Saturday, January 12, 2013

I Have Become THAT Guy

While the diet is important and I think that's what weighs most on people's minds (yes, pun intended...again), it can only work if calorie deficit is achieved. Had I just been restricting calories to a small daily amount, I don't think I could have kept this life change going. But in order to be able to eat a certain amount of food, I had to commit to an aggressive amount of movement.

Hit it, Wonderama!

Egads, even seeing this decades later reminds me of how this part of the show made me so very uncomfortable. Then again look how thin all these 1970's NYC kids were!

Even as a child, I've never been a big formal exercise person. Oh sure, later I was in mosh pits every week and sweating to various bands, but I was never good at organized sports. And I think a later post may address the vicious cycle of children unprepared for sports. My parents were not big sports nuts so I entered into school years not really being able to play football or baseball. Yet gym teachers never bother to teach you how to play, but rather just relegate you to the "can't play" section.  And there you stay, hating gym class and never being able to catch up.

And that feeling of inadequacy is pretty much prevalent when one first goes to the gym. You're surrounded by folks who seems to know what they're doing and they are all in much better shape than you. It compounds any inadequacy you may have about yourself, your abilities and your body. It's disheartening and it has a name: Social Physique Anxiety. It certainly affects one's attitude's about hitting the gym. There's been enough research about it, although it doesn't seem to be addressed a lot in the trade magazines.

And yet we know that exercise is important to losing weight and maintaining that loss. A UK study showed that "research to date suggests that the addition of exercise programmes to dietary restriction can promote more favourable changes in body composition than diet or physical activity on its own." That's basically a "no duh" bit of research.

I had been a member of gyms in the past, but mainly stuck to cardio and very minimal weight machines. I tended to go late at night, as it was less crowded and less full of the preeners. But like many things, I didn't know what I didn't know and I couldn't manage to do enough proper exercise. I was already doing Pilates for a hip injury, but once a week doesn't really count as hard caloric burn.

And that's what I had realized. I need to be pushed. I need someone to tell me that I can and will do one more set at a higher weight. That I will squat farther down on my bum knee. That it's not supposed to actually get easier in that sense.

I was lucky in both my trainers. My first one, Bob Slota, concentrated on the weight loss. Our workouts included multiple reps at a lower weight with only 30 second rest periods in between. His goal was for me to never sit down. I was sad to see Bob leave the gym and did not feel too welcoming to break in a new trainer. I had already developed a certain set of rules that I knew had to be taken into account:

  • Do not ever try to sell me supplements or any special promotional things.
  • I can and intend to do cardio on my own time, so do not waste the hour I'm paying you to watch me use the treadmill for 20 minutes. 
  • You don't have to try to make small talk, but pay attention and push me hard.

My second trainer, Dan Schwartz, took to that task well. He was there to see me hit my goal weight and then made me go further. He decided it was time to lift heavy and hard. We change up the workouts every six weeks or so. The current plan:

  • Monday: (Morning) Boxing, Abs, Cardio. (Evening) Chest, Back & Triceps
  • Tuesday: High Intensity Interval Training, Biceps. Cardio
  • Wednesday: Boxing, Abs, Cardio
  • Thursday: (Morning) High Intensity Interval Training, Cardio. (Evening) Legs & Shoulders
  • Friday: Chest & Back, Cardio
  • Saturday: Running (8-12K) [In bad weather, it's the gym, usually legs]
  • Sunday: Pilates, Running (5-8K)

(Yes, I sometimes hit the gym twice in a day. Dan convinced me to swtich to mornings but when his schedule changed, I found I much preferred getting this in before the day begins). 

I take about two days off every month, unless there's an injury, which is surprisingly less common than I had imagined. 

The phase into streamlined exercise ska librarian was not quick. I still wake up at 5 AM with no real desire to get out of bed. And no matter how eager I am to go for a run on a nice day, the first 5 minutes I still hear a little voice in my head saying, "That's enough, take a break, you don't need to do this."

But I do need to do this. This is part of maintenance. Having a more smoking bod is just gravy, but I will not starve just so I don't have to exercise. I will be healthier because I am doing this daily. And I know I will be doing it until I'm dead.

And yet I also shock myself by other thoughts, such as walking into a new gym and thinking, "Oh, this is no good, the dumbbells only go up to 80 lbs. and there's no decline bench press." 

Who is that person speaking? How did I become THAT guy? How did I become the one who's always at the gym or running on the Manhattan waterfront? How did I become the one who can talk workouts with other people...and know what I'm saying? How did I get the place where I now belong to two separate gyms, own a pair of boxing gloves and know everyone who works out at the same time as I do, even if only by a nod and a funny nickname? How did I manage to finally get over Social Physique Anxiety after 40+ years? How did I keep this up while I see others drop from their training or workout plans?

I wish there was a simple answer that I could share. I do truly credit my trainers but as they tell me, I am the one who actually does the work. 

And it is work, and a sacrifice and an investment. But I also know that even if it does mean forgoing a few luxuries, I actually FEEL good. I am in a better place. And I know I may never be as large as some of the muscle heads at the gym or run as fast as some of my NY Roadrunner friends, but I'm not doing it for them.

Maybe that's the simple answer. It's not for them. I'm not doing this for anyone else. Screw them. It's for me. And that's why this is finally working.

I guess it never mattered what anyone thought of THAT guy in the gym....


Hausenblas, Heather A., Britton W. Brewer, and Judy L. Van Raalte. “Self-Presentation and Exercise.” Journal of Applied Sport Psychology 16, no. 1 (2004): 3–18. doi:10.1080/10413200490260026.

Stiegler, Petra, and Adam Cunliffe. “The Role of Diet and Exercise for the Maintenance of Fat-Free Mass and Resting Metabolic Rate During Weight Loss.” Sports Medicine 36, no. 3 (2006): 239–262.
Strong, Heather A., Kathleen A. Martin Ginis, Diane E. Mack, and Philip M. Wilson. “Examining Self-Presentational Exercise Motives and Social Physique Anxiety in Men and Women1.” Journal of Applied Biobehavioral Research 11, no. 3–4 (2006): 209–225. doi:10.1111/j.1751-9861.2007.00006.x.

1 comment:

  1. HA! I disqualify gyms when they don't have a proper squat rack!