The Runkeeper App and Me: Fat Guy Walking
I don't wanna be this guy!
Wake Up, Fat Boy!!
Earlier this year I came to a realization: I'm out of shape.
Actually, saying that I am out of shape is not exactly accurate, because that phrasing might indicate that I, at some point, was actually *in* shape. I'm not sure that's ever been true in my case; therefore, perhaps "I came to an admission" would be a better phrase.
My point is, a few months ago I was getting ready for work and trying to squeeze into a pair of jeans. This was not unusual for me; in fact it was a daily struggle that had been going on for quite a few years. On this particular late-Winter morning, however, the button shot off the front of the jeans, ricocheted off the bedroom mirror and damn near put my eye out when it came flying back at me. Ashamed and dejected, I sat on the edge of the bed and said to myself, "Dude... you've gotta do SOMETHING about this."
Until recently, I had never given much thought to my general fitness and health. Between working a full time job and raising a pair of rambunctious pre-teen boys, I didn't have time to worry about it. I figured as long as I didn't keel over after climbing a flight of stairs, I was doing OK. As I entered my early 40s, however, it was becoming clear that my lifestyle was in dire need of some changes. First, I decided to give up smokeless tobacco, because I'd been indulging in that nasty habit on and off (mostly "on") since I was a teenager. Once I got over the hump on that, I reasoned, then I could focus on losing weight. In February of 2014 I celebrated my first year without tobacco, and according to my inner timetable, that meant it was time to start working on my other, errr, "issues."
What To Do?
After nearly 20 years of sitting on my ass behind a desk at work all day and then sitting on my ass all evening in front of the TV or computer at home, I had slowly become what C. Montgomery Burns might describe as a "gastropod." Being a fairly tall fellow (6-foot 6 and a half... and ladies, if I do say so myself, I'm worth the climb!), I'd deluded myself for many years that I was "a little heavy, but tall enough to pull it off." Obviously that old dodge wasn't working anymore. So now what? I was too chunky to take up jogging, I didn't own a bike, and I was too poor to join a gym, so I decided that the best way to start was to just get outside and start walking.
A year or so before my pants-button epiphany, my company's health plan had passed out free pedometers to all employees as part of some sort of new get-outside-and-get-fit initiative. At the time I'd said "Pffft... I don't need this stupid thing," tossed it in a drawer, and forgot all about it. I figured it might not hurt to have something keeping track of my progress, though, so I dug it out of the drawer, strapped it to one of my belt loops, and went for the first of many lunch-time walks in early April of this year. There was still some lingering snow and ice on the ground when I first walked outside!
I work in a large industrial building, so for my first attempt I decided to simply go around the outer perimeter of the building. I forget how long it took me, but by the time I made my way back to my starting point at the front door I was red in the face, completely out of breath and my legs and feet felt like they were on fire. It sucked, but I'd done it. I had actually exercised. This was new. This was different. I hadn't decided yet if it was "good," but at least I'd taken that all important first step (pun intended).
I began to walk every day on my lunch break, but I quickly learned that the freebie pedometer was not very reliable. First of all, it only counted the number of "steps" I took, and I had no idea how to convert that number into actual feet/miles. Plus, even though I was walking the exact same route every day, I would get wildly different "step counts" depending on where I put the pedometer on my person. If I clipped it to my belt loop one day, it might tell me I'd walked 3500 steps, but if I put it on the waistband of my pants the next day, it would say I'd walked 4200 or even 5000 steps. If I kept it in my pants pocket, sometimes it wouldn't even give me a reading at all. Obviously this thing was not gonna cut it!
Enter the RUNKEEPER!
A co-worker and fellow lunch time fitness walker came to my rescue by recommending a cell phone app called Runkeeper. She'd been using it for several months and swore by it. Most importantly (at least to me), it was free... so I downloaded it to my Android phone and took it for a test drive ... err, test walk. I fell in love with this thing instantly.
Runkeeper was ridiculously simple to use, even for an out-of-it non-techie guy like me. You turn it on, tell it what kind of activity you will be doing (walking, jogging, bicycling, etc.) and it takes care of the rest by using your phone's GPS signal to "track" you. (Runkeeper will not work indoors. You need to be outside and have a clear shot at the sky for it to get a fix on you and keep you in its sights.) Every few minutes as I walked, a robotic female voice (which I quickly named "Mother," after the sinister ship's computer in the original "Alien" film) gave me an update on how long I'd been walking, how much distance I'd covered so far, and my average pace per mile - in other words, everything I needed to know. When I "saved" my activity at the end of my walk, it told me how many calories I'd burned, displayed a little Google map showing my route, and even allowed me to type in "notes" about how things went. Cool, man!! Thanks to Runkeeper I learned that a single lap around my work building equaled roughly half a mile. As my stamina increased I pushed myself to do two laps around the building, then two and a half, so that by the start of Summer I was averaging 1.5 miles per lunch break.
The Making of Runkeeper 3.0:
Up until this point I wasn't even keeping track of my weight; I was just trying to get into the habit of walking every day. As Spring turned to Summer I decided that it was time to start taking this thing a little more seriously. I began writing each day's Runkeeper stats in a notebook and did my best to try to equal or improve upon my minutes-per-mile figure each day. Once I became comfortable with my daily pace (which is currently about fifteen minutes per mile, give or take), I tweaked my lunch time "route" so that I was now doing two miles per day - which is the maximum I can squeeze into a half hour lunch break, unless I develop super-speed powers like The Flash.
I also began weighing myself once a week, which I'd been dreading. It was probably a good thing I didn't weigh myself at the very beginning of this project, because I probably would've just quit out of despair. Even after several weeks of walking... well, let's just say that my first weigh-in was a bit of a shock....I almost hate to imagine what I must have weighed when I first started!!
So how am I doin'?
Thankfully it's been a relatively cool and dry Summer so I've been able to keep up my walking-every-day schedule at work with only a few weather-related cancellations. Best of all, the walking has become a habit that I actually look forward to, rather than a task to be dreaded. There's even been a few times where I've gotten to work early enough that I've taken a quick lap around the building before I clock in! I also go on walks around my neighborhood (sometimes with my kids, sometimes without) on weekends and my days off. I don't always get to cover as much distance as I'd like on those walks, but every once in a while I'll do an "epic walk" (covering anywhere from four to five miles) to make up for it.
I've lost 12 pounds since the beginning of Summer, which is a good start, but not nearly where I want to be. At my last medical checkup I was told that the "ideal weight" for a guy my height is anywhere between 216 and 259 pounds. At the moment I'm still...well, let's just say "well above" that higher number, haha. At least things are going in the right direction (downward!) and I'm actually enjoying myself. Who'da thunk it?
Runkeeper is available for free from all of the usual app dealers and works on a variety of phones/devices, so you've got nothing to lose by giving it a try. If it worked for an old out of shape lard-O like me, it can work for you too. Have fun and happy walking!