HomeEntrepreneurHow I Shifted from Simply Counting Energy to Supercharging My Health Exercises...

How I Shifted from Simply Counting Energy to Supercharging My Health Exercises | by Mark Suster

That is a part of a weight reduction and health enchancment collection that I’m writing to share how I went from 222 kilos and unable to bike greater than 20 minutes on a Peloton to 153 kilos and operating 8–12 miles / day in simply 18 months.

I’m no superhero and I’m not going to provide you some unrealistic story that’s unachievable. I’ve been on an 18-month, constant, targeted, data-driven strategy to bettering every thing about myself from meals to exercises to sleep (Oura Ring) to water consumption (Hidrate). I’ll publish much more concerning the gear I used and what works and what doesn’t however at this time is about how I began to supercharge my exercises.

To this point I’ve written about the psychology of meals and individually about the meals providers I exploit and at this time I’m going to speak about how I gamified my sports activities routines to extend constant efficiency each month.

I’m not a world-class athlete and I by no means can be (nor need to be). However I can run a 10k in sub 8-minute miles which for 52 years outdated and a busy, full-time job isn’t too shabby both. I can sneak out after a day of conferences and put in 10 miles and nonetheless be again at my laptop 1:45 later and typing away or Zooming (with a hat and nonetheless sweaty :)).

Mountain biking in Arizona. Tiring out the kids 😉

I quantified my meals consumption initially by means of Noom and later MyFitnessPal the place I preserve a meals journal. It’s tremendous straightforward to trace every thing and on the finish of the day it tells you not whole energy but in addition breakdown by fats, carbs and protein (plus sodium, and so on). I monitor my weight each morning very first thing once I get up on a Withings Physique+ scale.

Armed with meals & weight knowledge and objectives I turned to growing my train alongside lowering my energy. Noom had a rule that you could possibly “eat 50% of all energy burned” in order that if I burned 700 energy in a day I might eat an additional 350 energy so I turned additional motivated to burn these 700 energy! After I began I didn’t really feel I had the time for monster exercises (and in actuality I wasn’t prepared for it) however I discovered that I might use my Apple Watch to trace my walks and after that every thing turned a stroll. I turned much less curious about taking the subway in NY once I might stroll 3 miles to my assembly simply by leaving a little bit bit earlier and taking calls alongside the best way.

I finished planning breakfast, lunch and dinner conferences and as an alternative did walk-and-talks. I wished to see what number of miles per day I might stroll simply doing the issues I usually did on daily basis. Calls had been carried out on my AirPods and with my telephone in my pocket. I turned as obsessive about my each day strolling targets as my meals logging had turn into. I’d meet individuals for hour-long hikes and never hour-long lunches.

I’d plan a day round which calls I might take whereas I used to be strolling and which conferences could possibly be cell. Someday when my automotive was within the store I requested my colleague Stuart for a experience dwelling however I requested him to drop me a mile away from my home so I might stroll the final mile. I turned a bit obsessive about hitting my each day targets. It was solely quarter-hour additional however I used to be glad to have the additional mileage earlier than time for dinner so I had extra energy obtainable to eat if I wished them.

It turned a way of life, a behavior. Not in a single day. I made small adjustments and locked in these habits. Then I’d at all times search for different issues I might add. It was all concerning the numbers, the each day objectives, the weigh-in each morning, retaining to my energy targets and never breaking my “streak.” It was a recreation. I used to be gamifying myself.

I used the Apple Watch to indicate what number of days in a row I had hit my strolling targets and my calorie targets and I didn’t need to break streak. I even discovered myself standing up in conferences in order that I might “shut all three circles.”

I knew that I used to be giving over to a recreation, to numbers, to mad thoughts video games of streaks however I made a decision to embrace it. I satisfied myself that if I broke streak I’d then not get again on the horse. It’s like the children with their obsession with Snapchat streaks.

Then I discovered my subsequent set of metrics to take me to the subsequent stage. After simply 4 months I had hit my first huge goal getting my weight from 222 to 200 and now this quantity that appeared not possible once I started was now in sight. 1–8–5.

I had by no means been capable of hit it earlier than as 195–200 at all times appeared to be my yo-yo level the place I’d revert again to unhealthy habits and quit no matter fad food regimen acquired to me to 200. Not this time. I used to be prepared for the subsequent stage.

Subsequent up in my larger push was Peloton. I began using once more and located it exhausting. I began on my superior newbie Ally Love rides for 20 minutes. I used to be hooked on the positivity. At a time the place the world was a continuing Trump dumpster hearth of unfavourable information I discovered Ally’s positivity so up lifting.

So I set a rule. I made a decision I’d experience Peloton with Ally within the mornings BEFORE I’d test my telephone in order that I’d begin the day with positivity and never angst. I made it a rule with myself, “No telephone till after Ally.” Then it turned “No telephone till after Ally, a bathe and a espresso.” The longer I stayed off my telephone the extra peaceable my mind was within the mornings. I wasn’t going to alter the unhealthy information, however I might delay myself from feeling mentally exhausted by all of it.

That is when the ability of psychology actually shone by means of. Having anyone telling you that “you are able to do it” and inspiring you to be your finest self is actually infectious.

“Hit it! Give up it! And say you probably did it!” she would shout with an enormous smile on her face. I began saying it to my spouse each morning. It was a metaphor for “this isn’t so onerous” and “I really feel self righteous once I’m carried out!”

20 minutes turned half-hour turned 45 minutes. And there was a lot knowledge! I might enhance my cadence and my rigidity and management outputs to see how a lot whole output I might do in a given time. I might evaluate myself to different riders or to my earlier time. (Peloton revealed how many individuals experience every experience and also you see the place you rank). I didn’t have to “win” I simply wanted to return in across the place within the pack that I anticipated to for my health stage (For me my purpose was at all times prime 20% on the bike, prime 5% on runs).

It pushed me more durable, it turned my very own little competitors with imaginary individuals I used to be using towards and with myself.

I turned happier on daily basis. Extra outcomes a greater mindset and naturally higher and higher outcomes on the size.

The an important perception hit me. At any time when I wished to “get into form” I’d work out with thoughts of a 20-year-old however the physique of a 40-something (now 52) yr outdated. I had just a few nice exercises however invariably injured myself each time.

My Peloton teacher Matt Wilpers stated there have been three issues for all athletes to give attention to:

  1. Frequency > Period
  2. Period > Depth**
  3. Solely then do you have to give attention to stage of effort / depth.

His recommendation was this. Most of us attempt to come again from being off form and do actually onerous exercises. And naturally we injure ourselves after which cease understanding and placed on weight once more. He stated it was OK to not give attention to depth.

** (Observe that there’s a sound place for HIT exercises “high-intensity coaching” to be combined into different kinds of exercises however I’m simplifying for these making an attempt to enhance general endurance and health)

In case you’re doing 2 days / week are you able to make it 4? In case you’re doing 4 might you make it 5? Solely whenever you hit 5–6 days do you have to give attention to getting 20 minutes to half-hour to 45 minutes.

Frequency of labor outs issues far more than length of exercises which issues far more than the depth of exercises. Most individuals get this backwards.

So I made it a rule I needed to get in not less than 5 Peloton’s / week. I needed to do one each week (I’m on 65 weeks in a row as we communicate and I even pressure myself to do digital ones once I journey in order that I don’t “break streak.”

I’d rotate between biking and operating so I didn’t use the identical muscle mass each single day. Quickly I used to be doing 7 days / week — some straightforward, some more durable. Quickly 45 minutes turned 60 turned 75 turned 90. Now I can experience 2–3 hours no downside.

I began noticing that on sure rides different individuals had a lot larger “output” (depth) than I did. So I began texting buddies and asking how they did it and getting recommendation. My cadence improved, my resistance improved, my output improved, my muscle tone improved.

In the direction of the top of this era my health stage had elevated to a degree the place I might begin jogging outdoors once more and I did one thing I hadn’t carried out since I used to be 35. I began operating within the mornings once I traveled and I invited colleagues to jog with me. As a result of I needed to get up early I finished consuming as a lot alcohol at night time. Besides once I visited Lindel in Austin. However that’s a unique story. And as punishment I nonetheless acquired my ass out and ran Girl Chook Lake on 4 hours sleep.

If my conferences had been too early within the morning I’d schedule one hour between our final assembly and dinner and as an alternative of checking my telephone or sending unnecessary Tweets I’d get in a 40 minute run after which 20 minute bathe. I began making my as a lot of exercises social as I might.

I felt wonderful.

Then I made a mistake which induced me to plateau for 60 days and begin to wonder if I had hit some intractable ground. I had stopped utilizing Noom. I figured with the exercise machine I had turn into I didn’t want to trace what I ate any extra. I figured that my health would now carry me ahead to the brand new me. I used to be between 185–190 kilos and I figured this have to be the 50+ ground. No one returns to at least one’s faculty weight.

“I’m 51 now so I’m not purported to be lower than 190 kilos.”

Besides {that a} easy Google search advised me that the proper weight was for a person who was 5’10” (okay, okay, 5’9″, properly, it relies upon who’s asking) and it stated 144–176. Shit. How was I in such fine condition and I used to be nonetheless 10–15 kilos above the perfect weight for my peak???

My huge perception was this:

When our exercises improve we give ourselves “license” to eat extra as a result of we really feel we’re earned that. The energy you eat typically exceed the energy you burned. You possibly can’t outrun the fork!

I got here up with a plan. And every thing modified

I went again to foundational stuff. I noticed by then that simply operating or biking or strolling however not being attentive to what I ate was an excuse for me to not be disciplined about meals as a result of, properly, I like meals. I seen that after a run Stuart would eat a bowl of fruit at Pret-a-Manger whereas I’d order oatmeal, a small sandwich, a restaurant latte AND fruit despite the fact that we went on the identical run collectively. If I ran within the morning I used to be utilizing it as an excuse for why I used to be allowed to order dessert on the restaurant after dinner.

No extra. I used to be prepared for the subsequent stage. And admittedly Covid had simply began and I assumed, “I assume I’ve to set an unrealistic purpose like hitting 175.” I hadn’t carried out that since my 20s. I by no means dreamed of hitting 160 (not to mention 153).


I made a decision to get again to watching the “energy in” and switched from Noom to MyFitnessPal (MFP). Noom was nice for getting me into the proper state of understanding why I made unhealthy meals selections however now I actually simply wished the very best, best means of monitoring what I ate.

MFP has an enormous database of meals so typing in what I used to be consuming was tremendous easy. And it has a bar code scanner, which saves a ton of time.

I arrange weekly objectives and a date by which I used to be going to hit 175 (“yeah, proper!”). I pushed myself to eat dinner earlier — normally earlier than 7pm, cease consuming alcohol and cease consuming after I used to be carried out with dinner. I created a rule of my two “cheats” after dinner. I might eat as much as 3 popsicles (30 energy every) and/or one bag of microwave popcorn (100 calorie pack) and I ate them proper after dinner so I’d cease consuming early. I began chewing Trident sugarless gum after this small snack as a “rule” that I used to be not capable of eat the rest after I had the gum. It turned one other gamification. I advised myself if I broke the rule even as soon as then the rule didn’t imply something and it will lose its energy. So I by no means let myself break the rule. It was like Matt Wilpers telling me, “you didn’t flip up right here for 45 minutes simply to blow your food regimen within the last quarter-hour!” I needed to yell it into my very own ear.


By the point I used to be 185 I had turn into much less fearful about telling individuals I used to be making an attempt to be healthier as a result of by then it was sort of apparent. I had already misplaced 35+ kilos and it confirmed. So I began speaking to my little brother, Matt, about weight and my objectives. We agreed to be accountability companions. I’d take a display screen seize of my each day objectives in MyFitnessPal and ship them to my brother.

I’d ship him the log that confirmed “each day calorie purpose, whole energy consumed, whole energy burned” and I’d ship him a little bit word like “I drew the road at this time — no cheats!” or “I sort of imploded and ate an excessive amount of licorice so I compelled myself to experience an additional half-hour this afternoon.” It felt very nice to have anyone else to be accountable to even thought honestly it was actually simply accountability to myself and I used to be hacking it to create an exterior strain to be my higher self.

I acquired comfy telling my brother my weight so each week I’d ship my weekly log and I turned massively motivated to have anyone to ship a graph to that confirmed my weight down by 2.2 kilos! It turned addictive. Type of just like the Dopamine rush you get whenever you share an excellent picture on Instagram and all your folks “like” it.


By now each day walks and rings in Apple had been now not adequate. I wanted more durable objectives, I wanted extra bold exercises, I wished to tear by means of extra energy so I might hit my weight targets. I used to be mentally and bodily powerful. I used to be able to compete. However how?

I found a function on Peloton that had a month-to-month leaderboard. You could possibly enter problem the place you’d mechanically log your miles and days ridden (or run) towards any of your folks who joined the problem. I made a decision in Might 2020 to affix the using problem so I gave up operating for the month and determined to place myself on a 31-day biking problem. Me towards any punk who thought they might beat me on the bike!

I’m positive none of them had been actually even paying consideration however I created imaginary rivals in my thoughts. Sincerely. My primary opponent was Andrew Peterson. Why? As a result of he’s such a rattling good rider. Each experience of his he’d experience additional and more durable in every half-hour of a experience than I probably might. However I had a plan to “beat” him. I’d simply experience longer. I’d set my alarm and get up early earlier than work to get a 90-minute experience in and I knew he rode within the afternoons. My plan was to put on him down. To make him log in on daily basis and assume “crap, he put in one other 30 miles!” By the point he was using I’d sneak again proper earlier than dinner and I’d get an additional 20–half-hour in in order that I might get one other 8–10 miles.”

Sure. I’m bizarre. Sure, I KNOW he wasn’t actually paying consideration in any respect and didn’t even know I used to be using. However I knew that the sport I performed labored on ME. I wanted a competitor to beat and I didn’t need to lose this imaginary competitors in Might and I set a purpose of profitable for the month and dropping wasn’t an choice. I’ve to confess that some individuals did discover. I began getting texts from some buddies saying “rattling, you’re placing on a ton of miles on the Peloton this month!” (which solely fueled me extra as a result of I assumed “see, individuals are watching the race!”).

My spouse thought I used to be completely mashugana and I imply it. I’d inform her about my plan to get up early and make Andrew wince when he noticed what number of miles he was going to must experience to beat me for that day. My plan was to demoralize him earlier than he needed to experience so he wouldn’t even dare attempt to go additional. No, I by no means advised Andrew any of this till maybe now.

On Might thirty first the competitors ended. I gained. Not by quite a bit, perhaps 20 or so miles however I used to be able to experience from 9pm to midnight that night time if I needed to in an effort to keep forward.

I used to be so pleased with what I had achieved on the bike that month. My legs and lungs moved to an entire new health stage. I used to be so happy that I went out and acquired myself a brand new highway bike and promised myself that because the climate was getting higher I’d get out and experience extra outdoor.

I didn’t do a display screen seize on that precise finish of month however in the course of Might you may see what this obsessive exercise and recreation I performed (with myself) did to each my exercise regime (727.7 miles between April 23 — Might 22 or 24.2 miles / day.) And that excludes all the operating and lifting I used to be doing.

This clearly isn’t Olympic-level biking however as you may see it did burn a further 31,000 energy throughout this month or greater than 1,000 / day and since I used to be holding myself accountable in MyFitnessPal and never simply “consuming something I wished as a result of I used to be understanding so onerous.” I used to be gamifying each energy in and energy out. Listed below are the outcomes throughout that interval as measured on MFP and despatched to my brother in the course of June, 2020.

I couldn’t imagine it. 190 had turn into 185 after which 180. After I began my obsessive Peloton burst I used to be already beneath 175 and 6 weeks later I had approached 160. 10% of my physique weight in 2 months with none loopy food regimen. I used to be prepared for my subsequent huge problem and set of instruments.

That’s once I found Strava. And every thing modified once more. Strava has turn into my Mecca. It was next-level neighborhood. It was subsequent stage knowledge and statistics. It was next-level leaderboards and challenges and progress. Strava acquired me outdoor once more and social once more (with masks or Buffs) and made me related to the bodily worlds once more.

However I’ll save that for the subsequent publish. This has already gotten lengthy sufficient.

I simply need to depart you with one last thought …

The toughest train determination is 1 vs. 0. Beginning vs. not. When you begin, doing the work is rarely as onerous as you think about. As I kind this it’s 4pm and I promised myself I’d get in a run earlier than darkish. So I’m about to go out (and thus not test for typos, sorry). I did the identical factor yesterday late afternoon.

Okay. I did it. I’m again. Took my 18 minutes however acquired my butt out the door and on some hills.

I by no means really feel like beginning. However as a result of I don’t need to break streak I at all times do. I begin out by telling myself I don’t have to go far or onerous, I simply have to go. As soon as out it’s at all times simpler to go a little bit additional or a little bit more durable than my pre-exercise mind needs to enroll to. Frequency issues! And Strava is the instrument that helps me gamify my frequency. I’ll clarify why within the subsequent publish. However for now, right here’s my Strava trophies for at this time, I solely pushed myself for PRs a few segments.

Oh, and now I can actually take pleasure in my dinner tonight !!! Under is my present tally on MyFitnessPal with energy remaining. Sure, I actually do that on daily basis.

Upcoming posts will cowl:

  • Strava
  • How I Realized to Sleep (Oura Ring)
  • Steady Glucose Monitoring (Ranges)
  • The Finest Gear I’ve Found (Health trackers, headphones, sneakers, socks, water options, anti-chaffing, bikes)
  • Music options
  • What I’m engaged on subsequent (weight coaching, Tonal, pushups, and so on)


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