I remember back to the days immediately following college and my departure from southern California, as I packed my meaty, (approx.) 280 lb. frame up our apartment staircase in Beaverton. I was a big dude. Wifey wasn’t in the shape she wanted to be, either, but she looked a lot better than I did.
When she first started to walk and jog and run and do other things I despised, it occurred to me that she’d leave me in the dust (literally and figuratively) if I didn’t get a move on. Those first months of trying to get back into shape were the worst. Due to a personality flaw, I tend to push through difficult spots as hard as I can, despite being out of breath and sore as all get out. When I see a hill, I don’t stop ’til I reach the top (I should write that down). Sadly, all of the breathless running and on-fire muscles I encountered only pissed me off, but not in the motivating way. More or less, I’d get frustrated and stop altogether for periods of time.
Wifey gets credit for this realization, although it rings so darn true that it still affects me today. You see, I’m not the super-driven, ultra-motivated fitness type that you see on television and the interwebs and the gym. No, I’m a lazy person; quite possibly the laziest in all of Ada County (big nods to El Duderino). The big realization was this: if we didn’t enjoy it, we sure as hell weren’t going to continue it.
Breathless runs became run-walks… until we were conditioned enough to run for five miles straight. Muscle-obliterating strength sessions become somewhat less frantic, allowing more time to breath and increased feelings of confidence. The experiences started to feel manageable! It was inspiring, to say the least.
So where do you stand? Are you one of those friends that everyone is jealous of, because your idea of fun is group sports, 15-mile hikes, and tempeh-based desserts? Or are you like me, taking pleasure in the periodic hike, but even greater pleasure in food, drink, and downtime? In this day and age, I believe statistics will probably prove you are of the latter variety (but if you’re naturally fit, that’s fine; however, the following article will probably bore you to tears).
The good news is: it’s okay! I’ve accepted the fact that I will never be a fitness guru and, quite possibly, will never have visible abdominal muscles. There are worse things in life, after all.
Isn’t it better to be somewhat active, rather than feel defeated and reach for that tub of butterfat? Wouldn’t you rather fit into a size 32 waistline (for guys, anyway) and not have gigantic muscles than fit into a size 42 and not have gigantic muscles. In the end, the moral of the story is: find what works for you and have as much fun as possible doing it. That’s the best advice I could possibly give to an aspiring not-fat person.
Besides, the only way to truly lose the fat is to control what goes in your mouth. Exercise is bonus, unless you have specific goals or are training for any particular event, exhibition, or eating competition. The following outlines a few of my experiences in the exercise world.
Bad Parenting’s Guide to Fitness for People Who F@cking Hate Fitness and Don’t Want to do It!!
In my experience, cardio gets a bad rap in the fitness community. Gigantic people who could crush me with their thighs often remind me that “cardio is worthless” and “a waste of time.” Why burn calories in the now (cardio), when you could burn calories now and later (strength and high-intensity interval training [HIIT])?” Good question. My answer relates to our realization above: it has to be fun.
Personally, running is no longer a chore or something I hate; it’s sanity. Getting away from the screaming infant, getting up with the sunrise, jogging in nature or where it’s quiet or peaceful or full of natural beauty, these are the reasons that running is meditative and enjoyable for me. I don’t listen to music anymore when I run, because it takes me out of the experience too much. No, I don’t run at a breakneck (or even a respectable) pace, but it is calming and centering and sometimes it’s nice to be so closely in tune with your own body and breathing.
Of course, you might enjoy hiking, trail running, walking, playing team sports or anything else. For my money, as long as it’s enjoyable and keeps you active, it’s worth it. That said, I feel bad for people who spend 90 minutes every day on a treadmill, stationary bike, or elliptical. Yes, they burn calories; but they are soul sucking (hence the nickname dreadmill). In the realm of cardio, who cares what you do, in the long run, as long as you enjoy it and you’ve increased your activity level.
Personally, this is where I’ve had the most success. Fun levels definitely vary, depending on what part of your body you’re training, how heavy you’re lifting, how quickly you’re doing it, and how loudly that random dude is singing while he lifts. Speaking of, I should delineate between my two strength training experiences.
For the last three years or so, I’ve preferred workout routines that hit my entire body. I am stealing this directly from New Rules of Lifting (for Women… it was my wife’s copy, Judgy McJudgerson). Day 1 looked like this: squats (core and legs), shoulder press and wide-grip lat pull-down (shoulders and arms), walking lunges and swiss ball crunches (core and legs). Day 2 looked like this: dead-lifts (lower back, legs, core), push-ups (chest and arms… although I did bench press, but whatever) and seated rows (back, arms), step-ups and prone jackknives (core and legs). By the way, you can take those workouts to the bank, if you choose. They served me well for a long time and gave me much food for thought. I thought this was perfect for me, until I tried…
I’d always scoffed at isolation exercises, watching dudes perform curl after curl in an attempt to make their arms grow bigger; meanwhile, I was doing exercises that would give me practical, full-body strength and give me a better calorie burn (while those guys could still palm my head and squash it like an overripe huckleberry). Then, one day, the head coach of our track team suggested Body Beast. I don’t necessarily endorse Beach Body products, but this workout is one badass workout. The lift sessions are quick with short breaks, which makes this sort of like HIIT, but if you really lift heavy and challenge yourself, it truly is a beast. I’d never seen such quick gains in the size of my arms, chest, and legs. It made me question the whole-body stuff I’d been doing, because the results were fast and awesome. Finally, I had something close to resembling guns (hardcore lifters will still scoff, because they really aren’t THAT big, but…).
In the end, I encourage you to experiment A LOT (and maintain stunning form) before you settle into a routine. I also recommend that you don’t settle into a routine, ever. Period. Variety is, after all, the spice of life; not only will a variety of work outs keep you interested, it’ll keep your body challenged and your fitness level well-rounded.
Ah, high-intensity interval training. Bane of my existence, and the most amazing calorie / fat burn one can achieve. HIIT is like actually doing your work on-time, instead of procrastinating. You get an amazing calorie burn and, in time, much increased lung capacity. The bad news is: nothing sucks worse while you’re doing it. Try the Spartacus work out (complete with 10-second rests) or the 1% workout (jacked up and at a fast pace) or any number of HIIT sample workouts you can find on the internet. The only way you know you’re doing it right is if you’re out of breath, feel like you’ll die of asphyxiation, and are unable to keep up with the instructor for the entire 10-30 minutes. Fuck, it is indeed the worst pain I’ve experienced while exercising. Like I said, however, it gives you the fastest results; in a way, it’s like the perfect tool for fitness procrastinators. Sure, I skipped out on exercise for years of my life, but I’ll make up for it with two months of the worst pain I could imagine.
Have fun!! And, seriously, google “The spartacus workout,” “the 1% workout,” “sample HIIT routine,” or anything like that. You’ll come up with something. On YouTube, you can search for “tone it up” or “fitness blender” or even just “HIIT” and come up with a wide variety of resources to help you limp through a terrifying work out. Let’s not forget the for-pay options of P90X or Insanity, to name a few.
Yoga / Pilates / Misc.
Boy, I wish I had anything great to contribute to this section. Suffice it to say that my yoga experiences have been limited to Wii Fit (great for beginners, not so much for in-shape peeps) and p90X’s version of yoga (a LOT of downward facing dog and cobra, with push-ups in-between). I will say repeat my personal motto: variety is the spice of life. When you take a day off (and rest days are absolutely integral to recovery and improved performance in the future), consider some yoga. I’ve never felt quite as good as when I’ve had a good spine stretch from the sun salutation or that one where you lay on your back and rotate your lower body to one side. It’s great for stretching, some mild strength training, and aiding in recovery on your “rest” days.
So, if you felt in the ol’ TL:DR mood and just skipped to the bottom, here’s the Cliff’s Notes and what I’d ask you to take away with you on your fitness journey:
- Variety is the spice of life: mix up what you’re doing to challenge your body and keep yourself interested;
- Have fun! If you’re not, you’ll probably quit doing it;
- Utilize resources, such as the internet, your friends, random folks at the gym, YouTube, etc.;
- FORM! No one can stress enough how important good form is; wait until you’re walking with a cane because you bent forward during the heaviest back squat attempt of your life;
- Rest at least once or twice a week and do something like walking, stretching, yoga, or pilates to increase blood flow to those areas, stretch shrunken muscles back out, and promote recovery
Have any questions about this post? Was it written to vaguely or did I leave out any key details? Curious about other ways to get motivated, get fit, and stay that way? What are your favorite ways to move that booty? Let’s start a discussion, because I’m sure we could all use it.