As This Year Winds Down…

I sat and thought for while to find the right word or phrase to describe all of 2013. I thought change would be a good one, but its almost too generic to use. Something will always change each year. But alas, I think the right word is:

Reawakening

It just happened, and I think it was a delayed reaction to the meditation in which I participated in at one and half years ago. I started the year continuing the job that began in September of 2012, and somewhere deep inside my body started to tell me something wasn’t right. After a near nervous breakdown in May, I made a bold move to quit and take a break from work and not have an income. I just knew I had to do something different and simply stop what hasn’t been working. Ever since then, each and everything in my life that I thought I once knew, is now beginning all over again. I see my friends in a different light. I perceive my job and career as two completely separate things. And it hasn’t ended yet. Things have been uncomfortable because my body is learning to readjust to a familiar environment again. Who knows what will happen in 2014, but what I do know for sure is I am happy that in 2013 I chose to stop doing what didn’t make sense and finally wake up.

The Process To Meet A Goal Lies In Your Personality

Like many overweight people in first world countries, I want to lose weight and look slim. But here’s the problem: I don’t like exercising. For years on out it has been an internal struggle for me to keep a regular schedule going. Even if I do manage to keep a regular schedule, during many workouts I became lazy and unfocused, so essentially I was going through the motions of exercising, but I was never focused on exercising. I felt good about going to the gym, but my body didn’t feel that much better after leaving. The only other alternative I have is surgery, but I refuse to choose that route.

I went through a period thinking that I couldn’t slim down because I had no desire to truly focus on exercising. I let the swelling in my left ankle be an excuse to take off more days than necessary. Pushing myself to the gym was always a chore. I wasn’t enjoying the process of losing weight, but yet deep down inside I did want to lose weight. Then not long ago it finally dawned on me that I had to break down the problem. I’ve been watching a lot of college football lately, and I noticed a good coach doesn’t focus on the number of games they must win, but instead they focus on the team they must beat each week. Ultimately the number of wins do matter if a university wants to be eligible for a championship game, but the process of beating the opponent each week is where the true focus is at.

When analyzing my issues with exercising, I needed to break down the process into smaller problems that were easier to solve. I knew I hated exercising, and to not acknowledge that made it difficult for me. I can’t fool myself, but I can make it less painful. It came down to me writing down the questions I needed to address and answer it best by fully examining my own personality:

  1. How do I solve my ankle swelling problem without resting longer than my entire body needed?
  2. When is the best time for me to exercise?
  3. Where should I exercise?
  4. What kind of exercise fits me best? What do I need to keep myself disciplined during the process of exercising, so that I focus on proper form?
  5. To what extent can I change my diet such that I will continue the diet indefinitely instead of following it only during the short term?

Asking myself all these questions was a hassle, but as I focused on one question at a time, the problem became more manageable.

To fix the ankle swelling, I had to realize that I’m not the only one with this problem. There are tons of professional athletes, especially basketball, football, and tennis players, whom twist their ankles so many times that it’s no longer the way mother nature originally built it. With a bit of research, the answer was an athletic ankle brace. I scoured the internet to find out what the professionals were wearing – and all it cost is $27. The ankle brace I found, the MedSpec ASO Ankle Brace Stabilizer Orthosis, was loose enough that it didn’t restrict the required movements during a workout, but rigid enough to keep the ankle from swelling up. One of the worse things to anticipate on the day after a workout was my swelling ankle. This brace solved it. And during the workout, I didn’t need to worry about injuring my ankle.

When should I exercise? With my work schedule, my only real options are before or after work. I didn’t have the motivation to wake up early and get it done before work. After a nice dinner, I knew I wouldn’t put myself in gym shorts. Again, I had to keep in mind that I am not supposed to force myself to do something completely against my personality, but instead find something my personality would be willing to work with. I know I like eating, which of course got me into this problem in the first place. But this made it easy, I had to exercise before dinner. The next question is where….

I never bought a gym membership because I was fortunate enough to land a first job where a full service gym was onsite at the company campus, including an option to hire a personal trainer. This gym looked like the perfect place to get fit – but I don’t think I managed to shred an ounce of fat despite how many miles I ran or pounds I lifted. Looking back, it was clear I lacked true focus. In most sessions I waited too long between reps, make small conversations with coworkers, and at times when really fit guys were nearby, I became conscientious about how and what I was working on. My conclusion was the gym wasn’t the answer. I needed a place of solitude to block out the noise and maintain true focus on my technique and form. The answer was simple – my garage.

In the garage, I didn’t have any equipment. What kind of workout could I possibly do in there, and what workout could I stick to? I needed something with the least amount of equipment because I didn’t want to invest too much money, nor did I want to spend too much time getting started. I also needed a program that would keep me focused because I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it on my own, however I couldn’t afford to hire a personal trainer. I also couldn’t ask a partner to help me because then we’d have issues with working out a schedule. I needed something that got straight to point, was easy to start up, and had enough guidance for me to stay focused. Funny how when my head is trying to find an answer, one suddenly pops up. I was chatting with my friend about this and he recommended I pick up a copy of Insanity. Within a day I had the DVDs in my hand. All I needed was a laptop, yoga mat, and towel. It sounds silly, but this is the only way I could stay disciplined. At first I was embarrassed that I needed a DVD to exercise, but in the end, who really cares? Only I should care. It’s my health, not anyone else’s. I had to embrace the fact that a pre-recorded coach on a DVD was going to help me through this. And he did.

My next challenge was diet. This was the hardest obstacle, because there are no shortcuts. I needed to make a commitment to change to a healthier diet, but not so far to the extent that I would be disgusted with my food. Remember I said I loved eating, so I had to be very realistic about what kind of diet was sustainable for me in the long term. I decided to reduce red meat intake, cut down significantly on deep fried food, and replaced my breakfast with a nutrition shake/smoothie. Seriously, this was hard. And especially when I had just started the Insanity program, after the workout I was constantly craving the food I swore to cut down or stay away from. But it worked out because I realized from the bigger picture it was a small sacrifice for my better well-being.

In the end, this wasn’t easy. It didn’t happen over night. I had to accept that I am not the guy that goes to the gym at midnight. I am not the guy hat gets hyped up to bench press 200 pounds off my chest. And for sure I am not the guy with a passion for personal fitness like Maria Kang such that I’d open a non-profit to promote fitness. I am none of these, and once I accepted that, the solution emerged. All I want is to lose some weight, and exercise had to happen. I just needed to know what worked best for me. The best part? Fitting into a slim fit dress shirt after it was all said and done. And there’s still more work to do.