It has been one year since I made the choice to get healthy and it’s been a long, sometimes hard, but still fun road to travel. On day one I was so out of shape that all I could do were a few “wall pushups” (using a Smith Machine and kind of angling myself against the bar). Then, over time, the bar got lower and lower, I did more and more, and I built some strength. The thing John, my trainer, and I were really building was my heart muscle and working on my breathing. I sounded like a freight train for a while, and it took me several minutes to recover from even the simplest of exercises.
Now, my recovery time is for my muscles and not my heart or my breathing and that’s amazing. Really! But such was not always the case. Let’s look back a bit and see how it all came together.
The first few months were tough. I saw no gains, no real weight loss, and many times was frustrated at the glacial pace things seemed to be going. What I did not know, and it’s important, is that it is near-impossible to lose weight and gain muscle fast. They do work together, but to do one of these things quickly, the other one suffers.
Part of the difficulty was moving past the embarrassment of “not being good”, at anything, frankly. No matter what I did, I was not as good as anyone I saw at a gym. I was comparing myself to others and, on the road to better health, that’s a bad way to go because someone will always be better than you. Now, I look at my gym mates and can see the hours of work and dedication they put in and they can see it in me too! – and that’s pretty slick.
Something that these “gods of the gym” told me is that they wish they had my legs, my calves, and my build. It never occurred to me that I might have some parts of my body that other, really well-defined folks would admire. Call it what it is – being human – but it felt great to be recognized for my efforts and dedication, as well. Let’s talk about some exercises that almost anyone can do at the beginning, that helped me on the journey. First, don’t get discouraged. Easier said than done, but that is just your mind; it’s not who you are. Like I wrote, I could hardly do a few wall pushups to begin and now I’m lifting weights I never thought possible. Just show up every day, set a schedule, and do the work. It will pay off.
While I could talk for hours about how the body works and how to make the most of everything, there are a few key things to remember, the greatest of which is that the full body will always fall in 3 categories regardless of the level of the training: push, pull, and legs.
I started at Level -0- so that’s where we’ll start today. I did the following exercises for a few weeks to build up stamina (my heart) and to get my breathing in check:
Wall pushups – literally standing with my arms on a wall – as many as I could until I got to ten without heavy breathing
Light “lat” pull downs – usually on a “Smith Machine” with little or no weight
Body weight squats – no weight, just you squatting
Once you get going and feel like you won’t die, you can move to level one or two, which can include:
Lat pull downs with light wight (pull ups as well)
Body wight squats or dumbbell/kettle bell squats
When I moved to level one, I almost died… again. It was hard and there were days I wanted to give in. My trainer, John said, “Just show up, and we will get it done.” I have shown up every week for a year now, and we are getting it done.
From all I can see, the problem with a lot of training programs is they don’t consider the amount of physical load that people are able to receive. Then some people stack too many things on top of a foundation that cannot support it. John was great. He checked in every day and wanted to really know how I was doing. Had he “boot-camped” me I would have prematurely become discouraged, and I would have left. If you go to the gym, have a friend or trainer – it’s not about how much pain you can stand. It’s about how you build a program you can live with, even if it takes a bit longer. In my case I learned that if we are patient and enjoy the small gains without overworking the body that is not able to handle that then you are set up properly for a lifetime of gains. That was a lesson to learn, but now I also know it is a truism. Too much too soon is always a recipe to cause someone to be discouraged and give up.