Monday, January 20, 2014

#474 The Fortress of Fat

For the past year, my body has suffered from neglect and abuse while I struggled to regain my mental health. Grief and loss threatened to consume me and I responded to that threat in some pretty negative ways. Ate too much. Drank too much. Exercised too little. The bottom line is, I gained almost 50 pounds since finishing my marathon in the spring. I wan't just running away from my sadness. I was building a fortress of fat where I could hide from it.

2013 had been a hurricane, and it had left my house in a pile of rubble. I was going to have to rebuild from the ground up.Late in the year, some things happened to help me reset the foundations. The time I was spending with my therapist was starting to make sense to me. I was coming to understand just what my values were, and to learn ways to make choices that were more consistent with the things that mattered most to me. I got the opportunity to play with an inspiring group of young actors whose energy and wisdom helped me to see just how destructive my behavior and my thinking had become. Important time spent with my dearest friend, though soon to be ex-wife, reminded me that though the nature of our relationship might change, true love abides. I spent a long, largely solitary Advent in prayer and contemplation, renewing my friendship with God, whose love and guidance I had taken too much for granted. I actually met some new people and started new friendships. And I squeezed into the workout clothes that used to fit me so well, and waddled my big, big butt back into the gym. On Facebook, I called it my #evolutionresolution

In spite of the extra weight, my cardiopulmonary fitness was still pretty good. Thanks to the classes I teach, I get about four hours a week of moderate exercise, and that was enough for me to maintain a strong heart and lungs, even with the surplus pounds. I was tempted to pick a race... always a great motivator for me... and start hitting the road hard. Then I mounted the treadmill.

Too heavy. Way too heavy. I was slow, my muscles screamed after just a mile or so, and my knees and hips let me know that banging them with such a big hammer was going to end very badly for all of us. I was not going to be able to run my way out of the fortress of fat. I was going to have to start somewhere else.

My old iron friends were calling me home. It was time to get back to the weight room. We had just launched a new program called MobileFit at the YMCA, and I had the Wellness Director type in my information. All the shameful numbers. Primary goal: Weight loss. Secondary goal: Strength gains. A magic combination. I should have seen it coming.

The computer giggled softly to itself, and started spitting out daily workouts that would make a Spartan cry for his Mamma. Cruel, hour-long weight-lifting sessions. Daily doses of cardio. I took the recommendations and amped them up even more. I shortened the prescribed rest periods between sets to keep my heart rate up and jump start my metabolism. I increased the progression of weight and reps to encourage muscle growth. I intensified the short walks to long jogs. I've been at it for about a month now, and when I stepped on the scale yesterday morning, I was almost ten pounds lighter than I was at Thanksgiving.

Now that's a lot of weight to lose in a short amount of time. I know that. And I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. But I'm a big boy. And I had been very sedentary. Given those two factors, it is predictable that the first few pounds would come off quickly. I don't expect to maintain that pace for long. But I am encouraged. I can do this. I can be strong again. The fortress of fat will fall. The Fat Man will run again.

I love to tell my people at the Y, "If you can slide back, then you can slide forward, too." Barbells and treadmills have no feelings to hurt. They will always welcome you back. Yes, I have failed myself. But that doesn't mean I can't try again.

Give up? I'll give up when I'm dead. Today, I have a date with a squat rack. And before I'm through the poor thing isn't going to know what hit it.

Peace,
Pennsy


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