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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 working 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, targeted, data-driven method to enhancing all the pieces about myself from meals to exercises to sleep (Oura Ring) to water consumption (Hidrate). I’ll publish much more in regards to the gear I used and what works and what doesn’t however as we speak is about how I began to supercharge my exercises.

To date I’ve written about the psychology of meals and individually about the meals providers I exploit and as we speak 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 need to be). However I can run a 10k in sub 8-minute miles which for 52 years outdated and a busy, full-time job isn’t too shabby both.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 pc 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 hold a meals journal. It’s tremendous simple to trace all the pieces and on the finish of the day it tells you not whole energy but in addition breakdown by fats, carbs and protein (plus sodium, and so on). I observe my weight each morning very first thing once I get up on a Withings Physique+ scale.

Armed with meals & weight knowledge and objectives I turned to growing my train alongside decreasing my energy. Noom had a rule that you possibly can “eat 50% of all energy burned” in order that if I burned 700 energy in a day I might 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 might use my Apple Watch to trace my walks and after that all the pieces turned a stroll. I turned much less all in favour of taking the subway in NY once I might stroll 3 miles to my assembly simply by leaving a bit of bit earlier and taking calls alongside the way in which.

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 might stroll simply doing the issues I usually did daily. Calls have been carried out on my AirPods and with my cellphone in my pocket. I turned as obsessive about my day by day strolling targets as my meals logging had grow to be. I might meet folks for hour-long hikes and never hour-long lunches.

I might plan a day round which calls I might take whereas I used to be strolling and which conferences might be cell. Someday when my automobile was within the store I requested my colleague Stuart for a trip dwelling however I requested him to drop me a mile away from my home so I might 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 completely happy to have the additional mileage earlier than supper time so I had extra energy accessible to eat if I needed them.

It turned a way of life, a behavior. Not in a single day. I made small modifications and locked in these habits. Then I might all the time search for different issues I might add. It was all in regards to the numbers, the day by day objectives, the weigh-in each morning, conserving to my energy targets and never breaking my “streak.” It was a sport. 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 need to break streak. I even discovered myself standing up in conferences in order that I might “shut all three circles.”

I knew that I used to be giving over to a sport, to numbers, to crazy thoughts video games of streaks however I made a decision to embrace it. I satisfied myself that if I broke streak I would 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 stage. After simply 4 months I had hit my first large goal getting my weight from 222 to 200 and now this quantity that appeared not possible once I started was now in sight. 1–8–5.

I had by no means been capable of hit it earlier than as 195–200 all the time appeared to be my yo-yo level the place I’d revert again to dangerous habits and quit no matter fad food plan acquired to me to 200. Not this time. I used to be prepared for the subsequent stage.

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 fireplace of unfavorable information I discovered Ally’s positivity so up lifting.

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

That is when the ability of psychology actually shone by way of. Having any individual telling you that “you are able to do it” and inspiring you to be your finest self is actually 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 carried out!”

20 minutes turned half-hour turned 45 minutes. And there was a lot knowledge! I might enhance my cadence and my rigidity and management outputs to see how a lot whole output I might do in a given time. I might evaluate myself to different riders or to my earlier time. (Peloton printed how many individuals trip every trip 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 stage (For me my purpose was all the time high 20% on the bike, high 5% on runs).

It pushed me tougher, it turned my very own little competitors with imaginary folks I used to be using in opposition to and with myself.

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

The an important perception hit me. Each time I needed to “get into form” I might work out with thoughts of a 20-year-old however the physique of a 40-something (now 52) yr outdated. I had just a few nice exercises however invariably injured myself each time.

My Peloton teacher Matt Wilpers stated there have been three issues for all athletes to concentrate on:

  1. Frequency > Length
  2. Length > Depth**
  3. Solely then do you have to concentrate on stage of effort / depth.

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

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

When you’re doing 2 days / week are you able to make it 4? When you’re doing 4 might you make it 5? Solely if you hit 5–6 days do you have to concentrate on getting 20 minutes to half-hour to 45 minutes.

Frequency of labor outs issues far more than length 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 a minimum of 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 might rotate between biking and working so I didn’t use the identical muscle groups each single day. Quickly I used to be doing 7 days / week — some simple, some tougher. Quickly 45 minutes turned 60 turned 75 turned 90. Now I can trip 2–3 hours no drawback.

I began noticing that on sure rides different folks had a lot larger “output” (depth) than I did. So I began texting associates 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 top of this era my health stage had elevated to a degree the place I might begin jogging outdoors once more and I did one thing I hadn’t carried out since I used to be 35. I began working 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 distinct story. And as punishment I nonetheless acquired my ass out and ran Girl Chicken Lake on 4 hours sleep.

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

I felt superb.

Then I made a mistake which brought about 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 grow to be 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 have to be the 50+ flooring. No one returns to 1’s faculty weight.

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

Besides {that a} easy Google search instructed me that the best weight was for a person who was 5’10” (okay, okay, 5’9″, properly, it relies upon who’s asking) and it stated 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 top???

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’ll be able to’t outrun the fork!

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

I went again to foundational stuff. I noticed by then that simply working or biking or strolling however not listening 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 seen that after a run Stuart would eat a bowl of fruit at Pret-a-Manger whereas I might order oatmeal, a small sandwich, a restaurant latte AND fruit although 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 stage. And admittedly Covid had simply began and I believed, “I assume I’ve to set an unrealistic purpose like hitting 175.” I hadn’t carried out 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 best state of understanding why I made dangerous meals selections however now I actually simply needed one of the best, best means 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 objectives 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 carried out with dinner. I created a rule of my two “cheats” after dinner. I might 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 capable of eat the rest 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 will 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 food plan within the remaining quarter-hour!” I needed to yell it into my very own ear.


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

I might ship him the log that confirmed “day by day calorie purpose, whole energy consumed, whole energy burned” and I’d ship him a bit of be aware like “I drew the road as we speak — no cheats!” or “I form of imploded and ate an excessive amount of licorice so I pressured myself to trip an additional half-hour this afternoon.” It felt very nice to have any individual else to be accountable to even thought in truth it was actually simply accountability to myself and I used to be hacking it to create an exterior stress to be my higher self.

I acquired comfy telling my brother my weight so each week I’d ship my weekly log and I turned massively motivated to have any individual to ship a graph to that confirmed my weight down by 2.2 kilos! It turned addictive. Form of just like the Dopamine rush you get if you share an excellent photograph 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 tougher objectives, I wanted extra formidable exercises, I needed to tear by way of extra energy so I might hit my weight targets. I used to be mentally and bodily robust. I used to be able to compete. However how?

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

I’m positive none of them have been actually even paying consideration however I created imaginary rivals in my thoughts. Sincerely. My primary opponent was Andrew Peterson. Why? As a result of he’s such a rattling good rider. Each trip of his he’d trip additional and tougher in every half-hour of a trip than I presumably might. However I had a plan to “beat” him. I might simply trip longer. I’d set my alarm and get up early earlier than work to get a 90-minute trip in and I knew he rode within the afternoons. My plan was to put on him down. To make him log in daily and suppose “crap, he put in one other 30 miles!” By the point he was using I might sneak again proper earlier than dinner and I’d get an additional 20–half-hour in in order that I might 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 need to lose this imaginary competitors in Could and I set a purpose of successful for the month and shedding wasn’t an choice. I’ve to confess that some folks did discover. I began getting texts from some associates 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 might inform her about my plan to get up early and make Andrew wince when he noticed what number of miles he was going to need to trip to beat me for that day. My plan was to demoralize him earlier than he needed to trip 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 quite a bit, possibly 20 or so miles however I used to be able to trip from 9pm to midnight that evening if I needed to with a view 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 an entire new health stage. 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 trip extra open air.

I didn’t do a display seize on that precise finish of month however in the midst of Could you possibly can see what this obsessive exercise and sport 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 working and lifting I used to be doing.

This clearly isn’t Olympic-level biking however as you possibly can see it did burn an extra 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 here are the outcomes throughout that interval as measured on MFP and despatched to my brother in the midst of June, 2020.

I couldn’t imagine it. 190 had grow to be 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 food plan. I used to be prepared for my subsequent large problem and set of instruments.

That’s once I found Strava. And all the pieces modified once more. Strava has grow to be my Mecca. It was next-level neighborhood. It was subsequent stage knowledge and statistics. It was next-level leaderboards and challenges and progress. Strava acquired me open air 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 put up. This has already gotten lengthy sufficient.

I simply need to depart you with one remaining thought …

The toughest train resolution 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 move out (and thus not verify for typos, sorry). I did the identical factor yesterday late afternoon.

Okay. I did it. I’m again. Took my 18 minutes however acquired 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 need to break streak I all the time 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 all the time simpler to go a bit of additional or a bit of tougher 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 put up. However for now, right here’s my Strava trophies for as we speak, I solely pushed myself for PRs a few segments.

Oh, and now I can actually get pleasure from my dinner tonight !!! Under is my present tally on MyFitnessPal with energy remaining. Sure, I actually do that daily.

Upcoming posts will cowl:

  • Strava
  • How I Realized to Sleep (Oura Ring)
  • Steady Glucose Monitoring (Ranges)
  • The Greatest 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 on)


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