About seven months ago, I looked at myself in the mirror long and hard and realised that I needed to change a few things about my life. Some of the big pieces were doing just fine (incredible marriage, awesome kid, good job) but one of the largest had fallen completely out of alignment and needed reconstruction.
I looked in the mirror and saw a tired, unhappy, obese woman travelling at high-speed towards 40 and being chased by the myriad of health concerns that accompanied poor diet and insufficient activity. In short, the person looking back at me was a mess and did not in any way match the healthy and athletic person jailed inside of me.
Before our much-needed trip to Florida in April, I made the decision that, upon our return, I was going to change this facet of me around by whatever means necessary. When we got back, we started tracking and improving our food intake, switched gyms, from a family-oriented gym to a more athletically-focussed facility and signed up for personal training sessions (more on that in future entries), the first of which was May 3.
In the past six months, my body composition has changed to my liking.
- lost 45lbs
- have gone from a size 20 pant to a size 8 (6 in some brands)
- lost 12″ from around my waist
- lost 5″ from my bra strap size (around my ribcage) and heaven knows how many cup sizes.
- have gone from just under 50% body fat to around 28%
- can wear clothes that, when last I was fitter, previously fit me snugly when I was 15lbs lighter and they are loose, so my lean body mass has clearly increased. I am smaller and denser now than I have been in a Very Long Time.
- can see my abdominal muscles, which is nifty.
This is me now..
This is not an “after” picture because one of the biggest changes that I made was to decide that there would be no “after”, only “during”.
People who have fought this battle will tell you that the hardest part of getting into shape is finding motivation to fight your body’s natural inclination to slam on the brakes and lapse into indolence. They’ll also tell you that the other particular challenge lies in figuring out how to stay fit once you’ve gotten there.
What they sometimes won’t tell you, and what is absolutely key, is that you really need a dream. You need a dream approachable enough to get you through the early stages of training and one that can be modified (based on reality) and improved to hold you fast to the progressive discomforts that go with getting fitter. You also need a plan to go with that dream, so that the “why” and the “how” are BOTH answered in your mind. You need to be able to see yourself accomplishing something substantial and you need to want it bad enough to be able to taste it. The plan lets you relax and enjoy the process, because as hard as it is, it’s still a tonne of fun! As your fitness level grows, your dream and plan need to grow with it.
You need a reason to stand under that weight, squat down and drive it back up again.
You need a purpose that is greater than that cupcake/bag of chips/candy.
You need to stand before the mirror and look yourself in the eye every goddamned day and be able to see your path clearly enough that the swampy bogs along the way don’t suck you in.
You particularly need it on the days when things don’t go well, because the wanting it is what will drag you back from discouragement to face another round of training.
That dream will be different for each person. It has to be. And it has to be an honest and personal desire, independent of what anyone else wants for you.
This is where I’ve fallen down in the past. I am the sort of person who needs something beyond the ambiguous “get in shape” or “live to see my kid grow up” goal. Just getting myself to a certain weight doesn’t cut it for me long-term. I get there and get derailed by the lack of a greater purpose. I need a reason to constantly strive to improve fitness after the goal weight has been achieved. I need a reason to push myself through workouts where the discomfort level mounts and what will sink me is not having a strong enough reason to push that darned weight into the air one more bloody time. In Harry Potter parlance, I needed a happy thought sufficiently powerful to produce a Patronus strong enough to conjure up the best of myself and thus conquer the worst of myself.
And I think I’ve found that, which is making all the difference in the world. (Precisely what those goals are will be revealed in due course, dreams being rather personal and fragile when they’re young.)
In the past six months, I’ve lost a good bit of myself physically, but I’ve gained self-respect, focus, clarity of purpose and made some significant fitness gains in the weight room and running. This blog entry is essentially my six-month update to myself.
Sordid details, probably only interesting to other people who pick up heavy things. (Stop reading here if that doesn’t interest you.)
- first week I did goblet squats with 25, 30 & 45lbs and I felt like I’d been hit by a truck
- last night I did back squats 5x185lbs, 3x195lbs & 1x215lbs and walked away feeling a wee bit tired.
- first week was a trapbar deadlift, with 12x@ of 95lbs & 105lbs, which again was hard work & my back ached after
- last night was clean deadlifts of 5x190lbs, 3x205lbs, 1x225lbs & 1x230lbs and my form is getting better. My back can’t tell I did anything yesterday.
- I did a push-press of 115lbs after only a few weeks of push-pressing.
- I can now do a few chin-ups without assistance.
- I can also a few do neutral-grip pull-ups without assistance.
- I can do more than 25 push-ups from my toes (although how many I couldn’t tell you. I stopped at 30 last time) and my last benchpress in mid-October was somewhere around 120 for a 1 rep max.
- I can run 5k in just under 25
- my 60m sprints are averaging in the 8-8.5 second range, not at full effort, (hand-timed, without blocks or spikes).
In short, I’m standing where I expected to be in January, which lets me think ahead to the next set of goals/challenges and face the next 15lbs of weight-loss with a sense of certainty and accomplishment.
I think this note I found in my training log the other day pretty well sums it up: