Exercise Log

Chronicling the latest installment of “try to get into shape”. Look, the COVID-19 lock-down was bad for everyone and bad in very different ways. For some people is was really bad. There was loss, loneliness, and minimum wage martyrdom, none of which I had to deal with personally. I’m thankful for the relative ease my life has been during this time (since it’s still going on as I type this. The ‘lock-down’ is done, but the residual side effects are on going). That said, one thing that I did encounter was weight gain from general lethargy (and a lot of cocktails). My diet had gone to hell (or rather, it was amazing in terms of high quantities of fat, salt, sugar, fried, sour… all the food groups) and my clothes were getting tight. I know, “boo-hoo. You gained weight”, but I’ve had yo-yo weight issues all my adult life and it’s getting more difficult to lose the pounds. In August, I read about a particularly gnarly hike called “Cactus to Clouds” and made a decision to do it. But I’d need to get in shape if this was going to turn into reality. There’s nothing like, “not dying on the mountain” to motivate one to exercise and eat better.


I’m no nutritionist or health expert, but I do have the advantage of losing large amounts of weight through changes in diet and exercise. Before my wedding back in 2001, I lost over 40 pound via extreme caloric deficiency, 5 mile a day jogging, and long evening walks around work… and one Subway veggie sandwich split between lunch and dinner. ~800 calories for a full day. It was super unhealthy and left me constantly hangry. These days, my practices are less extreme. After having gained and then lost 20-30 pounds FOUR OTHER TIMES in the past 20 years, I’ve learned ways of focusing on weight loss in a less unhealthy way, but unfortunately I’ve learned nothing about preventing said weight gain in the first place. The only thing my body and brain seem to agree on is that food is delicious (especially the stuff that is bad for us) and that exercise is hard and not worth doing. Self-destruction seems to be in our DNA.

My most recent lesson is that it REALLY helps to have a short term goal where failure can mean very bad things. Really keeps things on track. The most important lesson comes from the old adage, “you can’t exercise away a bad diet”. Take this one to heart. It’s less about calorie counting and more about balancing physical activity with lower amounts of (mostly healthy) food. Here’s the gist of my routine for the next 7 weeks:

  • Make food ahead of time, so at mealtime, when hunger easily triumphs over will power, food prep is a known quantity. I make a beans and rice dish that offers protein, starches, and fiber. Another good one is a delicious carrot slaw from a recipe I found on Chow. I’ll add a simple spinach salad featuring arugula and a Caesar dressing to get me some of those leafy greens I’ve heard so much about. However, I’ll also add some potato chips to lunch because I love potato chips. I also believe being TOO stringent can lead to fatigue and that can lead to blowing everything up with binge eating. Just watch the amount. Aside from morning coffee, I eat two meals a day comprised of what is mentioned above, or any reduce amount of food that isn’t too terrible. I’ve also bee following these as general rules:
  • I don’t eat for at least an hour after exercising, something my sister-in-law had recommended years ago and I still take to heart. I’ve heard this might not be the best idea (some recommend eating immediately after exercise to replace carbs), but it’s become habit.
  • I’m fasting after 7pm. It prevents me from unraveling with late night snacks like I would usually do. It was kind of challenging at first, but many weeks in, it’s just routine.
  • Exercise is the biggest one. I have a desk job that requires a lot of sitting and staring at a computer. My schedule never leaves enough time to move my body. The plan I’ve developed is this: Exercise 3-4 days a week. Primarily this is in the morning when my wife takes my daughter to school. I try to mix things up with activities, balancing HIIT/cardio with focused days and strength training (dumbbells) on upper body, lower body, and core. Mostly I’ve been following along with the incredible husband and wife team at Fitness Blender on Youtube.
  • On top of the above, I also try to do hikes, bike rides, swimming (when the weather is warm enough), or running to keep things fresh. As for the swimming, I installed an above ground pool this summer and it takes 55 back-and-forth laps to do a half mile, which can be dizzying.
  • Finally, I walk the dog a couple miles every night. I don’t want to, but I have to. He’s very demanding.
“Did you forget what you should be doing right now?” (he says nightly)

This routine works for me with my schedule, so I suggest everyone find what works for me, too.

Without further ado, below is my weekly routine. Somewhere around week 3 I started to see a change on the scale and my clothes started to feel like they fit better. 12 weeks on, those clothes are now feeling loose. I bought two new belts as a celebration of sorts.

Week 1 (half a mile in our pool = 55 laps!)
Week 2
Week 3 (tried to go for a run and my legs cramped badly- rest day!)
Week 4 (camped at Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park- drank too much…)
Week 5 (I’d been limiting my diet so much, I felt I had to mention ‘hamburger’ on Sunday)
Week 6
Week 7
Week 8 (Friday was “Cactus to Clouds” day! Success! Followed by Palm Springs vacation weekend)
Week 9 (weird stomachache on Thursday)
Week 10 (Finding it harder to find motivation now. My friend, Dylan, came to town this weekend.
Week 11 (Hiked to Cucamonga Peak on Sunday)
Week 12 (after a couple day’s rest, hiked Mt. Wilson Wednesday. Sunday was a “1,000 calorie full body routine- HIIT, core, strength, & kickboxing)
Week 13 – Thanksgiving trip to Big Bear took a toll on exercise. Tuesday: Sitton Peak hike, Sunday: Strawberry Peak hike.
Week 14 – Saturday = Mount Baden-Powell hike
Week 15 – Friday night trip to see The Dollop in San Diego / Sunday walking around Huntington Gardens with Rubes.
Week 16 – Holiday gluttony in full effect. Drove to Santa Cruz over the weekend.
Week 17 – Christmas vacation is mostly overeating road candy. I did my share.
Week 18 – Happy New Year. Note sad attempt to get back on the treadmill…
Week 19 – So much for getting back to it. Vacation continued up in Idylwild. Only dog-walking activity.
Week 20 – Slowly getting back into action…
Week 21 – It wasn’t perfect. Went to visit my dad in Arizona over the weekend.
Week 22 – Finally back to full swing. Still have holiday girth to get rid of.
Week 23 Colleen/Alvin’s wedding celebration in the Bay Area.
Week 24Wednesday says, “no sleep, dog”, which means the dog kept me up all night…
Week 25Turned 50 on Thursday and drove to Sonoma for the weekend.
Week 26Between driving to Sonoma, driving to Vegas (for a video game awards show), and the food poisoning, it was not my best week for workouts.
Week 27Recovering from food poisoning at the start of the week, Huntington Gardens with Vix to end.
Week 28Fairly normal week. Drove back to Vegas to pickup the stereo credenza from Dwight.
Week 29 – Cosmo’s Birthday party on Wednesday.
Week 30 – Erich & Sing’s baby shower Saturday, drive to Fresno Sunday.
Week 31 – Weeding weekend.
Week 32 – Sonoma visit over the weekend.
Week 33 – Working on pool site during week, then up to Hayward for Easter weekend.

Week 34 – Not a great exercise week. Planned Mt. Wilson hike cut short on Saturday.
Week 35 – Deceptive week. Saturday was a brutal work day prepping the pool space. My joints are killing me…
Week 36 – Awful week, exercise wise. Most mornings were me getting up and getting dressed into workout clothes and then waiting too long and telling myself that I’ll do work in the yard later (then don’t).
Week 37 – Went up to Idyllwild for a few days and completed the San Jacinto Loop. Good way to start the week, but my day of rest/driving extended to the entire week. Another bad week for habit building.
Week 38 – No excuse for this continued lethargic spell.
Week 39 – Getting back on track. Even went on a trail run up along Scholl Canyon ridge. I should say “some” of Scholl Canyon. I walked the downhill sections to preserve the knees and the uphills to preserve my desire to not die.
Week 40 – Getting back into gear. Another jog this week. Using weights (dumbbells) a couple times. If I can maintain this type of schedule, I’ll feel ok.
Week 41 – So much for getting back on track. No good excuse. Traveled on Tuesday & Wednesday, then just fell off.
Week 42 – Dammit. Excuse = none. Just tired of it all.
Week 43 – This is a bad trend.
Week 44 – The slipper slope is now a cliff
Week 45 – My company had off for “wellness week” and I took that as an opportunity to do less activity (some swimming) and start drinking again. Will need to reverse this backward slide soon…
Week 46 – Back into swing after a long (5 weeks!) lull. Have been trying to swim once a day to take advantage of the heat while it’s here.
Week 47 – Had an active trip up to Mammoth Lakes to visit with dad and brother. Lots of hiking at least.
Week 48 – Back to the bad habits. Barf. Friday was a trip out to Pappy & Harriet’s and Saturday was a horseback winery tour. At least I was having fun! (pretty sure I swam Sunday, too)
Week 49 – Started badly, ended with an attempt to get back on track. With only two weeks until I’m supposed to hike Mt. Elbert (CO), so I need to try to build back some strength and stamina.
Week 50 – Just when I think I’m back to proper motivation, some self-destruct mechanism kicks in. In this case, a vacation meant lots of eating and no exercise.
Week 51 – Just off the rails. Getting fat again.
Week 52 – Happy one year anniversary of starting this Exercise log! I celebrated by trying to be more active.
Week 53 – Thanks to the fear of being out of shape for my big hike, I got back on track. Heatwave in LA meant lots of swimming.
Week 54 – Continued with good amount of sweating, weekend was spent driving 9+ hours to go pickup an old telephone booth. Sunday is marked as ‘rest’, but I did a lot of house work that involved carrying heavy things up/down stairs and sweating in a hot garage.
Week 55 – Felt like the first week of actual training. Did a couple hikes along the Scholl Canyon ridge near my house. It’s exposed and features a lot of steep inclines.
Week 56 – Definitely feeling better with both more frequent exercise and eating better (and not drinking).
Week 57 – Sylvia was out of town, so most of my exercise was dog-walking related. Drove to Sacramento over the weekend to learn how to hit a golf ball.
Week 58 – Awful week for training. Rested after a fast turn-around trip to Sacramento, then was sidelined first by dog-sitting, some family drama Thursday morning, and then full-blown head cold that took me out for four days. 10 days until Hell Hike…
Week 59 – Turns out my sickness last week was covid. Sylvia tested positive this week. C2C2C hike is supposed to be happening Friday, though it feels day to day.
Week 60 – The big hike was a bust. I woke at 1am, was on the trail by 2am, and by a few miles in (and nearly a mile of elevation), I was suffering headaches and feeling nauseous. Tried to rest, but symptoms persisted. After throwing up on the side of the trail for the second time, I threw in the towel. Going on a massive hike less than two weeks after covid appears to have been a mistake. The good news is that the family had a great weekend in Palm Springs and no permanent damage was done.
Week 61 – After the Palm Springs trip, I came back with every intention of doing consistent workouts, even lighter is better than nothing. However, some work things cut into my mornings toward the end of the week, then self-sabotage did the rest. Saturday night I was up all night with a sick dog who needed to be taken outside every half hour… (and did it again Sunday night, so the start of the week is already dubious).
Week 62 – Another bad week for motivation. Monday was Halloween and the dog continued his nocturnal issues, keeping me up all night. Low motivation across the week.
Week 63 – Started off ok, but then got lazy. Was fasting for a colonoscopy Friday (procedure was Saturday), so I’ll excuse those days…
Week 64 – I think there’s something wrong with me in a deep, low-level function sense. Lacking motivation is an understatement.
Week 65 – Another disaster. Made all the worse by Thanksgiving halfway through, so more caloric consumption than normal, too. Damn it. I need to get motivated…
Week 66 – The week started off strong with 4 out of 5 days doing workouts. But then the weekend happened and, despite spending both days in workout clothes, fully intending to exercise, but being lazy and easily distracted, failed.
Week 67 – Started strong… fell off a deep cliff, motivation wise. What’s wrong with me?
Week 68 – Somewhere during this week, my company closed for the holidays. That would have been a great time to knuckle down and get into shape again with more free time. Instead, I leaned into a sedentary life filled with too much eating and drinking. It’s the American way.
Week 69 – This is the one week I’ll accept not working out. It involved a drive up to see my brother and his family, then over to the in-laws. Holidays filled with inclimate weather, long drives, and celebrating with calories.
Week 70 – This week started with a drive back from the bay area on Tuesday (through a storm), but by this point, I leaned into the holiday lifestyle. It’ll take weeks of dedicated exercise and better eating to correct the damage I’ve done to myself. Isn’t that the embodiment of the holiday spirit?
Week 71 – Trying to get back on track. Did fairly well, despite a quick trip up to San Luis Obispo. Unfortunately, I’m having back pain that I’ll need to have checked out.
Week 72 – The back pain got really bad at the start of the week. Tuesday I could barely move without shooting pain. Took it relatively easy and did some back rehab exercises.
Week 73 – It turned out ok (4 days a week is my minimum passable), but I was just lazy on Thursday and then life interrupted on Friday. Three rest days in a row is too much.
Week 74 – Back in the routine. Feel like I turned a corner, physically. Back is still bothering me, but I’m less fatigued in general.
Week 75 – Good week. Despite Sylvia’s birthday cake.
Week 76 – Two rest days in a row is too much. I need to stretch and move around because I’m old. Otherwise decent, if uneventful week.
Week 77 – Fairly good week for activity. Back is still a problem. Got a massage on Friday, didn’t help.
Week 78 – Things were going well until my back started causing me pain. It’s not like “pulled muscle” that I thought it was earlier. Have a doctor’s appointment scheduled for next week.
Week 79 – Flatlined. Doctor’s appointment next week, fingers crossed.

Update 05/31: Since I didn’t want to end this with a “finger’s crossed” scenario, I’ll add a little explanation for posterity. I went to the doctors for back pain and they discovered I had a prostate infection. Two week course of antibiotics cleared it up, but the back pain persisted, so I went back and they took an x-ray and discovered that I had spinal arthritis, degenerative. So they put me on a month-long muscle relaxer routine and sent me to physical therapy. At the evaluation, they noticed that I’m super tight in the front/thigh muscles, which is causing me to stand funny, with my pelvis turn slightly downward, making my spine curve more than normal, which exacerbates the pain. Now they have me doing three-times a day stretching for that area of my legs in addition to two time a week in-studio PT. One top of all that, I’m still having this unusual aching sensation on my right side, like someone punched me in the kidneys a couple weeks ago, a bruise that is aggravated when I move. Yes, even when I describe it, it sound like it could be muscles and related to the arthritis in some way (pain is like a leak in your ceiling. The actual leak could be far away from where it’s dripping into your house), but it doesn’t feel the same as muscle aches. So, I’m going to schedule an MRI. Now we can cross our fingers again. I’m hopeful I will be proven wrong and that it is all related to the arthritis, but I’ll also just be relieve to have an answer. As it it is, I’ve gained a lot of weight due to the inactivity from all the months of pain, uncertainty, and medication. As of 05/21/23, I have been back to exercising every day, waking at 5:30am to try to get out in the garage by 6 to do back stretches, a core strengthening routine, and either cardio or target area (upper body/lower body) strength routine. It’s easier to make it a priority and ensure my life/work aren’t a distraction or getting in my way. A week and a half in and I’m feeling better (though the last couple times at the doctors I’ve had high blood pressure (like stage 2 hypertension levels), so now I have that to worry about. Weight loss will help with that, too. All of that long-winded diatribe is to say that I will no longer be tracking my exercise as I did over the past year plus. While it was a helpful short term tool to help get into shape for a big hike, as a long term tool it became more of a chore and I need to reduce my obligations more than add to them (for my blood pressure).