This post is a two part post concerning the health aspects of being a contractor. The second part can be read here!
If you are in the field of construction, there is a good chance you have battled health problems and or weight. Like most contractors, I have moments of intense work, but most of the time I am sitting in my truck, or working from a chair. I started my company when I was 27 at around 190 lbs. I was performing most of my own work in the beginning which enabled me to stay thinner. Honestly though my diet was atrocious. My breakfast consisted of a bagel or a McDonalds chicken biscuit. Lunch, wasn’t much better. Let the judging begin. Fast forward 8 years, and I had reached 234 lbs. Now I wish I could tell you it was all muscle, but the truth of the matter is that the added weight was fat.
In construction we know all about leverage. A hammer pulling a nail is a simple example. For our health, most of us have not developed the leverage in order to change.
Leverage is developed one of two ways, personal pain and/or a peer group.
Let’s start with personal pain. For most of us in our rut, it takes massive personal pain to give us the leverage to crawl out. A heart attack, diabetes, stroke, death in the family, and mental break are all examples of personal pain. The reason why it takes massive pain, is that we work hard, and we don’t allow ourselves the time to slow down and actually look at our well being and adjust it. In reaction to the pain, people develop the leverage to change.
Hopefully for you it won’t take massive personal pain to change. The other path does take some vulnerability though. It involves surrounding yourself with others who know exactly where you are. Let’s call that group a community of peers. Picture with me first what the construction community consumes and drinks. Now that you have that in your mind, ask yourself is that what I eat and drink? If so that is your our current health peer group. In order to use a peer group as leverage for change, we have to find or create a group of people doing what we want to do. This can be local like a gym, or the group can actually be virtual. Websites like Fitocracy or Run Keeper can get you alongside virtual friends from all over the globe. The expectations of your peer group will be what drives you to succeed. Whichever method you select, commit to sticking with that group for at least 30 days to develop the habit.
April 2012 was when I hit my personal tipping point, gaining the necessary leverage to change. I was a member of a mentoring group that had just read The Power of Full Engagement. My mentor had asked us to commit to 30 days of exercise, and of course I wanted to impress the group. Before that point, I had all of the information, but I didn’t have the leverage to change.
Starting out, I had my friend agree to walk with me M-F. For over a year, we walked anywhere from 2-2.5 miles 5 times a week. At the beginning, my legs didn’t even want to cooperate. I would usually start cramping up about half way through. But, I kept going. The results were I dropped about 4-5 lbs over that year and had increased energy.
In March 2013, I attended a Tony Robbins conference in L.A. and I finally learned the techniques I needed to get more health, and lose the fat. Four and a half months later I have dropped another 26 lbs and I am down to 204. I could have kept walking and after 8 years probably dropped back down to my starting weight, but who wants to wait that long. Two things changed, I truly started to challenge my body physically, and I started to eat well. As a friend told me, “You can’t outrun your fork.”
What I realized was that with walking, I had found a great way to maintain my weight while gaining some endurance. During the conference, I learned about an aerobic workout and my target heart rate. When I got home, I tested my heart rate while walking and it was pretty much at a cool down heart rate, around 110 beats per minute and I needed to be above 134 bpm to be in an aerobic state.
As if cued, my brother invited me to play ultimate frisbee with a bunch of guys M,W,F every week in a basketball gym only a few miles from my house. The first day I went, not only did I barely survive, my calves were so tight my shins felt like they were on fire. After recovery, I realized I didn’t want to be only 36 and not able to compete at that level. Furthermore, I knew my aerobic challenge had presented itself.
I also wanted to do some weight training. James, another friend of mine, had posted on Facebook about a kettle bell gym here in Nashville. So, I started going to kettle bell class on Tue, Thur mornings. It’s been 4 months and wow, what a workout. It’s 30 mins of some of the most intense physical exertion I have ever had.
You might be thinking, there is no way I can fit 5 days of week into my schedule. Here is how I do it.
Mon-Fri, I wake up between 5:00 and 5:30 to get to either workout which starts at 6:00 A.M. sharp. Start early. Sure I head to bead most of the time around 10, but I feel great. I’m taking this getting in shape thing seriously. If this still feels impossible to you, you need more leverage. Add a few peers that exercise, and see how over time that changes you. You will get there, I promise.
A few random tips to get you going!
Purchase a scale! Honestly we didn’t own one a year and a half ago. Now I am on it every morning measuring away. Weight isn’t the only indicator. Sometimes a good indicator is measuring with a flexible tape your belly, thighs, waist, and bicep. While building muscle, you might see more change there.
Celebrate your victories. Man when I lose a pound, I am thrilled. When I lose some inches, I celebrate. Celebrating reinforces the struggle and gives you strength to continue.
Develop a target. For a long term change, this must be a change in life. For me, I am targeting a body fat percentage in the teens. I am well on the way. What happens when I get there, well I will develop another target, perhaps I will run a marathon, or summit a mountain, or be a triathlete. The thing is, you are either getting stronger or weaker. If you remove targets, it is only a matter of time until you stop hitting anything at all.
So what is your health peer group look like?