My Fitness Adventure

(Above:  Isabelle and I circa 2001/Me 2017)

Anyone who knows me would be shocked to read this post.   Up until a few years ago, I was never interested in fitness.  Oh, I would occasionally control my eating, cut back on sweets or Coke (still my favorite drink), things like that, but I am a foodie, which makes cutting back on dinners out and desserts so difficult.

Exercise was anathema.  I hated (and still hate) going to the gym and admired joggers from a distance always thinking that there was a snowball’s chance in hell that would be me.  My peak weight just before my divorce began in 2009 was about 178 lbs. (I’m 5’ 7”).  I had a 35” waist size, 17” neck and wore either extra-large or large shirts.  I had no idea how heavy I was.

The end of my marriage was somewhat traumatic and I rapidly lost about 25 lbs.  The upside was that I learned what a difference 25 lbs. makes.  Waist size about 31, neck shrunk and I was down to medium and large shirts.  Unfortunately, while I somewhat watched what I ate, I still did not have a good diet and didn’t exercise.

By 2013, I was back up to the mid-160’s.  That’s when I met Teri.  She taught me how to eat well and enjoy it, so my diet changed significantly for the better.  We started to cook our own food on Sundays for the week ahead and developed a menu with both liked:

  • Broiled chicken with a particularly good spice mix I found online
  • Whole Foods rotisserie chicken (naked is delicious!)
  • Broccoli and/or asparagus for a main veggie (recently added Brussels sprouts into the rotation)
  • Steamed green beans for a snack
  • Fruit from a farmer’s market. We particularly enjoy the many varieties of pluots (plum-apricot hybrids) which are available in the Spring, Summer and Fall.

Other than the cooked food, I also snack on carrots, nuts and raisins (very limited) and a small amount of sweets (cookies or chocolate) after meals.

On weekends, we go out or bring in food once or twice (often sushi) and I try to use portion control to manage my intake.  Lunch on Sundays is usually egg white scramble with mushrooms, onions and left-over chicken.

In spite of my improved diet, however, my weight didn’t change much.  Depending on how I ate (curse you November and December!), I ranged from the lower- to upper-160’s.

So, late in 2013, at nearly 49 years old, I decided to <shudder> exercise.

There was no way I would keep up with going to a gym, so I had to design a routine that I could do at home.  I bought a doorframe-mounted pull-up bar and started with a basic set of exercises:

  • 5 chin-ups
  • 5 pull-ups
  • 10 push-ups
  • 20 sit-ups
  • 30 crunches
  • 30 bicycles

3-4 days/week, I did that routine 3 times with a 3 minute break between sets.  Over time, I was able to ramp up to 4 sets with 10 chin- and pull-ups, 20 push-ups, 40 sit-ups (20 to the sides and 20 straight) with a 2 minute break between.

It worked!  To a degree.  My weight dropped into the mid- to upper-150’s.  Unfortunately, in March, 2014, I somehow injured my left elbow.  Hurt to exercise, so I stopped and the weight came back on.  My elbow felt sufficiently recovered by the end of May, so I restarted the exercise and added daily walking to my routine.

By August, I was back where I was before the injury, but slowly over the rest of the year, in spite of my dedication to eating well and exercise, I returned to the low 160’s.  It was frustrating because I was working hard, increasing my walking and adding more repetitions to the exercises and continuing to cut down on sugar, but nothing moved the needle.  I assume I replaced some fat with muscle, but I couldn’t see it on my body.  I spent 2015 stuck, but I kept with it.

In February, 2016, I realized something had to change, so I went online and researched more exercises I could do at home.  I found a cross-fit exercise called a “man-maker” or “Spartan maker (scroll about half-way down the page).”  Looked simple enough.  I decided to replace the push-ups, crunches and bicycles with the Spartan makers.  You’ll notice that the website indicates 5 reps.  “Ha!” I thought.  I was replacing 80 crunches, bicycles and push-ups.  I was confident I could do way more.  I bought 5 lb. dumbbells and tried it out.  I barely made it through 5.  In fact, I could only do them 2 out of the 4 sets.  They are much harder than they look.  Within a week, I was able to add them to all 4 sets, but even now I only do 6/set.

It worked!  The weight melted off.  Within a couple of months, I had surpassed my 155 goal and was rapidly heading into the 140’s.  By, August, I was in the low 140’s!  Waist size 29, small or medium shirts and a 15” neck size.  Probably my slimmest since before college.  Woo hoo!

I have plateaued in the low-mid 140’s, but this time the muscle development is visible, so I’m satisfied.

I have found that I need to regularly increase my exercise in order to maintain my weight and muscle.  My morning walks progressed to where I added several hundred stairs and am now actually jogging.  I used to walk about 2 miles, but now I run a little over 3 miles and do more than a half-mile of stairs (if I run where there are no stairs, I go at least 4 miles).  The exercise routine is about the same, but I replaced the plank with a medicine ball exercise called the rock and roll up.

There are definitely times I want to skip or shorten a routine/jog, but I am doing my best to keep it up.  My biggest motivator is when the numbers on the scale begin to inch up, though a close second is the Apple Watch.  I am determined to close those rings as many days/week as possible!

My current routine:

  • 5-6 days/week: Run/walk 3 miles
    • On Universal Lot: Run 3.0 miles, Walk .3 miles, Stairs .5 miles
    • Home Neighborhood: Run 3.8 miles, Walk .3 miles
  • 3 days/week: 4 sets, 1.5 minutes of rest between
    • 12 wide grip pull-ups
    • 6 Spartan-makers (12 lb. dumbbells)
    • 12 chin-ups
    • 12 rock & roll-ups
    • 12 regular pull-ups
    • 40 sit-ups
    • 12 neutral grip pull ups