I am has been a huge benefit to my awareness. I especially love Lose It's barcode scanner for fast food entry.

Long Term

The outlook for the long term is encouraging. Ultimately my goal is to lose weight, gain strength and stamina to power my professional and personal life.

As I get older, I'm realizing any advantage I can gain in improving my life and the length of it is worth the small daily sacrifices. Feeling great in the process is the encouragement to keep on keeping on.

Another important mental approach has been to think of this as building a positive habit first, understanding that other benefits (feeling better, looking better) would naturally come as a by-product. I know that when I own a positive habit I will stick to it long term.

I'm totally owning this.

Reader Comments (3)


Keep in mind that nutrition has taken some revolutionary turns in the past half-decade, turning much of what we thought we knew on its head.

Calorie tracking is *absolutely* irrelevant; the source of the calorie is *everything*, and calories from sugars and carbs are what lead to fat accumulation.

I don't know if you've looked much into it, but check out the Paleo diet. I've been Paleo for nearly two years now, and it's been transformative in my life.

Talk soon, -- Matt

January 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMatt Henderson

Matt, thanks for the note and the link to your article on Paleo! I have the Primal Diet book and have read most of it - and I have actually tried Paleo/Primal and liked it, though it was tough for me to maintain for a variety of reasons.

I was also very successful with the South Beach approach (low carb) in the past - so generally speaking I know carbs are an issue for me.

My goal is to first get the exercise habit started - which is going well. I'm starting my 3rd week and feel like I've finally found a groove.

Recording for me is a way to keep honest about what I eat, and my thought all along has been to gradually move myself off of carbs of all kinds toward proteins, because I think my body does well with limited carbs.

Now I'm very curious about the 4 Hour Body concept of a free day - that might be what I need at first to gradually move away from carbs.

January 23, 2012 | Registered CommenterMike Rohde

Happy to report that I've completed 3 weeks a the Y and feel great! I've lost a bit of weight, blood pressure and cholesterol are down and my doctor is pleased.

February 2, 2012 | Registered CommenterMike Rohde

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