In my extensive weight loss attempt history, the thing I have always dreaded the most was exercise. I would watch shows like The Biggest Loser, and see all of these poor souls sweating, panting, looking like they were moments away from death. Jumping around while a trainer screamed at them, like in one of those westerns where the gunslinger starts shooting at the feet of the local saloon loudmouth yelling, “DANCE!” This usually continued until they were in tears, while someone coaxed them into discussing their self-loathing and daddy issues. It looked awful, and I wanted no part of it. Staying chubby seemed like an okay option in comparison.
My Brief Exercise History
Never in my life did I think that I would be a person that enjoyed going to the gym. The first time I can remember actually “exercising”, was when I was a junior in high school. I wanted to lose a little weight before prom. So my strategy was to cut out fried foods, and to do this exercise video that I’m pretty sure was purchased by my mom before I was born. It was the perfect specimen of eighties fitness, complete with high cut leotards and sweat bands. It was a full body workout, including lots of marching in place and exercises for your facial muscles. Super attractive. It was enough for my speedy sixteen year old metabolism though, and I was able to drop about twenty pounds.
The next time I lost a significant amount of weight, was a few years after my first son was born. He had finally gotten to that sweet toddler age where I couldn’t use the excuse anymore, “I just had a baby.” I think once they’re potty trained you’ve milked it for as long as possible. This time though, I wasn’t sixteen anymore, and I wasn’t messing around. I was pulling out the big guns. I got myself a bottle of Phentermine and decided I was going to start running.I wasn’t looking forward to the idea, but I thought that’s what you had to do to lose weight fast, so I’d better learn to enjoy it. So per the usual, I created a whole secret Pinterest board dedicated to my new hobby, and subscribed to Runner’s World. I started eating next to nothing, because of the appetite suppressant, and downloaded Couch to 5K. It totally worked! The only problem was, I was eventually going to have to stop taking the medication. My appetite would return, and there was this other little issue, I hated running. I got so bored. Most of the time I would run outside at the park so that I would have some scenery or other runners to look at, but I couldn’t stay focused. My mind would wander, and I would end up walking out of pure boredom. I’m sure there are truly people in this world that love running. I’m sure it makes them feel on top of the world, like they can smash through walls and flip cars with their bare hands. I am not one of those people. Which sort of made me feel like I would always eventually fail at losing any significant amount of weight, because I didn’t enjoy the one activity I had always thought was the best thing for weight loss.
Thank God, one day I reconnected with a friend from high school. He was very into fitness, and was the first person to introduce me to the concepts of flexible dieting with a heavier emphasis on resistance training. I don’t know that I ever fessed up to him that I had been taking Phentermine, but regardless, I’m fairly certain he was appalled at how little I had been eating. He also explained to me why cardio wasn’t the end all be all for weight loss. Imagine my relief. I took his advice as a permission slip and stopped running pretty much immediately.
Back to Square One
I was just starting to really learn about strength training and nutrition, when life happened and I did a complete U-turn. I packed all of that weight back on that I had lost and was so stressed (even though it wasn’t a bad stress, just a lot of changes happening in my life), that I completely pushed that part of my life to the side so that I could focus on other things. When the fog finally lifted, I was shocked and embarrassed by how quickly I had swung in the other direction. If you’ve read any of my other blog posts like Mommy Fell Into the Wormhole , you kind of know what happened next. I had to figure out how to actually eat.
After I figured out the nutrition piece and dropped my first forty pounds or so, I started to make this shift where I actually craved something more. I wanted to take things up a notch, but this time around I knew myself well enough to know that I wasn’t going to start running. Even though I had worked out a few times with my friend from high school years before, doing his workouts, I really had no idea how to begin to plan my own workouts. So I went back to the basics. I joined Planet Fitness and started doing their 30 minute workout. If you’ve never been to a Planet Fitness, they have an area, away from the main gym area, where they have several machines set up in a circle. The machines are numbered and there’s a timer that dings when it’s time to move to the next machine. I loved this when I first started because I could go to a less crowded area of the gym, fiddle with the machines without feeling like people could tell I had no clue what I was doing, and get a full body workout that I didn’t have to plan out for myself.
When I felt like I was ready to take it up another notch, I got on bodybuilding.com and started working my way through Jamie Eason’s Livefit Program . From there I just started tweaking things as I went along, figuring out which exercises I felt were the most effective for me on each muscle group. I just kept pushing myself little by little out of my comfort zone. I scheduled the gym into my day, and went even when I didn’t feel like it. One day, magically, I didn’t have to force myself to go anymore. I actually wanted to go, because I loved it. I loved having that time to myself, and I actually didn’t feel like I wanted to die when I finished. I felt strong and less stressed out.
Maybe most shockingly, even though I didn’t leave the gym in a puddle of sweat and tears, I was seeing great results, without doing any cardio or sobbing while doing a plank and addressing all of my innermost feelings.
People weren’t watching me, and nobody made me feel stupid. Everybody was there to try to take care of themselves, just like I was. I know what you’re thinking, “Cardio is good for your heart health.” No argument there. From my experience though, weight training can also have many cardiac benefits. I can remember going to the doctor my whole life and always getting asked if I was nervous because my resting heart rate was always about 100 beats per minute. I wasn’t nervous, I was just chubby and out of shape. However, since starting resistance training, my resting heart rate is normally 50-60 beats per minute, and considered in the “fit” category. Who would’ve thought!
Learning to Get Out of My Own Way
One thing that I am still constantly having to remind myself of, is that things are never as hard or as scary as I build them up to be in my head. While I feel like I keep it together pretty well on the outside most of the time, on the inside I can sometimes feel like Bob Wiley from “What About Bob?” “What if my heart stops beating? What if I’m looking for a bathroom, I can’t find it, and…my bladder explodes?” I just needed to find my inner Dr. Leo Marvin to tell me to take baby steps and quit being so dramatic. If you have your own inner Bob, let me be the one to stop you before you have to do some “explosion therapy”. I totally get how you feel. I felt like I had no idea what I was doing at the gym and it might as well have been tattooed on my forehead. After I went a few times though, I quickly realized no one was even paying attention to me. If you can step out of your comfort zone a little, I can’t tell you how much it does for you physically and mentally. For one whole hour, I get to feel like a real adult person. Nobody is pooping their pants or screaming at me to get them milk. I don’t have to think about what bills I need to pay or everything I need to do that day. My mind isn’t being pulled in a million different directions, and I can really take some time to unwind. Whenever you feel like you’re ready for more, I highly suggest you give it a shot!