Though I talked about food in my last post, I really didn’t start with a focus on food and diet. I started with an emphasis on exercise and moving. I found out years before that getting out and walking around the block helped me get in pretty good shape drop several pounds. I figured if I ramped up the intensity and added a few more exercises to the routine I would be less likely to die a young death and cut my ministry short.
Getting started to move
At the time (October 2004) I was carrying a Palm based organizer which had early e-book capabilities. In the bookstore was a book that sounded like a good place to start looking for help called Escape Your Shape: How to Work Out Smarter, Not Harder. It promoted exercising based on your body shape or type. It also told you what to avoid so that you didn’t build muscles where you didn’t want them. Thinking back now I don’t know if it really matters whether I avoided some exercises and focused on others, but it was helpful that the book gave me a specific exercise routine. It included a lot of basic calisthenics, jump rope and walking.
I was as faithful as I could be to the routines the book gave and was pleased to see that the extra motion helped me see dramatic results in just a few weeks.
In my mind there were no real solid weight goals other than I wanted to get down to at least the weight I was when I got married (almost 50 lbs. from where I started). I also had no time goal. I refused to put myself in a box by saying that I needed to lose a certain amount of weight by a certain time. This was going to be a lifestyle change, therefore I was looking for something that I could add to my daily routine that I would be doing for the rest of my life, not just to reach a number on a scale. It was during this time that I also came upon the idea of focusing on just 2 or 3 lbs. of loss at a time as I mentioned in my first post.
I continued with the jump rope/calisthenics routine for about 5 months. I don’t have the exact numbers with me, but I had lost maybe 25 to 30 lbs. during that 5 month period. I was getting pretty excited to see how much more flexible and stronger I had become.
One day at the park I learned that there were exercise classes that were available to the public. They cost $1 per class and there was no long term commitment. The class was a Tae-Bo class, which I was familiar with. Nervously I signed up. I remember the woman telling me that I needed to bring a bottle of water and clothes that I could jump in. It seemed like a funny way to say exercise clothes.
The first day of class I felt more than a little out of place. I stayed in the back of the class and just tried to keep up. I kind of stood out–tall white dude in a class of short dark dudettes–it would have been hard not to. The teacher learned my name the first class and yelled encouraging things to me telling me I didn’t have to do all the exercises and that I could just march in place if my plump body couldn’t keep up.
From that first class, I was hooked. The teacher knew how to push all the right buttons to encourage me. I also learned from that class something that has always been true in my life–positive peer pressure is something I need. While I have never been one to be a lemming and blindly follow the crowd, I do need help doing what’s good for me when I can’t see the benefit. That class and teacher helped build some structure in my exercise routine. While everyone else in the class was on cruise control most of the time, I was in there slinging sweat on anyone who dared to get within 10′ of me.
Two days of the week we would go through different routines and basically jump around swinging arms and legs for an hour. But Friday was always my favorite day. That was the day we put on gloves and got to hit each other. Since I was the only man, the teacher was the only one strong enough to receive my punches. I punched and kicked her as hard as I could trying to knock off her gloves or knock her over. I had a blast!
On days that I did not have Tae-Bo class I would do various strength training exercises. I still did my calisthenics and walking too. When we moved and I had to leave my teacher at one park, I found another park near the new house where her boss taught classes. I took classes with him for a year until we moved back to the side of town that made it possible to return to her.
I don’t know that a structured class is the best choice for everyone. In fact, the reason I never mentioned going to a class before is that I never wanted people to think that I was going there just to see the pretty ladies exercising. Believe me, most of the ladies in the class were grandmas and there was little visual temptation. I am telling you this because it is what worked for me. If a class doesn’t work for you, then that is fine. It provided the structure and positive peer pressure I needed to stay motivated.
The end of December of 2005 I decided to try something that I had not done in a very long time. I decided to run instead of my normal walk. I didn’t know how far one was supposed to run his first time out, but I figured 30 minutes was a good amount of time. I took off for a run around the park and back home. I ran for 30 minutes and covered around 2.5 miles. Surprisingly, I didn’t die.
By that time I had been doing hour long, intense exercise sessions for almost a year. I had lost more than 60 lbs. My body was itching for something more intense. I found out later that it is not recommended that you start by running 30 minutes your first time out. The best beginning running program I know is called Couch to 5K (C25K).
I probably only ran 2 or 3 times by the time my brother told me he was going to run a half marathon in May of that next year. I got the bright idea that I would train with him for the race. I started marking out courses in the neighborhood and trying to see if I could cover the same ground in less time every day. By the time May of 2006 arrived I had already figured out where I would run my 13.1 miles. I even went as far as to ride my bike through the streets and paint numbers on the road so that I would know when I passed each mile mark.
I was also already running local 5K and 10K races. Well, the better term is that I was participating. I never competed with anyone but myself just trying to see if I could do better than the week before. I ran that first half marathon and thought I was going to die. It took me 2 hours and 29 minutes to drag myself around the course. I had never done anything so hard in my life. I had no interest in running for a couple of weeks after that. But when I did get started, I immediately planned for my next half marathon.
Is running enough?
I do not recommend that you jump right into running. Work your way up to it if you even want to start. Find your own journey and progression. I think running is a great way to stay in shape and maintain a good level of fitness. But, I don’t think it is all you should do. You need an overall fitness program. That is where I am struggling now. I am thankful that the running has been with me the last 2 years since I have had to alter my routine, but it is not enough by itself to help you lose weight and have overall strength and fitness.
You don’t have to join a gym or go to any fancy classes, but you do need to find something that will work your whole body. If you are only interested in losing weight then you can diet and accomplish your goals. But if you are interested in being strong and healthy, you need to put an emphasis on exercise and see the food that you stick down your throat as the fuel that helps you accomplish your exercise goals.
Structure and attitude
In the next post I plan on talking about putting in place some structure and looking at attitudes that can help, or sabotage, your progress.