Commemorating my health

A few years ago, we had a load of mulch brought to our yard by All About Trees. It was around 7-8 cubic yards and I struggled to spread it to the flower beds. I could do 5-8 wheelbarrow loads in a session and I’d be wiped out. Filling the wheelbarrow was hard. Pushing it was hard. Dumping and spreading mulch was hard. I could handle 20-30 minutes at a time and then have to be done doing anything for the rest of the day.

Last month, we had 7 cubic yards of mulch delivered by McMullen and I’ve been shifting a lot of it. Some evenings, I’d do it between 7 and 8 pm and be done, but that was after a long day. On a weekend, I’d shift 20+ barrows in a day and continue being active. On Monday of this week, I:

  • Finished distributing the mulch (around 12 wheelbarrow loads I think).
  • Painted our metal outdoor furniture.
  • Spread grass seed and watered it.
  • (Mostly) finished deep-cleaning our house because we’re moving the cats outside because Isaac is allergic to them.

All told, it was around 7 hours of work after two days of doing a lot of other work. I was hitting my 10,000 steps by 10 or 11 am each day of the long (Memorial Day) weekend.

And then today, I had a stressful morning and decided to take a break to row. I haven’t rowed in weeks because I’ve been so busy with other stuff, and I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to resume the Pete Plan where I left off. But I rowed 7000 meters in 31 minutes with my heart rate in zone 5 for the majority of the time. I rocked it.

My weight has been up since Willow got really sick. Food is my comfort in the midst of stress, and I’m up around 15 lbs. right now and have been for months. I don’t like how I look and I’ve been wearing larger, looser shirts because I’m insecure about the extra couple of inches I have right now. But I think I’m more fit than I’ve ever been. I’ve got stamina and strength that I didn’t have years ago when I weighed more. And I’m cautiously optimistic that I’m pulling out of this period and will be able to start getting my weight and eating back under control again.

When meeting with my counselor last week, she advised that I focus on gratitude and start writing about it. This was in regards to some people we were talking about, but I’ve also been thinking about it in regards to my body. Rather than eat to feel better, maybe I could think about how I’m grateful for my body and what I can do, and focus on how I want to feel physically and what I want to be capable of doing in the future.

This morning was pretty stressful, and I was very tempted to go to the bakery. If it hadn’t been raining, I would have walked there and gotten coffee and a scone. But since it was raining and I didn’t want to go outside, it made me pause and think, and I decided to exercise instead. I need to start doing that more. I hope continuing to try and focus on gratitude will help me make that decision more frequently.

Not Embarrassed

The warm-up at The Pit boxing gym is pretty intense:

  • Jumping Jacks x 30
  • Body Squats x 30
  • Arms out rotation x 50
  • Arms front rotation x 50
  • Chain breakers x 30
  • Close grip push-ups x 25
  • Reg grip push-ups x 25
  • Wide grip push-ups x 25
  • Burpee x 20

I went for my first session two weeks ago, got maybe 1/5 through the warmup, and had to lie down on the cold concrete floor because I was so dizzy. Something about all that plus going up and down for burpees gave me vertigo, and I was out of the action for probably 20 minutes.

I should have been mortified. Here I was, with a group of about a dozen guys and a twelve year old girl, who all went through the entire warm-up in half the time I only managed a fraction of it, and I was laid out on the ground. Fifteen years ago, I’d have wanted to hide my face for weeks, or crawl in a hole and die. But I didn’t find embarrassment, or not too much. Rather, lying on the ground after doing just a portion of the warm-up, I found motivation.

Everyone at The Pit is incredibly nice, non-judgmental, and inclusive. There were no sneers or judging glances at me, though several people checked to make sure I was OK. Their tone wasn’t derogatory in any way though. Later, one young man told me that he was puking the first two months at the gym, and I at least hadn’t done that. Boxing is generally a solo sport, but there’s a strong team atmosphere there, which is to the credit of the coach, Will Grover.

As it turns out, my dizziness was probably due to illness. The day after going to the gym, I came down with a wicked cold, and I didn’t leave the house for six days because I felt so bad. Then we traveled to Wisconsin and I missed a couple more workouts. But last night, I went back for my second session, and I completed the warm-up and never got dizzy.

Getting there almost 40 minutes early to give myself time to stretch and go slowly through it helped a lot. We do a warm-up, then a bunch of different boxing exercises, then a work-out that’s 2-3 times more intense than that warm-up. Newbies like me are only obligated to do half of the work-out, and I only managed about half of that, or a quarter what everyone else did. And again, they did it in a fraction of the time.

But I completed the warm-up. I did more last night than I did two weeks ago. The way I see it, I show up 2-3 times a week, do what they tell me for two hours, and I’ll get in better shape. And I really need it. I need to get my health under control. Since I started working at home, the pounds have been piling on, and it… “scares” might be too strong, but it does kind of scare me. I don’t want to be fat. I don’t want to be one of those IT guys who just gets more and more round and waddles around and has high cholesterol and heart problems in his 40s. Working out for two hours, three times a week, is a huge sacrifice of time for me, and it has already meant missing out on social activities I’d like to be part of. But I’ve got to get this health thing re-aligned.

I’m not embarrassed. Part of me feels like I ought to be, but internally, I look at that and think, “Let that embarrassment fuel harder work. Do better. Be better.” And that’s not hard, because I’m not on my own. I go to the gym and have a group of people who are going through the exact same thing, and they model it for me. I have people encouraging me, and guiding me, and correcting me, and telling me that I’m going to get there.

Two more weeks from now, I want to be able to complete the work-out. Maybe not quickly, but I’ll get there.

The best thing about Starting Strength

A few weeks ago, I developed terrible pain in my left shoulder. I don’t know what brought it on, but the muscles tensed up so hard that it hurt as badly as when I broke my collarbone in 2008. Wondering at the cause, I searched online for chronic muscle tension, because this isn’t the first time my shoulders have hurt like this, just the worst it has ever been, and I discovered that this sort of tension is common for people like me who sit at a computer all day. The best remedy is exercise.

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Fitness Goals

When I graduated high school, I weighed 165 pounds. I was working at the hospital in food service, carrying heavy pans around. I’d been doing debate for years, carrying heavy debate tubs around. I was in decent shape.

After my freshman year of college, I weighed 195 pounds. I had gained 30 pounds, but I was OK with that. I was pretty sure I’d been underweight and a little malnourished in high school, and the gain in weight was largely due to eating a regular number of meals a day. I stayed at this weight through most of college.

After my first year at my current job, I weighed 215 pounds. I had gained 20 pounds in a year because my job now consisted of sitting at a computer, all day, every day. Throughout college, I had been a student worker, which meant running all over campus to fix stuff. Now, though, I did research and writing and other such things, all in my comfy office chair.

I started going to a gym, at which point I weighed around 225 pounds. I lost 18, down to 207 pounds, and felt really proud of that. Then I stopped going. That was ten months ago.

I have now rejoined the gym. I weigh 233 pounds. My goal is to lose 53 pounds by the end of next May. I’d also like to strengthen my arms (I used to carry 120 pounds around regularly, now 30-65 pounds give me trouble over anything other than short distances) and improve my flexibility (I studied martial arts when I was young, and have lost a significant amount of flexibility since I stopped down that in junior high).

I’m meeting with a trainer on Thursday to discuss these goals and plan out how I can best reach them. In addition to attending the gym 5-6 days a week, we bike most days to work. Not sure how that’ll fare during the winter, but at least I’ll continue to have the gym when it gets bitterly cold.

What one man can do, another man can do.