Alternate Title- It’s a Strange World or: How I Learned to Stop Griping and Love the Treadmill
Hey everyone, this is something really different from the usual today. I’ve thought about writing something like this for a little while but I’ve always put it off. Mainly because I didn’t want to come off as some kind of expert who knows what the hell they’re doing (I don’t, really), like I’m proselytizing (I’m not), or that I’m bragging (again, not). I just wanted to write the kind of advice that I myself could’ve used when I started this whole thing: something from a normal person who’s just trying to get in better shape and is honest about the process. So bear with me as I try to muddle through.
Okay, quick background on the whole thing. Back in May of this year I was feeling like crap. I was tired, my feet and knees would ache after being at work (I’m on my feet all day), and I wasn’t sleeping well. I happened to put a new battery in our bathroom scale and stepped on it for the first time in a long time. It said 222 lbs (about 100 kg). I suppose that’s not a huge number, and I’d never been overly obsessed with my weight, but for some reason, it got to me and I told myself that between the number on the scale and how I felt, it was time to do something. For me, personally, it was time for a change. So I started walking. Just going out in the evening, first around the block and progressively further. By the time I’d plateaued on the outside walking, I was doing almost 5kms (almost 3 miles) a day. I was literally doing a loop around the entire length of our town. It was around back to school and getting dark earlier so it was a great time to switch to the gym.
This is what I’ve observed in the time between that day in May and today:
It’s Really Freakin’ Hard
I suppose this should be a no-brainer, but it really is tough. I was not in good shape, and I can admit that. I can also admit the reasons why, some are my fault, some are out of my control. I can’t stop the Hashimoto’s that completely effs up my thyroid function, but I’ve got a great doctor now that keeps a close eye on it and adjusts my meds accordingly. I have other meds that cause weigh gain as a side effect, but the alternative is not being functional, so there’s only so much I can do on that aspect. I don’t want to get super ‘too much information’ on you all, but I feel like I have to explain where I started from. There were definite things I were absolutely my fault though, like diet things, but I’ll touch on that more later.
When I first started walking, I didn’t have an overly long route. It was around the block. Granted, given the layout of the street behind us, that’s longer than it sounds, but it wasn’t a long way. And it wasn’t a leisurely walk either (though it would be to me now, I think). And it was hard. I was like ‘I’m gonna die, right here’, griping to myself as I walked. And that first bit is the hardest, probably the first month to six weeks sucks until you really get into the routine. Honestly, I was a sweaty, wheezy mess at the start. But you’re doing it! You just have to get over that first hump of suckiness!
Take it Slow, But Don’t Get Too Comfortable, Either
Like I said above, I started by simply going for a walk outside. That’s absolutely it. And that’s fine, you don’t have to rush into things. In fact, I highly recommend you don’t. I did this when I started at the gym. Like I said above, I’d plateaued on my outside walks and needs to up things. My first three times at the gym, I upped things alright. Way too much. Made myself actually sick (protip: at the gym, drink water in small amounts at a time. Chugging will make you feel sick) and managed to pull a muscle in my arm. Don’t do that. I was dumb because I suddenly had all these fun machines and weights and stuff to play with, but you need to pace yourself.
By that same token, you shouldn’t be too comfortable, either. You have to push yourself, just not overdo it, if that makes sense. When I was walking outside, one metric of how well things were going was how hot my feet would feel (summer on the prairies!) from how quickly I was walking. You should feel it, but not to the point you hurt yourself. If you’re not feeling it, you need to go up to the next level. Now I do a treadmill program where I alternate between very fast with a lower incline and a bit slower with a much higher incline. As I need to, I increase either speed or incline to make myself work harder. But if you feel like whatever you’re doing is too much, it’s fine to bring it down a little, even if just for that day! Don’t pull a muscle or be doubled over with a cramp just to hit that level, even if you did the day before. I’ve done it, and it sucks, and I’ve cut short entire gym sessions for it. I don’t recommend it.
You Won’t Get the Kind of Results Magazine Covers Like to Claim
You ever see those crappy magazines, mainly aimed at women, with ‘Lose 14 pounds and 3 Dress Sizes in 7 Days!” splashed on the cover?
Yeah, in reality it doesn’t really work like that. It depends on several factors, not the least of which is you and your own personal body makeup. I mean, your mileage may vary and maybe you will have lost 3 dress sizes by the time you’ve lost 14 pounds, but I sure as hell hadn’t. I have lost ‘dress sizes’, but I don’t know how many, mainly owing to women’s clothing being really weird with sizing. But I do notice when I put something on and realize that it’s a lot looser-fitting than it used to be. For example, the jeans I bought for my X-23 costume that were almost too tight then are now almost too loose. It’s not gonna be overnight, at least if you want it to last. It’s like the adage ‘there’s good, cheap, and fast. You can pick two’.
Get Yourself a Good Playlist and Good Shoes
This is something I cannot stress enough. I wore out a pair of shoes by wearing them both to work and to walk and ended up with the mother of all blisters for it. Get a pair of dedicated workout shoes, and make sure they’re comfortable. As someone who spends all day on their feet, I appreciate comfortable shoes.
The second thing is have a good playlist to exercise to. Get whatever fires you up and blast that while you work out. Tastes vary, but mine is full of Sabaton, Judas Priest, Iced Earth, Rammstein, Disturbed, etc. (a lot of people at the gym I go to listen to a lot of rap). It makes such a difference when you’ve got something to get your blood flowing, and helps with the lack of scenery if you’re at the gym staring at a wall or out a window. Some gyms have TVs and stuff, and if that works for you, then go for it, but I still strongly recommend a good set of music. There’s just something about it you can’t get from watching TV.
You Don’t Have to be Competitive With Anyone But Yourself
This was actually my husband’s suggestion, and I like it for two reasons (one of which he probably wasn’t thinking of, even).
First, if you’re like us and you’re un-athletic nerds who hated gym class, there’s good news! You don’t have to compete with, compare with, or even really talk to anyone else if you don’t want to! Weights? Unless you’re doing something with a spotter, solo. Machines? Solo. Treadmill/elliptical? Super solo. It doesn’t have to be sports, it just has to be physical activity. I hate running, which sounds silly considering how much cardio I do, so I don’t.
The second side to competing is that you don’t have to compete with anyone else as far as your progress goes. I had a least a month head start on the husband before he started working out as well, but we aren’t competing. We compare notes and discuss how much/what we did that day, but it’s not to see who did ‘better’. I’ve lost more weight, owing to my head-start, but he probably loses it easier than me who has to fight for every milestone. It’s a mutual support, but not a contest. Your progress is yours, and don’t worry about anyone else.
Diet, Man. Diet Is Important
I guess this kind of goes without saying, but this plays back into the things you can control. I was eating too much junk, to start with. Chips are my bane, and bread. But more importantly, I was eating too much. My portions were totally out of whack. I was still eating like I had when I was younger, when I was a farm kid who did lots of physical work, but now out of habit. I actually started reading the nutrition information to see how much a serving actually was. I’m now one of those people that always checks when I’m buying things. We were already trying to make sure we were eating more fruits and vegetables, and then I began to incorporate eating better portions. And let me tell you, going down to proper portions also sucks. For the first little while, I got quite hungry, as I was used to eating so much more at a time. But you adjust, and now I don’t think I could actually eat that much in one go. But you do have to eat, just smartly.
The other thing with diet is a really important one. My philosophy is ‘moderate, not eliminate’. Because if I can’t have a piece of my kid’s birthday cake, or a glass of wine, or whatever, then this is no kind of diet I want to be on. The idea is to be sensible. Also to stop snacking between meals, because that was something I was really bad for. Drink water, eat sensibly. It’s as simple and as hard as that, and really the best way to do it.
Keep Your Eye on the Scale, But the Scale Isn’t Everything
I weigh myself a lot. I do it to keep myself accountable. But it isn’t everything. For that first really crappy month to six weeks, I lost approximately no weight, even though I was working my butt off. Why? Because I wasn’t just burning fat, I was building muscle. If I get real hard into weights, the same thing might happen. And not only that, it’s not a nice smooth line from one end of a graph to the other. It’s more like a seismograph. Things go up, they go down. What time of day, how much you’ve eaten, even what you’re wearing (or not) while change the number on the scale. Don’t sweat it if you go up a little after indulging a bit, just keep working toward your goal. You gotta live too, and there’s no point in beating yourself up over it. Keep sticking to your routine, and it’ll even out again. This is a marathon, not a sprint.
It’s Gets Better, and You Can Do It!
It really does. You get to the point where you notice a change in yourself. I myself have more energy, I generally sleep better, and those sore knees are gone. And best of all, you’ll get to the point where you’ll feel really good after a workout. Your body will get all those happy chemicals going and you’ll still be tired and sweaty, but you’ll feel awesome. And you’ll want to do it, to get that feeling and because you’ve formed the habit of doing so.
I know how hard it is to start. If you’d told me on my birthday in January that I’d be not only doing this, but writing about it, I’d have laughed in your face. But here I am. I’ve lost about 30 pounds so far, which I once believed to be absolutely impossible. I haven’t seen numbers like this on the scale since before I got pregnant (the first time). And I’m not stopping just yet! I have a final goal in mind of where I’d like to be ideally, but I’m a ways away. So I’ll just keep on, ever onward!
Well, I hoped you liked this rather long post. I’ve never written something like this, but like I said, I really wanted to write the kind of thing I could’ve used myself. No matter where you are on your journey through this whole exercise/healthiness business, I respect the hell out of you. You’re doing great, and you’ve got this!