Monday, March 4, 2013

On Fitness and Complacency, Part I

I think I've figured out how to measure when I'm back to regular writing: when I stop apologizing for my output at the beginning of each post, it probably means I feel like I'm back.  So . . . . I apologize for my output, or lack thereof. I do have things to write about; what I don't have is the extra time and energy.  I'd like to write about at least ten things in my life right now, but I've let them pile up so much that I'm not sure where to start. Luckily, I know how to proceed when I have a big pile of projects and don't know where to start: just wade in and grab something that looks important or interesting.

So today I want to update both my readers on my fight to get fit and talk a little about what has paid off for me and what hasn't. Obviously nothing I say here is guaranteed to work for you the way it worked for me, but after all, it did work for me.

Got any data?

I'm glad you asked, subheading.  On July 1st, 2012, I weighed 369.5 pounds.  I was wearing size 4XL shirts and pants with 48-and-50-inch waists (the 48s had gotten awful tight, but I could wear them.)  I had a nagging injury to my left knee that was driving me crazy, and my right knee wasn't exactly reliable.  My right hip wasn't great, either, and neither were either of my shoulders. I was a wreck.  Despite my joint injuries and weight, I'd been "working out" at my local 24-hour gym for about two years, mostly by spending 30-60 minutes on elliptical trainers four times per week.  Last February, I decided to see whether I could finish the "Fight for Air Climb," a race up 32 flights of stairs to the top of our tallest local building.  I was able to finish by taking numerous breaks for rest and water; it took me 10 minutes and 53 seconds.  There were people who did it more slowly, but not many.

Today, I weigh 297 pounds.  I wear size 2XL shirts and recently bought a pair of pants in a 44-inch waist, which are big enough that I've just ordered a size 42 in the same pants to see how they fit.  Yesterday, I went shopping for a size 2XL coat, but found that the best fit was an XL.  I can literally button up my old jacket and wear it over my new coat.  My knees still aren't perfect, but I no longer need to wear a knee brace.  My workouts are now balanced between three sessions per week at HIPE Fitness under the watchful eye of Wayne Carrels and calisthenics, yoga, stretching and cardio training at home daily.  This year, I decided to try the Fight for Air Climb again.  I set a personal goal: I would try to make the climb without stopping and try to beat 10 minutes flat.  I did climb without stopping, and I finished in 6:07, which put me just barely in the top 50% of finishers.

Complacency, or:
"No, man, you did it. If you don't lose one more pound, you look perfect. You did it."

I'm glad you asked that, too. See, I've lost weight before.  I've been determined to get fit before, too.  I've never made it last, and I have to wonder why. I think the greatest danger is complacency.  I'm used to thinking of myself as an enormously fat man.  In fact, I'm accustomed to morbid obesity.  In my old body, simply finishing a long stair climb or a long cycling event was a "moral victory."  No, I wasn't competitive nor really even fit enough to enjoy myself, but I could claim bragging rights just by finishing. The last time I was close to this weight was over five years ago, and then as now, I had allowed my weight to balloon up and then made a determined dash to lose it.  I lost about 100 pounds in about a year, but a few years later I'd gained at least 80 of it back.  Why? Well, looking back, I remember thinking it was time to ease up and "enjoy life" a little.  Time to have a couple of Oreos every now and then.  Time to give up that crazy fad low-carb diet and go back to a sensible, balanced diet with fruit and bread and such, especially now that I'd lost so much weight that cycling was easier.  I'd lose the rest by becoming a cycling madman.

Of course, I didn't.  I left the lifestyle that was working for me, and I let sugar and starch back into my diet.  That led to cravings for more, and I gave in.  Eventually I was bingeing on cookies, cake, pie, ice cream . . . then baking bread at home and eating entire loaves, piece by piece.  But why would anyone do that? I think it was more than a failure of will.  I think I decided at some point that I'd gone as far as I could reasonably be expected to go.  I'd done so well!  When I reached 290 pounds, I'd won another one of those "moral victories."  And, as I had during my entire sprint to lose weight, I gave myself the foods that had ruined my health as rewards when I felt that I'd done enough to save my health.  Hit a weight loss goal?  That calls for a cheat meal at the pizza place!  Finish a metric century ride (100km/43miles)?  CAKE!  

That quote up there in the subheading is real. A coworker said it to me at lunch on Friday with the absolute best of intentions.  He wanted to encourage me and support me, but he made me think. I don't want the feeling that I've done enough, that 297 pounds--just this side of morbid obesity--is "pretty good" or "good enough" for me.  I want to feel like I can do better.  After all, at 297 pounds I still can't go skydiving.  I still can't ride the Grafton Ziplines.  I still can't buy term life insurance--at ANY price--despite my non-smoking, non-drinking, perfect health bona fides. I can finish a competitive stair climb, but I can't be competitive. I do finally come in under the advertised maximum weight limits for my attic ladder and the safety harness for my deer stand, so I've got that going for me, but somehow it's not enough.  And why should it be enough?  Why shouldn't I decide that now I can be a 200-pound athlete who's capable of learning any sport or hobby I choose whenever I choose?

So, today, I'm on guard against complacency. It's all around me, and it's always hungry. My relatives are proud of me and they want to support me, but they want to talk about how great the progress is. To them, it would be rude to talk about how far I still have to go.    Working out with very fit people at HIPE helps me with that. They compliment me on my progress, but I see them enjoying life in ways that I still can't. They have something I want.  My eventual goal is to end up lighter than 220 pounds so that I can make my first skydive; it occurs to me sometimes that many of the people around me in the gym could simply decide today, on a whim, that they'd like to try skydiving, call around, and be in a plane tomorrow working up the nerve.  The real difference in fitness between them and me isn't how they look, it's the fact that their bodies don't hold them back.  If there's something they want to do, but it calls for strength, agility, balance, flexibility and stability . . . they just go out and do it.  That's what I want.  I want to be fit enough to be up for anything and ready to try the next adventure.

1 comment:

Golfjopa said...

I just found your blog. Your story sounds like my story except I'm behind. I've long of myself as a fat man. I weigh about 400 right now, my left knee hurts, I can't barely do anything I could do in my 20's. I was walking for an hour about three times a week until I broke my ankle about three months ago and i am just now ready to get back to the walking, but walking wasn't helping me to lose much weight. You and about 30 other things I've read are all saying the same thing - give up carbs and sugar. That is my next goal, to train myself to avoid carbs and sugars. Thanks for your inspiration. Oh, and I've added you to my bookmarks so I'll be checking back on you occasionally. Good luck.