Tag Archives: fitness

Last Chance?

Sometimes a thing catches your eye and fills you with such a sense of absurdity that you laugh out loud.  Then your wife, sitting next to you on the couch, looks at you and seems about to ask what you’re cackling over but then lets out of muffled sigh instead as if to say “You know what?  Nah…”

But my wife would never do that to me.

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Nestled safely between box sets of Unsolved Mysteries and Lost is your LAST CHANCE!

As we sit next to each other on the couch in our family room I just noticed a DVD case on its side under the TV with about 50 other DVD cases.  Remember them?  There was a world before streaming.  This DVD says (in blazing, italicized letters no less) LAST CHANCE WORKOUT.

I’ve been doing so well with my fitness plan these past few months.  First I did Insanity Max:30 where I stripped a whole lotta’ fat off my frame and found out I have no muscle.  Now I’m doing BodyBeast where my aim is to bulk up and make some serious gains in mass.  Yes, I know I did it backwards.  I did it that way as a joke on my trainer.  Duh.  No, if I had been thinking clearly I would have done it the other way around.  Apparently you bulk first and then shred.  My trainer does both at the same time and he has telekenesis.  Guy’s amazing.  Sometimes he bulks in the morning and then shreds after lunch.
Just. Because. He. Can.
I got a lot out of the shredding part.  I got pretty lean – down to a set of abs that were almost perceptible to the naked eye.  In fact, it’s only because I know Im capable of doing that again pretty quickly that I don’t mind having almost completely lost them due to this bulk.  This is the part where anyone who’s actually seen me in the past month says “No way, man, you’re looking amazing!  Are you shred-bulking or bulk-shredding?  Whatever it is, sign me up!”  I’m eating a LOT of food these days.  I’m also lifting heavier and heavier weights.  My trainer ties  70 lb. dumbbells to his ankles when he does his 12 mi. run.  That reminds me that I’ve been meaning to ask him if I should do a little running while I’m trying to bulk.  He’d probably advise against it at least until I’ve been doing this long enough to know what’s what like, say, 18 years.

sagi

This is the guy from BodyBeast.  He’s an Israeli named Sagi (pronounced Sah-GEE).  And that quote tells you he’s peddling some hard core bullshit even if he is unbelievably ripped.  My trainer friend looks kinda’ like him but not as douchey.

My point is that I’ve become very comfortable at this routine.  That’s comfortable, not complacent.  I enjoy what I’m doing and I enjoy seeing the results (not as quickly as I’d like but I’m the guy who stands in front of a microwave and yells HURRY UP!”).  And I’ll also admit that over the years I’ve been frustrated with fitness.  There have been times when I felt like I didn’t know what I was doing and would never figure it out.  Not all of us were blessed to have gym access growing up on the streets of Compton.  I don’t know who I’m talking about since I’m from Newark but you get the picture.  Would I rather have figured this all out 20 years ago and been a stud with a full head of hair?  Would I rather have had girls beating down my door?  Would I rather have had a shot at achieving this goal earlier and getting it out of my way so I could legitimately cash in on my success and become a whale in my 30’s knowing I had already been jacked?  What was my alternative?  Oh yes, being me.  OK, so it’s not that bad.  But I’m comfortable with where I am with my fitness goals and progress here and now.  The downer in me says I’ll probably never reach my true goals but I need to murder him.  Bad downer.  Bad.

So why write all this?

How much do you have to hate yourself to do a workout called Last Chance?  I’m trying to picture anyone looking for a program.  “Let’s see… There’s Insanity.  Nah, too much cardio.  There’s P90X.  Nope, too many jumps.  There’s Tae-Bo. Too urban.  I guess I have no other options.  Oh look!  There’s a crazed woman on this box and she says it’s my last chance!  I don’t know what it is but something in her eyes is forcing my to believe it.  I’ll buy this DVD now because, having exhausted no other options, I realize I have no options left.  Thank God I found this DVD before it was too late!  What would have become of me?”

Yeah, that just happened.

My wife and I also watched a movie last night about aliens.  It stars Amy Adams.  I think it’s called Arrival.  Not bad.  The two aliens were called Abbot and Costello, no joke.  Unfortunately they weren’t remotely funny.

One Badass Workout

I promised to keep you, my two loyal readers (Mom got bored), up to date on my progress with my new bulking/shredding program called BodyBeast which is designed to get me huge and ripped.  Previously I would have thought those were two things I wanted to avoid.

Last week I finished week 1.  True, I had spent the two previous weeks messing around with it.  It usually takes me a week or two to get things like a new diet under control (especially when that diet has me jump from about 1700 calories a day to 3400).  I had done some of the workouts using limited equipment I borrowed from a friend and a stability ball I picked up at Walmart.

Last week, though, I was set and committed.  It’s either going to happen or it’s not.  What motivated me was the knowledge that if I had been so committed in the first two weeks I’d be approaching the end of the first phase right now.  OK, just get it done.

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That’s what I’m talking about!  A nice looking set of dubmbbells and plates right there.

On Friday I went to the trainer’s house.  Yes, the point of this workout is that you don’t need a trainer and you do it all at home.  But, I like the guy.  He’s given me great advice and stuck by me while I wallowed in the many failures I’ve endured trying to get into his shape.  Most of the time, he hasn’t even laughed too hard at me.  He and I ran through a 45 minute workout on the pavement of the driveway behind his house.  We each had sufficient weights, each had a stability ball.  He has an awesome pull-up bar rigged up over his 8 foot fence and that came in handy.  At the end of the routine I was pleased to discover that he judged my form to be great and he was impressed at my ability to complete a pretty tough workout.  Did he have a drop of sweat on him?  What do you think?  Nonetheless, I felt confident that I was doing something good.  If this guy, who is a training god, came very near to expressing pride in his wannabe-protege, then I can’t be too off.

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A closer look.  These range from 10’s on the left to 40’s on the right with a set of interchanging weights in the middle and some plates for the bar.

Today, it was back to chest and tri’s.  This time, though, I’ve expanded my arsenal.  From yet another friend I managed to borrow even heavier weights.  For many movements lighter weights aren’t a bad thing.  I’m thinking of shoulders.  At the end of a workout, you try lifting more than 15-pounders in a military press over your head.  It’s hard!  But for chest workouts, I can definitely go higher than the 20’s I had maxed out with.

A note on all these friends who have weights to spare…  It seems a universal truth to me that in America when a young man enters his 20’s and has a trifle bit of spare change he invests it in weights.  He uses the weights religiously for a short while, then trails off.  Evermore the weights remain in his possession until his wife, who long ago gave up caring what he looked like naked, puts them on eBay for extra Christmas money.  Either that or he repurposes them into a coffee table in his pseudo man-cave.

Anyway, I’m definitely feeling this.  It’s going great and I feel great too.  I also was one of those who had weights once.  My excuse was the two spinal fusion surgeries I had so I’m going to stick with that.  It’s been years since I lifted anything and it’s taking some time to get back into it but I feel it coming back to me.  Drop a prayer now and then, if you would, that I don’t injure myself and that I complete these twelve weeks so I can be “beastly”.

The Beast Stirs

I was going to call this “The Beast Awakens” but I feel like that’s been taken already.  Also, once you read all the way through you might scratch your head and say “what beast is he talking about?  What’s he stirring?  Why am I still reading this dude’s blog?”

It’s time once again to return to a topic close to my cardiac muscle.  I’m talking about what I’m currently doing in the gym.  OK, I don’t actually go to a gym.  I work out at home.  I used to belong to a gym that was open 24 hours a day and provided fitness.  I don’t like to mention actual names lest I get sued.  I used to think how cool it would be being able to work out at 3AM when the rest of the world sleeps.  I can’t even imagine the joy in my heart as I’d get out of bed all bleary-eyed, put on my gym shorts backwards and upside down in the dark, and drive off to the gym in a semi-conscious state resembling intoxication only to drop heavy weights on my foot.

Who thought up this concept?

Also, I don’t like gyms.  Lots of fit people there.  I’m nothing if not easily shamed.

A few months ago I took on a personal challenge in the form of a workout called Insanity Max:30.  Well, over the course of two months (and then an additional month where I simply continued the program because I didn’t have anything else to do) I shed some serious bodyfat.  I didn’t really add any muscle which was one of my hopes but I was pleased with the results.  I’ve learned to try focusing on whether I feel good about my progress.  If I focused on externals, I would be miserable.  I’m the one who never sees progress in myself and always believes that the super-fit people of the world are only condescending to me when they offer their compliments.  Kind of like: “Good boy!  You’re not nearly as fat as you used to be!  So proud.”  Yes, I’m sensitive to that kind of thing.  I’m also not likely to believe I can actually achieve the real goals I have in mind so I want to underestimate my results.

mustang parc gym

I’m using dumbbells.  These things just look strange.

All that aside, I have moved on to the newest program from the same people.  This one is called BodyBeast.  The stated goal is to help you get huge.  I’m torn on this.  I’ve always wanted to be bigger and yet smaller at the same time.  Maybe I’m schizophrenic.  What I mean is I’d love more solid muscle and less non-solid composition.  This workout is performed using weights (dumbbells) and is done at home.  I borrowed dumbbells from a friend who wasn’t using his anymore.  By the way, it seems to be true that most men at some point in their 20’s will invest in a set of weights.  It’s almost part of the man code.  Whether you ever use them or not, you must buy them and make sure they’re prominently displayed in your garage.  “Look at me!  I do muscle stuff.”  I myself once had an entire set complete with bench and all.  I even used them at one point.  The thing is, I never knew if I was lifting effectively or even the right way.  Could explain why I failed to reach the goals I had in the past.

Oh… this program also calls for a bench.  They’re kind of pricey so I opted for something called an anti-burst stability ball.  Buying this made me laugh.

I have not seen results yet but it’s only been a week.  Also, you might remember that I said I don’t ever see results and I tend not to believe those who tell me that they see results.  But I will tell you two things about this program I’ve noticed already.

old man gym

I wish I looked as good as this dude from Cocoon.  I’d love to know what program he’s using.  I’m not even close.

First, the diet is intense.  Far from feeling hungry and eating things I dislike in abundance I have to take in about 3400 calories a day.  The problem is that they come from “clean” sources.  I could easily do that many calories by sucking down fast food and I’d probably enjoy myself too.  This program, however, insists I get 3400 calories from an enormous amount of food that seems to lack calories to begin with.  I’m struggling to get the calories but eating way more than I ever used to.  This may be a problem.  Also, I have an innate fear that eating this much will undo whatever results I saw from the previous routine.

Second, the workouts are insane.  Six nights a week I stream videos from my laptop featuring an Israeli trainer named Sagi (sah-GEE) who, though pleasant and inspiring, also uses a healthy dose of insult to motivate.  “You want to get big?” he says while pointing at the screen with an arm that can barely be raised above his waist for sheer size, “then do this movement right or I will come into your home and crush you.”  Perhaps I exaggerate a bit but you get the point.  Again, I have the constant notion that I’m not lifting properly or lifting heavy enough weights and then my insecurity takes over and I wonder if the next 12 weeks will produce any results at all.  At best I might look like a somewhat less-soft version of myself.  At worst, I’ll get huge in completely the wrong way.  But, I’ve made a commitment.  No matter what else, I take my commitments seriously.  Even if I know it’s not getting me anywhere, I stick with it because that’s who I am.

So, in twelve weeks I’ll come back at you and let you know how this has gone.  You can be assured that I will have completed it.  I may have also gone out of my mind and chucked a dumbbell at Sagi but I will finish what I start.

Meanwhile if any of you lovely readers have suggestions or similar stories about your own fitness routines I’d love to hear them.  Share away.

Of Broken Toes and Broken Dreams

“Ever have your spirit crushed, Mr. H.?” asked a student once.

OK, work with me.  It’s called a literary device.  Sure, no student ever said that but it’s possible that one could have.  More to the point I need to set up this next bit.

“Kid,” I said, “I’m a Mets fan.  Every year since 1986.”

See, wasn’t that cute?

In all honesty this past Thursday I had more than my spirit crushed in the form of a few small bones in the toes on my right foot.

At the Catholic high school where I teach I also assist in other ways.  One of those ways is to transform our very large gym (one of two, I might add) into a worship space for about 1200 people who gather once a month for mass.  I arrived early on the day in question.  It was just before 7AM.  I had really high hopes of starting a new workout that day too.  The thing is that my trainer clued me in to the secret of working out pre-breakfast.  Factor in a lengthy commute and my need to be there at an ungodly hour and the workout last out to a few extra minutes of sleep.

Boy am I excited about this workout, though.  After everything I’ve tried I’ve always felt that nothing has worked for me.  I have a vision in mind fueled by a desire for better heath vanity.  I now know that there are no easy fixes, that I should have done this when I was a teenager.  See, back then I had the time.  I had no social life thanks to a lack of friends or a personality, so I could have been pounding my societal aggression in the gym for hours on end.  Instead I was – come to think of it I really can’t account for my teenage years.  Must have blocked them.  I certainly wasn’t drinking, getting high, or dating like the cool kids.  But I squandered those years – years when I could have been setting myself up for success.  It’s hard, damn near impossible, to achieve the kind of success I want at my age.  The people I know who’ve done it can all maintain it.  That’s always easier to do when you reached it in the first place.  But when you’re married with kids and a job, not so easy to get started.

But this new program…  Having reached the conclusion that I need to be happy with whatever gains I see; I was really eager to jump into this.  I might only lose a few pounds, probably wouldn’t really put on any muscle but I’m OK with that because it’s better than nothing and if I achieve my potential I can’t be disappointed in what my potential actually was.

But it needs to start another day because I was tired that morning.

I walked into the gym to discover a group of kids even more eager than me already rolling out racks of chairs to set up on the gym floor.

“Kids, I love the energy!” I shouted as I put my coffee down.  You’ve got to praise them at every step.  It’s easy with these kids.  I love them like my own.  And like a proud dad I feel the urge to encourage them because they are so awesome.  And I mean that.  “But hang on a bit because we have to roll the floor mats out first.”

Then I proceeded to walk them over to the side of the bleachers where a giant machine on wheels resides.  “This baby here contains enough floor matting material to cover the whole gym so we don’t scuff up the floor with the chairs,” I said as I motioned for them to give me a hand wheeling it into place.  The thing weighs 1,000 pounds fully laden.

Did I mention they’re eager kids?

In their eagerness they pushed the rack really hard before I had a chance to get my foot out of the way.

Ever hear bones break?  It’s not a pleasant sound.

I looked down to see a hard graphite wheel rolling up onto my foot and then… staying there!

“Love you kids but get this thing OFF ME!!!” I shouted.

They pushed and after what seemed like an eternity it rolled off.  The other side.  Taking an additional pounding blow on another toe.

I tried to act tough.  Who complains about broken toes of all things.  I finished helping the kids and even taught a class before seeing the school nurse who instructed me to go home and elevate it.  It was in her office that I first removed my sock.  Oh God, it was so gross…

And because I knew I’d need to see a doctor, it turns out I do indeed have two broken toes and will be wearing a boot for the next month.

On the upside, I’ve been wanting to introduce a Bermuda-themed look into the school dress code for some time.  Think about it.  These kids already love me for my style.  It’s the most amazing thing.  Remember those teenage years I mentioned?  Yeah, they seem not to matter now because the teenagers of today look up to me.  Do you know how gratifying it is to have 500 teenage boys literally trying to copy everything you’re wearing?  I’m apparently a trendsetter.  Let’s see how they dig shorts with my tie and jacket…

But that workout will have to wait.

Just like another Mets World Series win.

I think God’s trying to tell me something.

I’m Fixed (I Think)

I’ve been a way for a while.  Actually, I’ve been busy blogging the whole time but for a different blog.  You see, friends, I am in the midst of an 11,000 mile road trip with the family.  Yes, you read that right.  It’s a mix of business and pleasure.  The business part is coming from the fact that my wife and I serve on a board that has put us to work traveling the continent this summer.  Yours truly is the documentarian.  The pleasure part comes from the fact that this is just fun for us.

While traveling and writing I had an opportunity to spend an evening with Kate.  Kate is an old friend who happens to be Annie’s daughter.  You all know Annie.  She’s my biggest fan and I love sharing my posts if for no other reason than that I know she’ll read it and comment.

Today she emailed me with a question.  You may recall that about a five weeks ago, before this trip, I began a diet called 21 Day Fix from the folks at BeachBody.com.  In conjunction with this diet I entered into a contest called DietBet.  Just so you know, DietBet uses an app where you’re assigned a goal weight and then asked to weigh in again within 3 weeks.  If your second weigh-in matches the goal weight then you win a share of the money what people paid in to be in the contest.

In my case I first weighed in at 196.9  Before you say anything remember I have a narrow frame.  My assigned target was 4% of my total weight or a bit more than 8 lbs.  I followed the recommended diet which was heavy on vegetables.  I loathe vegetables but for the first time in my life I decided to just do it.  Day after day I munched on carrots and salads, stuffed the blender with kale and spinach, and actually ate broccoli.  It wasn’t easy.  I also switched to black coffee and gave up drinking soda altogether.  Unsweetened tea became my friend.  Seemed like a lot to go through for 8 lbs.  But I did it.

On the exercise front I dropped running.  Maybe one day I’ll take it up again.  I just felt like it was never really for me.  A friend had gotten me into it and he was very helpful both as a guide and a model.  But I know in my heart I was never going to matriculate into the kind of elite athlete he is.  There will be no mud runs in my future any time soon.  I’m still hopeful to get somewhat leaner and a bit more in shape over time but switching my diet I at least know that I’m doing something right and if nothing else the black coffee can serve as a penance of sorts.  I did do 21 days of their workouts which were brutal.  I haven’t seen any results but I never do.  If anyone else has seen them, they’re not saying.

So how’d I do?

Let’s just say that starting a diet and then going on a road trip is not such a good idea.  When you’re driving a car ten hours out of a day it can be difficult to eat right.  Difficult, but not impossible.  We stopped at supermarkets in the morning and grabbed fruits and vegetables that wouldn’t spoil quickly and that took care of a lot.  Just eating the damn veggies every day appears to be helpful even if you’re going off-script with the rest of it.

When we got close to day 21 we were in the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  We stopped at a Walmart and bought a scale.  When the day came I took the scale out.  I was not too hopeful.  I took off my shoes and stepped up.

To my surprise I was half a pound under my target!

I did it.  I got my money.  I’m happy.

Will there be any before/after photos?  Well I took them but I’m no fool.  Somehow I have this mental block about posting shirtless pictures of myself online for the world to see.  Nothing on the internet ever goes away.

But there you have it.  Would I recommend this total plan to others?  Absolutely.  In fact, I started it up again after a few days off where I enjoyed some good foods.  But guess what?  I still ate the vegetables, still poured nothing into my coffee, still stuck with the tea.  I guess it’s just a way of life and I’m hoping to stick with it further.  My new goal is to get to 175.  I’ll come back at you if I get there.

Incredible

I was just thinking about some diet and exercise related things this evening…

I mowed my lawn tonight.  So it turns out “trainer” is a pretty decent guy.  I think we already knew that. but tonight he confirmed it for me.  I am about to embark on a major business trip and needed to get the lawn mowed before I leave.  Unfortunately my mower decided this was the perfect time to quit on me.  I texted “trainer” and asked if I could borrow his.

My mom, in particular, used to say to me “Neither a borrower nor a lender be.”  She was good with pithy maxims like that.  She also used to call me by my dead brother’s name but who’s counting.  She did, however, reverse half of that statement when she also taught that we should always give of ourselves.  So I guess she didn’t really go back on her words so much considering that giving of ourselves is not lending if we don’t expect a return.  Now I’m confused.

Anyway, my friend the “trainer” texted back in the affirmative.  Now I am always mindful of a friend’s kindness.  If I ever need to catch a ride with someone even if he’s going to the same place already I fill up his car.  If I drop by for a visit I bring a bottle of wine.  I never want my mom to think she didn’t raise me right.  More to the point, it’s just the right thing to do since nothing is owed to me.  It’s my way of saying “Hey, you were incredibly kind and generous with your things.  It made my day easier.  I treated your mower better than my own.  Here’s a little something for your trouble.”

So I was thinking about the word incredible for some reason.  I think that’s because it’s how I would describe this 21 Day Fix program I’m on.  By the way, I’m closing in on 21 days and it’s going well, I think.  The incredible thing about the diet portion is that I finished this day with three proteins left!  That means that I, who ate well and was not hungry all day, should have eaten even more.  Incredible!

Then I was thinking about the exercise portion.  In 30 minutes each night for just shy of three weeks I’ve been able to dramatically reshape my appearance.  I’m not talking about massive gains in size or a total beach body just yet.  In fact I’m still leery of taking my shirt off at the beach this summer.  That could be because I have a perception of myself that might not match reality.  That’s another story.  But my waist has gotten smaller.  That’s a start.  Incredible, right?

Then there’s the “trainer” himself.  I thought this was kind of funny.  On Sunday I had a chance to meet two of his brothers.  The three of them along with Mrs. “trainer” and two of their kids had just completed one of those obstacle-laden mud races the day before.  Wouldn’t you know that, standing in their presence, I realized that I was in the kitchen of the “Incredibles”.  Seriously it’s like a family who live to one-up each other in the “I’m more shredded than you” game.  And I think that’s, honestly, incredible.  Truly.  I kind of wish I’d had brothers growing up who would have engaged in a little friendly competition and camaraderie to help each other reach our goals.  So I actually have seven brothers but none of them would have engaged in that kind of camaraderie with me.  Incredible, I know.

So thank you, “trainer”.  Thanks for the mower and allowing me to invite myself in for a glass of wine.  You know you were hoping I would anyway.  And thanks for the inspiration.  I’ve got a summer of travel ahead of me and I hope I won’t fall too far off the wagon.  If I do, maybe you guys could adopt me.

The “Fix” Is Working

I shared with you a week ago that I was on BeachBody’s 21 Day Fix Extreme.  Tonight I rounded out day 8. No, Annie, there won’t be any before and after picture, at least not until it’s all done and I’m drunk. Suffice it to say that things are going better than expected. 

Even “trainer” noticed a difference. At work on Friday he casually mentioned that I was looking very fit. “Whatever you’re doing, keep it up!” He has no idea how valuable that comment to me was. For a guy as fit as him (read: “shredded”) to tell pathetic old me who is far from fit and in fact may be classified as deformed that I’m looking better is huge. And I was fully clothed too so that speaks volumes. Of course he made this comment while doing 25 squat lunge-burpees and then took off to run 4 miles during the change between classes, but… He still said it and he can’t take it back. 

This will be me at 40. *Not ALL parts depicted accurately.

Tonight it was back to plyo workout. I felt great when I finished. Not only did I complete every damn set but it didn’t feel like I would die. And yes, I’m starting to notice little things here and there – things like abdominal muscles (not phenomenal but there) and the ribs that frame out ones chest when he’s actually jacked. I know this doesn’t mean much to most people or even to “trainer” who’s probably sick of seeing himself in a mirror but to me it’s big. As a younger man I never felt that I could just rip my shirt off whenever I felt the urge. Still don’t. Instead I had to win friends and indluence people by sharpening my wit. I was always the smart, funny friend whom everyone loved to have at a party but not necessarily on their team. So I found ways to insult them with clever words and then to insult myself and make a joke out of my shape. It’s worked for me for years and I’ve gotten quite good at it. Just the other day a friend shared a clip with me of a baseball catcher making an incredible catch. Meant nothing to me since I never played baseball (not even a game of catch in the yard with my brothers) but I could appreciate the intensity of it and my friend’s sense of awe. Fighting the urge to say “Wow, such coordination. Someone can use his hands,” I said instead simply “Wow.” But I didn’t say it with an exclamation point. 

My ultimate hope is to be able to say in a year and a half when I turn 40 that I’m in the best shape of my life and to have the body to back that up. And if not I can always cut everyone around me down to size with a quick jab of my vocabulary. There’s a part of me that would love the “revenge” aspect of that as I watch my friends who once had athleticism struggle to avoid obesity. Of course “trainer” will somehow find a way to shed even more body fat by then. But on some plane where the rest of us mortals dwell most might think I’ve done OK for myself. 

Autumn ( the woman from the workout videos) keeps saying “Remember why you’re doing this!”  Then she yells at Cat. I keep responding “so my wife will find me irresistible” and realizing that’s not the right answer.  

I’m doing this for me.