Ready to hit the gym? One recovering chunky monkey’s take on a healthy journey

I usually stick to the pop culture on my blog, but as I prepare for the annual flocks of New Year’s resolutioners who will be seeping into and filling the gyms I work out at, I thought I’d offer my two-cents worth regarding how to get fit.

My wife and I hit the gym in 2004, a few months after the birth of our second child. My wife was mostly hoping to shed baby weight. Me, I was just unhealthy. I was getting the evil eye from the nurse any time I had my blood pressure checked. Sleep apnea was becoming an issue. None of my jeans fit right, and I could barely wrap a towel around my waist anymore. It was time to do something.

That was 10 years ago, and I’m still on the workout train. I go to the gym 4-5 times a week, always getting my cardio, frequently hitting the weights. I’ve participated in a few Warrior Dashes and long bike rides. I bike to work when the weather is favorable, and all of my fat-boy health issues disappeared years ago.

How did I do it? Here’s some free advice from me to you:

1) Don’t get on a goddamn scale. When I first started, I didn’t get on a scale for six months, not once. I noticed my clothes fit better, I knew I was feeling better, but I resisted. I was afraid of getting satisfied, or maybe that I hadn’t even lost that much weight and would be disappointed. I think too many people get fixated on weight when what they should be fixated on first is feeling better and being healthier. Get used to your regimen, get comfortable with it, find out what works for you. If you worry about the weight later, you won’t have to worry about the weight. It will take care of itself.

2) Start slow. For the first six months, other than riding my bike to work, I would just work out three days a week, pretty much all cardio. After finally stepping on the scale and seeing what this did for me, I upped the stakes. I started working out four days a week, lifting weights and changed my processed-food heavy diet. I think too many people want to jump in and bust ass 24-7 to start, and burn themselves out, get hurt or just end up frustrated. Find a groove. Once you do, then it may be time to up your game. Which brings me to …

3) Challenge yourself. I’m not saying every day you need to push to the next level or do something nuts like run a double marathon. Find something that interests you, and set that as a goal. For me, that’s what my Warrior Dash performances were, a test of my physical fitness. For my 40th birthday, I set a goal of doing 40 chin-ups. I hit that in the weeks leading up to my birthday, so I decided to toss in 40 dips for good measure. I don’t mind the grind, but I think a lot of people get bored. Setting goals should help.

4) Don’t be intimidated. No one is looking at you in the gym. No one cares how heavy or out of shape you are. All those crazy-looking machines? Just watch other people do them, and you’ll know what’s going on. Those knuckleheads dead lifting 300 lbs. and dropping it loudly on the floor? They don’t care about you. The blonde who looks like she eats three peanuts and a sprig of parsley before heading out to rip off 500 crunches before her daily half marathon? You’re not on her radar. Even if those people are watching or talking about you, why do you care? Put on your headphones, and get to work. The gym is not another dimension or something to be feared. It’s just a place where you get out what you put into it. That said …

5) Don’t be a moron. You know what pisses me off to no end? Two people sitting on machines or weight benches talking to each other, but doing absolutely nothing. You want to talk, it’s called a coffee shop. Or a bar. You want to work out, come to the gym. You really want to anger your fellow workout junkies, then sit on the machines or benches moving nothing but your mouth. Taking this in another direction, I myself got carried away. I mentioned earlier that after months of avoiding the scale, I started working out harder and eating better. That wasn’t without its perils. I’d do a two-hour workout, eating nothing beforehand, then following it up by eating two pieces of toast and a salad. After a few weeks of that, I almost passed out at work. I righted the ship and got smarter, but I could have really hurt myself. There’s more than one way to be a moron. So don’t be.

That’s it. Not exactly rocket science, is it? That said, if something feels wrong or hurts or whatever, cut it out and go see a doctor. Injuries obviously aren’t good for you and could end up being a barrier to a healthy lifestyle down the road.

Other than that, just keep it at it. You’ll be happier and healthier because of it. I am.

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