So I’m into fitness: My name is Ernie, and I’m addicted to exercise


From left to right, the Washburn Alumni Association  Fun Run in 2011, 2012 and 2013. In 2013, I set a PR for a 5K. Eight hours later, after running and working a tailgate, I could barely walk due to bruised heels, which I ran myself into by running 40 miles a week without off days.

“Whatever. I’ll work it off tonight running.”

Time and time again, I said that to my wife as I was grabbing a 32-ounce Dr. Pepper or ordering espinaca (perhaps my favorite food vice) at Jose Peppers.

Being the loving, caring woman she is, time and time again my wife simply said, “I love you, honey, but that’s really not how it works.”

I knew that, of course, but I was resistant to going all-in on overhauling my eating habits.

As I wrote in my previous blog, I discovered that if I worked out enough, I wouldn’t gain much, if any, weight. I loved junky, fatty foods so much that I was absolutely willing to pay the price at the gym.

before after

Before and after, from 2009 to 2014.

I conveniently forgot that in August and September of 2011, I dropped 37 pounds doing three things: 1. Running three miles four or five times a week and lifting two or three times a week. 2. Cutting dairy out of my diet. 3. Cutting soda out of my diet.

My exercise goals were modest when I decided that I’d rather not die of a heart attack before I turned 40 (I turn 40 on July 3). When I began running in June 2010, I had to stop after about 50 yards.

By the end of summer, I could run a mile without stopping. In September 2011, I finally ran a 5K. A year later, I could run a 10K. By early 2013, I was running eight miles.

At some point in 2013, I went to two workouts a day. I’d arrive at the campus gym at Washburn right after it opened in the morning, exercise for an hour and go to work. Four hours later, I was back the gym, usually for a three- or four-mile run on the hills setting or high-speed intervals.

Within a year, I noticed my mood would change if I missed one of those workouts. I became irritable. By 2014, my fitness goals were to work out twice a day for a total of at least two hours, burn at least 1,000 calories and run 40 miles a week.

When you consider that less than four years earlier, I couldn’t run 100 yards, that’s significant progress.

train like an idiot

Train like an idiot might have been more accurate. Who burns 10,000 calories a week at the gym other than professional athletes?

But 2014 was the year I crossed the line of addiction. Instead of getting up at 5 a.m., I set the alarm for 4:55 a.m. Why? Because I was arriving at the gym at 6:35 a.m., five minutes after it opened. I HAD to burn those 20 calories (if I was lifting) or 70 calories (if I was running).

I also became obsessed with burning 10,000 calories during a week. During some of those weeks, I’d throw in a third workout, usually an hour of Tae-Bo, to hit that goal.

To reach 10,000 calories a week, off days were no longer an option. I refused to miss a day of exercise. I arranged my schedule around workouts. I was pissed off if I “only” burned 700 or 800 calories on a given day.

Early in 2015, completely exhausted, I took a day off for the first time in a long time. My wife asked when my last off day was. I logged onto MyFitnessPal and began clicking back through my diary, past December, into November. It had been more than 70 days since my last off day.

In 2013, when the clean eating stopped and exercise addiction kicked in, I weighed 195 pounds. Five weeks ago, with two workouts a day and unhealthy eating for three years, I weighed 211 pounds. Some of that is muscle mass, but a lot of it is fat I regained.

A month ago, when I backed off my workout routine, I panicked. I was scared to death I’d get back to 300 pounds. But, my wife helped me revamp my diet. My goal was to maintain my weight until I can exercise again.

A month later, including three weeks without a workout, my weight is 197 pounds. Before long, I’ll be addicted to eating healthy.


One thought on “So I’m into fitness: My name is Ernie, and I’m addicted to exercise

  1. You can’t outrun a bad diet. Great bodies are made in the kitchen, not the gym. Two phrases, as a fitness professional, I utter all the time to my clients.

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