On Working Out

Editor’s note:  I’ve been mentioning to other bloggers in comments for months that I really wanted to write a post about working out.  Having a regular fitness routine is all pretty new to me, and  I wanted to write a post on the topic, but I could never quite get around to it.  Seeing very interesting writing from my bloggy friends, such as Charlotte’s “Gymming For Noobs” post kicked me out of idle and I finally started to write it.

I very nearly called this post “A Weighty Topic,” but then I realized that the last two posts on this blog have titles in the “an adjective noun” format.  I could not in good conscience use another title in that format.  Onward!

For years, I’ve felt like I needed to be working out regularly.  I wore the same sized jeans since high school, but once I hit my mid-thirties, I became physically phht. Once my waistline started expanding, I knew it was time.  A few years back, I even signed up for a membership to a national chain of gyms, because they opened a facility next to my office and I thought the convenience would make me go more often.

I went twice.  In a year.  I thought I had the motivation, but I was very, very wrong.

When I moved to Germany, I didn’t have a car.  I was on foot much of the time, using a bus to get to work and trains for longer distances.  Sometimes I’d be in the car of a friend, but for most of my day-to-day living, I was walking.  My apartment was upstairs and the elevator in my building on Hemauerstraße was incredibly slow, so I had stairs every day.   After a while, I got curious about just how much I was walking, so I purchased my first Fitbit.

It turns out I was walking a lot more than I thought, despite the desk job.  On one day in Budapest in 2014, I walked more than 20,000 steps.  On one trip to London, I walked more than 100,000 steps in under a week.   This is exciting, I thought!  I’m actually exercising, but without any real effort-  I’m just going where I wanted to go anyway.

In late 2014, I moved back to the US.  The desk job is basically the same here as it was there, except my Coke and Oreo consumption has decreased dramatically because of all the high fructose corn syrup used here in the States.  Seriously, I miss the Oreos and Coke from Germany.  They’re SO much tastier over there.  But I digress.

The problem is that I’m in South Florida, where everything is spread out in ridiculous ways, so you need a car to do almost anything.   It’s also super crazy hot and humid here for eight months out of the year, which makes outdoor activity trickier.  The result is that I became more sedentary.  Each day, I would walk from my apartment to my car, from my car to the office, from the office to lunch, and so on.  After a few months, I sold my Fitbit on eBay, because I wasn’t going anywhere.

I’ve only taken a few trips since I came back.  Aside from a couple of flights inside the US, one five week stint in Japan last summer, and one quick European hop a few months  ago, my life had become much, much more stationary.

Amelie likes to work out, though.  In the earlier days of the relationship, I would often drop her off at the gym, and then I would run an errand or sit at a nearby Starbucks, tapping away on the laptop to write a blog post.

One day, I joined her for a workout.  It was exhausting.

When I moved into this apartment, one of the considerations was, “Is the gym in this complex good enough for Amelie to work out?”   On the cardio side, it has two treadmills, two of what I call the Devil’s Elliptical, and one mediocre bike.

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On the weight side, there’s three cable-and-pulley variable-weight machines for various exercises, and a big rack of dumbbells of different weights.

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I started to join Amelie in the gym more often.    I started off with just a little bit of fast walking on the treadmill, and a small amount of the cable weights.  I didn’t have much of a routine, and I had no goal other than to keep her company.  I had to stop for a few weeks in May and June, after I had some minor surgery.  I was over-careful, though- when I asked the Doc if I could go back to working out, he just said “sure, do what you want.”  Scrubs is right about surgeons!

Over time, I started to build up a routine.  I started spending more time on the treadmill.  I started to add more weights, and more exercise variations with those weights.

And I hated every second of it.

I will never be one of those people who posts inspiring fitness quotes on Facebook.  For me, working out was painful, sweaty, breathless, and deadly dull.    Going to the gym for even a short bit of time was agony.

But Amelie was there with me.  She nudged me to get off the man-eating couch.  She encouraged me to get up and go.   She said proud things when I had a new achievement.  Without her, I would have just gone back to bed for another nap.

I got faster.

The first real improvement I noticed was that I could jog for longer on the treadmill.  Then I noticed that my speed was improving, and that I could breathe more easily.  One day, I reached the end of a mile in less than thirteen minutes.  I found that I could sprint farther and faster.    I can never figure out what to do with my hands, though.  Do you make fists when you’re running?  Do you relax them like Mr. Burns at speed?  Do you flatten them and knife them forward like the Flash?

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I purchased another Fitbit, this time a model with a heart rate monitor.  I quickly discovered that there’s a large Fitbit user-base in my company, and they often do weekly step challenges. Fitbit lets you “Friend” people and compare your steps to theirs.  It sort of turns walking into a competition, which is always fun.

My body started to change in subtle and unexpected ways.   The weights exercises started to become easier because my body began to move differently.  My posture improved.  Amusingly, my body weight stayed around the same.  I’m no more than two or three pounds lighter than I was before all the working out, but it’s clear to me that I have less of a nascent paunch and more muscles.  For perhaps the first time in my life, I have visible biceps.  I just feel better than I did.  Stronger.

I even tried running outside, but it’s still too hot for that to be a regular thing.   South Florida weather sucks.  The Devil’s Elliptical is still the most hated piece of equipment in the entire gym.

Now I usually go to the gym at least four times a week.  Sometimes Amelie is with me, and sometimes not.   I’m not sure yet if this qualifies as a habit, because it’s still too easy to stay on the couch or take another nap.    But for now, this is happening.

One more unexpected thing happened.  I stopped hating every second of the workout.  Don’t get me wrong; I still don’t enjoy my workouts.  I’m proud of them, though.   Every time I finish a run or some weights, I send a message to Amelie to tell her how much I did.  We’re each other’s cheerleaders.  She still says encouraging things and tells me that she’s proud of me, and that helps me keep going.

I still can’t figure out what the hell to do with my hands when I run though.

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What’s in your workout?

Just after the Summer solstice, a post!

I’m borrowing this post idea from Bevchen.  I don’t usually do a lot of meme-inspired posts, but lately I haven’t been posting much at all.  So here’s the “What’s New With You” format…  here’s what I’ve been up to just lately.

Reading.  I haven’t had much time for the Kindle lately, but I did start Jen Bradley‘s novel “Virago,” along with  the fascinating “Cleaning Up The Kingdom, which is written by people who are former members of the Disneyland custodial staff.  Really interesting stuff here!

Watching.  Summer is upon us, which means there’s not as much new television to be seen.  I’ve nearly completed a re-watch of Star Trek: Enterprise, which I absolutely despised on the first run.  I find it considerably less revolting now, and I’m not sure what changed.     I’ve also nearly completed a re-watch of Leverage, which was a delightful and fun show that could easily have run another season without losing steam.

I also watched the first episode of the new Dangermouse, and it’s definitely got flavor of the original ones, even though some of the new voices completely take me out of the show.  The new Silas Greenback voice is particularly terrible.  I’m rather surprised they didn’t try to get Sir David Jason back… after all, he was the original voice of Dangermouse. (And Count Duckula!)  Maybe he wants to retire from acting, since he’s 76 now.

It’s also the summer movie season.  I haven’t had time to watch everything I want to see, but I can say that “Finding Dory” was exceptionally adorable, and the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie was super entertaining.  It was basically a two-hour live-action movie version of an episode of the 90s cartoon.

Fascinated by.  This news that the Earth has picked up a second moon.   Basically, an asteroid got caught in our gravity about a hundred years ago and it never managed to break free.   It’s tiny, about 150 feet by 300 feet, and it has a weird orbit.  It’s still technically a moon, though.    We have two moons!  Next up, Jedi Knights!

Cooking.  I’m not much of a cook, but I’ve been using the slow cooker for the occasional moist fall-apart-y chicken breast. (Amelie’s Salsa Chicken recipe:  Put a chicken breast in the slow cooker with mild salsa for a bunch of hours, then shred and eat with rice or something.  It’s super delicious!)

I’ve also been taking advantage of the meats that they sell which have already been prepped/seasoned/marinated-  Target sells a garlic and herb roast that is absolutely amazing after about six hours in the slow cooker.    I’ve also been making more easy-prep foods like spaghetti at home.  I want to eat out at restaurants less frequently, because I enjoy having money.

Exercising.  I’m still probably going to talk about exercise in more detail in another post down the line, but I’ve been trying to go to the gym several times a week.  When I lived in Germany, I walked most everywhere, lived upstairs, took the bus to work, and walked all over creation whenever I traveled.  My life in Florida is so much more sedentary, and I needed to get up and move.  So, the gym.  I just use the little gym at my apartment complex,  because paying for one that I would never drive to is just a waste of money.  I do some of the weight machines, some Couch-to-5K stuff on the treadmill, some time on the bike, and as little time  as possible on the Devil’s Elliptical.  I hate every second of it, but so far I keep going.

Buying.  Since I’ve been doing the gym stuff, I got myself a new Fitbit.   The Fitbit Charge HR is a wrist-worn step counter that also checks my heart-rate and tracks my sleep.  It’s great for being reassured that I am, in fact, terribly unhealthy and in need of drastic lifestyle change.

I also recently bought an install-it-yourself basic alarm system for my apartment, and the little SD card that activates the maps in my car.  The Mazda 3 model that I drive had the GPS built in already, and just needed the maps to activate the navigation.  There’s an SD card slot in the console.

Traveling. Not so much lately.  I did the Germany/Switzerland trip a little while back, but there’s nothing else on the near horizon, except a planned Disney trip in late August.  Orlando is only about a three hour drive from me, so I tend not to think of it as travel.

Thinking about: Speaking of Orlando, I won’t get into the Pulse nightclub shooting very much, except to say:   Orlando is my second home city (Regensburg is my third,) and some of the victims were friends of my friends.   I love Orlando, and I want to live there again some time in the future.  The attack was brutal and insane and it saddens me greatly.  It also makes me very angry.    I won’t say more about this, because the logical thread here gets into religion and politics, both of which are not topics I can be calm or cheerful about right now.

Listening to.  Mostly Pandora at work, but I’ve been working on an upbeat playlist called Jim Rhatt for the iPod while I’m on the aforementioned treadmill or Devil’s Elliptical.

Recent concerts with Amelie have included Florence + The Machine, Panic at the Disco, and Weezer.   The Cure is playing Miami early next week, but that’s the last show we’ve got tickets for until October (Sia) and November (the Pet Shop Boys.)

Regretting.  That my car has a manual transmission.    Almost all of the cars I’ve ever driven have had a stick shift, but this might be the last one before I go automatic.  I’ve always enjoyed driving manual because I feel like I have more control.   I’ve always preferred cars that were small and quick and maneuverable, like a White Star or the Millennium Falcon.  In fact, whenever I downshift in a turn, I feel kind of like Han pulling this lever, which is obviously the Falcon’s shifter:

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The problem with driving manual is that I live in South Florida again, and I spend most of my drive time on the highway, especially I-95.  This means there’s a lot of stop-and-go driving, and I spend a large percentage of my drive with my foot pushing the clutch all the way down while I coast along at eight or ten miles an hour.  It’s very annoying, and I often get out of the car with an ache in my clutch foot.

What’s your preference, automatic or stick?

Whatcha been up to?

It’s been a few weeks since I posted, and it’s been a few months since I’ve posted anything about what I’m actually up to.  Here’s some highlights:

  • I went with Amelie to Megacon, a geekery convention that happens each year in Orlando.  If you search this blog for Megacon, you’ll see my photos from several previous years.  Yes, I took hundreds of pictures this year as well, but I haven’t had a chance to sort them yet.  We saw Shatner and George Takei, Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes, Ming Na Wen and John Barrowman, Kevin Conroy and a whole bunch of Harry Potter actors.  Almost all of these people were hilarious.
  • I attended some meetings in Zurich for my job, which meant I got to have a brief visit back to Regensburg.  I took many photos of basically all the same things I took pictures of while I lived there, out of a sense of nostalgia.
  • On that same trip,  I convinced my colleagues to stop for lunch in Vaduz, Liechtenstein on the way to Zurich.  This is my 28th country visited.
  • I had minor surgery on my left shoulder two and a half weeks ago, to remove a fatty tumor called a lipoma.   Lipomas are generally soft, benign, and painless, and doctors usually leave them alone unless they’re impeding your mobility or causing discomfort.  My lipoma had grown to a rather large size, and was located in a place that did actually cause me some discomfort.  It was also growing-  the surgeon who removed it said that it was about the size of a grapefruit, but not entirely round.  Amelie and I named it Lumpy.   The surgery was very fast, but it prevented me from working out or lifting anything heavy for a while.
  • We’ve been to quite a few good movies and concerts in the last few months, including Bernadette Peters and Florence & The Machine.  I enjoyed Captain America: Civil War and the Jungle Book, and I was extremely annoyed with Batman vs. Superman.
  • The doctor told me today that I can do normal workouts again, which is great, because I just purchased a new Fitbit.  I had a Fitbit One throughout my time living in Europe, and I rather enjoyed seeing how much walking I was doing.  The one I purchased now is the Charge HR model, which does everything the One did, plus it monitors my heart rate and has a nifty wrist-band.  Also, Fitbit users can friend each other to compete or encourage each other to be active.  The “taunt” function is kind of fun.  If you have a Fitbit and you want to add me, use stevenglassman42 at gmail.
  • I finally got around to putting this little fellow on my car.  He’s been on my desk for something like two months:
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What have you been up to?