UFC for Programmers – Stepping out of your Comfort Zone

I want to die right now. Even as I type this, my heart is racing out of my chest at ~140bpm. I just poured cold water all down my face in a warehouse bathroom in a desolate area of town I’ve never been in before.

Today, I started my MMA training. Not because I want to get into the UFC octagon and fight, but because I want to get back in shape. And honestly, I love the feeling of sore muscles. I feel like my brain slows down, it gives me time to think.

As programmers, many of us spend 8+ hours a day hunched over a keyboard looking into a glowing screen. And while I won’t speak for everyone, this has definitely taken it’s toll on my health. When I met my wife I weighed 180lbs, just two weeks ago I weighed the highest I ever have at 249lbs.

I decided I wasn’t going to let 250 get the best of me.

It was time to step out of my comfort zone and make a lifestyle change.

Getting the Data

As a developer, my religion is logic. I live, breathe, and will most likely die thinking through numbers and algorithms and logic. So it’s safe to say that I wanted to start this journey by getting more data about my health, becoming aware of the actual state that I’m in.

There are two parts to this equation: diet and fitness.

The Diet

The first thing I did was download the MyFitnessPal app, which contrary to it’s name, has more to do with diet than fitness. It turns out, I’ve been eating in excess of 4000 calories per day. Eating out everyday during lunch and drinking a gallon of milk per day heavily contributed to that number.

So I plugged in my height, weight, and told MyFitnessPal that I wanted to lose 1 pound a week. My daily limit? 2220 calories.

2015-05-19 07.45.00


I began cooking breakfast at home. A slice of whole wheat toast with an over easy egg, two strips of bacon and my morning coffee clocks in at 330 calories. I started making lunch (mostly Chinese noodle jars) at 482 calories. I have the occasional Aldis-Brand-Atkins bar to hold me over between meals at 180 calories, and then I finish off with homemade dinner.

Counting calories with this app is way easier than it sounds. I thought it was going to be a lot of work, but the truth of the matter is, it was incredibly easy.

Even when I spoke at dev.Objective() last week and enjoyed an expensive steak dinner with my wife, I still stayed under my calorie goal for the day.

The Fitness

I dusted off the treadmill I bought two years ago and moved it into the open in my basement. Every morning I either walk for 30 minutes on the treadmill or go outside for a walk. And by walk, I really do mean walk. The “lose weight” plan that is built into the treadmill has me alternating between 2.8 and 3.2 miles per hour.

I’m sure I’ll step up the speed soon, but I wanted to get the hang of doing it every morning. Yet again, this was easy. Just wake up 30 minutes earlier and go for it. As a side effect I tend to take a lot shorter showers since it feels better to use cold water after walking.

Not actually me.

Not actually me.

But, I wanted more, I wanted to actually work out. But working out is boring, and when I go to the gym, I honestly have no idea what I’m doing. So I wound up at this warehouse tonight for MMA Combat Conditioning. The teacher is literally a UFC fighter.

As I stepped into the gym, I was scared shitless. The little kids that were training for Brazilian-Jiu-Jitsu could probably whoop my ass. But I felt like “training for UFC” would be a whole lot more fun than “hey, lift this weight 20 times.”

I did “football style” stepping drills. I threw a 15lb ball ten feet into the air, bouncing it off a wall, then catching it into a squat. I used a step box. I slammed ropes into the ground. I jumped up and down while carrying a 60lb weight. I lifted a 45lb bar over my head. I flipped a friggin’ monster truck tire. And I want to die.

But it hurts so good.

I know this is progress, and I’m ready for more. Bring it on. Anything is Possible.

The Actual Data

Like I said, we’re programmers, we like data. So I didn’t want to “work out and not see results.” I wanted to actually be able to visualize my workouts and see my progress. So I went out and bought a Fitbit Charge HR, which continuously monitors your heart rate and more accurately represents your calories burned in MyFitnessPal. It also tracks your daily steps goal, stairs climbed, miles walked, etc.

Here’s my Combat Conditioning workout from tonight:

2015-05-19 07.54.28

I noticed when my heartrate spiked at 182. Oh my god I remember jumping on and off that stepping box and wanting to die, but thank god I got a 1 minute break afterwards. But looking at the data, I can see that I can push myself harder next time. I can try to remain in cardio the entire time and see how I feel, I can feel even more of that sweet sweet pain.

The $150 for the FitBit was well worth it, and I even bought my wife one, so now we’re holding each other accountable to our calories burned and steps taken everyday.

The Results? 11 pound weight loss in 11 days.

That’s right, the combination of just eating THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF CALORIES (and still eating a lot of stuff I like) and hitting my daily step goal by walking has caused me to lose literally one pound a day.

I know my progress will eventually slow, but it feels good to step out of my comfort zone. It feels good to know that I am actually making progress.

Losing weight is like a startup.

The truth of the matter is, this first 11 days has felt a lot like a startup. I’m gaining traction, I’m having to do things each and every day to make progress, I’m stepping out of my comfort zone.

I think that doing this will actually improve my willpower and job performance as well.

So what do you say, you want to join me on this fitness kick?

I’m thinking about creating a Slack group where we can talk SaaS products and MVPs and diet and fitness together. Reply and let me know if you’re interested :)



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  • http://www.marksense.net/ Mark Sebald

    Hi Matt. Wow, MMA Combat Conditioning. That’s hard core! Please take care that you don’t hurt yourself. I’m sticking to walking from my car to work and back, (about a mile) and taking the stairs at my office (20 stories). That’s enough for me. Best of luck on meeting your diet and fitness goals. Thanks for sharing and keep blogging about your progress.

  • Matthew Ridley

    Thanks for sharing… been looking for that little bit of motivation to get me on the right track again. Feeling like this did it. Now I just need to execute.

    • http://mattkremer.com Matt Kremer

      You got this! Most gyms around here at least have free trial weeks :) Go check it out!