Annual Review 2023: Finally A Real Fitness Reboot

Year after year my annual review starts with a lament about wanting to do better, a candid review of actual metrics, and then some plan for moving forward. This year is similar but also different. I still wish I did better but this is the first year that I had a serious, long term fitness reboot since I started this annual tradition. So no, it wasn’t perfect. It started off pretty poorly actually, but with the longest period of having stuff dialed in and a stronger finish than I’ve had before I am excited for what is to come.

Goal Accountability

I actually started the year with really not much goal accountability in mind. I hypothetically carried forward the same one from 2022 and by extension 2021. In practice I pretty much abandoned the whole concept. I would keep logging everything in my spreadsheet, hence the pretty graphs still. Sometimes though it would be a week or two later. How would I know how well I did then? Sleep was easy since it is tracked by my watch. Diet is easy because I still log everything I eat, not that I needed much of that to determine that it was between meh to crappy. The physical fitness stuff was easy because I wasn’t doing any of it. The same is true for the brain health stuff but with tracking if I ever did any meditation. I had thoughts of potentially ditching the whole thing. Then I had that come to Jesus with myself after my minor health concerns and everything snapped back into place. So unlike previous years where the goal was set once, the criteria for each goal changed throughout the year. The year started with:

  • Goal 1: Eat a Blue Zones inspired plant dominant diet
  • Goal 2: Get 7-8 hours of sleep a night
  • Goal 3: Physical activity levels such that either get 10K or more steps in a day or burn more than 2800 calories. This translates into either moving more or working out or both.
  • Goal 4: Daily calisthenics or yoga in order to increase agility, muscle balance, and strength.
  • Goal 5: Brain exercises one or more of:
    • 15 minutes meditation
    • 30+ minutes musical instrument
    • 30+ minutes foreign language learning
    • Etc.

…and it ended the year at:

  • Goal 1 (Diet): Eat a plant dominant Mediterranean diet averaging at least 90 grams of protein a day
  • Goal 2 (Sleep): Get 7-8 hours of sleep a night
  • Goal 3 (Cardio Health): 30 minutes of focused cardio exercise (indoor cycling, running, swimming, etc), with one hard session per week minimum and a stretch goal of two hard sessions per week
  • Goal 4 (Non-Cardio Health): 20-30 minutes of weight training, calisthenics, or yoga
  • Goal 5 (Brain Health): Meditate 15 minutes or more per day with a stretch goal of 30 minutes

It isn’t too different in concept but more concrete. There were interim changes throughout. The whole history of that can be seen in the archive. How that looked from a grades perspective is as follows:

Per Phase Goal Grades

Figure 1: Accountability Grades Per 4-week Phase

It’s clear the beginning of the year was a wreck across the board. It was the very end of April that I started my 30 Day Health Reboot . I kept going very strong until the end of August when I series of vacations, travel, family events, etc. started really cutting into things. October I got things mostly back into gear but again saw myself falling off the wagon a bit, especially on the meditation adn diet, for much of November and December. There is still a lot to like there though. That stretch from Phase 5 through 9 is the longest dialed in I’ve ever been. Going beyond that keeping the fitness grades where they were through the end of the year has never happened. I don’t have this kind of data going back far enough but I would say the closest I’ve ever been to having physical fitness this dialed in this long would be the 2012/2013 era. I’m not even sure I could say that was true back then either since I never was consistent about working out at this frequency. Looking at it from a daily grades perspective, where there is a GPA per day, it looks even better:

Daily Grades

Figure 2: Daily Goal Aggregated Grades

Again the first year is a disaster, as expected. It was a continuation of the same trend going back months into 2022. However then it locks in very well. The first dip I planned, because of a bunch of travel etc, which I documented here . I did not plan for the second dip though. That was just me being sloppy. That also was when I stopped doing my close out/kick off posts too, which I’m thinking isn’t a coincidence. Still even with those dips I spent more time in the last quarter of the year above 3.0 than below. That just extended a record strong streak, even if it wasn’t a >3.5 level. How that played out in final grades was a very strong finish:

2023 2022 2021 2020 2019
Goal 1 (Diet) 2.47 (C+) 2.43 (C+) 2.44 (C+) 2.49 (C+) 1.99 (C-)
Goal 2 (Sleep) 3.42 (B+) 3.50 (B+) 3.65 (B+) 3.75 (A-) 3.23 (B)
Goal 3 (Cardio Fitness) 3.34 (B+) 2.54 (C+) 2.98 (B-) 2.95 (B-) 3.13 (B)
Goal 4 (Non-Cardio Fitness) 2.55 (C+) 1.68 (D+) 1.41 (D+) 2.13 (C) 0.85 (D-)
Goal 5 (Brain Hearth) 2.48 (C+) 2.31 (C+) 2.91 (B-) 2.19 (C) 1.08 (D)
Total GPA 2.85 (B-) 2.49 (C+) 2.68 (C+) 2.70 (B-) 2.05 (C)

This year’s grades are all good news. In terms of diet I got the second best score in the last five years, the fourth highest since I started this in 2017. A C+ grade isn’t great but better than the trajectory I was on to start off. Sleep was the weakest grade but still a B+. The fitness scores are where things really take off. This was the highest cardio fitness grade I’ve ever gotten, and the first B+ in that category. Non-cardio fitness is similarly the best score yet and also the first time scoring as high as a C+. Brain health is second highest score ever. All of that made the total grade for the year a 2.85 which is the highest grade yet and only the second time I’ve hit a B- as well. That is a lot to be happy about.


Because everything was dialed in for so long, yes even despite diet being sloppier than the others, things were looking pretty solid on the nutrition front too:


Figure 3: Annual Daily Average Nutrition

Diving into the numbers the really good:

  • I’m getting almost all of my macro/micro nutrients (except just under on Vitamin D and Vitamin E) in my diet. Even Vitamin E is at 84% without supplements and well north of 100% with my multivitamin.
  • My Omega 3/6 fatty acid ratios are more dialed in than they’ve ever been.
  • My alkanity score has never been this good. I’m using that crudely to estimate fruit/veggie heavy as a proportion of calories my diet is see this explainer .
  • Even though calories consumed are about where it usually is in the mid-2000s this is essentially tied with the most calories burned going back to 2017. The one just barely higher time, back in 2019 , my calorie intake was much higher. That means that this is actually the highest average daily calorie deficit going back to 2017 as well.

The not so bad:

  • Protein levels are where I want them to be if not slightly more with biggest sources of this being salmon, my Protein Plus plant based cereal, whole grain bread, and protein powders along with the usual meat constituents.
  • Alcohol consumption average just over 2 drinks a day, which is the target I set for myself.
  • Caffeine was a bit higher than I’d like, at the 150 level, but not bad.
  • Fiber was a bit under 100% but better than last year.

The bad:

  • Cholesterol is off the charts high compared to RDA (200 mg) and my target (100 mg). A huge cause of this was a very large increase in egg consumption for awhile. It is a total of 76 grams of that 346 gram number. The top ten round out to salmon, chicken, steak, shrimp and cheese but those ten categories are just half of the total 346 as well. So lots of cholesterol from lots of sources.
  • The sodium is off the charts high too. I may be getting a lot more potassium as well thanks to discovering and using salt substitute (KCl instead of NaCl) but that is very much band-aiding a problem with sodium levels that high.

Body Composition

While I started off the year at near peak weight and percent body fat the health reboot and subsequent keeping things more dialed in than ever helped get me to a body composition I haven’t seen in over a decade (before I had all of these reviews being done):

Body Fat and Weight Graph

Figure 4: Annual Body Fat and Weight History

It’s clear that once I hit my goal in August things went a bit off the rails. The data gap is where you can see a two week vacation that had lots of eating great foods to excess and drinking. But over Octobre things got back to where they had been before. The plan was to then hover there except for a couple days around the major holidays. That isn’t how I executed it though. It was more in check than it would have been any other year thanks to the more regular exercise but not where I wanted it to be. You can see that too in the net calorie grah for the same period:

Net Calories Graph

Figure 5: Annual Net Calories History


I have visions of starting to discuss trends in my biometrics. I have all the data in Apple Health but I don’t have ways of generating nice exportable and explorable charts. That’s something I am thinking of writing an app for in 2024. Overall though things looked great there. I went from elevated blood pressure, the thing that kicked off my reboot, to great blood pressure by the end of the year. My resting heart rate has trended to the levels it last saw when I was in marathon running shape. My VO2Max had a huge jump thanks to all the exercise as well, although it has started trending off a bit in the last three months due to focusing on less high heart rate cardio and some of the slacking.

Looking forward to 2024

If I were to just grade myself on the second half of the year I’d say 2023 was a banner year. In every dimension the last 2/3 of the year was the most dialed in I’ve had everything for this long. That’s even with the planned and unplanned lapses. However the first third of the year was a disaster. Despite that overall it netted out to be one of my strongest performances ever. I have a lot of momentum going into 2024 and I want to be sure to capitalize on it.

The goals themselves have been pretty static since I’ve gotten things dialed in. I intend to keep them there with the exception of brain health. That I’m going to dial back to being 15-20 minutes of meditation a day or 15-20 minutes of alternative learning (language, music, drawing, etc). I imagine that category is one I’m going to keep tweaking and evolving over the year. That gets to another thing I need to tweak with this whole goal accountability thing. I’m going to write another blog post on it but two things relevant here are the definitions of phases and the accountability aspect. I originally did it as 4 week phases with the last one rounding out to whatever. I’m changing that to be per-month. I also was never really consistent with the close-out/kick-off aspect except while I was getting my momentum going over the summer. I think that extra step of spending 20-30 minutes at the phase boundaries really helped with my own accountability. I’m therefore going to be bringing that back even if it turns out to be boring as hell. So to kick off the January 2024 phase the goals are:

  • Goal 1 (Diet): Eat a plant dominant Mediterranean diet averaging at least 90 grams of protein a day
  • Goal 2 (Sleep): Get 7-8 hours of sleep a night
  • Goal 3 (Cardio Health): 30 minutes of focused cardio exercise (indoor cycling, running, swimming, etc), with one hard session per week minimum and a stretch goal of two hard sessions per week
  • Goal 4 (Non-Cardio Health): 20-30 minutes of weight training, calisthenics, or yoga
  • Goal 5 (Brain Health): 15-20 minutes of meditation or alternative learning, stretch goal of 15-20 minutes of meditation and alternative learning or a second meditation session.

The really hard one for me to make sure I get dialed in is probably going to be diet. I could easily fumble the fitness stuff again. Most of my life that is the case. But in the immediate term I do have that in a good space. Diet on the other hand I’m too willing to easily break for the crap food for no reason but that it is there. I have no problem with doing that on special occassions, to try something new, or if I have no choice. However too often it is just me at home in front of the screen and the snacks or crap calling me. Or I’m at a restaurant I’ve eaten at a million times and rather than get the healthy option, or opt not to eat a full appetizer and dessert, I just go in whole hog. I can and need to do better. The extra exercise improvements can only take things so far.

Along with these general goals I have one big fitness goal for the year. I want to run a half marathon and run it strong again. I ran a half marathon distance in April 2020 but I was dogging it. The last strong half marathon I ran was back in 2012. In 2023 I ran a 10K very strong as well, much stronger than my 2021 10K. It is therefore something that is doable but still challenging. I think it is something that could potentially help me maintain momentum as well.