So, somewhere in the dusty stacks of this blog, I mentioned that I would talk about my fitness journey, minus any before or after pictures. Since my last couple of posts have been fairly serious, maybe this would be a good time to speak on a lighter subject.
(Let’s hope not every sentence in this post contains an unintentional pun.)
Dial the Wayback Machine to February of last year – 2015.
I found myself visiting my general practitioner for something that turned out to be innocuous if more than a little annoying. I was also in a deep-dive of depression at the time. At said appointment, my doc points out to me that not only is my normally low blood pressure significantly higher than it should be, but that I was also heavier than he has ever seen me. I have been going to this doctor, by that time, for something like 13 years.
Combine with that sobering interlude the fact that my clothes were beginning to get tighter in a way I could no longer blame on occasional bloating, and I found myself face to doughy face with the realization that I had let myself get both fat and out of shape. There were other clues, like getting out of breath doing basic footwork drills with my student at the time, huffing and puffing while climbing stairs, and my personal favorite: involuntary grunting when bending over to tie my shoes.
So, I set my mind to do something about it.
Did I mention I was in a deep depression at the time?
I knew I didn’t have the motivation to work out. No kind of work out. Not even parking my car a little further away from any destination. Not even Pilates.
I had experimented with low-carb diets, with some significant success. So, I went that route.
For the first three months or so, I didn’t track what I ate, except to keep my carbohydrates to 30 grams or less per day. At this point I weighed around 250 lbs with no real muscle to speak of.
I didn’t even start measuring until I had been solidly on my diet for a month. Then I dug out a dusty pair of skin-fold calipers and began to take bi-weekly measurements.
(Here is the first of my caveats: skin fold calipers, for home use, should only be consulted for progress. The actual percentage of body fat they measure is, to the inexperienced measurer, unreliable at best. But, if you measure the same place, the same way, every time, then you can see movement, over time, and that can help.)
After about three months I hit a fat loss plateau.
Then I started working out again.
By then it had gotten warmer, and I hate the cold weather enough to make that a hindrance to participating in any workout routine that required me leaving the house. The routine I had in mind did.
I enjoyed lifting weights as a young person, so I went back to that. I also added in some cardio – about twenty minutes per session, after every workout. ( I started at 5 minutes of cardio, and added slowly until I was at 20.)
(Second caveat: I have done a great deal of research into weight training, cardiovascular training, flexibility, and diet. I continue to do so, mainly because it’s something that interests me. If you’ve haven’t done a metric ton of research, do two things: consult your physician – I did – and talk with or employ a professional coach. Not a trainer per se, just about anyone can be a trainer, but a coach. There are plenty of legitimate, studied, and successful coaches out there; find one. Or, do what I did, do a metric ton of research.)
Back to the story,
At this point in time, I was still a full time college student and worked a full time job.
Where the hell was I going to get the time?
This is where an important factor comes into play, which will illustrate an important point:
I fekkin’ hate mornings.
I always have. I’ve always been a night owl, and mornings have always sucked for me. Sucked.
When would I find time to work out? Well, the only time a had where I was not exhausted or drowning in homework:
The Fekkin’ Mornings!
*(All worthy things require a measure of discomfort to achieve. If you find you are unwilling to be uncomfortable, then learn to be happy with whatever state you are currently in.)
So earlier and earlier I began to rise. (At present, I get up at 5:30am so I can get enough coffee in me not to wreck my truck on the way to the gym, which I get to by 6:30am on my gym days.)
This has become monumentally easier now that school is out, and I can, if I choose to, go to bed at 9pm.
So, I kept it up. Started easy and continued to work harder over time.
It turns out, consistency is key. Consistency and progressive intensity.
So, in the course of my year of living more healthfully, I went from 250 lbs down to about 220lbs. Then I went back up. I am 238lbs presently, but I also Bench 245lbs, Deadlift 225lbs, Squat 215lbs, and overhead press 155lbs. (These numbers tend to get bigger every week due to the program I’m on currently). My blood pressure is back to normal, and my blood work all looks good. I also don’t get winded going up stairs, or doing basic footwork drills. And I no longer involuntarily grunt while bending over to tie my shoes. This, perhaps above all, makes me deliriously happy.
Here’s another thing, at my now 238lbs my clothes are not tight anymore. Loose, even. And let me tell you, when your t-shirt stops being tight across your belly and starts getting tight through the shoulders, that too is a damn good feeling.
My body fat percentage isn’t where I want it just yet. I’m probably still in the risky range for my age, but I’m working on it.
(Final caveat: Eventually, after an actual year of experimenting – and sometimes going backwards – I went and had two things professionally measured: my actual body fat percentage – using a BodyPod – and my actual Resting Metabolic Rate. The body fat told me where I really was. The RMR told me what my metabolism actually did at rest. From there I could calculate my daily calorie and macro-nutrient intake. If you are at all serious about getting in shape, get your RMR measured. You’ll be surprised at how little you actually burn in a day. And having the correct information will allow you to make better decisions.)
I’ve been fairly successful on my journey, but it’s not over yet.
And if I have to give a tip for pursuing your own fitness goals, it is to think of it as a journey; as a process.
It’s about changing, in increments you can tolerate well, your lifestyle to something that gets you to your goals, whether that be general fitness, strength, endurance, flexibility, or just the desire to look good naked.
(Admit it, for most of us, it’s the last one. Your secret’s safe with me.)
Small changes, over time, lead to big results. So, be patient. You didn’t get wherever you are overnight. Don’t expect to get somewhere else any faster.
Ignore any diet that you cannot be satisfied with for three months or more. It’s going to take at least 12 weeks to notice a significant change in your physique. It’ll start happening within the first few days, but it’ll take a while for the small differences to add up to noticeable.
I program in cheat days for myself. I got fat because I moved less than I should have and ate more than I needed. One of the reasons I ate more than I needed was emotional eating. My favorite emotional foods were sweets, and pizza. Even now, after more than a year of this journey, I couldn’t be strict with my diet if I knew I would never get to have some of my favorite foods ever again. So, I have them, usually once a week, usually on top of my food for the day, and usually only for the last half or quarter of the day. It works for me.
Find what works for you.
Don’t be afraid to experiment, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
(But pay attention so that you know if it is actually working for you. I recommend keeping some kind of journal. I keep a paper one, some of my friends prefer digital. Do whatever keeps you doing it. You’ll want the data for evaluation and motivation.)
(Quick tip: if, during your research, you’re finding it difficult to figure out whether or not someone, a trainer or YouTube personality, or whatever, is full of shit, just pay attention to if they are trying to get you to subscribe to, or sell you something. Most of them do, but the best ones, the most reliable ones for informational purposes, do that selling stuff thing the least.)
There’s a lot of interesting information out there, if you want to trip down those particular rabbit holes.
If you are starting, or trying to find the motivation to continue on your fitness journey, I wish you luck.
If you’re just here to read about my silliness, well…
…Thanks for reading.
(Some of my favorite resources. Feel free to check them out:
some YouTube personalities I dig:
Chris Jones – https://www.youtube.com/user/thebeastmodetraining
Jerry Ward – https://www.youtube.com/user/bios3training
Mark Bell – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCLPy6BEgH1fD3DOgwX-x_Hg )