Warning: personal ramblings about my health and fitness (or lack thereof) ahead â€“ nothing technical here.
Back at the gym
I went back to the gym again yesterday after a month off (not by choice mind you, but due to being really sick for 2 weeks, and then visiting the hospital most nights for the last few weeks looking in on Micheleâ€™s father).
The gym confirmed what my clothes suggested – after a month of no exercise my pants are getting tight around the waist and my shirts loose around the shoulders â€“ Iâ€™m out of conditionâ€¦
Being at my worst physically in probably the last 18 months, it was good to get back into things.
You can eat whatever you likeâ€¦
I find it both amusing and sometimes irritating when people tell me how lucky I am to be tall and skinny. â€˜You can eat whatever you likeâ€™, â€˜Where does it all go â€“ you must have hollow legsâ€™, etc.
Actually, it takes a little work. I eat reasonably well (not great, but not badly) and I exercise regularly. I know this because when Michele and I returned from 6 weeks in Minnesota over Christmas 2006 I had grown from my regular 34â€ pants up to 40â€ waist. Yep, 6 weeks of poor eating and no exercise will do that.
It took me about 6 months to get back to 34â€.
6 months sounds like a long time right? Well, itâ€™s about balance. I know myself well enough to know that if I launch into something at 110% (like a new fitness regime) then chances are Iâ€™ll have given up two weeks later. So, I set myself a reasonable goal, and worked at it a little each day.
I did need a little impetus to get things going so I set up a simple home gym in our garage (this was in February 2007). Itâ€™s just a weight bench, some dumbbells and an exercise bike. Yes, it cost about $1200 all up, so it needed to be a considered decision, but I figured that was about the same as an annual gym membership (and frankly I prefer the privacy of my own space). Incidentally, I broke the first exercise bike after a few months (note to self: donâ€™t buy cheap stuff), and Michele bought me a much better one for my birthday last year (Iâ€™ve only included the second bike in the $1200 figure).
Hereâ€™s a photo of my gym (you can see the broken bike in the background).
When I use this I always refer to it as â€˜going to the gymâ€™ â€“ it makes it more serious in my mind. Itâ€™s a mental thing I guess â€“ similar to if you have a home based business, books usually recommended that you refer to it as â€˜going to the officeâ€™. You (and others) will treat it with more respect.
In terms of my workout schedule I pseudo-follow the Body for Life method and try to exercise 4 times a week. 2 days are weights, 2 days are bike. 4 days a week might sound difficult, but it isnâ€™t that hard. For example, my weights workouts are 45 minutes long (no 2 hours sessions here), and my bike ride is 22 minutes. Yep, only 22 minutes.
(But to be clear, when Iâ€™m working out Iâ€™m giving it my all â€“ no meandering, half-hearted attempts or incomplete sets â€“ after a 22 minute ride Iâ€™m really sweating for example.)
As I said, itâ€™s about balance. So, while it would be nice to have an awesome bod that turned heads, that isnâ€™t my priority (I donâ€™t have the time). Rather, I just want to feel comfortable in my clothes. A schedule like this got me down from a 40â€ waist to 34â€ in 6 months. It also added some muscle, and improved my posture.
Music is of course crucial to any workout â€“ itâ€™d be interesting to see a Google Trend-like comparison of iPod uptake versus gym membership â€“ Iâ€™m guessing thereâ€™d be a close correlation.
So, like most people I listen to music, podcasts and audio books when working out. Yesterday for example it was Rihanna for bench pressing, Lamb of God for shoulders and Nightwish for arms. Today it was half a .NET Rocks episode for riding the bike.
I should also mention Iâ€™m in to karate â€“ generally once week. Karate is probably the most difficult to commit to since it requires travel to the Dojo and training goes for 90 minutes. Once a month I train twice a week. Coming up to a grading I might go a little nuts and train 4 times a week (eg when I was training for my black belt in 2006). Once a week is barely enough to stay at my current standard, and ideally Iâ€™d be training twice a week, every weekâ€¦
Karate certainly helps keep me fit (Iâ€™ve been training since 2000), but most of my time is concentrated on technique (as opposed to fighting â€“ after a few too many injuries in recent years Iâ€™ve really cut back on the sparring).
I am lucky
I suppose being tall is an advantage when it comes to staying lean, but the thing Iâ€™m most thankful for is a having a mindset that isnâ€™t focused on food. I generally eat to live, whereas many people (whether through upbringing or for pure enjoyment) tend to live to eat. This is fine of course, unless you lead a largely sedentary life (as most of us in IT do). Eating is fine, but if you â€˜aint burning it up then you generally find your pants getting a big snugger by the day.
Portion sizes and frequency
When I talk about eating badly, Iâ€™m not really talking about quality. No, Iâ€™m talking about quantity.
Part of the reason I put on so much weight in the US was due to the large portion sizes. The food was good quality, but there was just so much of it! And believe me it doesnâ€™t take long to form a habit of absent mindedly eating the whole plateful. Add in a lack of exercise and its easy to bulk up quick.
For the last year or so, Iâ€˜ve aimed to eat a number of snacks throughout the day (6 if possible). Thereâ€™s nothing worse than coming home from work absolutely starving and then chowing down a huge double-sized meal. I generally find that if Iâ€™m snacking regularly (and properly! ie an apple here, some nuts there, a yoghurt in the afternoon) Iâ€™m never really hungry. If I find myself really hungry I usually end up eating badly (hello chippies!).
More on balance
In closing, I hope this hasnâ€™t come across as a â€˜look how good and healthy I can beâ€™ kind of post. Rather its just a little diatribe about having some balance in my life to stay healthy. In the end thereâ€™s no secret â€“ just eat sensibly and exercise regularly.
After a month of personal health FAIL Iâ€™m reminding myself (again!) that it just takes a bit of common sense and discipline. With my jeans currently sitting on a snug 36â€ I reckon itâ€™ll take a month or two to get back to normal. Wish me luck.