Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘exercise’

This evening I climbed the two flights of stairs to my third floor apartment as I do on a daily basis. Since I’ve gotten in shape, the climb is a simple matter that doesn’t bother me in the least. Once upon a time, I would have arrived at the top wheezing and gasping for air, wondering if my knees would ever be the same. However, that was fifty pounds ago, long before I became a not-quite-lean, mean, exercising machine. The climb up the stairs is no worse for me than the walk from my bedroom to my bathroom: short and sweet.

The event that caused tonight’s climb to fall way off the edge of the bell curve happened eight hours before, when I got dressed. I’d gone to the gym, had a conference call with a group from IBM, then rushed to get ready to spend the rest of the day with my kids. I saw the shorts, clean and folded, sitting in the drawer and I thought to myself, “I haven’t worn these in a while, I should put them on.” So I did. I ran down the steps, out the door and had a great day hanging out with the kids. The only sign of trouble was an occasional need to tug on my shorts, even though they were the ones that used to fit me so well. Used to. Don’t get ahead of me here, but I think we all see where this is heading. Just be patient.

Flash forward to a drive through construction clogged highways followed by some sort of police action in the block next to mine tying up traffic and you end up with a tired and somewhat frustrated person who just wants to get home. When I finally arrived at my apartment, I grabbed a handful of things I needed to bring in from the car. I also stopped at our other vehicle to get some things my girlfriend asked me to bring up because she couldn’t grab them when she got home. With hands just empty enough to hold my keys, I unlocked the door, shoved my keys in my pocket and began to climb up the stairs. Wait for it.

The first flight was uneventful. There was some slippage of the shorts, weighed down by keys, wallet, cellphone and the tug of gravity as each step jolted them around my now-more-than-ever-diminutive hips, but I was okay. I managed to hold them steady by jamming my left wrist tightly against the waistband. Then came the first turn and the hallway on the second floor. That’s where things really went wrong. That’s when I should have put things down and addressed The Problem. But, I felt tired and rushed so I kept going. This is called foreshadowing.

Halfway up the second flight of stairs, my old nemesis, gravity, finally gained the upper hand. With my arms full of bags and papers and things, I lost my balance and had to put my arm out against the wall to steady myself. Seizing its brief moment of opportunity, my shorts broke free of their bonds and dropped three feet toward the center of the Earth. Now, I’m halfway up a flight of stairs, my arms full and my shorts hanging around my knees. With nowhere to go, and nothing better to do, I put on a brave face and slowly and carefully made my way up the steps, around the last turn to finally place my belongings on the landing in order to clutch at my wayward clothing and yank it into submission.

It was with a great sense of relief that I finally opened my door and put things away, laughing at myself all the while. Losing fifty pounds is an accomplishment to be celebrated. Sometimes, though, these things come with a downside. A pants down side, in this case, but it’s an inconvenience nonetheless. Now, I sit here, my ego in check and my pride diminished, but I’m thankful. Thankful I’ve gotten to a place where this is a problem and thankful that no one came into the hallway. By the way, does anyone want a pair of denim shorts? They’re in great shape and they’re free to a good home.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

The other day at the gym, I was on the elliptical machine. It’s my favorite machine to work out on as it’s low impact but really efficient at burning calories. When I’m on the elliptical, I try to maintain a heart rate of around 150. For someone my age and weight, it’s a good speed. I spend 25 minutes on the machine when I use it and I find that the time usually goes quickly as long as I have some good music to listen to. Last week, I forgot my headphones. Those were the longest 25 minutes I’ve ever spent in the gym. I never knew how much music really contributed to my activity until I no longer had it. Instead, I had to look around the gym for lack of anything interesting to do.

In order to keep my heart rate at around 150, I usually move at about four miles per hour on the machine. This day, I was really pushing myself and was up to 4.3 mph and had sweat pouring off of me. I felt pretty good about myself, my progress and my ability. That’s when The Gym Guy showed up. TGG is a great person, I’m sure. When he goes home, his kids are probably happy to see him. TGG has a good job and he’s good at what he does, he just happens to also be really good at using elliptical machines. Probably because he’s there a lot. At least that’s what I’m telling myself. The Gym Guy steps up to the machine next to me and proceeds to move at a pace I didn’t know the machines were capable of. Because I had nothing else to do, I looked at the readout on his machine. He was going nearly 12 miles per hour! He was sprinting on the elliptical machine while I plodded along at about a third of his rate. I figured he’d slow down eventually but TGG just kept it up. I think he may have gotten faster as he got warmed up. TGG was master of the elliptical machine and I was getting schooled in what they were capable of. TGG was so good at it that he didn’t need to hold the handles I had to use for stability and to monitor my heart rate. TGG just moved while his arms pumped in much the same way as an Olympic runner’s. It was, to say the least, impressive.

The problem with being next to someone like TGG is the inevitability of the comparisons between yourself and him. Without my music to distract me, I couldn’t help watching the show as it unfolded. I had to wonder if it were even possible for me to get the elliptical machine to move that fast. If I did, could I maintain a speed like that? If I could, for how long? TGG didn’t seem to be letting up any time soon. Then, I realized he’d already traveled much farther on his machine than I had on mine, though I’d been there much longer than him. If we were on a track, he would have given me a half mile head start and then passed me without breaking a sweat. TGG was good and I was bad. I’m not stupid, I learned that lesson fast. I learned it as fast as TGG was running on his machine.

That’s when I remembered something: I’m not The Gym Guy and he’s not me. TGG has been working out on these machines for a long time. TGG is in good physical shape. TGG isn’t trying to overcome a lifetime of obesity. TGG is not celebrating every pound lost. TGG is (probably not) monitoring every calorie and making sure it’s the best possible one to ingest at any given moment. TGG is good but I’m good too. I remember the lessons I learn on the meditation bench: the mind makes good, the mind makes bad. With no mind, there is no good and there is no bad. If I were to finish my exercise without a sense of failure, I had to let go of my thinking. Attachment to thoughts and illusions of “goodness” or “badness” had to be put aside. I closed my eyes, breathed deeply for a moment, watched my heart rate drop though I was still moving at 4 mph and let go of my mind. It was time for elliptical meditation.

TGG was still there when I finished my 25 minutes. He was still going strong and his arms and legs moved with speed and purpose. He was doing what his body needed him to do. I had completed doing what mine needed. The last ten minutes of my exercise passed as quickly as if I had my headphones on. Without the burden of thought and the struggle against my mind, time moved forward with ease. My body moved while my mind was still. I was no longer “bad” and he was no longer “good”. We were both two people using the elliptical machines and we both benefited from the experience. I wiped down my machine and felt good for TGG and hoped he would continue to keep his body in good shape and know the joy of having a mind as fit as his body.

Read Full Post »

Back in September of 2010, I hit a milestone of some importance. I lost 40 pounds. It was an amazing time and I was full of hope and joy at getting my weight under control and getting healthy. I’d been working very hard at it and things were new and promising. A few months after that, I was down 60 pounds and felt great. Twice, I had bought new clothes  because I was too skinny for my old ones. For the first time in a long time, I felt like things were under control and I was making progress on having the life I wanted. As often happens in life, it was at this point things got turned upside down when my marriage began to fall apart. It’s been a long and painful two years, but I’ve moved on. However, I have to undo a lot of damage those hard times inflicted on my weight and my health. As my life spiraled out of control, old habits came back and my weight returned to where it was when I started my journey. Actually, I hit 333 pounds (3 over where I was the first time) before I realized I couldn’t live with myself that way any more. So, in July of last year, I began to focus on my health again. I’ve progressed more slowly this time but in eleven months, I’ve gotten back to 290 pounds and once again feel the joy of having lost 40 pounds. Unlike last time, I’m not elated or dizzy from the accomplishment. Perhaps it’s because I’ve done it before, maybe it’s because I’ve been through the worst suffering of my life and am wary of happiness, perhaps it’s because I know I could gain it back if I let my guard down. Whatever the reason, I’m happy for myself but it’s not the same as last time. I’m more aware than ever how impermanent things really are and that’s probably a factor too. While I’m happy I’ve reached this milestone, I’m just not attached to the happiness like I once was. Eventually, the happiness will fade and I’ll be left with a choice about what to do. I can either continue losing weight and being healthy or I can chase after a faded happiness and suffer. This doesn’t mean I’m unhappy—nor does it diminish the importance of my accomplishment—however, my relationship to these feelings of accomplishment has changed.

Whenever we set out to do something hard, there are moments of fear and discouragement. Last November, I wrote 60,000 words of what eventually became a 92,000 word novel. At the beginning of the month, I had no idea if I could do it, and I was scared of failing in the attempt. However, each day I sat down and I wrote. I made the time and did what needed to be done. Now, I’m repeating that task by carefully reading through the novel, changing the things that need to be changed and fixing typos and gramatical problems. Even on days I don’t feel like doing it, I sit down and I edit and I rewrite and I add clarifications or cut extraneous words. I take it one day at a time and slowly and reliably make progress even though I still feel fear or discouragement. The same is true with my weight and my health. I’d been discouraged lately because the first thirty pounds came off quickly but it took me almost six months to lose the next ten. However, instead of attaching to the fear or discouragement, I’ve taken it one day at a time, one step at a time. Each day I choose to do what I need to do that day: I exercise, I eat well, I meditate, I write, I work. All of those days add up and I’m seeing results again.

I have lost 40 pounds and I fully expect to see the scale in the 280’s tomorrow or early next week. This is good. I am happy about this. However, the day will come when I am no longer happy and my only option will be to do what needs to be done that day.

Read Full Post »

I went back to the gym today for the first time in much longer than I’d like to admit. I’ve been walking around the city a lot since I moved here a month ago but I felt I needed to set aside some time specifically for exercise on top of the normal walking and climbing of stairs that I’ve been doing. Needless to say (though I will anyway), my legs are so sore I can’t even sit here at my desk comfortably. I just have to keep reminding myself that nothing is permanent even though it may feel like it. The pain, like my extra weight, will eventually go away.

On the up side, according to the scale at the gym, I’m down to 291 so I’ve got that going for me.

Read Full Post »

Last week I was in a candy store. A really big candy store at the beach. Every type of candy you can imagine plus some that you haven’t. They had about 20 different types of fudge that they make in their shop. Free samples! So many flavors of jelly beans and a wall of nostalgic candies. It was a candy lover’s dream come true. This was not a good place for me to find myself but, due to matters beyond my control, there I was.

I walked out of the store 15 minutes later with nothing purchased or consumed other than an extremely small sample piece of fudge. It was a small miracle to say the least.

Last night I had a craving. A serious, powerful and overwhelming craving. I wanted a Big Mac. I wanted one so badly I could taste it. My brain was screaming at me for one. I’d just spent 45 minutes mowing the lawn and burned over 600 calories so I could justify one burger from McDonald’s. Instead, I ate carrots. Another small miracle.

However, when you look at the bigger picture, you see that these weren’t miracles. The miraculous is something that happens without explanation or reason. I know exactly what happened when I was facing temptation. I was able to avoid the candy and the burger is because I had a friend who was there to listen to me (as I whined via text message that I wanted a Big Mac) or by being there to physically hit me in the head if I were to purchase anything at the candy store. I didn’t have to rely on my strength alone to resist temptation because I have a friend who wants the best for me.

Later, I found out that this friend of mine has made positive choices on their own because they committed to help me make good choices. This person isn’t trying to lose 100 pounds like I am but has had a lot of success recently in losing weight and wants the same for me. The fact that we are working together means we are both making decisions that have a positive impact on both our lives.

If you are trying to do something, it helps if you have someone to work with. In this case, I want to lose weight and live a healthier lifestyle. I have been successful in the past because of friends who are pulling for me and I am succeeding again because I have others who are helping me along the path.

Working with others is so important that being a part of the community, or Sangha, is a critical component of a Buddhist practice. In Buddhism, there is something called The Three Jewels. They are, The Buddha, The Dharma and The Sangha and it is no surprise why they go together. The first is fairly obvious if you think about it: after all, it’s called  Buddhism for a reason. The second is also pretty easy to understand; if you’re going to follow someone’s teachings, you follow their lessons (in this case, Dharma). The third is the one that is often hardest to understand. Without a group to share a practice, to encourage and walk with, the practice can wane. The same is true with weight loss.

Do you have someone to help you maintain a healthy lifestyle? Do you have someone to exercise with? If you are trying to achieve a goal, do you have a confidant and someone to help you on the way? If you want your path to be as easy as possible, it helps to have friends.

Read Full Post »

I just got back from an early morning 1 mile walk. I love the smell of the air on a crisp winter morning. It’s so fresh and pure up here in Maine and it still amazes me even after being here more than 2 years. Add in the beautiful colors of the sunrise and you have an almost perfect environment for walking. There’s just enough of a bite to the air that you want to keep moving and it’s relatively easy to work up a sweat.

Today as I walked I tried to keep a clear mind and really experience each moment as it happened. The single note of a bird just waking up, the sound of water running through the gully below me, the crispness of the air, the scent of a fireplace from one of the homes that are nearby but invisible because of the woods, the pinks and oranges and reds spreading out over my head in all directions; all of these things became a part of my walk. And I became a part of all of them. I’m not going into a lot of detail about that. Take my word for it. Spend time meditating and studying Buddhism and you’ll see for yourself.

Now, with my body having had its exercise and my mind getting primed and cleared, I’m ready to face what is the busiest day of my week. And now, it’s time for a hot shower and a spicy bowl of oatmeal.

Read Full Post »

Stagnation

I’m trying not to be frustrated about this but my weight doesn’t seem to be budging. It’s been loitering in the 311 block for a week now. I’m no longer gaining, but I’m not losing either. I keep reminding myself that this isn’t about my weight. Really it isn’t. This is about the life that I’m living. However, that doesn’t change the fact that I would like to see some changes in my weight. I guess this is because I equate progress with weight loss. Regardless of the reason, it does seem to be a cruel trick of nature that pounds are easy to put on but hard to take off. In an effort to get back in the desired direction, I changed up the exercise I do in the mornings. Instead of just walking, I tried to jog. It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t easy. It still hurts. I don’t know if it helped or not but I got my heart rate up a lot faster than if I stuck to walking. In the one mile round trip I took, I think I jogged about .2 of it. I plan to keep trying it and we’ll see how long it takes before I can go .3 or even .4 of a mile.

It’s interesting to me that I have found this desire to run. Usually, the only time I feel like running is when I’m being chased by some sort of crazed, half starved wild animal. Even up here in Maine, that just doesn’t happen. We’ll see where this takes me. In addition to this crazy desire to run, I’ve been toying with the idea of doing some sort of half marathon or something insane like that. Maybe this is a mid-life crisis? Is that what it takes to get me out there on the street huffing and puffing and having parts of me bounce around like I’m doing jumping jacks even though I’m not?

All I ask is that if you ever see me wheezing and panting on the side of the road with sweat pouring off of my forehead and my face red and contorted as I struggle to get air into my nearly collapsed lungs, please don’t point and laugh.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »