How I Shifted from Simply Counting Energy to Supercharging My Health Exercises | by Mark Suster


Mark Suster

That is a part of a weight reduction and health enchancment sequence that I’m writing to share how I went from 222 kilos and unable to bike greater than 20 minutes on a Peloton to 153 kilos and operating 8–12 miles / day in simply 18 months.

I’m no superhero and I’m not going to present you some unrealistic story that’s unachievable. I’ve been on an 18-month, constant, centered, data-driven strategy to bettering all the things about myself from meals to exercises to sleep (Oura Ring) to water consumption (Hidrate). I’ll publish much more concerning the gear I used and what works and what doesn’t however right this moment is about how I began to supercharge my exercises.

To date I’ve written about the psychology of meals and individually about the meals companies I exploit and right this moment I’m going to speak about how I gamified my sports activities routines to extend constant efficiency each month.

I’m not a world-class athlete and I by no means might be (nor wish to be). However I can run a 10k in sub 8-minute miles which for 52 years previous and a busy, full-time job isn’t too shabby both. I can sneak out after a day of conferences and put in 10 miles and nonetheless be again at my laptop 1:45 later and typing away or Zooming (with a hat and nonetheless sweaty :)).

I quantified my meals consumption initially by way of Noom and later MyFitnessPal the place I maintain a meals journal. It’s tremendous straightforward to trace all the things and on the finish of the day it tells you not complete energy but in addition breakdown by fats, carbs and protein (plus sodium, and so forth). I monitor my weight each morning very first thing once I get up on a Withings Physique+ scale.

Armed with meals & weight knowledge and targets I turned to growing my train alongside decreasing my energy. Noom had a rule that you may “eat 50% of all energy burned” in order that if I burned 700 energy in a day I may eat an additional 350 energy so I turned additional motivated to burn these 700 energy! After I began I didn’t really feel I had the time for monster exercises (and in actuality I wasn’t prepared for it) however I discovered that I may use my Apple Watch to trace my walks and after that all the things turned a stroll. I turned much less excited about taking the subway in NY once I may stroll 3 miles to my assembly simply by leaving just a little bit earlier and taking calls alongside the best way.

I finished planning breakfast, lunch and dinner conferences and as an alternative did walk-and-talks. I needed to see what number of miles per day I may stroll simply doing the issues I usually did each day. Calls have been finished on my AirPods and with my telephone in my pocket. I turned as obsessive about my day by day strolling targets as my meals logging had turn into. I’d meet folks for hour-long hikes and never hour-long lunches.

I’d plan a day round which calls I may take whereas I used to be strolling and which conferences could possibly be cellular. In the future when my automotive was within the store I requested my colleague Stuart for a experience house however I requested him to drop me a mile away from my home so I may stroll the final mile. I turned a bit obsessive about hitting my day by day targets. It was solely quarter-hour additional however I used to be blissful to have the additional mileage earlier than time for dinner so I had extra energy out there to eat if I needed them.

It turned a way of life, a behavior. Not in a single day. I made small adjustments and locked in these habits. Then I’d at all times search for different issues I may add. It was all concerning the numbers, the day by day targets, the weigh-in each morning, maintaining to my energy targets and never breaking my “streak.” It was a recreation. I used to be gamifying myself.

I used the Apple Watch to indicate what number of days in a row I had hit my strolling targets and my calorie targets and I didn’t wish to break streak. I even discovered myself standing up in conferences in order that I may “shut all three circles.”

I knew that I used to be giving over to a recreation, to numbers, to mad thoughts video games of streaks however I made a decision to embrace it. I satisfied myself that if I broke streak I’d then not get again on the horse. It’s like the youngsters with their obsession with Snapchat streaks.

Then I discovered my subsequent set of metrics to take me to the subsequent degree. After simply 4 months I had hit my first large goal getting my weight from 222 to 200 and now this quantity that appeared unattainable once I started was now in sight. 1–8–5.

I had by no means been in a position to hit it earlier than as 195–200 at all times appeared to be my yo-yo level the place I’d revert again to unhealthy habits and quit no matter fad weight loss program obtained to me to 200. Not this time. I used to be prepared for the subsequent degree.

Subsequent up in my greater push was Peloton. I began using once more and located it exhausting. I began on my superior newbie Ally Love rides for 20 minutes. I used to be hooked on the positivity. At a time the place the world was a continuing Trump dumpster hearth of unfavourable information I discovered Ally’s positivity so up lifting.

So I set a rule. I made a decision I’d experience Peloton with Ally within the mornings BEFORE I’d test my telephone in order that I’d begin the day with positivity and never angst. I made it a rule with myself, “No telephone till after Ally.” Then it turned “No telephone till after Ally, a bathe and a espresso.” The longer I stayed off my telephone the extra peaceable my mind was within the mornings. I wasn’t going to vary the unhealthy information, however I may delay myself from feeling mentally exhausted by all of it.

That is when the ability of psychology actually shone by way of. Having any person telling you that “you are able to do it” and inspiring you to be your greatest self is really infectious.

“Hit it! Stop it! And say you probably did it!” she would shout with a giant smile on her face. I began saying it to my spouse each morning. It was a metaphor for “this isn’t so exhausting” and “I really feel self righteous once I’m finished!”

20 minutes turned half-hour turned 45 minutes. And there was a lot knowledge! I may enhance my cadence and my rigidity and management outputs to see how a lot complete output I may do in a given time. I may evaluate myself to different riders or to my earlier time. (Peloton printed how many individuals experience every experience and also you see the place you rank). I didn’t must “win” I simply wanted to come back in across the place within the pack that I anticipated to for my health degree (For me my purpose was at all times high 20% on the bike, high 5% on runs).

It pushed me more durable, it turned my very own little competitors with imaginary folks I used to be using towards and with myself.

I turned happier each day. Extra outcomes a greater mindset and naturally higher and higher outcomes on the dimensions.

The a vital perception hit me. Every time I needed to “get into form” I’d work out with thoughts of a 20-year-old however the physique of a 40-something (now 52) 12 months previous. I had a couple of nice exercises however invariably injured myself each time.

My Peloton teacher Matt Wilpers mentioned there have been three issues for all athletes to deal with:

  1. Frequency > Period
  2. Period > Depth**
  3. Solely then must you deal with degree of effort / depth.

His recommendation was this. Most of us attempt to come again from being off form and do actually exhausting exercises. And naturally we injure ourselves after which cease understanding and placed on weight once more. He mentioned it was OK to not deal with depth.

** (Notice that there’s a sound place for HIT exercises “high-intensity coaching” to be blended into different kinds of exercises however I’m simplifying for these attempting to enhance general endurance and health)

Should you’re doing 2 days / week are you able to make it 4? Should you’re doing 4 may you make it 5? Solely whenever you hit 5–6 days must you deal with getting 20 minutes to half-hour to 45 minutes.

Frequency of labor outs issues far more than period of exercises which issues far more than the depth of exercises. Most individuals get this backwards.

So I made it a rule I needed to get in at the least 5 Peloton’s / week. I needed to do one each week (I’m on 65 weeks in a row as we communicate and I even pressure myself to do digital ones once I journey in order that I don’t “break streak.”

I’d rotate between biking and operating so I didn’t use the identical muscle tissue each single day. Quickly I used to be doing 7 days / week — some straightforward, some more durable. Quickly 45 minutes turned 60 turned 75 turned 90. Now I can experience 2–3 hours no downside.

I began noticing that on sure rides different folks had a lot greater “output” (depth) than I did. So I began texting mates and asking how they did it and getting recommendation. My cadence improved, my resistance improved, my output improved, my muscle tone improved.

In direction of the tip of this era my health degree had elevated to a degree the place I may begin jogging exterior once more and I did one thing I hadn’t finished since I used to be 35. I began operating within the mornings once I traveled and I invited colleagues to jog with me. As a result of I needed to get up early I finished consuming as a lot alcohol at evening. Besides once I visited Lindel in Austin. However that’s a unique story. And as punishment I nonetheless obtained my ass out and ran Woman Fowl Lake on 4 hours sleep.

If my conferences have been too early within the morning I’d schedule one hour between our final assembly and dinner and as an alternative of checking my telephone or sending unnecessary Tweets I’d get in a 40 minute run after which 20 minute bathe. I began making my as a lot of exercises social as I may.

I felt wonderful.

Then I made a mistake which precipitated me to plateau for 60 days and begin to wonder if I had hit some intractable flooring. I had stopped utilizing Noom. I figured with the exercise machine I had turn into I didn’t want to trace what I ate any extra. I figured that my health would now carry me ahead to the brand new me. I used to be between 185–190 kilos and I figured this should be the 50+ flooring. No person returns to at least one’s faculty weight.

“I’m 51 now so I’m not purported to be lower than 190 kilos.”

Besides {that a} easy Google search instructed me that the suitable weight was for a person who was 5’10” (okay, okay, 5’9″, properly, it relies upon who’s asking) and it mentioned 144–176. Shit. How was I in such fine condition and I used to be nonetheless 10–15 kilos above the best weight for my peak???

My large perception was this:

When our exercises enhance we give ourselves “license” to eat extra as a result of we really feel we’re earned that. The energy you eat usually exceed the energy you burned. You may’t outrun the fork!

I got here up with a plan. And all the things modified

I went again to foundational stuff. I spotted by then that simply operating or biking or strolling however not being attentive to what I ate was an excuse for me to not be disciplined about meals as a result of, properly, I really like meals. I observed that after a run Stuart would eat a bowl of fruit at Pret-a-Manger whereas I’d order oatmeal, a small sandwich, a restaurant latte AND fruit despite the fact that we went on the identical run collectively. If I ran within the morning I used to be utilizing it as an excuse for why I used to be allowed to order dessert on the restaurant after dinner.

No extra. I used to be prepared for the subsequent degree. And admittedly Covid had simply began and I believed, “I assume I’ve to set an unrealistic purpose like hitting 175.” I hadn’t finished that since my 20s. I by no means dreamed of hitting 160 (not to mention 153).


I made a decision to get again to watching the “energy in” and switched from Noom to MyFitnessPal (MFP). Noom was nice for getting me into the suitable state of understanding why I made unhealthy meals selections however now I actually simply needed the perfect, best approach of monitoring what I ate.

MFP has an enormous database of meals so typing in what I used to be consuming was tremendous easy. And it has a bar code scanner, which saves a ton of time.

I arrange weekly targets and a date by which I used to be going to hit 175 (“yeah, proper!”). I pushed myself to eat dinner earlier — normally earlier than 7pm, cease consuming alcohol and cease consuming after I used to be finished with dinner. I created a rule of my two “cheats” after dinner. I may eat as much as 3 popsicles (30 energy every) and/or one bag of microwave popcorn (100 calorie pack) and I ate them proper after dinner so I’d cease consuming early. I began chewing Trident sugarless gum after this small snack as a “rule” that I used to be not in a position to eat anything after I had the gum. It turned one other gamification. I instructed myself if I broke the rule even as soon as then the rule didn’t imply something and it might lose its energy. So I by no means let myself break the rule. It was like Matt Wilpers telling me, “you didn’t flip up right here for 45 minutes simply to blow your weight loss program within the last quarter-hour!” I needed to yell it into my very own ear.


By the point I used to be 185 I had turn into much less fearful about telling folks I used to be attempting to be more healthy as a result of by then it was type of apparent. I had already misplaced 35+ kilos and it confirmed. So I began speaking to my little brother, Matt, about weight and my targets. We agreed to be accountability companions. I’d take a display seize of my day by day targets in MyFitnessPal and ship them to my brother.

I’d ship him the log that confirmed “day by day calorie purpose, complete energy consumed, complete energy burned” and I’d ship him just a little word like “I drew the road right this moment — no cheats!” or “I type of imploded and ate an excessive amount of licorice so I compelled myself to experience an additional half-hour this afternoon.” It felt very nice to have any person else to be accountable to even thought honestly it was actually simply accountability to myself and I used to be hacking it to create an exterior strain to be my higher self.

I obtained comfy telling my brother my weight so each week I’d ship my weekly log and I turned massively motivated to have any person to ship a graph to that confirmed my weight down by 2.2 kilos! It turned addictive. Kind of just like the Dopamine rush you get whenever you share an incredible picture on Instagram and all your pals “like” it.


By now day by day walks and rings in Apple have been now not adequate. I wanted more durable targets, I wanted extra formidable exercises, I needed to tear by way of extra energy so I may hit my weight targets. I used to be mentally and bodily powerful. I used to be able to compete. However how?

I found a characteristic on Peloton that had a month-to-month leaderboard. You can enter problem the place you’d robotically log your miles and days ridden (or run) towards any of your pals who joined the problem. I made a decision in Could 2020 to hitch the using problem so I gave up operating for the month and determined to place myself on a 31-day biking problem. Me towards any punk who thought they may beat me on the bike!

I’m certain none of them have been actually even paying consideration however I created imaginary opponents in my thoughts. Sincerely. My primary opponent was Andrew Peterson. Why? As a result of he’s such a rattling good rider. Each experience of his he’d experience additional and more durable in every half-hour of a experience than I presumably may. However I had a plan to “beat” him. I’d simply experience longer. I’d set my alarm and get up early earlier than work to get a 90-minute experience in and I knew he rode within the afternoons. My plan was to put on him down. To make him log in each day and assume “crap, he put in one other 30 miles!” By the point he was using I’d sneak again proper earlier than dinner and I’d get an additional 20–half-hour in in order that I may get one other 8–10 miles.”

Sure. I’m bizarre. Sure, I KNOW he wasn’t actually paying consideration in any respect and didn’t even know I used to be using. However I knew that the sport I performed labored on ME. I wanted a competitor to beat and I didn’t wish to lose this imaginary competitors in Could and I set a purpose of profitable for the month and shedding wasn’t an choice. I’ve to confess that some folks did discover. I began getting texts from some mates saying “rattling, you’re placing on a ton of miles on the Peloton this month!” (which solely fueled me extra as a result of I believed “see, individuals are watching the race!”).

My spouse thought I used to be completely mashugana and I imply it. I’d inform her about my plan to get up early and make Andrew wince when he noticed what number of miles he was going to should experience to beat me for that day. My plan was to demoralize him earlier than he needed to experience so he wouldn’t even dare attempt to go additional. No, I by no means instructed Andrew any of this till maybe now.

On Could thirty first the competitors ended. I received. Not by loads, possibly 20 or so miles however I used to be able to experience from 9pm to midnight that evening if I needed to to be able to keep forward.

I used to be so pleased with what I had achieved on the bike that month. My legs and lungs moved to a complete new health degree. I used to be so happy that I went out and acquired myself a brand new street bike and promised myself that because the climate was getting higher I’d get out and experience extra outdoor.

I didn’t do a display seize on that actual finish of month however in the course of Could you’ll be able to see what this obsessive exercise and recreation I performed (with myself) did to each my exercise regime (727.7 miles between April 23 — Could 22 or 24.2 miles / day.) And that excludes all the operating and lifting I used to be doing.

This clearly isn’t Olympic-level biking however as you’ll be able to see it did burn a further 31,000 energy throughout this month or greater than 1,000 / day and since I used to be holding myself accountable in MyFitnessPal and never simply “consuming something I needed as a result of I used to be understanding so exhausting.” I used to be gamifying each energy in and energy out. Listed below are the outcomes throughout that interval as measured on MFP and despatched to my brother in the course of June, 2020.

I couldn’t consider it. 190 had turn into 185 after which 180. After I began my obsessive Peloton burst I used to be already beneath 175 and 6 weeks later I had approached 160. 10% of my physique weight in 2 months with none loopy weight loss program. I used to be prepared for my subsequent large problem and set of instruments.

That’s once I found Strava. And all the things modified once more. Strava has turn into my Mecca. It was next-level neighborhood. It was subsequent degree knowledge and statistics. It was next-level leaderboards and challenges and progress. Strava obtained me outdoor once more and social once more (with masks or Buffs) and made me linked to the bodily worlds once more.

However I’ll save that for the subsequent publish. This has already gotten lengthy sufficient.

I simply wish to depart you with one last thought …

The toughest train choice is 1 vs. 0. Beginning vs. not. When you begin, doing the work isn’t as exhausting as you think about. As I kind this it’s 4pm and I promised myself I’d get in a run earlier than darkish. So I’m about to go out (and thus not test for typos, sorry). I did the identical factor yesterday late afternoon.

Okay. I did it. I’m again. Took my 18 minutes however obtained my butt out the door and on some hills.

I by no means really feel like beginning. However as a result of I don’t wish to break streak I at all times do. I begin out by telling myself I don’t must go far or exhausting, I simply must go. As soon as out it’s at all times simpler to go just a little additional or just a little more durable than my pre-exercise mind needs to enroll to. Frequency issues! And Strava is the device that helps me gamify my frequency. I’ll clarify why within the subsequent publish. However for now, right here’s my Strava trophies for right this moment, I solely pushed myself for PRs a few segments.

Oh, and now I can actually take pleasure in my dinner tonight !!! Under is my present tally on MyFitnessPal with energy remaining. Sure, I actually do that each day.

Upcoming posts will cowl:

  • Strava
  • How I Discovered to Sleep (Oura Ring)
  • Steady Glucose Monitoring (Ranges)
  • The Finest Gear I’ve Found (Health trackers, headphones, sneakers, socks, water options, anti-chaffing, bikes)
  • Music options
  • What I’m engaged on subsequent (weight coaching, Tonal, pushups, and so forth)


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