A Break From The Norm: My Fitness Journey

This post and the next have nothing to do with education, technology, psychology, or special education.  They do have to do with my personal interest in physical fitness and body recomposition, so I guess if anything you might file them under behavior, as it has to do with some recent modifications to my fitness regime.  I started expounding a bit on these ideas on my Facebook page, but figured this was probably a more appropriate venue than a series of status updates and comments.

Background: I’ve always been tall and lean (senior year of high school, I was 6’2″ and 145 lbs.), but not particularly fit (probably best described as skinnyfat, thanks to my insatiable adolescent boy appetite combined with my inability to gain weight, despite guzzling soda by the liter and living a mostly sedentary lifestyle).  I was never much for sports of any kind until I picked up tae kwon do, fencing, and lacrosse in college, during which period running and weightlifting became part of my regular fitness plan.  The organized sports stopped soon after I graduated in 1999, but the running and lifting continued, albeit in fits and spurts, as my teaching career allowed.  I aged, and the weight started to come – some of it muscle, some of it fat.

Fast-forward to Summer 2011: I had kicked my running into high gear and was completing 4-5 mile runs (big deal for me, who never used to be able to make it once around the track in high school) when I was diagnosed with femoral acetabular impingement in my right hip, which basically means the ball head of my femur was misshapen and not rotating smoothly in its socket, damaging the bits all around.  Running stopped abruptly in June 2011 to avoid further damage (though I continued to lift), surgery was late December of that year, and thus began an extended sedentary period while I healed and went to physical therapy.

Winter/spring of 2012, I was 34, and had (unfortunately) triumphed over my previous inability to gain weight, only this time none of it was muscle.  By all objective third-party accounts, my hip rehab was coming along quicker than anyone expected, but my pace of recovery still felt glacial to me.  I blogged about how this course of events impacted my professional life back in January, but never really got into the personal side of it here until now.

I ran my first non-treadmill, outdoor mile since surgery on March 18, 2012 – it was slow, but it was all mine.  From that point on, I gradually increased speed and distance.  I ran my first post-surgery 5K on Memorial Day weekend, and continued running 3-4 miles, including working in some shorter barefoot runs throughout the summer.  I also experimented with the Galloway method of taking strategic walk breaks.  The point is, once my hip got back to normal, I started dabbling in new methods in order to see how my body responded and what the results looked like.

While I was happy with how my running was progressing, I wasn’t losing the spare tire I had earned during my convalescence, despite the increased speed and mileage.  I wasn’t as concerned with my weight (which hovered around 200-205 during this period, but was muscular) as my body fat percentage.  By my best estimate, at my leanest I was around 12-13% body fat; now, it was more like 16-18%.  It doesn’t sound like a big difference, but it was visibly noticeable to me, and lifting and running weren’t having the same effect they did ten years ago.

In hunting around the Internet for possible solutions, I came across Martin Berkhan’s Leangains program.  Click the link for a more detailed explanation of the program than I want to go into here, but an oversimplified explanation of intermittent fasting goes like this: on this program, you only eat during an 8-hour period each day, which means you fast for 16 hours.  There are modifications one can make to the program based on one’s lifestyle and work schedule; I have latched on to the version Berkhan recommends to people with “typical 9-to-5 jobs”: fast from 9pm until 1pm the following day, and eat all my food for the day between 1pm and 9pm.

Much like with my running, I decided to experiment with the Leangains IF protocol to see if it could help me reduce body fat while at least maintaining muscle mass.  I started Leangains on Sept. 2, 2012, so it’s been four full weeks now.  In my next post, I’ll explain what I’ve done, how and why I’ve deviated from the program, what results I’ve seen, my reflections so far, and where I plan to go from here.  In the meantime, I welcome your questions, concerns, and comments, whether this is all new to you, or if you’ve had experience using an IF program.


* Shouts out to the surgeons and staff of Rothman Institute in Philadelphia and Doylestown Sports Medicine Center in Doylestown, PA; I credit the professionals of both organizations with getting me back on two feet in a matter of weeks instead of months.


  • There wasn’t really a good place to fit this into the post, but I need to get this off my chest: one of my very few true regrets in life is not getting into physical fitness at a much younger age. My dad – a weightlifter and former amateur competitive bodybuilder – had a full gym set up in our basement. Squat rack, multiple benches, tons of dumbbells, etc. Every time I struggle under the weight of the bar now at age 35, I wish I had started during my early teen years instead of my twenties. I could have. I should have.

  • […] my surgery to correct femoral acetabular impingement late last December, I set myself both a short-term and a long-term goal for my rehabilitation.  My short-term goal […]

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