Getting to Green

Last Friday, my good friend Gene invited me to speak on a panel at the Social Media Club of Kansas City to talk about wearable technology and how it has affected my life, specifically, my fitness.

Shane Adams at SMCKC Breakfast

Before you laugh (which is what I did at first), the truth is that I’m actually a pretty good candidate to talk about a topic like this rather than some tech blogger or gadget blogger or fitness guru. I’m exactly who wearable fitness technology should be designed for: I’m somewhat overweight, a little nerdy and in need of some motivation.

My FuelBand

Two birthdays ago, I asked Alli to get me a Nike+ FuelBand. There are lots of wearable fitness bands out there, but I’m a Nike loyalist so this seemed like a good choice. I liked that there was an app (iTunes) to monitor my progress on my iPhone and the design was pretty straightforward and cool. So in December, I began tracking my progress of how much activity I managed each day.

I set my goal at 2500 “Fuel Points” each day. “Fuel” is Nike’s proprietary way of tracking movement. While other fitness gadgets typically track steps (which the FuelBand does too), I liked the idea of tracking my overall activity. I didn’t have to know the science behind it, it just had to work.

So I started moving more.

At first, I would just move around the house. It was winter in Kansas when I got my FuelBand, so outdoor activities were out. I would get on our elliptical machine at home, or do a workout video…anything to get out of the sedentary rut that I was in. Over time, I became obsessed with watching my FuelBand get progressively more full and I would always feel a sense of accomplishment each day that I “got to green” (reached my daily Fuel goal).

Trying to “Be a Runner”

On a whim, I decided I would try running as one of my ways to get to green. I downloaded the Nike+ Running app (iTunes) because I wanted to see how far I could run and I just started running.

I quickly discovered that running is the worst.

BUT…I looked at my FuelBand after my run and I was already to green. I had run for about 15, maybe 20 minutes tops and I had reached my Fuel goal. This was a revelation to me. I could work out for a very short period of time and get to my daily fitness goal, which is all I really cared about at the time. If I could get to green faster by suffering through a couple of miles a few times per week, I guess I could try it.

So I started running a couple of times per week. I bought some new running shoes (Nikes, of course) and I even upped my daily goal from 2500 to 3000, feeling like I needed to push myself a little more. I entered into last summer and went on a streak of over two months in a row where I reached my Fuel. I was feeling good, so when Gene said to me, “Hey man, I see you’ve been running lately. Do you want to run a 5K together?” I agreed. It would give me something to aim at, even though I wasn’t running more than 2.5 miles at a time. (Adding another half-mile or so couldn’t be that hard, could it?)

“Training” for My First 5K

We put a race last fall on the calendar that was (thankfully) rained out. It was a busy time of year. I got out of the habit of running quite as regularly as I’d hoped. And then winter came again. There would be no 5K in 2013.

Fortunately, Kansas City has a bunch of 5Ks, including one that Gene was the race director for a few years ago. So we signed up for that one.

It was last Saturday.

It was cold and I still don’t feel like I am a runner, but I finished my first 5K, 16 months after I got my first Nike+ FuelBand (I say first, because I had to buy a new one last week when my old one stopped charging). Over that same period, I’ve lost about 20 pounds (I still have plenty more to lose) and I feel better about my health than I have at any time in my thirties.

What’s Next

The January before I got my first FuelBand, I hurt my back so badly that I couldn’t walk for a few days. I had herniated four discs in my lower spine. I went through rehab. I went to the chiropractor. Both told me I had to be stronger in my core. Now, running isn’t exactly good for your back, but it worked for me.

Fast-forward two years later: after I crossed the finish line on Saturday, I looked at my Nike+ Running app. I had run my first 5K at a pace that was almost 3 minutes faster than my original goal (don’t freak out, it was still really slow). I didn’t die. In fact, I thought to myself, “I could probably have run faster.” Which, if you know me at all, you’ll realize that these words coming out of my mouth is as unlikely as me buying season tickets to the Royals.

So I guess I have to find another race, keep training and keep improving. My friend Jake once told me not to focus on pace, but just worry about doing the miles. So I’ll keep running. Then maybe this fall, I’ll try a 10K. Making the jump to a half-marathon…don’t count on it.

And I’ll be tracking it all along the way.

Progress and Plateaus

Like many people, one of my New Year’s resolutions was to lose weight. I’ve consistently put on weight year-over-year since we got married 11 years ago. I decided to break the cycle this year. Heck, if Jennifer Hudson can do it, so can I.

So back in January, Alli and I started Weight Watchers Online. I’ve never been very good about watching what I eat, so being forced to enter my points every day was something I had to get used to at first.

But the progress I saw initially was pretty great. I lost my first 10 pounds in 4 weeks and felt better. Alli said I almost immediately stopped snoring, which made me feel even better.

Over the year, I’ve lost an additional 25 pounds, prompting me to get a tattoo as a reward.

Since I got over the first 30 pounds I wanted to lose, I have kind of floundered. I haven’t put all the weight back on, but I haven’t been losing anymore. It’s easy to identify why…I’ve stopped tracking my points, being less diligent about watching what I eat.

That hasn’t caused me to balloon up to my original weight, but I haven’t gotten past my initial 35 pounds, which is frustrating.

My last weigh-in, though, a small miracle. I lost 2 pounds and I finally feel like I’m back on track. This has been a challenging weekend since it’s Alli’s birthday today, but my hope is that I can make up any ground I might lose this weekend during the week.

We’ll see. My weight has been a battle for much of my life. I love food and I particularly love nights like Saturday night that are spent around a dinner table with people that you love, talking, eating and enjoying each other’s company. Honestly, if I gain any weight this week because of that, I won’t be mad.

Still, I’m hoping for more progress and less plateaus.

Medicine WORKS

I was over at my brother’s site last night and saw the sidebar image he had from when I bought a cow last January.

Part of the deal with buying the cow was that by not eating the red meat, I intended to lower my cholesterol. By combining the lack of red meat with my daily oatmeal, I hoped that by altering my diet, I could bring down my HDL level.

Well, that didn’t work. So my doctor put me on a statin (yay Zocor!) and told me to take it for 2 months and then get tested again. My cholesterol wasn’t totally off the charts, but it was 203 with only about 1/5 of that being good cholesterol. I took the medicine for two months, but then forgot to schedule my follow-up appointment. The doctor gave me another 2 months of medicine and I got my appointment scheduled, complete with the 12-hour fast beforehand.

I got my results back after a few days to some fascinating news: my cholesterol had dropped 60 points.

You read that right: 60 POINTS.

Apparently the statin did what not eating red meat and having oatmeal everyday could not. All 60 points that I shaved off my cholesterol were of the HDL persuasion. Awesome.

Start Being Fit

Several months ago, my sister-in-law began dating my worst nightmare. A FITNESS GUY. Everything I heard about him, even before I met him, was “he runs” and “he works out a lot” and the stuff that people that are in the shape that I’m in (more round than anything) would be considerably intimidated by.

After meeting Tyson (who comments as Ty on this here web space), I found him to be much more approachable as a person, especially considering that he and I soon bonded over subjects like nerdery and technology.

He never really pushed his fitness on me, but I found him the kind of person who makes you want to be a little more active. Several months later, I’m totally happy for my sis-in-law because she’s got a great guy. It’s really great that they’ve found each other.

A few months back, Tyson launched, a website devoted to fitness and health, built to help connect folks interested in those subjects with information and resources that they need. Even more cool is that he built the site himself using the very capable web application framework, Joomla.

If you are a person interested in fitness or even in just learning more about fitness and some tools, articles and other resources, go check it out.

In related news, Tyson is trying to encourage me to do the Chicago Urbanathlon with him – a 10-mile trek around the city of Chicago over obstacles and up stairs in Soldier Field and more. There’s a 12-week training program that I’ll have to start pronto in order to do it and I’m considering it because WHY NOT. Like I shouldn’t have a reason to get more fit. Still, if I stop posting entirely sometime around October, it’s likely because I HAVE BEEN CONSUMED BY THE URBANATHLON.