A few months ago I wrote about my fitness frustrations. I’ve made a lot of progress since then that I thought I should share.
The gym I originally joined wasn’t that great once I got serious. It was a great place to start at a cheap rate to see if I was going to stick with something other than running, and it served that purpose well. However, the trainers there, with one exception, didn’t really know what they were talking about. Not only did I get bad advice about the present, I didn’t know the way forward.
Sometime in November, I decided I’d had enough, so I signed up with a locally-owned gym with a good, friendly staff and trainers who know what they’re talking about. I haven’t taken full advantage of this yet, but I will. In any case, this was the first step to getting this situation straightened out. Not only is the staff more serious, most of the members are much easier to deal with, because they’re also self-starters; it’s rare that I have to wait for a lazy person who’s hogging a piece of equipment because they don’t know how to develop a circuit in order to keep moving. Rare. I guess this is the best we can hope for with humanity.
I made another important improvement in January when I ran into a friend of mine who’s a nurse practitioner and no fitness dunce. I complained that for the amount of work I was doing, the results weren’t great. At the time, this was my schedule:
Day 1: Chest, triceps, abs, front delts; 45 min. of cardio
Day 2: Back, biceps, abs, lateral and rear delts; 45 min. of cardio
Day 3: Legs; 45 min. of cardio
Day 4: A combination of days 1 and 2 (a trainer told me to do this…) and 45 min of cardio
Day 5: repeat day 3
Day 6: cardio only
I’m getting tired just from thinking about this. As you might guess, my nurse practitioner friend told me what is probably obvious to most of you but wasn’t to me: I was overtraining. While I was on this schedule I had the appetite from hell; I couldn’t keep up. I was going to go broke on food. My body craved certain things, like protein, which tends to come in products high in fat, so I wasn’t losing anything from my waistline. And the excessive cardio training was burning the muscle, so I wasn’t gaining as much of that, either.
I’m from Pennsyldutchylvania, so I respond to problems in two ways: hard work, and harder work. The South Philly Italian influence has moderated this mental disorder to some extent. I’m still suspicious of anything that looks too easy, though. My friend told me to do three days per week of weights and intersperse cardio days in between. So now I do chest, etc., one day, cardio the next; back, etc on day 3; cardio the following day; legs and abs on day 5, and just cardio on the last day.
Within two weeks I was losing weight and gaining muscle. I don’t want to gain a lot of muscle, just definition, but this is working. My appetite is back under control, so I can better control unhealthy byproducts such as fat. I also have more energy in general and more energy to go outside for a real run and not simply phone it in on an eliptical or a treadmill. Finally, it’s easier to fit these workouts into my schedule; as a result, my days aren’t as frantic as they were there for awhile.
It’s tempting to watch a triathlon and get carried away with your ambitions in the fitness department. Those guys do this stuff for a living. They probably have their own trainers and nutritionists and an entire day to focus on what they need to do. I don’t, and that isn’t going to change. But I have found an equilibrium, and I intend to keep it this way. Through various phases of this pursuit, I have had to learn and re-learn that heroics are not necessary. As a former fat person who is scared to death of relapse, this is hard, but I need to learn to trust myself. Once you’re un-fat, you don’t wanna go back.