I’m 2 lbs away from my weight loss goal. What’s my secret you ask? An ancient technique passed down to me by visions of an Aztec god: diet and exercise. Specifically soccer. Oodles of soccer.
About two years ago I tore some tiny tendons in my groin on both sides, which really hamstrung my ability to exercise and I packed on about 20 extra pounds. After a bunch of physical therapy and time, I was finally ready to get back out there this winter. Here’s a bunch of the little changes I’ve been making to get in shape and get healthier so I can kill it on the pitch:
* Rejoined a soccer league. You see the positive impact of weight loss and better nutrition in every game.
* Found a private soccer trainer on Craigslist. His name is Frank and he played professionally in Germany for 17 years. He kicks my ass and shows me stuff I never knew I was doing wrong, even though I’ve been playing since I was 5.
* Got my conditioning up to game level by doing self-directed interval training – basically running at several different speeds in a session – several days a week through Adidas MiCoach. I already owned a heart rate monitor system so this was free for me. You choose your sport and your fitness level, they give you a several week course of 30 minute running sessions. You have to switch back and forth between four different heart BPM zones and it really works. When my old Saturday game got started again this Spring, I was able to keep making runs all game long, there was always “juice left in the tank.” And by doing the running training with the ball the whole time really helps with dribbling.
* Look for ways to increase the intensity and frequency of your workouts. Can you add in five more minutes of intense sprinting? So you hit the gym yesterday and your arms are tired, how about a few laps around the park on your bike? Do you really need to rest today or can you toss in a quickie bit of exercise, even if it’s just shooting some hoops for 20 minutes?
* Take your injuries seriously. Nothing puts a damper on getting back into an exercise routine like an injury. Stretch before and afterwards. Don’t go all out your first week back in the gym or on the field. Slowly ramp up your exercise level. Get a heating pad, Biofreeze, and a nice reusable ice pack. Alternate between the pad and the pack every 20 minutes when you’re injured or sore so you can get back out there faster.
* Started making more meals at home. My wife and I got the Braverman recipe book and those are great, but sometimes they take forever, especially when you’re a noob when it comes to chopping all these different kinds of vegetables. So sometimes we just decide to make “a chicken dish” or “a cool salad” and look up recipes on Epicurious under “quick” and “healthy.” Their iPhone app is pretty boss too.
* We try to eat dinner earlier in the day. If you’re doing most of your digesting when you’re asleep, more of those calories end up in those flesh pillows on your waist.
* Drink less but if you do drink, try to go for the clear liquors, like vodka and gin. They have fewer calories. With so many delicious beers and whiskeys out there, this one is hard to do all the time. But if you just mix it up two out of five times, you’re doing better than you were before.
* Strive to make wiser food choices when eating out. Pizza is so nice and easy, but how about a nice little sandwich instead? Instead of splitting a large, how about a medium? Oh look, a smoothie shop! I love beef, but I push myself to get the chicken dish instead to satisfy my meat tooth. It’s not necessary to eat dry wheat mash every day to lose weight, you just have to keep nudging yourself to eat just a little bit better.
* Started drinking coffee black. It’s not that much milk and sugar but it adds up when you do it every day, and subtracts down when you don’t. Plus now I get to enjoy the aroma of the beans more and it feels more ritualistic, like wafting incense from a snifter.
Oh, and get yourself a good scale. I got a Tanita scale that can also measure your fat and water percentage. It does this by shooting a tiny jolt of electricity through your body and sees how long it takes to get through. This is helpful because you can see that while during one week you might be working hard and not losing any raw weight, your fat percentage is going down. That’s very helpful for not getting discouraged.
No earth-shattering revelations here (I made up the Aztec god stuff), it’s just a lot of little things that have been adding up to work for me. Plus a lot of exercise. The soccer is really key. I love it and I love getting better at it. Having a regular competitive team sport at the center of my fitness regimen has really helped focus and drive my weight loss goal.
So now I feel great, I have a lot more energy, and I look forward to busting through this weight loss goal in the next week or so and setting a new one. And of course, getting a hat trick in my next game.