Saturday, December 01, 2007

The body you want, in the time you have. Part One.

Tell me if you've heard this before, from yourself or others:

"I'd work out, but I just don't have the time"
"I don't like spending time in the gym"
"I don't want to get all big like those gross bodybuilders"

and so on? Are you not happy with what you see in the mirror? Do you want to get in shape? Well, I'd like to help you out.... and all I need is your credit card number.

I'm kidding!

I used to be really obese. I was, at one point, roughly 200 pounds, most of it fat. My bad cholesterol was incredibly high (I'm not saying what the number was). For a vegetarian, that's an accomplishment, let me tell you.

I needed to change it, I knew that, but I didn't want to waste time in the gym. I had a job at a startup company that ate up a lot of my time (I would very willingly spend my weekends there). Besides, the only people I saw at the gym were these vain types, running on the treadmills that faced the mirrors, or the buff types flexing more often than lifting.

It didn't really hit home until one day, I woke up choking. I couldn't breathe, my chest was feeling heavy and leaded. The feeling went away after fifteen minutes, but its memory stays with me to this day.

I had a membership at a gym, one that I'd never used, and with it came a free personal training session. I spent my Saturday morning and talked to the trainer. The first thing we did was measure my body fat percentage.

Looking at the results, we initially thought it was instrument error, maybe he messed up the test somehow. While there are better tests than an impedance test, this type still produces good results.

The reading was 60%, I'm not kidding. That means, the electrical current that passed from one electrode (left hand) to the other (right hand) encountered more fat than water. We couldn't believe it. I still can't. We did the test twice, same results.

So, what could I do? I told him I didn't have much time and I didn't like spending too much time in a gym. He suggested something which helped a lot, and in six months, I'd gone from 200 to roughly 145-150 pounds.

Yes, I'm a tease, I'm sorry.

You have to understand something though, almost all exercise programs work if you follow them properly, even the ones that get you to work out for 30 minutes three times a week. But what makes them work? What makes you succeed and someone else not succeed?

The answer is, actually, you. Yes, I'm looking right at you.

If you don't tell yourself you want something, you'll never be motivated enough to do it. Seriously. If you want something, pick something specific about it and run to that goal. This is the hardest step, trust me. After this, it gets easy and fun.

Okay, tease time's over. What the personal trainer suggested was something called Interval Training. The idea here is that you challenge your body by introducing a change in your workout and then change back.

Take running on the treadmill as an example. Say you're running on the treadmill at a pace of 3 (out of 10). Try this:

- Run on the treadmill for four minutes at 3.
- Sprint on the treadmill for one minute at 6.
- Repeat for a half hour.

When I say "run", I mean run at a pace that let's you talk, but not sing. If you can belt out Ave Maria, you're going to slowly. If you can't wish someone a good morning, you're going to quickly.

The "sprint" is just that, a sprint. You need to run like a thief being chased by the police, like a deer being chased by a lion, like an intern being chased by Bill.

Running on a full stomach's a bad idea, so what you can do is to run in the morning with a very light breakfast. Maybe a piece of fruit, a cup of milk. Something that'll hold you for the time it takes to get to the gym and run for that half hour.

Why the morning? For the (among others) simple reason that you'll get it out of the way. There are other benefits, as I've found, but I'll leave it to you to discover them.

After you're done the run, cool down, have a shower, and then have your breakfast (sandwiches for me, I'm not psychic so I don't know what you'd eat :)). Then go to work and live your life.

Now, I would also suggest that you watch your diet. Two simple things I did were:

- give up pop
- stop eating white/refined stuff (bread, rice, sugar, etc). You can replace these things with brown rice, whole wheat bread, honey (or splenda).

But it was the run that saved me, I know it. I remember the first time I hit what's called the "runner's high", where the body switches from carbs to fat for fuel (which is another reason to have something very light before you run). I felt like there was a healing light above me, like I could run for another hour, like anything was possible.

And it is, believe me. More importantly, trust and believe in yourself. You can achieve anything, the first step though is wanting it.

NOTE: The baby in the pic isn't mine, she's my friend's daughter.