After noticing a heart attack trend in his family, 25 year-old Luke Tompkins knew he needed to take control of his heart health. Adding cardio to his fitness routine not only built up his heart endurance, but help him shed pounds put on during the pandemic. These are the little changes he made.
Gaining weight crept up on me slowly. The Covid pandemic put me out of my usual workout rhythm since the gyms in Vancouver where I live had closed for a few months. And even after they reopened, I still was putting on weight. Next thing I knew, I reached my highest weight of 206 pounds at 24 years old.
I didn’t like the way I looked and I didn’t feel healthy. I always considered myself a fit individual, but there I was gasping for breath after running only half a mile to get back in the groove. This was a big shock to me as I had ran track and played basketball in high school and I knew I needed to make a change.
When my grandfather had a heart attack and needed triple bypass surgery, I started thinking more about heart health and cardio and realized it was time to start taking care of myself. My great-grandfather also had a couple heart attacks and I didn’t want to continue a cycle.
To build up my endurance again, I started to embrace more cardio for my heart alongside a weightlifting routine. Soon that cardio steeped into fat loss.
First I started with aiming to walk 10,000 steps a day. Even in the pouring rain I was out there, walking with an umbrella, dedicated to making those steps. Then I amped up my cardio in the gym.
I added a 20-minute HIIT cycling bike workout from Global Cycling Network after all my lifting sessions. I work out six days a week for about 45 minutes to an hour using weights, doing a legs/shoulders, chest/back, and arms split. I cycle through that twice a week aiming for 12 to 16 hard sets per body part per week, so 6 to 8 hard sets per body part per workout.
Then there was adjusting my diet. I started tracking my calories, aiming for a 500-700 calorie deficit for moderate weekly weight loss. I swapped out heavy cheese and sauces for low fat cheeses and zero-calorie sauces from Walden Farms. I switched out fatty red meats like beef and pork for fish and chicken. Regular pasta turned into lentil pasta. I included much more fruits and vegetables into my diet for more volume and less calories.
Since I have a big sweet tooth, switching from junk to fruits helped curb it. However, on days when I craved ice cream, I devised my own protein ice cream recipe. It consists of vanilla protein powder, any mix of frozen fruit or berries, ice and almond milk. I usually blend up a big batch and then freeze it to snack on like you would with regular ice cream.
I didn’t work with a trainer but in order to stay motivated, but I took frequent progress photos and weighed myself every day and compared weekly averages. Once I saw the numbers going down and the photos of myself transform, I had the confidence to keep pushing myself.
I lost the weight fairly slowly in order to keep as much muscle as I could. I lost just over a pound per week on average over a total of five months and ended up losing 30 pounds.
The only downside to my weight loss, was that I lost a little bit of strength in some of my lifts, but I just felt so much healthier in my everyday life. I could go hiking and not tire out and it made everyday activities so much easier.
My friends and family weren’t really shocked at the change because they were there with me the whole time on my journey. I think they were more surprised at the dedication it took to be strict with myself and not splurge on my meal plan when we went out. I would end up ordering a chicken salad and a water instead of a burger or steak and a cocktail, which was worth it in the end. The confidence gain and general health benefits are things I don’t think I could give up again.
I have so much more confidence at the beach and I found I could wear more fitted clothing and feel good about myself. I got compliments on my physique from strangers. My next goal is to gain a bit more muscle now that I’m in good enough shape to notice!
My advice to anyone starting their fitness and weight loss journey is that you don’t have to be perfect, just consistent. Don’t worry about getting your diet perfect everyday because there’s going be days you cave and eat something that doesn’t quite fit. And definitely don’t overdo it on cardio the next day to make up for it. Just get back on track and take it one day at a time.
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