Mobile Nations Fitness Month: Getting my butt away from the desk

It's sounds like a gimmick, right? "Mobile Nations Fitness Month." Never mind that we picked the shortest month of the year to do it. Never mind that the last week of the month, we're going to spend upwards of 18 hours of travel sitting inside little metal sausages to get to Mobile World Congress and back. (Once we're there, however, we're going to walk our asses off through Barcelona.)

Gimmick or not, for the first time in a long, long time, I'm taking exercise a little more seriously. And I'm bringing my Android smartphone phone along for the ride. 

Hit the break to see what I'm doing to get my fat butt out of the office, onto the streets and, more important -- what's I'm doing to keep it consistent.

A little background: I wasn't always this finely tuned print journalist-turned-blogger you see before you today.

In the pressroom at Mobile World Congress 2011.

We'll pause while everyone collects themselves. Ready?

Once upon a time I was a skinny kid, maybe 140 pounds soaking wet. Those were back in the good old days when instead of traveling to play with smartphones and tablets, I roamed the Southeast playing as many as five full soccer games in two days, bookended by 6 to 8 to 12 hours of travel. See that picture down there? That was me. And half of that weight was hair.

Then came college. No more daily practices. No more 2-mile runs just to warm up. Too much beer. Too much junk food. Too many late-night runs to Denny's. Then came 11 years in a newsroom, working from 3 p.m. to midnight. With that comes more junk food and a very low metabolism rate. The job was tough enough -- trying to force yourself to eat something that won't kill you and maybe walk around the block once or twice was just as tough. Like this job I have now, it was tough to put the job down for even just an hour at a time. News doesn't stop.

Toss into the mix an ACL surgery on March 1, 1996. I've got a cool six-inch scar on my left knee and am still missing a little bit of feeling toward the surface on the left side of the incision. (And can tell you that rain is on the way without having to check a website.) None of that really slowed me down at the time, save for the five months off for rehab and a damned annoying -- and damned expensive -- robotic-looking knee brace. (Used it for all of 10 minutes in my first game back. Good riddance.) But now? Carrying an extra 10 20 30 pounds? Things squeak. Things crack. And that worries me a tad.

I've been in this new job for two years now. (Has it really been that long?) The news has gotten faster. The hours, longer. I've gained a second daughter. But with this job comes flexibility that too many of us take for granted. No more excuses. It's time to go outside.

What I'm doing

So how the hell am I going to get this done?

Starting slow

I think there's something wrong with my brain. I have a hard time half-assing things. When I get a drink of water, I have to fill the glass all the way. Bowl of cereal? Full. Food on the plate? Eaten. All of it. That's one thing to work on -- moderation.

And that translates to my previous attempts at resuming exercise. I forget that I'm now 33 and flabby, not 17 and able to run 5 miles without thinking much about it. So I'm walking. At a brisk pace, but walking. Not running. (And I'm seriously considering bringing along the 20-pound gear bag I have at shows just for a little extra work. Thoughts?) Trying to do at least three miles a day, and I've even jogged a few hundred yards at a time. Slow. Steady. And easy on the knees.

Tracking the treks

All of us Mobile Nations folks have gotten the little Fitbit pedometers (opens in new tab) to track our daily activities. Mainly, it sits in your pocket and records your steps, and it automatically uploads via a connected dock. It's pretty simple, and it's just $99. The trick is to remember to put it in your pocket. And there's no official Android app, which is pretty lame.

And I'm using Endomondo Pro to track my walks. If you haven't seen it before, it's a fitness app that tracks duration, distance, speed, calories burned and plots your course on Google Maps. You can share your workouts with friends on Endomondo (this is me here), or through Facebook, or on webpages. (You can set it so that your mapped routes aren't publicly visible, which is good.)

And, yes, I'm using the huge Samsung Galaxy Nexus. It sits in my pocket. Hopefully it stays there.

Public shaming

And so that's what I'm doing. I'm sharing the results each day with close friends on Facebook, and for the rest of the world in our own Health and Fitness forums. And I'm reminding myself, day after day, that we're taking this slow.

And I'm watching Kevin's inspiring video. Over, and over again.

Oh, and free stuff

Starting next week we're going to start giving away some cool stuff -- accessories and maybe even devices -- to help spur a little geek fitness love. Keep your eyes peeled on the blog, and get into the Health and Fitness forums. 

Phil Nickinson
  • I'm very interesting in your thoughts on Fitbit and Endomondo Pro as I was planning on using the same setup. Unfortunately I did not have time to order a Fitbit prior to my current trip which is annoying as I must have walked roughly a billion miles around Berlin this week.
  • Nice job, Phil. I use my Fitbit religiously. I shoot for 10-12k steps/day, which is about 5-6 miles. I generally hit that number. It also helps to control your eating. I gave up trying to do it myself and just went with Nutrisystem. The food is actually cheaper than buying groceries monthly and you don't have to think about what you're going to fix and you never find yourself scrambling for something to eat. Since November, I have lost 22 lbs and I am steadily losing 2-3/week. Best of luck to you. Just stay strong.
  • Holy shit Phil is only 33! I keed, I keed.
  • been working out myself too im not fat i just have a little beer gut but i want to get a six pack to look good for the wife. she said she'll do ANYTHING if i get it so yeah.
  • it's 90% diet. the first thing you need to do is cut out all refined sugars to zero (candy, soda, juices, cakes, etc.) secondly, dramatically reduce all carbs to as low as you can get it - this includes bread, pasta, potatoes, rice, chips, pizza, cereal, etc. do not store this shit in your house and if it's there right now - throw it out. if it's there you'll eat it so toss it now and don't buy anymore. these foods are highly caloric and there is no way to work out enough to compensate for a bad diet - it just can't be done. you can never work out enough to do it so focus on diet first. stick with lean meats and fresh vegetables and low-glycemic fruits (bananas are good - very filling and nutritious). if you have a craving for carbs buy low carb tortilla wraps. also - "cheat" 1x per week with a non-carb guilty pleasure like buffalo wings and a few beers at the bar. do this and the weight will melt off of you. of course cardio and other exercise is great but if you don't watch what you eat you will forever be a fatty with a triple chin. good luck.
  • Exactly. Atkins has been proven correct, and the entire medical community is finally on board. Kill carbs and you have the biggest part of the battle won. Its a whole different way of cooking and eating, but it isn't by any means a starvation diet. But still getting some exercise won't hurt, raises your metabolism and keeps it higher for several hours. But you have to get rid of the carbs. I use JogTracker Pro. It GPS Maps my run/walk with uncanny accuracy, measures elevation gain, pace, and has cool charts, and pro version allows upload and storage of your workouts and builds a calendar of your exercise program, and it stores all the maps, or you can download them to google earth. Its less social oriented than endomondo, but the last thing I need is some couch potato egging me on on a long uphill climb.
  • Atkins make work to lose weight, but it's not healthy long-term. You have to balance, proteins, carbs and fats, not simply eliminate them from your diet. It made be more difficult but you'll be more likely to be healthy down the road than your Atkins friend who just bit the dust from a heart attack.
  • i'm not advocating the Adkin's Diet.
  • Icebike did and that's who I responded to.
  • Please don't put words in my mouth.
  • I don't have to: "Atkins has been proven correct, and the entire medical community is finally on board."
  • I'm not specifically defending the Atkins diet, simply the now proven fact that you have to reduce cards, more so at the beginning of your diet, and then perhaps add some back later. Everybody dumps on Atkins without knowing a single thing about it.
    He recommends every single thing you said. Everything, except the "balance carbs" stuff. Everybody else repackages his advise and gives it magical names like South Beach, Mediterranean, etc. You don't need to do the full Atkins, you just need to drop the carbs, and all of the "balanced" diets that de-emphasize carb reduction have fallen by the wayside of failure. You should check some facts about some of the long term studies on this issue.
  • Tell us, how much weight have you dropped using Atkins. If you tell us, I'll tell you how much I've dropped using a low-fat diet and eating no meat at all (I'm a vegetarian). A meat-centric diet is known to be linked to all kinds of disease in later life that has nothing to do whether you are thin or fat.
  • Steve Jobs was a vegan. it didn't help him much. man has been hunting and killing meat for millions of years. we are omnivores by nature. there is nothing unhealthy about eating lean meat in moderation. modern agriculture has not been around that long in the grand timeline of man's existence and the human body did not evolve on processed carbohydrates - it evolved on moderate meat, raw vegs and fruit. IMO the best diet is a varied diet filled with lean meats, fruits, and raw vegetables. calorie intake should match calories burned - and that's an average of about 1,500-2,000 calories per day for most men. at the end of the day - weight is calories in vs. calories out.
  • Atkins ins't about eating meat in moderation.
  • First of all there is nothing wrong with carbohydrates. It all comes down to "DAILY DIET" and "EXERCISE"....bottom line. Anyone can spin a theory about how diets work. Whether it be "Forks over Knives" (Vegan), or Vegetarian, or Atkins...etc. It comes down to common sense decisions in the grocery cart. If I didn't have carbs I wouldn't be able to run 10+ miles. I would crash quickly, not to mention my body would feel like crap. But you have to choose healthy carbs. Simple carbs like fruits for quick energy fixes and no refined sugars, and complex carbs for feeling full and fibre. Killing carbs is not the biggest part of the battle. Replacing refined sugars and processed foods like cookies, white rice, or instant oatmeal with pure wholesome food and a consistent and active exercise plan is going to be the hardest battle as it is incredibly hard to find foods that doesn't incorporate them in the ingredients somewhere and/or finding time in a busy schedule to go for a walk/jog/bike ride. It all comes down to what is in your grocery cart while your walking the aisles and staying discliplined with a exercise plan.
  • Bingo! You are absolutely right.
  • Take a look at Primal Blueprint. It changed my life.
  • I cut out all refined sugars a few years ago (and natural sugars taste awful so you won't be tempted to eat too many of those) for about eight months. I lost 10 lbs in about four months and I had absolutely no weight to lose. I was 5'11" and about 150 lbs. So I always tell people if you really want to lose weight cut out refined sugar. Also for those of you with back problems yoga really helped me. I used to need constant back massages and after yoga I didn't need them at all. Not that I was getting any massages anyway...
  • I'd like my fitbit more if I hadn't lost it after three days of use! Ugh! It sure was a cool gadget. A fella like me needs a system to ensure the thing doesn't fall off, though.
  • Phil's wife is hot. We've all seen the pictures. If you can be chubby and still get a hot wife, then what's there to worry about? Life is good.
  • Any recommendations on active headphones?
  • Check out "YurBuds". They are very comfortable in your ears and they won't fall out. I am an active runner and I wear these for 6 miles+ and there is something about not having to adjust or worry about your headphones while exercising. You can see them on YouTube.
  • I've read that Fitbit will release an Android app sometime this month.
  • I just renewed my Bally Total Fitness membership for $100. Yes, that covers the full year. First trip is tomorrow morning. I'm being agressive since I'm not that far from where I should be.
  • I start the Fat Smash Diet by Dr. Ian Smith (Celebrity Fit Club VH1). I started Jan 2 @ 229lbs. As of today 2/3/2012 I have dropped 24LBS. I run 2-3 miles a day, five days a week and climb a local mountain (CamelBack) once a week. I use the Endomondo (free one) and it is pretty sweet. I will probably upgrade to the PRO version shortly.
  • Saying "Hi" from the West Valley to the East Valley. Props to AZ.
  • If you want to work harder, walk faster or farther or uphill. Carrying a twenty-pound bag at this stage is just going to mess with your muscles and spine. Save that for when you're further along. In Barcelona, rent a bike and ride up to Parc Güell. It's not exactly the Tour de France but you'll be going gradually uphill the whole way and it doesn't take that long.
  • $99 sounds like a lot of money just to track your steps. Especially if you carry your phone with you everywhere (who doesn't). I have been using Map my Fitness and so far am very pleased with it. While there are lots of fads totally agree with cutting out refined sugars - you don't have to give up carbs totally. Good luck Phil - you'll notice you feel a lot better with those long days at a desk.
  • After looking at your profile Phil, I see that Endomondo can't tell between your actual logged walk and that is also is included with your Pedometer. So basically you are logging your walk on top of the pedometer count which is basically double dipping your calories. Now if you are not worried about the calorie count or actual stats then I guess it wouldn't bother you, but if you are, then you might want to consider leaving the pedometer at home and use Endomondo for just the walk, then place the pedometer back in your pocket afterwards. Then at the end of the day log your ped so you have a more accurate log of your daily routine. Just something I saw and thought about bringing up just in case others are using the same setup. Good luck Phil. You will be surprised how much better you feel.
  • Where is ics for the og epic? Sorry, couldn't resist.
  • Can't say enough about how awesome Adidas miCoach is. Give it a try. It helps you build stamina over time without hurting yourself. Oh and it's free. I like it so much I am buying the full out Pacer kit with heart rate monitor and step counter to assist in tracking.
  • Am I the only one cringing at seeing the phone resting on pavement in the first pic? ;-)
  • Good for you! The hardest part of change is deciding to do it. You have inspired me to join you in trying to change my ways as well. I am a sugar addict and it is taking its toll. Thanks for the inspiration. Keep us posted!