Here’s a dumb post about my workout

Periodic table of bodyweight exercises, find it here.
Periodic table of bodyweight exercises, find it here.

I’m finally working on a 6-7 day a week workout cycle. I’d had ambitions to experiment with 100 days straight doing something, but quickly realized that was an amusingly dumb idea. I need to find a certain kind of pace and balance before I murder myself that way. I sometimes like exhausting 90 minute cardio and strength something or others, and no way in hell I can do that for 6 days straight. I may be near that, I don’t know. I mean, I’m in good shape but I’m also still kind of old and fat, so, you know, caveats apply. Today I did do something that was a little different for me and it felt like a pretty (here’s that b-word again) balanced thing to do.

If I’m doing a circuit of bodyweight or kettlebell exercises I normally plan them out informally ahead of time, either off the top of my head or based on something I’ve seen on sites I visit, like 12 Minute Athlete or FitnessBlender. I write out what I plan to do, set my phone’s stopwatch and get busy. Today, rather than focus on reps, I decided to set the timer for 20 minutes then see what I could get done during that time, stopping when the timer buzzed no matter where I was. This wasn’t intended to be any kind of major workout–because I might lose motivation tomorrow if I slammed it today. Like I said, I’m old.

I ended up feeling pretty good and deciding I’d use this as a maintenance workout (as in I just wanted to sweat and work a bit, but didn’t jump up a level) again. Here’s what happened

Timer: 20:00

  • Burpees-8, 8, 8, 6, 6 (36)
  • Push-ups-12, 12, 12, 8, 6 (50)
  • Dumbbell curls, 2 x 25 lbs-6, 6, 6, 5, 5 (28)
  • Assisted pull-ups (see this page, level 3A)-8, 8, 6, 6, then 2 with strict form, no assist
  • Two-handed swings with a 53-lb kettlbell-12, 12, 12, 10, 10.

This ended up being a faster-paced workout than I sometimes do. I was sweating like a pig who just heard the farmer’s wife complaining she’s out of bacon. I think I could up the speed a good deal in the future and add sets. It hit most everything, though, and I don’t feel like completely flopping for the rest of the night.

As an aside–I hate most of the fitness-related writing I find online. I’m not talking about sports journalism; that’s a totally different animal. I’m talking about bloggers and various posts for websites, some of them really popular. Too often the tone is far too “that one gym coach you had in high school whom you plotted to blow up his house.” You know–it’s either frustrated drill sergeant or belittling jock. As in, “HEY PUNK LOOK WHAT I CAN DO CAN YOU DO THIS PUNK WELL, CAN YOU????”

I really want to avoid that when I do choose to write about fitness. If many of the people who take on that sort of authorial tone (honestly, this also applies to a lot of Youtube videos about working out–hell, maybe most of them) truly cared about helping others learn about the benefits of fitness, they’d be way more inviting and accommodating. Maybe shaming a person struggling with their weight and appearance will work for a time, and maybe it’s exactly what some people think they deserve, but it never worked for me, and I’m sure I’m not alone in that. I’ll do my best to not link that sort of thing, save for amusement value.

Supposed to be

Summer, 2010
Summer, 2010

After you turn 40, you’re supposed to graciously give in to gravity. Let the pounds accrue and let your ass gently carve curves in that one special corner of the sofa. After you turn 40, you’re supposed to let the young folks take over and forge ahead and sit back and reflect and plan the rest of the slide. After you turn 40, you’re not supposed to care anymore. After you turn 40, you’re not supposed to give a damn.

Not everyone receives these messages. I won’t claim they are universal, not these days. I can only claim I received them, and by the time I was 42 I’d taken them on as an unconscious philosophy of living. I was doing some things I liked with my life–writing for a living–and my depression could wait. My high blood pressure would succumb to medication, as soon as I found time to get to the doctor.

Then we took our summer vacation trip to Salem, Massachusetts (from Georgia, where we lived at the time) and my wife and I took a lot of photos and videos. We got home and I looked at those videos and I saw the shambling, red-faced, nearly 300-lb fat man in them and thought about how I woke some nights sick from reflux and how a mile walk in 80-degree heat almost made me pass out and I thought, maybe I’ll completely give in. I’ll make it look like I’m trying to fix things and hope the effort kills me.

So the first time I took a walk in the summer heat aimed at ‘starting a program’ I actually hoped I might die. I’ve written this before elsewhere and told people, but I’m convinced their reaction is to think I’m being dramatic. I’m not. I shuffled along those pretty wooded trails in that hilly park by our home in Georgia and by the time I reached a ridge where there was a slight breeze and the peaceful rush of the Big Creek below, I thought, very clearly, hopefully I’ll die here. A man the size I was at the time, with my uncontrolled hypertension, well, I was supposed to die in that situation.

I didn’t, so I tried again. And again. I skipped days and then tried again.

I never even vomited from exertion. I kept dropping weight, and I started feeling, well, better. The exertion, by degrees, began to feel good. I slept better. I made conscious efforts at watching what I ate, then found myself occasionally just naturally gravitating toward the better choices. Somewhere along the way, I stopped hoping I’d die on that ridge with the wind and the creek on either side of me and began enjoying them for what they were.

I encountered condescending, much fitter young people on the trails who gave me smarmy “encouragement” as they dashed past, but sometimes I saw other guys, my age, grinding along like I was. We’d nod grimly and keep moving.

Somehow, I just never stopped. Running and careful eating carved a good deal of the weight away, but at some point after I’d lost maybe 90 lbs. I realized I wasn’t just a runner. My curiosity took hold and I began to study exercise, in a way I’d never really even tried before. I grew fascinated with whatever steps one could take to never have to join a gym. I’m not anti-gym (there’s an old-style gym in the city where I live now I’d still like to check out–“old-style” meaning it caters more to large, solemn men bent solely on lifting very big weights than suburban moms looking to knock off the holiday pounds) but embracing exercise again taught me that I am at heart, like my dad, a born do-it-yourselfer.

With dad, this manifested in various construction projects around the home, some so successful and novel they bordered on genius, others perhaps less successful but still interesting. With me, it began to manifest in figuring out just how much I could do alone.

Today.
Today.

With kettlebells, body weight exercises and (a bit less) running, I dug in, hard. I’m digging still. Here is where I am today. I have never used a trainer, and haven’t joined a gym. I don’t have workout partners. I did this by myself, using excellent online resources like FitnessBlender, articles by kettlebell gurus like Mike Mahler and Pat Flynn and a motley crew of Youtube fitness lunkheads and weirdos, and I’m doing it still.

I haven’t fully conquered everything. Not sure I will. I still fight my weight. It turned out that accumulating 100 extra pounds of fat between the ages of 28 and 43 or so resulted in some pretty damned tenacious fat. There are legitimate (as in I know it’s not just my perception) things about my body I’d still like to change, in general. I still get depressed because depression is an integral part of my makeup and slack–though I’ve found that exercise has become such a hardwired habit for me now that even when depressed, I usually end up doing something.

But whatever I do, I’m going to do it without killing myself. I went from hoping a 2 mile walk on a hot day might put me out of my misery to feeling most alive when I’m buried in a long run or slinging a pretty huge volume of sweat with a 70-lb kettlebell in hand.

I might look angry in the “Today” photo, but I’m not. I’ve learned a different way of looking at things, and mostly taught it to myself. I’m determined. That’s why I wrote this, even though I’ve blogged many of these things either on my Tumblr or in this blog before.

I don’t know what this time of life is really like for other men and women. For some, I suspect the gradual beginning of a certain slowing down is exactly what they need. My own father had worked damned hard, mostly with his hands, by the time he turned 46. It was perfectly okay for a man who’d worked like that to want to walk in and sit the hell down and not move at the end of the day. But my time is different, the world has made a different set of demands on men in my generation. I don’t want to rest yet. I haven’t earned it. I’m pushing ahead. I think that’s how this is supposed to be.

Note, 6/16/2014: I’m grateful WordPress featured this post on Freshly Pressed. I’m also grateful for the comments I’ve received. I don’t often write this kind of thing–my professional writing has mostly been about current events, particularly dark subjects like crime and cyber crime, with some satire on the side–so the idea that this post would be of positive benefit to others is pretty gratifying. Thanks for reading.  

Another dumb, non-daily workout post

I don’t know how I went from 4 years ago being a guy who thought about exercising then shook my head at the foolishness of the idea (a mindset that can keep a lot of seriously overweight people from even starting, I’d bet) to being that guy who gets anxious if I skip more than a day, but that’s where I am now. This weekend I did nothing and this morning I realized the inactivity was driving me crazy. So here’s the (first? I’m considering a two workout day today) effective and simple nonsense I did this morning, between taking my wife to work and getting my youngest kid on the bus:

  • 50 burpees, ladder style (10, rest, 9, rest, etc. down to 1).
  • 50 push-ups in one set of 20 then two sets of 15. You can throw a push-up into a burpee and I considered that but I think the push-ups are more effective done as a separate exercise.
  • 15 pull-ups, done in a modified ladder–4, 3, 2, 2, 2, 1.
  • 20 burpees–wearing a 25 lb. weighted vest. Also ladder style–5, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.

In the future I’ll speed it up and add reps and planks. This took 34 minutes but I bet I could finish it in less than 30. I might have done mile runs instead of burpees but situational and time constraints wouldn’t permit (another point in favor of the burpee–it can be a time-saver).

I may have mentioned this before but it bears repeating: if you’re going to do burpees (and again, this is just my workout, and is not intended as instruction in any way) with a weighted vest, make sure your vest has a comfortable snug fit and is relatively short in front. I made the mistake of buying a full-fitting vest (it looks like a flak jacket) and it’s great for push-ups, torso dips and runs, but the motions used in a burpee make it bunch and flap a little, which is pretty annoying.

 

Exercise and related annoying stuff

Running is fun for everyone, even little sign guys.
Running is fun for everyone, even little sign guys.

To make this blog what I want it to be I have to admit a desire to occasionally write about things that may be of little interest to some. Any blog is going to have that but I’m in the process of changing my mindset about this kind of endeavor. It’s called Writing Whatever the Hell I Want to Write and You Can Read it or Not.

In this case, the subject is physical fitness. I’ve battled my weight since I can remember. When I backed away from just blogging about crime in 2009, a few years spent parked at a computer seemingly nonstop had assisted me in ballooning to almost 300 pounds, with a 46-48 inch waistline. Since 2011, when I finally got truly sick of the situation (my insanely high blood pressure helped me get there) I’ve lost over 100 pounds of fat, dropped 16 or so inches from my waist and gained about 20 pounds of muscle. I did that by making diet and exercise a vital, central part of my daily life. I’ll never go back, either. I know that because every time I skip a day running or working out–or both–I get a junkie’s knee-shake and have trouble sleeping. Exercise feels good, it’s a habit, and I love it.

What I really discovered, which I didn’t know as a kid (I thought I’d conquered childhood weight issues in my teens, when I ran and worked out almost daily, but back then I did not do it in the wisest or safest way), is that it’s easy to, I don’t know, turn into kind of a geek about fitness. There is much more to just about any fitness pursuit as well as to nutrition and dieting than I’d ever dreamed of. Realizing how deep and complex the subject was, realizing that I could nerd out about it–this may have contributed heavily to me sticking with everything until certain good practices became habitual.

So–I’m gonna write about it. What I write may be–especially if you’re the increasingly rare reader who liked and followed my crime writing (which I haven’t totally abandoned, don’t worry)–boring as hell to you. If so, skip it.

And I wrote this post tonight because my plan was to write about my workout and I ended up concluding I wouldn’t work out because I’ve had some muscle strain that I should be a little careful with.

Honestly, the workout would’ve been more interesting. Either way, I’m gonna talk about jock-y stuff and if you see the fitness tag and that’s not your thing, just skip the post and weight for the “crime” tag to pop up.