(The title is taken from this T-shirt. Some of this company’s shirts are funny, some I don’t understand, and at least half I wouldn’t wear at gunpoint. This is one of the funny ones.)
About a month ago, I discussed my plans for the new year and mentioned that one of my goals was “find a diet plan that works for me”. This has been going fairly slowly, largely because I haven’t been doing much to apply myself to it. I’m really not sure what foods to cut out, or which ones to increase — should I go toward more protein? More carbs? As many vegetables as I can stand without leaning toward the sunlight? Overall volume will probably have to stay the same for the time being, as I know that when I don’t fill up I start getting cravings and then everything will fall apart. But I’m not sure what to fill up on, and different sources give me different ideas. So that area is still a work in … I wouldn’t even call it a work in progress, more of a work in theory.
But I did take a major step toward better health today — my first honest-to-goodness workout in a long time.
Over the years, various factors in my life have caused me to cut back on my physical activity. I used to ride a bicycle everywhere — largely because I didn’t have a car — but my legs are no longer in good enough shape to do that even if I didn’t have a wife and two kids to tote around. I still do quite a bit of walking, but my bad feet and ankles often make that counter-productive (i.e., I’m in too much pain once I’m finished). I’ve had neither the money nor the floor space for one of those Bowflex-type machines. And my spine has a weird curvature that makes push-ups and sit-ups particularly difficult. I do have one of those TorsoTrack machines (picked it up for $10 at a thrift store), so I can do 15 or 20 reps on that in the morning … when I’m awake enough to remember. And jumping jacks are not too hard on the feet, but still good for getting the heart pumping. Still, that’s a pretty limited palette of exercise. And combined with a lack of application, it hasn’t done much damage to my overabundant waistline and undersized arms.
But a few weeks back I was flipping through the catalog put out by the City of Stockton’s Community Services Department (formerly Parks & Recreation), and there was a blurb saying that they were opening a fitness room and a gymnasium at the rebuilt Stribley Community Center in January. Stribley Community Center is about a half-mile from my house — the adjacent park is the one I usually take my kids to. So I went and checked it out, found it nicely apportioned and (after talking with the Supermodel) purchased a $20 pass earlier this week that will allow me to use the fitness room for the entire month.
In fact, I was going to make my first visit Wednesday, but that was the day I spent most of the morning and afternoon waiting (in vain) for my car to be repaired. Then I spent Thursday and Friday waiting at home for the shop to call saying the car was done, so there went those days. (Not their fault; these things happen.) But I was bound and determined to go there today and see what I could accomplish. So this afternoon, I drove the Supermodel and the kids over to the park, walked next door in my sweats to the community center and went to it.
Okay, the bad news first: I was gassed after about 30 minutes. Not surprising — remember, I said it was my first real workout in … years, probably. And not totally bad either. I didn’t want to overdo it on the first day, though I probably did anyway. But the last thing I needed was to damage my currently-pudgy body so badly through overexertion that I wouldn’t be able to do any more exertion for a while. So I managed to hold it down to a pleasant ache and a little light exhaustion.
The good news. I got myself some WORKOUT. Let’s see, I:
- Did 20 reps on the bench press at 95 lbs. (43 kg).
- Did 20 more bench presses at 75 lbs. (34 kg).
- Did some (uncounted) curls and lifts with 10-lb. (4.5kg) dumbbells.
- Spent about 5 minutes on the stair machine, climbing both forward and backward.
- Went back to the bench press, where … well, I don’t know what you call it when you just hold the barbell up at full extension until your arms tremble and you can’t hold it anymore, then let it down, but I did a few of those at 75 lbs.
- Another couple of minutes on the stair machine.
- About a minute on the treadmill, but my legs were starting to get rubbery by then.
This was interspersed with some time to rest, catch my breath and observe the hijinks of some pre-teen boys seeing how fast each of them could crank up the treadmill and still stay on it. (Hilarity ensued.) Plus I spent a couple of minutes over at the gymnasium shagging loose basketballs and tossing them back to their owners. Afterward I went outside, collected my family, drove them home and took two aspirin just to be on the safe side. (Anti-inflammatory, you know.)
Now, to some of you workout warriors, the above menu is not going to seem too impressive. Heck, it doesn’t seem that impressive to me — benching 95 pounds isn’t that big a deal when it’s dramatically less than half your weight. What it is, is a start. It’s the single step that begins the proverbial journey of a thousand miles. And now that I’ve taken it, I can go on to take the second step and the third, and the fourth …
And I don’t think those steps will be nearly as difficult. For one, now I know about how long a workout I can manage at this point (30 minutes max). That means that I can walk from home to the community center, hit the weights and the stair machine, and walk back in less than an hour — I can squeeze it in between when the Supermodel comes home from work and when I need to start dinner. I also now have a baseline for what I can actually accomplish (see the list above), so I have something to build on.
Now the tough part? Self-application! I need to make this a habit, an every-day-the-center-is-open-and-I-don’t-have-the-flu occurrence. That’s going to take some will power, which I really haven’t been using enough of lately. (Which I why I weigh 240 right now.) I have to have a plan, and I have to stick to it. So here’s my plan, version 1.0:
- The fitness room is open Tuesdays through Saturdays, so I’m going to head over there each of those days around 3 p.m. and at least do something.
- Sundays and Mondays will be my days for yard work, now that it looks like we’re getting an early spring here. I don’t have to mow yet (I have a push mower), but there are weeds to pull, winter leaves to rake and holes to fill (with dirt I can haul up from our half-paved basement).
- Pull out the TorsoTrack every morning and do a few stretches while waiting for the computer to warm up. (The computer’s a little old, so that’s a good 5-6 minutes. I can get 25 reps and a bathroom trip in there, easy.)
- Jumping jacks anytime I find myself with too much energy late at night — do them on tiptoe so you get more bounce, less ankle stress and don’t wake up the kids.
Call me crazy, but I think this is doable. I just need to give myself a little push. And hopefully, it will pay off in the long run. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to get a little snack …
… okay, maybe just an apple. ;-)