Thursday, July 7, 2011

Trying Not To Be Dead: The League joined a gym

I have started and stopped writing this post about ten times.  It seems oddly self-serving and possibly a bit self-congratulatory for something that I haven't done much of yet, but...  basically: I joined a gym.  This isn't a "how-to" or "secret of my success" post because I'm frankly doing a fairly mediocre job.  But I am trying to do better.  

I was reading AllisonType's blog post "How Walking on a Treadmill Can Get You Squarely on the Path to World Domination" and decided: I think I'm going to go ahead and finish that post.  I think a lot of us who decided to live in our own heads a long time ago rather than actually dealing with our bodies or getting shape are getting to a point where we'd actually like to be healthier, and the years are not going to be kind if we do not do something now.

So I salute AllisonType, and thank she and her guest-bloggers for inspiration.

Like a lot of comic fans, and people who spend too much time online and at the movies, I'm not in good shape.  In fact, I am in very bad physical shape.  But I am trying to do something about it, and it does not really involve any of the usual topics we discuss around here, aside from discussing me.

As a kid, I got pudgy around 4th and 5th grade.  Then I started growing again, and being a teen-ager with teen-ager metabolism, etc... I got fairly skinny again.  To be fair, I also played sports in middle and high school.  Some football.  Some basketball.  A bit of lacrosse.  And, don't you know it, the drama thing is actually pretty active, especially if you're also building sets, hanging lights, etc...  

In college I played one year of intramural basketball before giving up on that (I was told it would be outside and it wasn't, and for some reason I had a problem with that).  But I took archery and fencing for PE credits (until I got injured fencing.  Big, dumb and slow are not great traits for a fencer).  And I rarely had time to eat (or money to do so), so it wasn't really until the end of college where I put on weight.

I don't think we ever get over the fact that as teen-agers we're just naturally thin(ner) and have the glow of youth.  Certainly we all walk around with an image of ourselves in our heads that we look how we did when we were 25, and like to find angles in photos and the mirror that lie to us and tell us this is so even when all evidence is to the contrary.  I first noticed my body structure was changing my sophomore year of college when I was mostly watching movies and sitting in class (which often entailed watching movies).  But genetics played a factor here, too.  My rib cage and shoulders decided to go wide (you could store a desktop PC in my ribcage).  I wasn't just tall anymore.  I was now a "big" guy, and I will always be fairly large.

For a couple of years after college, I took classes in Tae Kwon Do.  I liked TKD, but it wasn't going to be my lifestyle, and, sadly, that was the demand.

I did a gym in Arizona, but it was a bad experience and terribly expensive.  After quitting the gym and talking to my doctor, I ran, and that worked, but getting up at 5:30 AM everyday to beat the AZ heat was sort of a deal-breaker.  Plus, I worried about my knees in the longterm.  It was kind of too bad, because, man, running works like crazy.

But moving back:  I did nothing.  I ran a little for a while, and stopped.  It was a lot of sitting around and laying around with occasional dog walks, etc...  In the summer its hot, in the winter its cold.  And I just sort of watched myself falling apart, but I did a lot of rationalizing that if I was working out, I couldn't do other things I wanted to do.

When I hit 33 or 34, I genuinely started feeling awful all the time.  Just sort of logy, and the creepy part was that my joints started to hurt sometimes for no good reason.

In spring of 2010, I got an elliptical machine, and that had the effect of making me feel like I wasn't literally falling apart anymore.  I ate marginally better.  I was only doing 25-30 minutes at a time, but it was something.  I felt like I could get up the stairs at work with no effort.  Stuff like that.

This winter I started taking a core strength class once a week that was fun, but it mostly taught me that I was okay with cardio and endurance, but for my size, I really wasn't as strong as I could be.  Not in the ways I was going to need to be to keep my body parts in alignment longterm.

This spring I joined a gym on my birthday.  A cheap gym (its $10 a month.  I mean, seriously.)  As nice as it was to do with elliptical at home (and I still do it a few days a week), I like the gym.  As I just started, I'm mostly doing weights on machines and trying to remember how this works.  And it seems to be working.

What's @#$%ed me up is that I also suffer from gout, like I'm @#$%ing Henry the VIII or something.  And when that flares up like it did a month ago, it more or less just takes me out of commission.  The last flare up was bad enough that I'm now on medication and I'm trying to deal with it as a real thing in my life, because I don't want it stopping me from working out as well as keeping me from just doing what I need to do.

Its nice to have my heart working mostly properly, but I'm 36.  Things do not work the way they used to, and I want to strengthen now so that my bones, joints, etc...  will play ball with me for the next few decades.  I'm also kind of keen to try to see if I can't replace some of the mass hanging off me with actual normal human shape.

Make no mistake, even when I drop weight, my frame is never going to make it look like I'm the TV version of healthy.  My frame is somewhat panda-bear shaped.  Even when I was in karate and could jump over a fence or kick a Hyundai over (seriously, TKD was an amazing workout, and it fills you with unwarranted self-confidence and the desire to kick everything all the time), I wasn't ever mistaken for "thin".  So I've kind of decided to give up on lean and go for "thuglike".  Or "Ben Grimm-esque".  I can be a big guy, but I can be a big guy who won't give you pause as you wonder if they're going to make it up the stairs.

My eating habits have had to change.  I don't insist on Tex-Mex three nights per week anymore.  I seek out tuna and chicken rather than a large Papa John's pizza.  Jamie has been a total sport and we cook differently now.

I think its important to note: I've also been poor frequently, and like it or not, its easier to eat really badly when you don't have much money.

Anyhow, I do have some fitness goals.  Mostly I'm writing this post so I make a public deal with myself to keep working out.  The goals are modest, and its also very hard to explain to people what it means to be the sheer scale that I am.  Losing five pounds is noticeable on other people.  I've lost considerably more than that and most people don't really notice, and that's okay.  I'm not in it to be told I'm looking svelter.  But I do give myself a smug smile of satisfaction when I have to buy new pants.

The nice thing is that I've got friends who have, in their 30's, really made huge lifestyle changes and its worked for them.  It's do-able (but I'm not going to become a crazy marathon runner like some of you, Simon and JAL).  And that's inspirational.  It really, truly is.  Not the least of these folks is my brother, who was always the bigger of the two of us, but now that jerk has gone and lost a ton of weight.  So screw that guy.

Anyhow, again, this isn't much more about me making a statement so that you guys hold me to it, and I hold me to it, and as this blog also acts as a personal journal, I can look back and remember where I was when I posted this, and hopefully I won't have fallen off the wagon by then.


Paul Toohey said...

This is awesome. Keep it up! (I need to refocus both on eating better and exercising regularly too). I know when I was lighter I felt a ton better, and that I want to get back to that.

Keep it up, and keep us informed. It's a good way to motivate yourself and other bigger guys like me.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for not bringing up heredity :-). Yes, please take care of yourself. As a guy who didn't realize that good health was not a god-given right until age 40, I applaud you coming to the realization at age 36. I always knew you were smarter than me! Stay with it.


Popinski Blog said...

Keep it up. Next year you can do a triathlon with me: Half mile swim, 18 mile bike ride, 3.1 mile run. It's amazing how much exercise helps with not only my sleeping, but my bad back. Let me know if you are up for a run or bike ride some time. Bob

cardboardbelts said...

Good post and good work. Jason had told me you joined a gym a little while back, and I thought that was a great move. I know my cheapie gym keeps me accountable and motivated. Anyway, we're cheering for you at the Hopalong! Keep it up!

J.S. said...

Yeah, keep it up! My small piece of advice... the most important piece of exercise equipment that I ever bought was a calendar that I keep in plain view. I put big stars on it for the days when I work out. I have a minimum number of stars that I need to put on the calendar each week. It gives me a little felixibility, but also accountability. If there aren't enough stars up there at week's end, I know that I'm not keeping up. You can't argue with the calendar or make excuses to it or rationalize to the calendar why the stars aren't up there. The calendar doesn't care. At the end of each week the stars are either up there or they're not. It sounds stupid, but actually going through the act of writing these things down has made all the difference in the world.
That's my sage advice.
Oh, that and lowfat cottage cheese. It makes a healthy, tasty snack that fills you up. I loves cottage cheese!

cardboardbelts said...

lol. omg. cottage cheese. I do the calendar thing now too. I like it!

Jill said...

Hey! Way to go with working on the lifestyle change. (um, I'm late to reading and commenting. sorry.) I find that the calendar thing works, and also some sort of accountability to somebody. Even if it's just telling someone I'm going to work out (meeting them to do it adds another layer, of course). If I don't do it, I feel like a liar. And then? I feel bad for not working out AND for being a liar.

The League said...

My calendar I'll use arrived in the mail last week, so starting Sep. 1, me and the 16 month calendar will be in constant communication.

As I'm not running and not in a class, there's really nobody for me to work out with. Geographically, we're pretty far from our friends, and my gym is yet farther.

I get the social contract as motivator, but I'll have to see if anyone moves down my way, first.