I refactored my body for better performance

About this time two years ago, I was in what I guess can be described as an “unconscious slump”.

Summer (my favorite season) was nearing its end, but I just didn’t feel the same “summer high” that I usually feel every summer — you know that feeling when you walk out into the sunshine and, despite feeling like you’re swimming in the Mississippi humidity, you feel the sun beam down on your face and can’t help but take in a deep breath and smile. It’s the kind of feeling when spirits are high and possibilities seem endless.(some people feel this during the Winter, but I’m not a fan).

Instead, I felt tired, stressed, and groggy. It felt like the Summer had come and was about to go, and despite hanging out with my wife, seeing friends, and having somewhat normal amounts of fun, I felt pretty fatigued.

I chalked up the absence of the high to a combination of growing up and being over stressed. And to an extent both of these were contributing factors to my fatigue, but come on, I was only 22 — definitely not the age where I should be feeling over-stressed and tired all the time.

But that was the case. A daily life of perpetual anxiety, tightness in the chest, low energy, mental fogginess, and sleeplessness was just something I had accepted without question. I had struggled with depression for most of my life, and it was being exacerbated by stress. Plus, I was overweight (I had gained 50 pounds of [not good] weight since graduating high school a few years earlier).

I had accepted this existence almost completely subconsciously — I was just learning to manage it, for some reason not questioning it (and much less, trying to do something about it).

At the time, I thought the stress and weight gain was easily explained. About a year after graduating high school, I took my first job as a developer at a local marketing agency. There was seemingly endless soda in the fridge and you’d think it’d be obvious, but I didn’t grow up understanding just how bad 100+ oz of soda per day was for me.

I continued working as a developer for this company and then a second company for just under a year. During this time, I started freelancing at night. This freelancing would eventually evolve into an 8-person interface agency over the following two years.

So when these Summer Blues hit me, I was managing a team (or at least, attempting to learn how), eating and drinking junk, not exercising at all, [poorly] managing client expectations, and trying to make my small business succeed (more on that another time).

If I was already feeling like this at 22, how would I feel at 32? …42?

As fate would have it, one of my best friends from high school, Thad, had just finished college and was coming back into town, looking for work in order to get by for a few months before heading overseas for a year.

I hired Thad to be an assistant at my office. Thad was really in shape, but it wasn’t until I started seeing him carrying around a gallon jug of water every day (more on that another time) that I started getting curious about getting in shape myself. I don’t think I had ever consciously witnessed someone so mindful about their fitness — not only was he carrying around this huge jug every day, he even kept track of everything he ate (and couldn’t go to certain places to eat because they didn’t “fit his macros”)…wut?

Curious, I asked him about it. He had been into fitness since high school, but while he was away at college he got really serious about it and also got certified for personal training. Eventually, I asked him if he’d train me as part of his job. Besides proposing to my wife, this was the best request I’ve ever made.

The next 12 weeks would be one of the most life-changing seasons of my life.
I remember him asking me “What superhero do you want to look like?”

Arrow, hands down. Or, more specifically, Stephen Amell. I had gotten really into the Arrow TV show around this time and immediately thought of a scene and how I had thought “dang, I want to look like that.”

Thad built a training plan for me and we hit the gym every day.

I had attempted to go to the gym a year or so prior, but I didn’t last long. I had no idea what I was doing — all I did was go in and hop on the treadmill for like 10–15 minutes and then leave. I didn’t lift weights, because I had the misconception that weights would make me bigger than I already was. After not seeing washboard abs after a couple of weeks (read: 3–4 15-minute visits), I quickly abandoned the gym.

Starting out with Thad, it was still very intimidating for me since I had no idea what I was doing, but I quickly got comfortable with it since I had someone there to explain the how’s and why’s.

Fast forward 12 weeks and I had lost ~13% body fat while simultaneously putting on lot of lean muscle. I had a net weight loss of 20 pounds and looked and felt better than I ever had before in my life. I really wish I had a before/after photo.

I felt the tightness in my chest dissipate. I got much better sleep and felt far more rested and energized than before. My mind was clearer — I was able to more easily think and make decisions about my business. I was getting a lot more done at work in much less time. I was able to go for a walk with my wife without feeling tired. I still had days where I felt a bit depressed, but it was night and day compared to before and felt much more manageable. My life had improved a ton in just 12 weeks.

Thad left at the beginning of 2016 to go overseas for the year, but I didn’t let that keep me from the gym. I loved how I felt way too much to quit — after all, I had just completed a transformation. It was only the beginning. I loved the benefits and I was ready to feel like this all the time for the rest of my days.

By the time Thad returned, fitness had pretty much become my sole hobby. I was beginning to dive deeper so I could learn new ways to hack my body and get the most out of it.

And then earlier this year, I had a thought: fitness changed my life as a developer. What if I could help other developers do the same thing?

I asked him about it one day when we were working out and rattled off a few specific ideas I had for such a business. Thad, being the certified personal trainer, and myself, the developer who had experienced firsthand the benefits of incorporating fitness into my daily life. It made sense for us to do this together — after all, I was Customer Zero.

I couldn’t think of a good name, but Thad’s great at that kind of thing. It didn’t take him long at all before he came up with it. “How about DevLifts?”

DevLifts. Yes, a great pun on my favorite lift — the deadlift. And so it was born.

We’ve been working on it this year — we started off by building a landing page and giving a talk at our local dev meetup, getting some test customers, getting feedback, and iterating.

Over the summer, we started to branch out a bit by beginning to build a social media following. We started reaching out to as many developers as we could to talk to them about their experience with fitness. I don’t know how many Zoom calls I’ve had at this point, but it’s been one of my favorite experiences building this business so far.

So what are we doing?

At first, we were planning to build a membership community with paid content and offer personalized training as a next-level service via a mobile app. But we decided that paid content is only as good for developers insofar as it specifically benefits developers.

Given this, we decided we should conduct more research before offering any pre-made plans. This way, they could be tailored to common goals and issues for developers.

We also felt that a one-time charge would be better starting out, as opposed to a recurring charge, since it felt like less of a commitment. We don’t want anything to be a hindrance to helping developers take that next step.

Given this, we decided to start with only one product: personalized training plans for developers — the same kind of plan you’d get if you hired a local personal trainer.

Every plan includes:

  • A questionnaire to learn about your goals, experience, preferences, and more
  • A 30 Minute Zoom call with Thad and I to dive deeper into your questionnaire answers and make sure we get as many details about your daily activity as possible
  • A personalized training plan, tailored to your individual needs, goals, and preferences
  • Access to our private Slack community, where you can ask us questions, share your progress, and encourage other developers who are on their fitness journey

Given the amazing amount of insight we’ve gained into our market with the Zoom calls we’ve already had, we thought hundreds of these 30 minute conversations would prove invaluable as we strive to build a community with the best, developer-centric fitness content that helps devs reach their goals and solves common problems. And we were right. We’re already discovering trends in the notes we’re taking on these calls, and I love it.

We haven’t launched our site yet (just finalized the designs — woo!), but we will very soon (maybe even by the time you’re reading this). With the launch of our site will also come free content that we hope you can use to improve your fitness level and overall sense of well-being. We’ve already begun sharing helpful content on Twitter and Instagram, but that’s just the beginning. Be sure to follow us if you’d like to be the first to know when our site is launched so you can start checking out the free content.

With the launch of our site will also launch our Refactor Your Body podcast, a podcast where we share fitness tips, interview subject experts, and host other developers who want to share their fitness experience with you.

Get involved

Going forward, we have ideas for our website as well as potential open source projects. We’re aiming to build a community here, and we’d love for you to be part of it. Whether it’s joining the conversation with #RefactorYourBody on social media, suggesting ideas, joining our community on Slack, or even giving feedback about the shade of blue we’re using — we’d love to have you join us.

Some example ways you can get involved:

  • Got an idea for our website or a fitness-related open-source project? Let us know! You can tweet us (@DevLifts) or email me (email is jc@devlifts.io).
  • Has your life as a developer already benefitted from fitness? DM us on Twitter and let’s schedule an interview for our podcast!
  • Are you ready to take the next step forward in your fitness journey? Purchase a plan from us and join the discussion in Slack!
  • Are you awesome at gym selfies on Instagram? Tag them with #RefactorYourBody to be featured!

Fitness changed my life, and I can’t wait to help other developers experience the same benefits I did.


Can’t wait to get started on your fitness journey? Use coupon code MEDIUM10 to get 10% off your personalized training plan. If our website isn’t live yet, simply DM us about this coupon on Twitter to purchase a discounted pre-launch plan.