Getting Back in Shape

by JT McGee

bench press, getting back in shapeAhh, dubya tee eff – another finance blog post about health.

I used to be really into working out. So much so that at one point it might have been an obsession. I remember very vividly my freshman year of high school, when I became nearly addicted to lifting. It all started from my first visit to the gym and my inability to bench 55 pounds ten times.

Weak sauce, for real.

It was that first defeat that got me hooked. Months later, I could do 185 pounds ten times without fail. Lifting 185 pounds meant I could bench roughly 130% of my body weight. Felt like a champ.

And then…

Like most things, I gave it up after I proved to myself I could do it. Seems to be a common theme – fail at something, then master it and fail on continued improvement. Only one “interest” of mine that lasted the test of time was business and finance. Go figure – nerd stuff.

Now I’m getting back into it, hitting the weights I have at home with the same vigor that I had several years ago. Being in the best shape of my life in high school is something that I should claim as a 50-year old, not as a 22-year old.

So, with that, I’ve started working out again – and man does it feel good.

My first victory came after reinstalling my pull-up bar and doing 15 pull-ups in a row. I suppose the best time to start getting healthy again is when you’re young – you really can’t lose all that much. Good thing, too, because had I not been able to do a few chin-ups I would have probably cried myself to sleep that night. I kid, I kid – but nothing hurts more than failing at something you so confidently think you can do, even if the confidence is unfounded.

Instant Improvements

This might have been the most important change I’ve ever made in my whole life. I’m not kidding. In summary, here are the benefits of a full week’s routine:

  1. Balance – I have an unhealthy routine of sleeping too little and thinking too much. It used to be that my mind would tire well before my body. Now, I’m ready to hit my bed like a ton of bricks at a halfway decent hour. I think my physical stamina has also increased to “catch up” in some ways with a racing mind. Being both mentally and physically tired at the same time is a very good thing for me.
  2. Happiness – I’ve been one happy dude lately. I can’t explain it. I think it comes down to the whole sleep thing – I’m getting slightly more sleep, with more regularity. I’m no longer half-awake and crabby when I shouldn’t be, which has changed so much in so little time. I’ll admit my own failures here; I can go from zero to Godzilla-esque Rampage in a matter of seconds. That hasn’t happened for a full week, which I relate to working out. I’ve also spent a lot of time working on my own rage fits. I have a temper; it’s true.
  3. Energy and Stress – Nonsense. I neither have more energy, nor less stress. I do, however, have more productive energy, and less unallocated stress. Does that make any sense?
  4. Appetite – I have an up and down appetite. Now I’m starving at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I’m also eating better without making a real decision to eat better. It’s like there’s something in the back of my head that is telling me I need my vitamins. Totally demolished a bag of baby carrots the other day for the first time in a long time. Always loved ‘em, but never really CRAVED them like a fiend. Now I do, and that’s a good thing.
  5. Hobby diversification – I need something to do that isn’t related to work. There’s nothing I love more than reading the Wall Street Journal in the morning, or sitting down with the latest edition of the Harvard Business Review, but it makes for a boring me. It also makes for a work schedule without boundaries, a life without diversity, and interests without any real categorization. A new hobby or two couldn’t hurt.

Goals and Workout Routine

I’ve a short workout routine for building muscle, and a much longer routine for cardiovascular workouts. I don’t really need nor want to build a whole bunch of muscle mass, but I do want to use the muscles that have sat dormant for far too long. A little toning will go a long way.

So, with that, some light bench presses, bicep curls, dips, elevated pushups, sit-ups, and pull-ups with more repetitions will help me get to my goal.

As for the cardiovascular workouts, I slapped a new tire on my road bike and have a personal goal to do no less than 12 miles per day. Recently, I’ve been doing about 15 miles a day, or roughly 1 hour of biking at a moderate pace. That sounds ridiculous if you aren’t used to a road bike, but you can really fly on these things without a lot of work. On a sprint with favorable winds, a healthy person could manage 30 miles per hour. Fifteen miles per hour for one hour is no land speed record, and probably much closer to the slower end of the spectrum.

Still need to change out the pedals again on this beast:

trek 1000, biking, road bike

I’m not overweight, just underactive. So, my goal won’t be defined by any particular weight figure. I don’t particularly care to bulk to my high school size, either – so I won’t judge my progress by amount of weight.

What I will do, though, is judge my progress by actual progression – working out consistently and never doing less in one day than I did the day before. It’s quite simple, but as with all things in life doing sure as hell beats measuring, especially if the alternative is doing nothing. Personal health is pulled by the magical force of economics, which says the first marginal change produces the largest marginal results.

My end-goal is to ride a century (100 miles in a single sitting on a single day) by the end of 2012. Ideally, I want to be in shape to do it by summer, but Midwestern heat and humidity isn’t too favorable for a long-distance summer bike ride. I’d like to avoid a heart attack in my search for health.

I won’t spend a lot of time on this blog talking about health. I really know nothing about it, and would be doing a disservice to anyone dumb enough to listen to me talk about it. What I will do, however, is hopefully provide some motivation to anyone still considering a new, more active lifestyle. I couldn’t be happier with my decision, and would encourage anyone interested in making a massive improvement to their wellbeing to make the leap.

If being a couch potato sounds more interesting to you, fine. I’m not going to go all evangelist – I’m not tossing out the many gallons of bourbon in my bedroom or the Coca-Cola I love to drink with or without its caramel colored BFF. I won’t give you trouble about being a couch potato, either. I’m the best couch potato there is.

It was just time to change. So I am. Feels good, man.

Photos by: Bear park, and yours truly.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Dave @ Gen Y Finances March 5, 2012 at 10:22

Sounds like a good plan, JT. My only recommendation would be don’t try to overdue it too fast as that can lead to an injury. I really enjoy working out, but when I first started I overdid it and ended up with a stress fracture in my foot and now a screwed up elbow.


JT March 6, 2012 at 11:23

Yeah, I need to be careful. Thanks for that warning. I learned from my bowling class this year (ha!) the power of stretching. I’ve been really cautious about it, but really, I can’t afford to screw up an elbow. Hope it heals well!


Kayla March 6, 2012 at 13:23

Don’t “ha” the bowling class! 😉


Chuck March 5, 2012 at 22:00

Something about staying fit and healthy radiates out into all aspects of my like. I love riding a bike and carrying my golf bag the most….


JT March 6, 2012 at 11:23

You don’t pay a caddy to get the workout for you? 😉


Darwin's Money March 5, 2012 at 23:16

Oh, how I love that natural high of endorphins. I’m finally getting around to clearing out all the crap my wife’s made us keep for 10 years in the unfinished side of our basement and making a weight room. Getting to the gym more than 1-2 days a week is tough with kids. So, the morning/night workout in the basement will get me more exercise.

On the reading thing, I wish I had more time to read, but for short reads, I love BusinessWeek and the Economist. If you don’t read them, check ’em out! A little more sophisticated and diverse than the mainstream kiplingers and money mag that make me vomit a little when I read them sometimes.


JT March 6, 2012 at 11:25

I’m subscribed to BW. Used to be subscribed to the Economist but haven’t found any deals on it lately. Missed a Groupon where I think it was like $52 for a year, which is super cheap!

Harvard Business Review is probably one of my favorites; it’s an academic magazine for very practical business ideas. I like it a lot.


Jai Catalano March 6, 2012 at 13:04

My wife and I lost about 4lbs a piece since January. I need about 7 more to lose and I will do it. Thanks for the read.


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