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Fitness after 40 Transformation with Pete Shirley

How Pete Shirley Remains Transformed in his 50’s  by Learning to Love Active Living and Clean Eating!

Introduction to Pete Shirley, Veteran, Engineer, and almost pro mountain biker

Pete Shirley is a husband and father of two successful children; one a comic strip artist and the other an engineer. With a BS in mechanical engineering, an MBA and a US Navy Nuclear submarine background, Pete is professionally accomplished.  However, in his 30’s while he was climbing the corporate ladder, he lost his footing with regards to his health. He received the “wake-up call” in his early 40’s while, at the urging of his wife, got a physical. Work stress, bad eating habits and inconsistent workouts had taken their toll.  Pete was diagnosed as pre-diabetic, suffering from hypertension, suffering from high cholesterol and, in Pete’s mind worst of all, he was “Treated for Obesity!” He knows how those diseases affect his family and he said NO.

Now at age 51, Pete has shed nearly 40 pounds and has kept it off for years.  He is a calorie counting marathon runner and avid mountain biker.

I had the pleasure of interviewing him and let’s see what he has to say!

What happened to make you want to take the steps to improve your health?

Answer: It was a combination of things.  In 2010, at age 43, I went on vacation in New Mexico and Colorado.  My family and I went to the Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado, and I couldn’t climb the dunes because of my physical condition.

At about the same time, and at the urging of my wife, I went for a physical and was diagnosed as Obese, hypertensive and pre-diabetic. All things that may one feel uneasy.

I decided I wanted to live a healthy long life rather than a shortened, painful one.

What was the main goal that you wanted to achieve?

Answer:  Mostly, I wanted to lose weight.

How did you determine what the best eating plan was to meet your goal?

Answer: This was trial and error and not easy.  At first I didn’t track my diet and relied on workouts.  I started with the Shawn T Insanity workout series.  I realized after a couple months that I was getting physically stronger, but not any lighter.

I decided to adopt calorie counting. My diet plan was one exclusively of calorie counting and discipline.  I used the “MyFitnessPal” app on my smartphone and put in some basic data (weight, age, weight goal, etc).

I found the key to calorie counting was to find something in the morning that fills me up but is low calorie (i.e. oatmeal, eggs).  Lunch is almost always a low calorie salad (no crutons, no cheese, low calorie dressing, grilled chicken).  I found that if you start with dinner in mind it helps.  I used to ask myself “how big of a dinner do I want to eat?”  and then use that to plan breakfast and lunch.

MyFitnessPal helped me track my calories. I just had to have the discipline to put them in and stick to the plan.

How did you determine what your best movement plan was to meet your goal?

Answer:  This was an iterative approach. I went all-in at first by doing an intense, 60 day workout program.  Then I did it again, and again. When that got boring, I started mixing in running and walking. When I felt good, I’d run. When I was tired, I’d walk. I started running a 5k, then a 10k, then eventually a half marathon.

I found that signing up for events motivated me to train. I’ve done multiple 5k’s, 10k’s and this coming January will be my 5th Houston Half Marathon.

Now I try to exercise 6 days a week for a minimum of 45 minutes a day.  Every other day is cardio (run or mountain bike), with a cardio-strength workout every 2 to 3 days.

Did you seek any outside assistance for either the eating plan or movement plan?

Answer: I did not.

How did you fit your movement plan into your busy life?

Answer: This was tough.  I travel for a living (20-25 weeks a year) and decided to stick to the plan no matter where I was.  The key was to look up the calories of meals before you order.  Salads at most chain restaurants are very fattening.  If you know before you order, you can make a smart decision about what to order and/or how much of what you order to eat.

I also decided to make exercise a priority.  When I’m on the road, I get up at 5 am and hit the gym for 45 minutes to an hour.  When I’m not traveling, I exercise as soon as I get home after work.  I target 6 days a week. If I’m tired, I pick a light workout (i.e. walk on the treadmill). The key is to start, once you start it’s not so hard to finish.

What is the most important change that you have experienced because of the changes that you made?

Answer: My expectations of what I could do have evolved.  I started out thinking I might lose 5 lbs. When I lost 5 lbs, I decided to go for 10. 10 turned to 20, etc., etc.

I really liked that I had to buy new clothes because all of my old clothes were too big.  I found that many aches and pains went away (i.e. knee pain).  I also found that my physical endurance was significantly increased.  The hypertension and high cholesterol also went away.

Can you describe one of your typical days, including your work outs and the type of foods you are eating?


Typical weekend day:

Up by 5:30 am and cook breakfast: Two egg omelet with enough cheese to taste it (1/8 cup-ish). 1 slice of wheat toast. This morning’s breakfast was 218 calories.

Tea at Starbucks on the way to mountain bike.

Rode 17 miles (1:30) on the trails and then home.

Lunch at 11 was is a salad with fruit, maybe one tablespoon of nuts, grilled chicken. 450-500 calories.

Dinner: was a 1/3 lb cheeseburgers and French Fries. Glass of beer. Two cookies (my daughter keeps making them). Approximately 800 calories.

For a work day: substitute “bike” with “work” and add 45 to 60 minutes of workout in the afternoon before dinner.

How would you recommend other middle-aged people to address waning health in mid-life?

Just start.  Find something to fire you up (i.e. what is your impetus for change)! Set a goal, build a plan and make it a routine.

How do you plan to ensure that these plans are sustainable?

Answer: This is a challenge. I track my weight, calories and workouts. I have a calorie goal that I try to stay under and I exercise 6 to 7 days a week (Yes – you have time, too).  I’m slowly gaining weight. Partly due to lack of discipline, but mostly, I think, because my metabolism is slowing down.  I need to continually watch what I eat and stay within limits.

As you can see, Pete is able to include his lifestyle changes into his life while working and enjoying his life!

Takeaway #1: No news from the doctor is irreversible for lifestyle related diseases..

Takeaway #2: You are the only one who can make these changes.

Takeaway #3: You can be a world traveler and maintain your health.

Although Pete had the drive to take this journey on his own. You don’t have to. I have written a guide to help you do just what Pete did! Order my book Second Chance at Health-Learn to Love Active Living and Clean Eating, and begin your journey to sustained health.

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