I’m back from summer & vacation hiatus and (obviously) ready to blog again!  To ease back into it I’ll wrap up my series on weight loss by blogging about exercise, as promised a few months ago.  But first a quick update: a couple of weeks ago I broke through the 200 pound mark, and today I weigh 198 pounds.  This is the first time I’ve weighed less than 200 in 20+ years.  My son was a baby back then, and it was before my daughter was born (hence she’s NEVER known me to be this thin).  When I started this diet back on 1/1, I was thinking just getting to 230 would be a success (and it would have), but I kept on going and by late spring I was thinking it would just be really cool to get below 200.  So here I am, and it is indeed VERY cool.  People I haven’t seen in a while don’t even recognize me.  I show people pictures of me on my iPhone before I lost weight and they are stunned, and this is the best feeling of all.  I have a new life.  My current (and final) goal stands at 185, and I hope (intend, actually) to get there before the week of Thanksgiving when we’re headed back to our little corner of paradise in the Bahamas.

So…exercise, the “E” word.  As I’ve said before, exercise hasn’t been a major component of this round of weight loss.  I figured back in January that changing my dietary habits would be challenging enough, adding a new exercise regiment to the mix would be just too much of a commitment and lead to burn-out (a conclusion based on my decades of yo-yo dieting experience).  Besides, the logic and reason around our simple sure-fire rule (consume fewer calories than you’re burning and you’ll lose weight) doesn’t necessarily require exercise to work, which I have indeed (somewhat) proven.  For me, exercise posed too much of a threat of becoming a crutch (if I burn 200 calories on the elliptical machine, that means I can eat 200 calories more, woohoo!)

On the other hand, as I lost weight I found that I had a growing surplus of energy.  I live in a 3 story townhouse and over the years I’ve found ways of avoiding going up and down the stairs, like accumulating stuff to carry back and forth and leaving piles on the landing (I’ve confirmed with my neighbors that this is typical behavior for us townhome dwellers).  But with new found energy, I avoided the stairs less and less.  Only 2 months into the diet and I was voluntarily (and happily) taking the stairs at work also (my office at the time was on the 3rd floor).  And while on phone conferences I took pleasure in walking laps around the parking lot and park of our office building.  In short, I didn’t really plan to exercise, but as my weight dropped, my everyday activity levels increased.  I was not exercising per se, but simply living more actively.

Also I love to snow ski.  For someone who grew up in South Mississippi (Gulfport, pretty much as far south in Mississippi as you can go without getting wet), snow skiing is about as natural as a trip to the moon.  I’ve only been skiing since my mid-30s and while I’m not particularly great at it (groomed blue cruisers are my preference), I get a great deal of pleasure from it.  And it is most definitely a work out.  We’ve been skiing at least once every year since 1997, even if only by driving to the mountains of western North Carolina (yes, there’s skiing there), and I’ve always suffered from a lack of stamina, i.e. even if we got a late start at 10:30 in the morning, I could only make it to about 2:30 (with an hour for lunch) before being completely worn out.  Day 2 would be even shorter, and day 3 I would generally hurt myself pretty quickly.  But this past February, having lost ONLY 20 pounds, I was able to do something I’ve never done: out-ski my wife…by an hour or so.  Having lost another 45 pounds since then, you can imagine how anxious I am to get back to the slopes to see how I can do now.

A couple of weeks ago I met a new great friend, and as many of my conversations go these days, we talked about weight loss.  He has struggled with his weight for years also and I imparted as much wisdom and encouragement as I could muster given my own experiences with diet.  In turn he imparted a pearl of wisdom on exercise, which is that it’s way more effective to get exercise from an activity that you love doing rather than a workout whose only purpose is to burn calories or build muscle (unless of course that’s what you truly love, but I’ve never met anyone where that’s the case; they don’t call it a “work”out for nothing).  It’s simple but profound, just like my sure-fire diet.  In a nutshell, if you love to ski (or play tennis, basketball, racket ball, whatever) then you’ll do it more–so go do it.  In my case, my new fitness goal is simply to ski as often and as hard and as challenging as I can, to push myself to improve, to have more endurance, and go faster and steeper.  I would love, for example, to figure out a way to live and work in a ski area during the winters, and I’m working hard on figuring out how to pull that off.  I’ve already found myself researching exercises to improve my skiing ability, from squats and toe lifts to running up the stairs at home instead of just walking up the stairs.  It’s just exercise, but when I think of it in the context of preparing to go skiing this winter, it is somehow more fun.

One last note on exercise.  Just like the calorie counting apps like my favorite, MyFitnessPal, there are no shortage of great exercise apps.  If running is your thing, there are several free and low-cost couch-to-5k apps out there that take you through a progression of fitness.  I’ve tried the Gorilla workout app on iPad and it’s got some great features (like videos of all the exercises), but I’m only using it as a means of preparing for ski season.

That concludes my (planned) blogs on diet and exercise.  Over the past few months I’ve accumulated a list of blog topics on my iPhone, including some notes and observations from my vacation in Europe in June (along with previous vacations), a countdown of the companies I most admire, a few mobile app reviews, and blogs about my other new passion–my home theater.

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