This year was (thankfully) full of successes. In business I was blessed with exciting shoots, assignments and projects (like LIVE I, B&W Nudes Today, Interviews etc.) but also privately all went smooth. Except that my beloved noble cat died after being a faithful companion for 16 years. What a grief!
In addition, the soprano singer career of my wife Noema (read Alluring Portfolio Shoot for Noema Erba, Opera Singer) in Italy is continuing to assume clearer forms. So all is fine. Yet…
I had one main obstacle growing to be a personal pain. Let me try to put this gently:
I definitely got chubby!
Why This Matters? Wellbeing & Job – Part I
At this point, you are probably asking yourself what all of this has to do with photography. Technically seen: nothing at all. But as a whole, as a professional (and private) person who wants to feel good in his own skin, quite a lot.
If you’re not interested in reading about my personal journey and how I literally kicked myself out of this disaster, feel free to drop out right here.
Physical Inventory & Verdict
A few weeks ago, when I was writing this post, I just had turned 44 years old. I have to admit that up until this age, I did not do any kind of physical and conditional workout; absolutely nothing for the past 25 years. Nothing – niente – nada – rien – null. Till now I was not even ashamed of that, no, why should I?
Well, this mindset slowly and unconsciously started to change about 2 years ago…
Although I took extensive strolls, and in my photography job I am moving and lifting a lot – I only flexed my brain muscle with high intent on a daily basis but left out the ones that really count to stay in shape. And this faux pas began to take its toll on me.
In June 2015, my scale showed me a shocking weight of 91.5 kg/202lbs (at a height of 187 cm/6’13 feet) and my abdominal measurement result slapped me with a circumference of 105cm/41”. Pure fat, so to say.
Getting older and starting to act more prominently in front of (educational) cameras and audience for speaking jobs, talking about and demonstrating the best techniques for sexy girl shoots, made me reflect more on myself and I must admit – my self-image became weirder and creepier with every additional pound. But I was not only worried about my visual appearance, no, actually and foremost it was really about my future health and overall condition.
This summer, I felt it was my last chance to radically change course. The only workable solution to my problem was getting started with serious exercising.
Summer – Phase I: Starting Changes
I began to glance – and finally pinpoint -the parameters for my workout schedule that I would follow from this time forward:
- Not being tied to any place in order to do my exercises. I’m a 7-days-a-week solopreneur, meaning I have absolutely no time to waste for things such as traveling throughout the city in order to visit a gym (or similar).
- No social place/groups to exercise with. I love being alone and do not need other (even nice looking) sweating people around me. Not even for motivational reasons. I want to fight for myself and need to exercise on my own schedule/terms.
- Over time it must be possible to reduce my daily time exposure/stint to gain back more time for my actual business.
Other than these non-negotiable conditions, I had no clue about what to do next.
It so happened that a marathon running shop located just around the corner (no joke) had a summer sale offering with great discounts. It’s Prague’s official store that organizes Prague Marathon and is embedded in the international organization and circuit with events all over the world. Now, I’m absolutely not into running nor interested in future marathon participation but I thought like “Hey, give it a chance. Let’s go there and talk to that crowd”. As mentioned, I had no idea on how to approach my loosing-weight-gaining-strength journey.
Long story short: The marathon guys did some running analyzes with me and recommended my first running shoes. I bought some additional workout clothes, and took two (linked) private basic-running-outdoor lessons ($15). That’s pretty much all I did for preparation… – so once again I found myself at the point where I had to figure out what my next step would be.
Summer – Phase II: Bold Changes & Humble Beginnings
Here’s what I’ve changed and begun with as of July 2015:
- Nutrition. I radically changed my nutrition and eating habits.
a. No-nos: Pasta & Pizza, burgers, fries, any kind of deep-fried food, processed food, white bread, artificial sweeteners and more.
b. Yeses: Clean, natural food, tons of vegetables & salads. Eggs, rice, couscous, bulgur, soups, fish, tofu (tastes better than expected) and more.
I still eat cheese, white yoghurts, meat, drink milk, and even have sweets sometimes. That’s all fine and works for me. And life’s too short for too many restrictions anyway!
- Running. I started my daily outdoor running routine. First about 15 minutes, then regularly 30 minutes (= approximately 5 km/3.1 miles). We have a large, quiet park around the corner, so that’s excellent.
July/August was hot as hell; I did sweat a lot. In retrospect, it actually turned out to be a great positive that I had started in midsummer – the kilos/pounds just melted away like they had just waited on me to finally start moving my lazy bones.
September, October, November… the days kept getting shorter and with it the temperature kept dropping. In the very end, I went outside to do my daily run at 4pm which was quite an intrusion into my regular daily business routine/timetable.
However, it was doable!
- Rowing. In addition to running, I added indoor rowing twice a week. I granted myself the luxury of buying a machine for my place (like Francis Underwood in House of Cards; but of course a less expensive and stylish model :-))
- Time exposure. During that phase, my training units demanded about 45 minutes a day.
Fall – Phase I: Extending Exercising
Early fall, I felt it was about time to make a real first actionable plan. In September, after 2 months of consistent running, I slowly added more and different exercises to my program, namely in the area of floor exercising. At that time, I had already lost 10 kg/22lbs due to my initial activities and I felt satisfied and motivated. Up to this date, the weight loss had proceeded with relatively low efforts and in my opinion, it showed substantial success. Note: My overall vision was never about just losing weight and getting slender – however, this was the first milestone on the journey to my main health goal and I had proudly reached it.
So here I was, ready to take on the next level. The updated, more comprehensive training plan now contained several different elements:
- Running. Daily routine to lose more weight (= fat).
- Floor exercising. Strengthen my core and torso muscles.
- Sling workout (TRX). Easy start to begin with arm, shoulder, chest and back muscle toning.
- Rowing. Twice a week.
- Time exposure. 90 minutes per day; split in two units.
Because the training activities grew they took away more and more of my available daily business time, yet I was able to handle this time loss quite well (at least for a certain period). I categorized exercising as a (business) project and therefore, I declined a few other photo projects. Though “exercising” is not making me any money, it will definitely pay off in the long run regarding my overall health and quality of life – which actually makes it priceless.
I still did my workout at home (with the park for my daily running dose being just around the corner) – so I could fully concentrate on the units themselves without having to waste additional time on traveling to a studio or the like.
Fall/Winter – Phase II: Extending Exercising
It got cold and dark outside, running had to be suspended for a few months (and still is at the moment). I don’t like to run on a machine and actually I also don’t have the money to buy a good one.
Moving all my activities indoors, I was worried as hell that without my running routine I would immediately regain weight.
So I replaced running with my home bike trainer and – lo and behold – I was able to maintain my weight, and even lost some more. I’m now in the weight-optimization-phase and everything takes much longer and requires special efforts (patience is needed).
My complete unit is now tied back to 60 minutes in total as I started to shorten some exercises. I can maintain my weight and at the same time I feel how I am getting stronger in my core. So one of the milestones (less time invested, yet maintained and improved successes) has been achieved.
Here is my current daily exercise plan (except for Sundays, that’s time to rest; well, rest the bones but not the brain, meaning working time only).
- Crossfit for core & torso muscles
- Strategic abdominal exercises for an even stronger core
- Different TRX workouts for upper body muscle toning
- 15 minutes biking in order to burn additional fat (400 calories)
- Twice a week rowing (20 minutes)
That’s it. Sounds like a lot but it’s in fact done faster (not necessarily easier) than expected.
Of course I (need to) have my tricks and support to feed/distract my mind when doing certain monotone exercises.
Supportive Edutainment Necessary
I still have to fight my weaker self and my stupid mind! Not every single time anymore but there are those days…
Here is what I am doing to kill the time/distract my mind during exercising (and what not):
- Crossfit/Floor exercising: Podcasts. Topics: Personal development, content marketing, branding, communication, excellence, being unemployable etc. No photography topics.
- Bike: Some US TV series that do not need a lot of thinking, like The Flash, The Goldbergs, etc.
- Rowing: Podcasts (see above).
- Running outdoors: No disturbance. Just being with myself and listening to my breath, examining my body actively and feeling the running rhythm. Once it finally gets easier to run, I am actually looking forward to enjoy nature… – and glancing at attractive, well-toned female runners 🙂
Accomplished Goals: Overview & Raw Data
- Phase I: Burning fat, losing weight: Success! Lost 20 kg/44lbs as of today. My weight is now 71.5 kg/157lbs. Waist circumference: from 105cm/41” to 85cm/33.5” (goal is 83cm/32.5”). And I have gained a new nutrition-consciousness (a real miracle!).
- Phase II: Maintaining lower weight, strengthening core, extending physical condition/cardio: Ongoing.
- Phase III: Toning muscles for a better look and continuous fat burning since a greater muscle mass burns more calories even when at rest: Just started out. A looooong way to go.
Once I build more muscles, the weight naturally will go up again. But that’s fine with me because this time it will be added weight in form of muscles, and not fat. I am actually looking forward to that 🙂
- Time management: 45 minutes in Phase I, 90 minutes in Phase II, now 60 minutes in Phase III = that’s acceptable/manageable for me. Like Schwarzenegger said: “Everybody needs to carve out 60 minutes per day to invest into a workout”. Thanks, Arnold!
Why This Matters? Part II: It All Comes Together
The way I am approaching my current back-to-breathe-and-condition journey might not exactly matter to and resonate with you. That is ok – no offense taken.
But what in my opinion matters regarding this whole story here, are some basic lessons learned about our personal well-being and work-life balance (what a shitty term), in conjunction with intentional behavior and recovery of our performance.
This can be done in many different ways (sports, reading, education, …) – it doesn’t matter much how. But you have to do it, no matter what. If you feel uncomfortable in your own skin, do something. Nobody else will do it for you!
What I Have Learned: Insights & Advice
“If you really want it, you can do it!” A platitudinous but still very inspirational and at some times unmasking quote. “Want!” That’s the magic word! “Can” is not the point here. “You always “can” if you only “want” to. Truly wanting is the essence of it all. Without a strong will for change there won’t be any – now that is no big news here… – yet it has to be executed.
Whatever kind of sports/exercise/workout you are planning to do, it’s never mainly about the quantity (length of training units, reps etc.) – it’s about doing it repetitively and on a continuous long term basis.
Just don’t quit. Fight! It will become a habit like brushing your teeth sooner or later (usually rather later). Simply show some grit and work through it. There’s no excuse – it’s your will, your mind (not even your heart – unless you have a heart condition)!
If you really want it, you can do it! That’s what I yet have to convince myself of quite often enough…