Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Does This Blog Post Make My Ass Look Fat...!?

It could have been the involuntary fart that happened because he forgot to change the plate pin from 250 lbs. to 90 on the chest press…or maybe it was the fact he nearly crapped the abdominal machine… I’m not sure, but the point is there are some people that you just have to stare at while they work out.

I joined the gym for the same reasons everyone does – so I could look better, feel better, and not sweat when tying my shoes… OK…I wasn’t that out of shape, but I’ve certainly been much, much better. I’ve resigned myself to the fact I’m never going to be 22 again. I’ve resigned myself to the fact I’m not getting back my late-teens metabolism. But I refuse to believe that my fit days are up.

Joining a gym is a slippery venture. Comfort is the enemy of motivation. In the past, I couldn’t get my ass off the couch at 6:30 in the evening so I watched the clock until 7:30 and shrugged to myself that there is nothing I could do – it was too late. I couldn’t get my ass in gear in the morning to get to the gym and be on time for anything all day so I shrugged to myself and said I would do it that evening – around 6:30 or so… and so the cycle went. So my track record (no pun intended) has been that I wind up donating $45 to the YMCA or some other gym every month as some sort of tithe to the gods of fitness...

The gym I most recently joined is a haven for elderly ex-military types and silver sneaker shufflers. It was a brilliant choice and here’s why: most of the machines I use are generally unoccupied when I need them, I feel really strong when I look around the gym, and everyone around me is so slow I feel like Bruce Jenner on the treadmill. Plus, the elderly actually make great workout buddies; they leave all the “buff angst” at home – or 1950 anyway…whatever… the point is no one screams obscenities at their own arms in the mirror at my gym.

Now, I worked out regularly years ago playing high school football and then collegiate rugby but not so much in the last 10 years. A lot has changed. First of all, the machines on the nautilus side are amazingly sophisticated now. Some of the machines have no plate pin (or visible weights for that matter.) The desired weight is achieved through electronically controlled resistance, range of motion is governed automatically through body position, and the machine beeps if you short a rep or go too fast. Another 20 years and I figure everyone’s fat ass can just sit still with an iPod stuck in their ears and get skinny. Plus, it’s funny as hell to watch someone search for the plate pin for 5 minutes before you go help them…

When I was in my twenties, working out felt good. Leaving a gym after a workout was rewarding. I felt like going back an hour later and doing it again… Nowadays, I stiffen over, cramp up, sign out, hope to God I don’t drop my keys, and limp to my car like I just got shot in the ass. There is little more I want to do immediately after a good workout nowadays than lay down wherever I am. After about an hour, I’m fine again, but holy shit – really?

Eating everything I walked past wasn’t conducive to the whole fitness thing either, so I had to cut that out – or at least do it in private. Vitamins have always been part of my regimen but I’ve stepped it up a few pills and now my pee has a half-life. All this healthy living is killing me from the taste buds down; but I just keep telling myself I’m “gonna lose weight and be all muscly soon enough…”

Dieting is easier now (after 90 days) that my body has resigned itself to the fact that it gets 10-20 grams of carbs and less than 1600 calories a day. And let me tell you, once I decided that I wasn’t going to eat foods that were harmful, over-processed, convenient, carb-laden, or pre-prepared, I found that it was hard to eat more than 1600 calories a day…

Watching The Food Network on a diet is like blowing pot smoke into a rehab window – it may or may not be the drug the addict wants, but it’s certainly enough to make him start thinking about the one he does. I used to try to replicate Paula Dean’s and Mario Batali’s recipes – now that my diet is in full swing I just think they’re assholes… I actually saw Mario Batali in a healthy nutrition magazine a while back… I’ve got a new show for you… Irony Chef America.

But, surely, I jest… I still watch The Food Network, I still love Mario and Paula and a few other favorite chefs, and I still enjoy some of the dishes… Why? How? Because I don’t take it too seriously; and that gets me closer to my point.

So all this working out, and eating right has paid off… I’ve lost a ton of weight and I feel phenomenal. But I can’t bring myself to become obsessed with it. I’ve had friends in the past who have truly become possessed with the desire to perfect their physiques and obsessed with their diet. I must admit that I am very strict with what I eat but not to the inconvenience of those around me. Every restaurant I visit has something I can eat on the menu… and if I ever find myself in one that doesn’t, I will eat the closest thing to my diet they have. I truly believe 50% of the secret to diet success is awareness.

All in all, I think healthy is good, but it can be taken way too far. I am hurtling towards great shape and no one I know would call me obsessed. I just don’t get the philosophy of some people. I actually heard a guy say the other day to a trainer on his way out of the gym “damnit, I’m getting into shape if it kills me,” – seriously? My three-part fitness philosophy is simple: Work out. Eat right. Die healthy… Plus, I keep reminding myself that I can eat right and exercise regularly remaining relatively unrestricted or I can go on a nutritional jihad and worship in a gym – either way, the end result is the same – I die healthy… I don’t have delusions that I’m any further from mortality if I weigh less. Being fit and in shape simply allows me to live out my maximum years… it doesn’t buy me more Earth time beyond that.

I don’t have the math in front of me, but I’ve got to believe you would have to go way beyond the average person’s reasonable tolerance for bullshit and commitment to actually add years to the end of your lifespan through diet and exercise. Eating smart and exercising, I believe, keeps you from losing years off the end of your lifespan. Hell, it might even help you regain some that were lost… but being obsessed doesn’t add anything… at least that’s my opinion, I could be wrong. But follow me, here: If a person’s constitution (genetics, ethnicity, etc.) allows for a lifespan of, say, 75 years then I believe if that person eats healthy and stays in shape throughout their life they will live roughly 75 years. But I do not believe that being healthy and in shape will push that to 85. Eating poorly and being obese, however, might result in dying at 65. Therefore, I believe, you would have to go way beyond the average person’s reasonable tolerance for bullshit and commitment to actually add years to the end of your lifespan through diet and exercise. But let’s say (for the sake of argument) fanatical fitness did add 5 years to a lifespan… how many of those five years were spent like a hamster, on a treadmill, trying to read closed captions on a wall-mounted TV?

Nope. I plan on staying healthy through awareness of my nutrition and regular activity… It’s working very well so far… that way when my time is up I can say I didn’t live in a gym… I was too busy with close friends and family doing all the things I wanted to do…


  1. Congrats on the weight loss, and to getting back in shape! I know the feeling...I've lost a few pounds myself (about 30, down to 165 from my peak of 195), but I too will never be in the shape I was in my twenties without a monumental effort...I was just too damn skinny back then.

  2. Really awesome post. It inspires me to actually use the gym membership i have and get off my ass and make myself healthier. Thanks Scoop. =)