Zen & The Art of Working Out

A year ago, if you asked me what my level of physical exercise was on a scale of 1 to 10, it would register around a 2. I was a healthly 174 pounds, with roughly 16-19 of those pounds being “extra Greg.” My lifestyle just did not incorporate exercise into the mix. I had been a smoker for many years, and quit back in May of 05. This was a big reason that I was very inactive. I never could imagine exercising, or doing anything healthy while being a smoker. In addition, it goes without saying that too much of my time is spent behind the monitor. Of course, knowing that I should be getting some kind of exercise, I would try to justify to myself that walking to work now and then (a whopping 20-25 min), or riding my bike to work (a whopping 7 min) somehow classified as exercise, but certainly not a work out (translation = sweating). You can only kid yourself for so long.

At 174 pounds, I was beginning to make the push towards being unhealthy weight wise. I know that doesnt sound like a lot of weight to most people, but for my frame and build I am best suited to be weighing in around 155. Lean and mean. So at some point last year I decided that no matter what, I wouldn’t be hitting the 175-180 range.

It wasn’t until September of last year when I actually joined my gym. This is a big step for anyone who hasn’t had physical fitness, exercise or athletics in their lives on a regular basis. It’s the first hump you get over, the initial “Just Do It” that many of us struggle to accomplish. Plus if your not a “gym person” like me, it makes this step even harder. Personally, I’ve never been a fan of going to the gym, so I had to force myself to go in with a renewed perspective of “Ok, I know I have to incorporate exercise into my life somehow, so I am open to this.”

I do however have an advantage to making this work for me. Due to the fact that my gym is located two floors below my office, it simply doesn’t get any easier than this to fit exercise into your lifestyle. I go to work, work the day, change, then walk downstairs and work out. No extra trip required (translation = time saver). I started hitting the gym last fall, and when I began I had absolutely no clue what I was doing. I didn’t consult a personal trainer, or come up with a work out plan, I just showed up (which is the second half of the challenge). I was not in the workout flow in any way shape or form.

Here was my approach. I knew cardio was important, so I got on the treadmill and started walking. I also started using the nautilus equipment, doing crunches, and lifting dumbells. I did this in no particular order, and without any kind of consistency. Then I started running (jogging really) on the treadmill and getting into it a bit. After 2-3 months of this, I hadn’t lost one pound. Frusterating. Sure my arms bulked up a bit, but I wasn’t trying to bulk up I was trying to slim down. So I started to drop all of the lifting and began to run on the treadmill. What was interesting for me was that I was actually starting to enjoy it. I dug the burn, the sweat, the workout. Just as I was getting into it, I decided to go two days in a row (which is a really good sign), running 6 miles each day. Well after the second day my right knee was shot. Again, frusterating. After almost 3 months I had achieved no weight loss and a blown knee, I hadn’t even conditioned myself to the point where I could run 12 miles in 2 days without injuring myself. I was doing it all wrong.

One month later, we are now talking January of 2006, I am over the knee injury and decide its time to go back to the gym and get back in the groove (or find a groove I should say). This time the approach came as a result of a lunch conversation with a friend who tells me she has had great success keeping fit by doing the following workout: 20 minutes on the sit down exercise bike, 20 minues on the elliptical machine, and 20 minutes on the treadmill. A cardio burn for an hour, rotating machines to work different parts of the body. Figuring I will give a variation of that workout a try, I returned to the gym.

Here is how I roll now: stretch, sit down exercise bike for 20 minutes, then jump on the elliptical for 20 minutes, both machines on the “random” setting for varying degrees of difficulty, and at levels 13-15. From there its a 5 minute walk on the treadmill to cool down, some stretching, then I am out. This is much more my speed, I roll in, have my routine, and I don’t feel like I am going to hurt myself.

Now the good part. Doing only that routine since January, and without any major dietary changes, I have lost 10 pounds. I am now weighing in around 162-163 and have since found somewhat of a mental zen in working out. Some days I iPod it, but most days I simply think while working out. It’s amazing how your mind can work when your blood is pumping and your lungs are flowing oxygen through your body at accelerated rates. I have another 7-8 pounds to shed at this rate, and then I will incorporate some strength training into the mix and modify my workout.

I try to hit the gym 4 times a week if possible and my total workout time is roughly 45 minutes. Call it an hour of my day. Aside from losing the weight, I feel healthier and the gym has become a great source of stress relief. I actually catch myself looking forward to it sometimes, which again if you asked me last year at this time if I wanted to work out, I would have laughed at you. The concept was foreign.

The classic challenge of course with working out is to first keep at it, and secondly do do it in a balanced way. Right now I feel like I am taking full advantage of my gym membership, and my convenience level is far too high to allow for any excuses not to be working out on a regular basis. So, to all of you who are working out and trying to get or stay fit, I hope you all find your own mental zen and keep at it.

Tags: gym, workingout, exercise, sweating, health, fitness, diet

4 Responses to “Zen & The Art of Working Out”

  1. Jason J. Thomas Says:

    Speaking as someone who dropped a lot of weight, one notices that you actually lose in bunches. I lost in about 20 pound chunks. I have reached my stable weight–granted I would love to lose between 5-10 pounds. I have found that I would really have to alter my diet or work-out twice a day. I like alcohol too much for the former, and I like goofing off as far as the latter is concerned.

    Good work, though. It is quite rewarding to know you have done this yourself.

  2. Greg Says:

    Thanks Jason. I do enjoy alcohol myself and have to keep that in moderation (to the best of my ability) to be able to get down to to 155 :-) Brewers Art doesn’t help at all :-) Thanks again.


  3. Shannon Says:

    thnank you for you thoughts on exercising…I just recently started really working out in January of this year and it has been really hard to get into a routine of working out 4-5 days a week…I can tell a little bit of a difference but like you alcohol does not help….I have a weakness for wine…but I was trying to figure out how to loose weight and not bulk up and I think that you gave me a good idea with the exercise bike and the tredmill…good luck

  4. Greg Says:

    Hi Shannon - thanks for the note. I hope it helps, although the more I excersize now the more I really see the reality of losing weight really comes down to caloric intake vs what you burn. I still havent gotten past the 10 pound mark. Of course I just got back from a vacation where I didnt exactly stick to any kind of healthy diet. That said, the excersize routine is great, its healthy and it definitely will assist in losing the weight. I am going 3-4 times a week still. Now though to hit my ideal weight of 155-158 I am going to have to watch the alcohol intake and diet a bit closer.

    Good luck with everything!

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