Is it April yet?

» Training professional athletes is not different from training YOU

Each year, as the Super Bowl comes and goes, I find myself hiding behind my shovel for two months until Opening Day of baseball season. Fortunately for me, this year, those months have been full of a weight loss challenge that has seen me lose over 20 pounds with another five weeks to go, so at least I'm focused on food and exercise instead of how. dull. mid-season. NBA. basketball. is.

Even with the Celtics dominating the Heat this year, in a year Miami was supposedly staring at the possibility of a 75-win season (ha!).

But the Red Sox open their spring training schedule on Sunday, and head to Texas to open the regular season on April 1 (first series against the Yankees is at Fenway beginning April 8). Hopefully everyone will stay healthy this year; last season the majority of the starting lineup was injured at the same time (and we're not talking hangnails – these guys don't pitch in the Bronx).

And so it follows that, despite the snow we're getting in Central New York as I type this, the grass will be green soon, the sun will be warm, and another season will be upon us.

While it won't be to see the Red Sox, I'll be at Fenway this year (for the first time since 1994), when the Syracuse Chiefs head to Boston for Futures Day, a double-header featuring two of Boston's minor league affiliates. If you're in the Boston area in August, let me know.

Inhale.

3 Meals No Dieter Would Try

Except that I did. One of them, I ate twice in the past week. And by the way, I lost just over a pound, which is less than spectacular, but sustainable.

I've now lost 20.6 pounds in six weeks, dropped my body fat percentage under 18% (calipers) from 27.7% (bio-impedance), and am working on my third belt.

Here are three meals (three breakfasts and a lunch) I ate this week that contributed to my weight loss, even though nobody who considers themselves "on a diet" would ever eat them.

Cheeseburger Omelet

This was so good, I made another one a few days later.

Saute some onions in butter. Break up a hamburger patty and mix it in. While it's cooking, whisk three eggs, and cut up some cheddar cheese into small chunks. Add it to the egg.

When the meat is cooked (or close to it), add the eggs and cheese and cook until done. Top with salsa if you like (I do).

Breakfast at the All Nite Egg Plant

I've always hated that they call themselves "all nite," not only because I'm a grammar snob, but also because they don't open until 7 a.m.

But after a 7 a.m. workout in a snow squall? No problem. It's near the gym, and they didn't have their normal weekend crowd.

The Egg Plant doesn't serve a giant mound of potatoes with every breakfast, and I had them hold the toast, but what I did eat was a delicious pastrami, spinach and Swiss cheese omelet with a side of ham.

Tres Hombres

We received an invitation to Dinosaur Bar-B-Que. I rarely, if ever, turn down such an invite. I suggest the same for you.

Frank, whose invitation brought us to lovely downtown Syracuse, looked at me while I perused the menu, and asked, "Hmm, how does Josh keep to his diet while eating at Dinosaur?"

Easily, actually. I just gave away the cornbread. I ate brisket, pulled pork, a quarter rack of ribs, barbecued beans and a tomato-cucumber salad.

Does it sound like I'm on a diet? Didn't think so. I love losing weight!

Quick & Easy Chili Recipe

Tim: "Is this your 3-day chili?"
Me: "No, it was an afternoon quickie."
Tim: "Well, those can be just as hot sometimes."

This is a 3-hour chili recipe, but if you used a stove-top pot instead of a crock pot, it would go quicker.

You'll need:

1 lb black beans, rinsed
1 lb kidney beans, rinsed
2 lb ground beef
1 med onion, chopped
1 jar salsa
6 habanero peppers
6 jalapeño peppers
chili powder to taste
water
olive oil (or your favorite cooking oil)

In crock pot, combine the beans, salsa, two chopped jalapeños and some chili powder. Stir it, then put it on high.

Finely chop the rest of the peppers (I used a Magic Bullet, which made life easy). In a medium pan over medium heat, sauté the peppers and onions in some olive oil. Add the ground beef and some chili powder.

When beef is browned, drain off the liquid and add the beef, onions and peppers to the crock pot. Stir. Cook on low, stirring occasionally. If it starts to look dry, add water as necessary.

Eat.

Doing some training, losing some weight

Apparently I've been really lucky with the training I'm getting. I started light with a once-a-week personal training regimen and then moved on to a more intense, competitive weight loss program.

I more or less maintained my weight during the personal training, but in the first three weeks of what the gym calls the Weight Loss Challenge, I've dumped 15 pounds (I don't know what the body fat percentage loss is like – we'll check that after six weeks of the program), and, at 8.8% of my starting weight (170.4 pounds), that's good enough for second in the program.

That video up top? I never want to slice my trainer open. He lost 30 pounds in 12 weeks on his own, trains a few times a week with his adult son, and is a genuinely nice guy. I came into the program with a goal to lose exactly that number (30 pounds over the 12-week program), and I'm on track to beat that. I'm probably a couple of weeks away from my lowest weight since the late 1990s, and a couple of months away from my best shape (not lowest weight; I was a skinny tennis player) since high school.

For perspective, I graduated high school in 1994 at 115 pounds. By the turn of the century, I had hit 160. When I moved to Syracuse in 2003, I had hit 215. I did the first 45 pounds on my own (and in only a couple of years), but I'd stabilized in the 160s (my initial weigh-in for the program might have been slightly inflated by a breakfast of 4 chocolate chip pancakes with butter and maple syrup, a ham steak and a protein bar in the hour before I climbed on the scale).

By the end of next week, I'll have rendered useless my second belt of the Challenge.

Here is a sample workout – it's roughly one we do Thursdays (we also do team workouts on Tuesday and Saturday, I play racquetball three times a week, tennis at least once a week, and get short – 30-45 minutes – workouts in once or twice in addition to all that). And food's a big part of the program. I decided to not count calories in favor of eating good foods, and this is what's working for me.

A note about food: I can't say enough about Omaha Steaks. They're not the cheapest meat out there, but they portion their meats in the right sizes, the food is really tasty, and I'm expecting my second shipment. If you do one of the value packs, you can get 25 pounds of meat for about $6 a pound, and you can avoid the fatty stuff (like potatoes au gratin) in favor of lean burgers.