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Quest for 50 – The Battle for Personal Health

Weight controlThree years ago, I started my Quest for 50. I had it in my head then that I needed to lose 50 pounds to be considered healthy. I also had been two months past shoulder surgery and thought the time for excuses was over.

Naturally, it took me another year to start getting serious about it.

About a year and a half ago, I joined a gym and even went one step further and signed up with a personal trainer for one training session per week. While I can’t say my progress has been perfect, at least I can say there’s been a good chunk of progress. Here’s an update (with changes in parentheses) before I talk about the battle:

  • Weight: 236 (-14 since start, -11 since first weigh-in with trainer)
  • %Body Fat: 22% (-3.2%)
  • Arms: 14.25″ (+.75″)
  • Waist: 43″ (-.50″)
  • Hips: 45.875″ (-1.125″)
  • Quads: 24″ (+1.5″)
  • Squats: 6 reps at 285 lbs (+240 lbs since first training session – 1-rep max likely 330 lbs)
  • Leg Press: 10 reps at 585 lbs (+405 lbs – 1-rep max likely 705 lbs)
  • Deadlift: 185 lbs (+130 lbs – herniated disk in back last time I did them this heavy, so avoiding heavy deadlifts)
  • Shoulder Press: 140 lbs (+50 lbs)
  • Bench Press: 155 lbs (+70 lbs)

My lower body numbers have increased much more for two reason: 1) lower body strength increases much faster than upper body in terms of weight, and 2) I started coming off of shoulder surgery, ended up having wrist surgery 11 months ago, and have been battling carpal tunnel for the past six months. Lifting heavy with no grip in one hand just doesn’t work.

Anyway, I’m pleased with the progress, especially since I usually only make it to the gym 2 days a week. I’ve gained inches in the right spots, and lost inches in the right spots. And as I wrote at the beginning of the Quest, my reasoning for once again telling you all about this is twofold:

  1. By chronicling the journey here, it’s a mechanism to keep me honest.
  2. I need all the support I can get to get through this.

Here are a few lessons I’ve learned in the past 16 months since getting much more serious about my health:

Skin in the game is crucial to success

I didn’t just join a gym; I also signed up for personal training. The added cost alone forces me to make a more dedicated commitment to exercise. Sure, I could only work out that one time a week with the trainer (and some weeks, that is the truth), but what would I get out of it in the end? Certainly not the results I’m seeing now.

Having skin in the game forces you to commit, take the process more seriously, and develop the discipline you need to make exercise become a habit.

The first six months are the worst – You’re going to hurt.

I think the first six months are the hardest part about establishing the workout routine. Your body isn’t ready for it, and you’re going to hurt–especially if you’re doing strength training.

But, if you power through it and get the discipline and routine, you hit the point I’m at now: That point where when you DON’T work out, you start to feel weird, almost anxious. If I don’t get at least one workout in a week, I almost get twitchy. (Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about two-hour workouts, I’m talking 30-45 minutes, twice a week.)

That said…

It gets better but only gets tougher.

I have a huge stack of sheets of workouts from my first year with my trainer. In the beginning, the weight was lower, the reps were the same, but I only had a set or two of each exercise. Now, I do at least three sets of everything, and the weight is almost always higher.

This is not a bad thing. Your routine needs to be mixed up to keep your body from adjusting and plateauing.

You will be humbled and you won’t always have “it” for every workout.

There are some workouts where I could lift just about any weight thrown at me (within reason), be done with my training session, and feel like I could keep going for another session. Then there are those times where you just don’t have it, and you do a lighter workout and it kicks your ass. And, there are exercises you do where 5-lb dumbbells have you nearly falling over from exhaustion. (No, I’m not kidding. Anything that goes away from your body that’s not a press takes a ton out of you.)

Lastly, it’s important to be realistic about your progress and persevere.

Over the past three years, I’ve dealt with:

  • Shoulder surgery–the shoulder took a full two years to feel normal
  • Wrist surgery to repair a torn ligament (still not 100% and may never be)
  • Carpal tunnel in the same wrist as the torn ligament (for which I’ll be having surgery done in a month)
  • 10 months of seemingly constant illness due to allergies and horrible “inversion”  here in the SLC area (read: pollution)

I have a list of reasons to hang up the cleats and not work out. But I stick with it because it’s one of the few things that actually helps me overcome (and at least deal with) the above list. I also know that these ailments may slow down my progress, and that’s okay.

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What are your lessons for starting and/or maintaining a workout routine?

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