The Last Six Months, The Next Six Years

Boy bands, the cast of Jersey Shore, and myself on an elliptical machine; what do these things have in common? Aside from a large swath of people finding them annoying, fist pumping is a common thread of all three. 

Now you're asking yourself, "what the f**k is he talking about" and to you I respond, "shame on you and your profane use of asterisks!" What I am talking about is my renewed joy that is going to the gym. Joy? The gym? You're nuts!

Let’s first walk back a little over a year. It’s November, and I sign up for the gym near our new apartment. It’s a small gym, perfect location, and the staff is nice. Seems like a perfect fit. I do three sessions with a trainer, but I never really click with him. I decide I can do this on my own, I don’t need a trainer. I’ve done this before, I can do it again.

In January I sign up for a weight loss competition. I’m feeling revved up, thinking I’m going to slam this out, put all my effort into it, and blow it away. Less than a month in, I fall off my efforts for a couple of months. 

Spring is here, the cold of an epic winter of snow and ice has passed, and it is time once again to get into the gym. Here we go again. I trudge through some elliptical workouts and realize just out of shape I really am; I am barely able to breath through the workouts and I’m really not pushing that hard. I am getting into the weights area, but I’m not really pushing myself and just going through the motions. Once again, after a few weeks I sputter out like a car with a gallon of gas left and drop off.

Respect the Ding!
— Supernintendo Chalmers

Summer is here! Let’s hit this. Time to go hard, go heavy… for about a week and a half. Yeah, that wasn’t my best effort. Mid-Summer I apply for a new job at my employer; July comes and I get the exciting news that I am getting a new job! After a decade in my current job, it’s time for a change. So I will now be working in a technology capacity and leaving an operations role behind. Here I am, working with a new manager, a new team, and feeling very self conscious about my body and appearance. I’m feeling fatter than ever, balding, and now having to face a huge change in life.

I meander into the gym a few times but nothing ever really ‘committed’. 

Then September came. I was going off-and-on to the gym, but more off than on. I consider September ‘the beginning’ at this point. I feel like the change began with a single phone call.

I’m driving down the interstate when the phone rings; it’s a local number but I don’t recognize it. I answer it as I am driving. It’s some dude at the gym. He tells me he wants to schedule my ‘monthly assessment’; now, I knew the gym had these but I honestly never used one. Quite honestly, I was a little distracted and agreed and scheduled on the fly hoping the time slot would work he set up.

I went into the appointment not knowing what to expect. I met with him for a little over a half-hour when he took some measurements, body fat, etc. and he ran me through a mobility test. I failed. Miserably. Ok, not miserably, but it wasn’t exactly a stellar performance. We talked a bit about training, classes, and events the gym offered. I walked away with a class schedule and a plan… I was going to do some classes. 

I went to a few classes over the next month or so. They were tough, but I muddled through. I just didn’t feel committed to it, though. 

It felt like a real wake up call...

In mid-October I met with this trainer again for my next ‘monthly assessment’. My body fat went up! I was even worse condition than I was a month ago because I wasn’t consistent, I wasn’t pushing. It felt like a real wake up call… I wasn’t improving, nothing was changing, and nothing was going to change until I changed my strategy. I was about to leave for a week long trip, so I left the trainer know I would want to talk about training sessions when I got back. 

We met in late October and set everything up. We discussed goals, which I kept vague because I really have never been comfortable discussing my long term body goals with people in general. 

As I’ve been working with the trainer, what I have realized is how much I used to love the gym when I lost 150 pounds when I was 25. It was tougher this time, because I’m a bit older and ironically more out of shape even though I’m about 50 pounds lighter than my peak weight in my 20s. I’m muddling through the workouts he gives me, always complaining just enough but for some reason I just trusted this guy. I don’t know why… when you have a trainer that just clicks, you know it. 

This week is my third month anniversary working with the trainer. I feel like what I’ve accomplished in the last 3 months is nothing short of astounding to me. While others might scoff at my achievements, I am very proud of where I have gotten so far.

So what have I done? Well, so far I’ve dropped about 5 percentage points in body fat since October. My breathing and recovery time has improved greatly. My monthly average resting heart rate has gone from the mid-high 70s to the mid-high 60s. I’ve gone down 3 holes in my belt from nearly needing to go up a size. 

The thing I am most proud of is how much strength I’ve been able to achieve in three months. The only deadlifting I’ve done in life was using some 50 pound dumbbells, and now I’ve gone from deadlifting under 100 poundsin October to 245 pounds. I’m doing dumbbell chest presses with 45s instead of 25s. I’m doing 120 on a lat pulldown where I used to average 90. 

What’s really amazing to me is how much better I am feeling these days. Even when I am feeling completely exhausted, I am still feeling better than I did at this time last year or even a few months ago. I’m doing dynamic bodyweight exercises and not giving it a second thought where I used to joke about how I had a hard time moving this much weight. As I was throwing a ball at a target today, my trainer asked, “remember when you were struggling with that ball and complaining about how heavy it was?” and I smiled, realizing that yes I do remember that and I’m quite happy about that.

So here I am, facing down my 38th year on Earth with a renewed sense of life as a life worth living and not just muddling through. I’ve realized just how much I enjoy not just the changes that are happening to me, but also how much I love the process of getting there and eventually staying there. I'm not working out for the summer, I'm not working out for the year... I'm working out for a lifetime of health, fitness, and energy. My long term goals will be achieved. (Look for another post on that topic soon!)

Level up your life!
— Steve Kamb

What I’ve realized is that with the right workout routine, it can be fun to get into the gym and it makes me want to go to the gym and not just ‘get it over with’ each day. The right routine is not necessarily a specific combination, but rather simply one that pushes me to the next level. As a nerd, I'm always looking to "level up" so give me 3 months of XP!

I still get on the elliptical machine regularly, even with the other stuff I’m doing. Sometimes I just need to cleanse the mind with no thought. Put on some tunes, pedal my ass off, and fist pump to some boy bands on the headphones. Even when doing my weights and movement workouts, you’ll see me in the gym enjoying myself as I push myself further each week. 

If you see the guy in the gym in Connecticut with a pair of Powerbeats dancing between sets, that might just be me. I’m enjoying my workout, enjoying my changing body, and enjoying my new lease on life. Life is meant to be enjoyed, so let’s get pumped! Feel free to fist pump with me and share my joy. 

Revitalizing the Eventuality of Fitness

In every person's life, there comes a time when they must channel the inner strength of their own self and bring forth an overwhelming power to improve. That time is today.

For what is the entirety of my life, I have struggled with my weight. It's an ongoing battle of mind over matter, fat over life. Even when I was younger, I was "the fat kid".

When you're the fat guy in high school, certainly nothing is easy. You're already sweating a lot from hormones raging, and then cap that off with fat sweats, and then top that off with being gay in the Midwest, and you have a recipe for depression. That depression drove me to eat, which just increased the problem.

When I was 25 years old, I hit the peak of my weight. I was in the mid-300s, barely able to breath, borderline diabetic, and probably looking at an early death. I committed myself, changed by habits, worked out constantly, and dropped by weight down to 185 pounds. I still wasn't 'thin' but I certainly was in a  hell of a lot better place than I ever had been before. I could breath, I could run, I could jump, and I could enjoy life. It was a fantastic feeling.

Now, if you're the type that loves a feel-good fitness success story, I suggest you stop reading right now and go check out some smoothie recipes.

Over the course of the next couple of years, life changes quite a bit. I moved from a production line job to a more management level position which would have me traveling constantly. I fell in love and moved in with a wonderful person. I was enjoying life. Unfortunately, I also began slipping into old habits as one often does. Instead of bicycling everywhere, I bought a car. Instead of eating healthy food at home, I started eating out more again. Instead of working out constantly, I was tired from being on the road all the time.

I started putting on weight again, slowly at first. It has a habit of sneaking up on you, after all. My weight gradually climbed higher and higher until it reached a peak where I decided to do something in 2012. At that time, I hired a trainer again, started "spinning", and lost 30 pounds within a couple of months. Then I slipped, and of course the weight came back with a vengeance, higher than ever but still thankfully not as high as the 'peak' of my weight.

So I'm here, today. 38 years old, and facing down the prospect of middle age being 'morbidly obese'. 

Needless to say, the idea that I am entering middle age with more fat than I've had in 10+ years frightens me. Never mind the appearance of the weight for a moment, now I'm facing down the beginnings of wear and tear of my body, such as my knees, my heart, and my mind. I am more susceptible to all sorts of diseases like diabetes, COPD, as well as diseases they believe may be contributed by obesity such as Alzheimers, Parkinson's, and more. 

So I know it's a problem. What am I going to do about it? After all, sitting on my rear end doing nothing and complaining about it won't solve the problem. The only thing that can really solve the problem is hard work and determination, dedication and commitment, sweat and sacrifice. I must commit to changing not just my diet, not just my activity level, but my life much as I did a decade earlier when I lost the weight the first time. I know it will be even harder this time around, but that's why it is so important I have an even higher level of dedication than I have in the past.

So what's first? It's time to change the diet. I have to stop eating out, and I have to learn to cook all of my meals. I also have to cut out processed foods, as well as anything that contains things that impact my diet. I will be getting back to the core principles I lived on when I lost weight the first time, those being lean meats, salads, good carbs, and a balanced diet. 

Next, exercise. You could ask 100 people "how do I exercise" and you'll get 100 different answers. Part of this journey will be me discovering what will work for me. This isn't just about choosing an excretes routine, but rather about doing something I enjoy while staying active which will help me lose weight. I'll take you on this journey with me, documenting as I go the progress, what's working, what isn't, and whatever insights I find along the way.

Even after diet and exercise, you still have to have the willingness to accept the challenge. Too often we set ourselves up for failure by setting unrealistic goals or by becoming discouraged when we don't look like Ryan Gosling overnight, or the fact that only 1 in 6 billion can be Ryan Gosling to begin with and setting unrealistic expectations hampers our future achievements.

Am I willing? Yes. Is my body willing? Frankly, I don't care because it is coming along for the ride. It will be painful at times, it will be a massive change, and I'm ready for it. As I go into the second half of my life, I will be the person who says "I look and feel better than I did in my twenties". Also, if I do nothing, I will be the person who says "Oh yeah, they cut my foot off from the diabetes. Now where's my Quaker Oats?"

Ready. Set. Let's go.