Apparently, we age.
I know, its not exactly a revelation, unless you are among those who suddenly woke up on any given year and realized, this is the year I turn 40. Huh.
For most of us, our youth stays close enough in the rear view mirror to still recall, the experiences my kids were having in high school felt like mine, but with new faces. Surely I wasn't aging like everyone else.
The Calendar said otherwise, as did my body. Aches and pains became more frequent, injuries would linger, and sometimes getting out of bed yielded fascinating injuries, (Yes I pulled a muscle in my neck and walked about in the fetal position for the better part of 2 days) and being peckish late at night had waistline consequences.
Add to the general aging experience the fact that i changed careers in 2015. I went from a relatively active profession where I was up and moving, even running at times, to sitting and negotiating with computers to do the things I'd like them to do. From 2015 to early 2016 I managed to get into the worst shape of my life, weighing in at a lifetime high of 181 lbs, which for someone who is 5'7" tall, was a lot.
In Feb 2017 I started training for the Broad Street Run in Philadelphia . My wife had made me promise I would run it with her in the year before and I had about 3 months and change to get ready. How hard could that be?
One day during my training I ran 4 miles, the longest I had ever run in my entire life in one setting. I didn't set a land speed record, but I was so proud I posted it on Facebook, to which one of my friends asked "What was chasing you?" My response -- "Forty."
In May of 2017 I ran, and survived, my first race, successfully completing the Broad Street Run. Not only did I finish, but I finished far better than I thought, having run much more of the race than I anticipated after expecting to run/walk much of it. I was no Usain Bolt, but I survived and that kick started a life change I didn't see coming.
Initially, I approached training like cramming for a test. Get enough endurance to not die, then I'd be done. But after surviving the race, I not only felt accomplished, but I also didn't want to fall back into the place I had been, where running a mile felt like everything hurt and I was definitely dying.
In addition to losing my abject destain for running, I began losing weight. From Feb 2017 - May 2017 I only dropped about 5 lbs, not a ton but improvement. So around June 2017 I started strength training in addition to my running and made an ambitious goal:
I wanted to be in the best shape of my life by the time I turned 40 in March of 2018.
From June 2017 - October 2017 I dropped from 176 lbs to 164 lbs, increased my running endurance and started turning my mush into muscle.
My theory has become that if age wants to catch me, I'm gonna make it work. So In 2018 I decided to bump things up a notch.
I'm no expert. I'm not a fitness guru with decades of training. I'm not a personal trainer and I'm not out to become some instagram model with 5% body fat. I'm a guy managing a job, a home a family and a dog who decided I wanted to get in better shape and maintain a higher degree of fitness than I previously had.
I read, I try things, I know what works for my body and what does not. I listen to my body, I make sure I don't hurt it and I watch what I put in it. I think this lesson comes to people at different points in their lives. But we can't just pick up and go for it, my journey to this point has been a bit tedious, but it worked for me and there were a handful of things that I did to make it more manageable:
- Take progress one step at a time. If you do 15 reps one week, try 16 the next, or increase the weight a touch and do 10.
- Take care of yourself physically. Don't do the sexy exercises if it hurts. Take a day or two off to rest. Be kind to yourself, especially when starting out.
- Be flexible. For me this was huge. Once I abandoned the idea of having to work out at the same time every day it freed me up and killed the excuse of "I didn't wake up early enough to workout today."
- Make time for it. If you don't make it a priority, no one else will. It's hard when you are busy but well worth it for both body and mind.
- Get a device. I'm a tech/data nerd so collecting data on myself became as interesting as working out.
- Be patient. Some days will be shit workout days. Other days you'll fell like Jason Moama. Embrace it, it's part of the fun.
Getting in shape is a very personal journey. Find your reasons for doing it and then find what works for you. Celebrate little victories and keep at it. It's fun to look back on your progress. It's a journey worth taking.