Breaking a personal rule and talking (more so) about myself today. The reason? After two weeks of having gout problems and Achilles tendon problems, not to mention a hyper-extended left knee, horribly twisted leg muscles, and going to the chiropractor every week for the last two months, I’m finally feeling good enough physically to start going to the gym again.
Backstory – as anyone who knows me knows, I am not a little guy. I’m 6′ 0″, have the build of a linebacker (or Mark Driscoll), and I weight, currently, 325 lbs. That’s the heaviest I’ve ever weighted. In junior high I weighed 185 lbs. My senior year of high school, around 220 lbs. I maintained my weight around 280 lbs for a solid five years after high school, but then in 2009, due a combination of events, I hit around 300 lbs. In the last year, my weight has fluctuated between 280 lbs and my current world record of 325 lbs. The ideal body weight for my body type is around 120 lbs, or so the BMI says. To say I’m a little person is wrong. Hence, to put the last 25 years of my life behind me, I’m working out with gusto.
To be fair, I’ve been going to the gym almost daily since early April anyways. Every day but Sunday. Prior to that I was doing a free weights workout twice a week, with some pretty good results: general tightness, muscle building, and I actually gained weight (which I consider a negative). Yet the day before my 26th birthday, I was at the gym and tried to mix things up by doing an exercise bike instead of the treadmill, and after sitting down (which was already painful), I began to pedal, and literally every extension of my left leg sent what felt like electrical bolts hurtling through my body.
So I tagged along with my mom to her chiropractor the following day, and found out I have (had) a hyper-extended left knee and basically so many knots and twisted chords in my left leg I could be considered a nu-metal album. No lie, the chiro had me lie on my stomach, and then lightly ran his finger along the inside of my left knee, and it felt like my entire body, and especially my pelvis, was attached to an electric current transformer. On a scale of 1 to 10…keeping in mind gout pain is like passing a continuous kidney stone for days on end…the pain was about a 9.
So the chiro has been fixing me. Numerous adjustments, back, knee, cranial, spine, whatever. Oh, and basically taking a tool and manually twisting all the muscles in my leg into proper alignment. Plus digging his fingers into the knots and telling me to “stretch”, effectively making me torture myself. Yet my leg feels better than it has in a long while. We have no idea when I hyper-extended my knee. Could have been years ago, or months ago…we just know it’s an old injury. (Amusingly and somewhat bitterly I think it was caused my someone praying to “grow” my leg out, as one of my legs is longer than the other.)
All that to come around to the fact that I’m finally able to go back to the gym tonight! I haven’t been in about two weeks, when the Achilles tendon and the gout flared up. Always seems to be something getting in the way.
I’ve stopped doing the free weights workout in favor of just cardio right now, since that’s what the fitness instructors recommended. My workout, so far, consists almost entirely of being on the treadmill. 10 minutes at 3-3.5 mph at 0 incline, then 10 minutes at 3-3.5 mph at 3.0 incline, then 10 minutes at 3-3.5 mph at 15.0 incline (holding on for dear life), and finally 10 minutes at 3-3.5 mph at 5.0 incline, followed by the cooldown mode. This is what I have been doing, and plan on doing tonight, and at least for another week before changing it up again.
I’m not comfortable running on the treadmills, both in terms of the surface and mentally what I look like. I got major cramps the last time I tried using the elliptical, and I’m nervous about the exercise bike because of the prior pain it caused. Right now I know I need to focus on cardio more than anything else, so I’m considering adding the rowing machine to what I do on top of whatever I do on the treadmill. At least then I’ll feel like upper body is getting some work done.
But the biggest challenge, as always, is adjusting my diet. I was doing really well with my diet the last year I was in college, since I was walking every where on campus, was constantly pressed for time between work and classes, but more importantly, didn’t have a lot of money. Most days on campus I drank 40 oz of water (“sweetened” by a touch of gatorade powder), ate maybe 3 servings of peanuts, and then a Chik-Fil-A sandwich. And that my day until I got home and ate a decent meal. Add to that an apple and a can of soda for breakfast, and you are looking at about 800 calories or so, then whatever was at home for dinner. Also, predominantly I was using Eat This, Not That for better food options. Following this pattern, I lost about 18-20 lbs one semester of school. But as always, if given the opportunity and the means to afford it, I will eat a lot more than I should.
So that’s where I’m at right now. My goal is to continue to go to the gym six days of the week, focusing predominantly on cardio, and mixing up some weights on other days just so I feel like I’m doing more than just using the heavy power walking. The biggest challenge will be changing my diet, which the gout helps…I’m already leaning toward a 75% vegetarian diet, trying to consume protein one meal a day. It’s tough before the best diet for gout is basically the diet that will keep me fat: no proteins, lots of carbs, etc.; the exact opposite of a fat burning, muscle building diet. The second challenge is cutting back or entirely giving up soda. I’m not willing to go cold turkey on soda no matter the health benefits, but for a long time I was down to one can of soda a day, and I know I can get back up to that standard. My eventual goal is two cans a week, preferably on a weekend when I feel like I can enjoy it more. The same applies to cider and hard alcohol drinks; beer, other than the occasional Guinness, is entirely out due to the gout; but you ain’t taking my freedom from me.
(Side comment – ever notice how everyone says the Bible is the standard of living for the Christian life, but not sufficient enough for churches? I think I’m done with churches that say “we as a body have agreed to add this additional law on top of the Bible”…)
And that’s that. Huge thanks to my former coworker Rick for getting me moving with the free weights workout. His encouragement, companionship, and persistence has got me going. Those gym times each afternoon made some work days tolerable. A special no-thanks goes to my friends who still insist on eating out all the time and stocking up on soda, which of course I just have to participate in (or go hungry/thirsty). And a special “f-u” to certain people who authoritatively declared me a lost cause, always weak, always out of shape, incapable of working hard, etc.
There are two things that will help me get in shape – encouragement and anger. Encouragement that what I’m doing is worthwhile, in reach, attainable, is showing results, and will have a definite return on investment. And anger at those people who summarily dismiss me for being overweight, as well as anger at myself for being this way.