Month: March, 2014

I achieved a fitness goal without Facebook

Today is March 29. Judgment day.

Rewind to November, me and some fellows in the perpetually-chubby club decided to have a contest: Whoever can lose the most weight from Dec 1 to April 1 (was since revised) wins money. $50 /person with 5 people provides a meager $200 incentive provided the participant is willing to endure the temptation of, well, avoiding temptation. Today, I’m writing to share (brag) about winning.

I started on Dec 1 at 229 lovingly pounds and am typing, with great agility and alacrity might I add, at 182.6 lbs, close to 50lbs in 4 months.

I can’t help but notice all the fitness check-ins, the posts about leg day, or the easily forgotten motivational tropes. Listen, dude, no one cares that you lift your legs. In fact, no one will probably read this blog, so it’s probably just a cathartic, albeit narcissistic, process. At least I recognize the “look at me” approach that is the fitness subculture. Anyway, for those looking for tips in how I succeeded, here goes.

Lose It!

Prior to the competition, I had dabbled in downloading a calorie counting app. A friend had one, and he seemed successful in dropping real pounds. I always have been someone to work out. And before I tell you about how this app applies to my success, I must provide a little background.

I love beer, pizza, chips, soda, liquor, bacon, beef, chicken, and basically every iteration of the potato. Food I dislike to the point of gagging (trust me, I’ve tried): just about everything healthy. I don’t like lettuce, cabbage, carrots, etc. I think you see the disparity here. Anyway, it’s difficult for my palette and metabolism to work together in a way that allows for me to be smaller. Insert the calorie counter.

The Lose It app, if used correctly, makes you track every piece of food that enters your mouth. You quickly learn that one cookie (in all of its ooey, gooey deliciousness) will not be worth the emaciated feeling you’ll leave yourself with versus eating less calorie dense foods. Also, it gives you a daily allotment alongside a fitness goal. Say I start at 229 and want to lose 2lbs a week, the max the app allows, it will give you the number of calories you can. After each weigh in, and I weighed in about twice a week, the app would adjust since your resting metabolic rate….blah blah blah….you’re not as fat so you don’t need as much food aka energy. The module is simple.

I opted for the 2 lbs/week option. I set my goal for 192. I had not been under the Mendoza line since I played football for the St. Mary Knights, a lofty goal. With full confidence, I will say the first week and, by extension, month, is the hardest. My stomach was huge, but I was throwing pebbles in it. December sucked, and I was completely sober the whole month. The first beer I drank was on New Year’s Eve.

By January, I had been in a rhythm. They say it takes about 20 some days to get oneself into a habit. It takes longer, but a month or so should get the ball rolling. For early dieters, my advice is to go on a strict, dedicated diet for at least 30 days. Afterwards, you can loosen it up a little bit. February came and the weather sucked. While I maintained, I did take a week off. I ate and caved on a few things: sweets, starchy carbs. But by February, I believe my metabolism was working far more efficiently than it ever had. I got back into it with little damage and got prepared for the final push. March simply came and went, I was in a lifestyle by this time. The following is a list of crap that I ate in any combination, all under the calorie limit, though I did go over some days (weekends).

  • Apples
  • Low Fat Yogurt
  • Strawberries
  • Whole whole bread
  • Low carb pasta
  • Greek yogurt
  • Chicken (tons and tons of chicken)
  • Potatoes
  • Pickles
  • Marinara sauce
  • Tomato sauce
  • BBQ sauce
  • Low fat mayonnaise
  • Whole wheat tortillas
  • Flour tortillas
  • Popcorn
  • Pretzels
  • Cottage cheese
  • Beef Jerky
  • Fiber One 80 cal/serving cereal
  • Skim milk
  • Corn
  • Eggs
  • Egg whites (the ones that come pre-separated)
  • Grapes
  • Ham
  • V8 Fusion
  • Miller Lite
  • Olive Oil
  • Peanut Butter
  • Rice and Sides
  • Coffee
  • Ground Turkey

I made almost every meal at home. When I did eat out, I would substitute beef for chicken and try to avoid fries. I did cheat from time to time, so don’t think this diet was held to with Amish-like adherence.

 

Fitness

Full candor:  playing football most of my life was great for working out. I don’t hate going to the gym. I just hate running and still do (being fat/chubby is a frame of mind, which will never, ever leave me). Those looking to get a trainer or join CrossFit, which I keep hearing about, go for it. I had enough background to get away sans trainer/training program. My approach was much easier.

Sidenote: we live in the Internet age. The Internet is an easily accessible network containing innumerable amounts of information on anything. Use it! Research diet and exercise. You do not need anything more than a treadmill and floor space. 

I ran. A lot. I did intervals to start, running usually about 40 minutes with 4 minutes at a quick jog and 2 minutes at a brisk walk to recover. Once that got easier, I increased the pace. Once that got too easy (and you know it’s easy when you’re not breathing like a Jabba the Hut after walking a flight of stairs), I added elliptical and stairmaster jaunts. I’d run for 30 minutes, hop on the elliptical for 20, and finish on the stairs for 10. I’d vary those three based on how my legs felt that day, and how motivated I was.

At certain portions, I’d add in weight lifting. I’d work mostly on the floor doing core exercises and push-ups. It’s enough to maintain muscle without overworking the body.

By the last month, I was in good enough shape to run about 4 -5 miles per day in a single session minus the intervals. Each week I’d dedicate a day to trying to achieve a mini goal. For example, two weeks ago I’d decided I’d run 60 minutes straight and see how far I’d get. I ended at 7.5 miles, a personal achievement.

Honestly, if you distill all of my workout regimen,  it’s just to make sure you push yourself each week. If any single work out is getting too easy, increase the difficulty. Set mini goals, set time goals, set pace goals (quicker pace also burns more calories and hence I’m allowed to eat more food!)

The main idea

I didn’t share this over Facebook every day. I realize people don’t care all that much outside of their close circles. And by February, when someone’s eating pizza in front if you, $200 means nothing. The simple truth is that you, singular, have to be motivated. You have to want to get into better shape. If you’re cheating and then complaining about results, you’re lying. Find a reason and make progress. Those reasons can be any, but it comes down to you alone. I’ll always be a fat kid at heart, and I’m going to push my work outs further, but it’s been a great payoff.

 

 

El Fin

Too good to be true? It’s because it is, stupid.

Between Twitter and Facebook, the only two social media platforms for which I pay attention, there has been incessant clamoring about Ted Thompson’s ineptitude during free agency. Why didn’t we sign [insert just about any well-known NFL veteran]?

Let me answer this question for you, and you should remind yourself of this answer every March before your knee-jerk bitchiness starts percolating through. In essence, there are three types of players in the NFL based on their contracts: Rookies, second-contract veterans, and seasoned veterans. Rookies are cheap. Second-contract guys tend to be the most expensive (depending on skill, of course), and seasoned veterans are the players who require new contracts at around a period–30 to 32 years-old–where their skills may be ready for a decline.

In an ideal situation, a team’s core talent is fulfilled using players in first and second contracts. This tells me two things: First, players on rookie contracts are playing at or above their salary, hence, they are extremely valuable to a wins per dollar spent metric. If they don’t perform to their contract, their effect on the salary cap is minimal. Second, players on second contracts with the same team have been evaluated in-house for up to four years, a significant period of time to be able to provide value judgment. General managers and coaches have the strongest sense of a player’s worth, or in business sense, management can appropriately match cost to production. When input of cost is proportionate to production, value is met. Why does this matter? The salary cap.

The salary cap is a (somewhat) rigid ceiling dictating how much money a team can spend on its players. More or less, teams must fall under the salary cap each year. For the sake of easy math, let’s make the salary cap 100. Well, remember how important Aaron Rodgers was to the Packers this year? Remember how him missing was a quick realization to fans how many wins he’s personally responsible for? That’s why he takes up 15% of the cap. OK, we’re down to 85, but we still have to sign 52 other players, some of which are playmakers like Clay Matthews. He’s on a second contract and cannot be let go. He represents a 7. Josh Sitton is one of the best guards in pro football, he’s a 4. We’re now at 26, over 1/4 through money spent but yet only 3/53 through an NFL roster. We resigned Sam Shields to a pretty big deal, so he gets a 5. Tramon Williams is in an older, yet still lucrative deal worth a 5, and T.J. Lang is a veteran on a second contract worth a 3. Don’t forget about the forgettable Morgan Burnett contract: 5. As it turns out, it’s easier to build a roster of solid players in line with the cap when you have production working on its rookie deals worth a 1 (maybe 2 for a top pick) like Eddie Lacy, Randall Cobb, Micah Hyde, Mike Neal, Casey Hayward, et al.

So Green Bay has cap room to go spend though, you say? Going into the new league year where free agency begins, the Packers had 16 unrestricted free agents. No longer could the Packers negotiate a contract where cost was equal to production, instead, the double-edged sword called the free agency markets would dictate salary (the cap number). Personally, I was OK to see B.J. Raji walk along with quite a few others. I think most fans were fine with that, too. The absurd, complete belligerence about signing big names comes now.

“SIGN STEVEN JACKSON!” — 2013

Steven Jackson stat line this past season: 12 games, 156 rushes, 542 yards, 45.2 yards/game, 3.5 average yards/carry, 0 100+ yard games, 6 TDs

What did Green Bay do? They drafted Eddie Lacy.

Eddie Lacy’s stat line this season: 15 games, 284 rushes, 1178 yards, 78.5 yards/game, 4.1 average yards/carry, 4 100+ yard games, 11 TDs

This isn’t an anomaly, aberration, or an exception to the rule. It’s a microcosm. Moreover, Jackson is being paid $12 million over 3 years. Lacy is making $3.4 million over 4. In terms of production, Lacy is clearly a better choice. In terms of value, the place where production is proportionate to cost, is not just clear, it should be revelatory. 

“Seattle signed all those players last year and they won the Super Bowl!”

Yes, they did win the Super Bowl. Yes they did sign all those players. But go back and reread the cap number examples. Who were the most dominating players on the Seahawks? Richard Sherman, Bobby Wagner, Russell Wilson (premium position/premium price). They are all on rookie contracts. Seattle could afford to spend because they didn’t yet have to spend on their own. Just wait until all of those players are to get the second contract, specifically Wilson. Additionally, veterans entering into free agency are looking for a retirement pay day. They want the contract to financially support them and their family for life. Money talks. Seattle signed Michael Bennett to a one-year contract. Cliff Avril, I believe, signed a two-year contract. Once they need to resign their core players from the draft, those free agent signings will have expired. Seattle played all season long with house money. It’s easy to gamble when you have nothing to lose.

“San Francisco has owned Green Bay the last three years.”

Yes they have, there’s no denying that. But see above: Kaepernick is producing wins above his rate of compensation. When he needs a new contract, some key pieces will have to go. Aldon Smith is still on a rookie contract. The ‘Niners are so damn good on defense precisely because they sucked so much ass for so long. Most of the defense is comprised of top round draft picks.

My thesis is thus: successful teams locate value. Copycats chase unicorns. The Saints just mortgaged their future to sign Byrd. Goodbye Jimmy Graham after next season. Washington always signs the big name in free agency. How many NFC East titles has that won? The Dolphins spent big last year, and good thing Mike Wallace lived up to…oh wait, nevermind.

When players enter free agency knowing a big pay day is coming, they are likely in the midst of or exiting their prime. They expect to be payed based on past production, and teams pay them for that. The issue, though, is that the arrow is trending flat to slightly down (or even more so). When GMs identify players of their own who are entering their prime, they are paying not only for past performance, but also ascending production. It allows for value.

And on that note, I’m going to make a prediction. Denver will struggle next year. They’ll make the playoffs, but they won’t win the Super Bowl. I don’t think they’ll even make it. Manning’s arm is dead against the top NFC teams. Seattle exploited the wobbly duck for the one worst piss poundings I’ve ever witnessed in a Super Bowl. They just signed DeMarcus Ware and Aqib Talib. Both contracts are based on prior performance and not on future production. David Bahktiari shut down Ware last year. Bahktiari makes damn near close to the rookie minimum as a 4th round pick. Ware makes a guaranteed $10 million. Once Manning retires, the most important position becomes pedestrian at best. Denver will not have money to pay anyone to make up that deficit. They will be one of the worst teams in the league very, very soon.

You do the math, dummy.