Saturday, January 24, 2009

A Dark Time In My Life . . . (PART 4)

If you need to catch up, check out the earlier sections of this long story:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

So, as I was saying at the end of Part 3, it was time for me to meet the challenge of my life. To eat extremely healthy, and to exercise regularly. My ultimate goal was to drop down to 185 lbs by the time of our wedding 6 months later. But first, I set a more reachable goal of 205 lbs -- just 25 lbs from where I currently was in early 2005. Once I made it to that point, I would re-evaluate my routine and diet, and adjust accordingly to make the long haul down to 185.

In the beginning, it was very tough going. Somehow over the 7 - 8 years since college, I had atrophied considerably. The first time I got on my treadmill, I could only run for 3 minutes straight before feeling like I was going to pass out. It was such a disappointment for me. But I was stubborn. Mainly fear was driving me at this point. I knew that unlike failed attempts in the past, this time I COULD NOT give up. Because giving up meant a life dependent on medication and doctor's visits. I could not abide the thought of being on meds. It was against everything I believed in.

So, I stuck with it. I forced myself to stay on the treadmill no matter what. When I couldn't run, I walked really, really fast. I lived by the calorie burner counter on the machine. When the speed-walking became too much, I lowered the speed a little, but increased the incline. Every now and then I would break out into another 3-minute run before slowing down again. Rinse and repeat. I did this for 2o mins in a typical session, burning somewhere around 175 to 230 calories. I knew that was not enough. I had to keep working on my stamina to increase my run time.

Meanwhile, on the muscle training portion of my routine, I was running into problems. I tried to do some pushups and collapsed after just 5. I could only bench press 115 lbs, and curl only 50 lbs combined. But I didn't give up. I knew that if I just kept at it, doing a circuit of three 15-rep segments per exercise, I would eventually get stronger. Soon, after a week of this, I was doing 20 pushups with no problem, benching 130 lbs, and curling 60 lbs combined.

On the treadmill, I had increased my run segments to 5 minutes a pop, switching to speed-walking and incline in-between. I kept this up for 25 minutes, burning somewhere around 300 calories per session. Things were looking good. The workouts were killing me, but I found myself retreating into a familiar mentality that had served me well in high school and college. I called it: The Warrior Zone.

Basically, it works by me psyching myself up. By telling myself that I'm a warrior and that I can fight through the pain. Pain is nothing to me. Fear is nothing to me. The world is nothing to me. The only thing that matters is me and this workout. The workout will not defeat me. I am better than this workout. I am better than this disease.

This was my mantra.

I know it sounds psycho writing it down now, but honestly it really helped me a lot. I was able to endure through all the monstrous pain I was in and just keep going. Failure was NOT an option anymore.

So, things were looking good after the first week. I was sticking to my diet (the easiest part, actually) and my workouts, while killers, were going smoothly and without interruption. I found myself looking forward so much to Fridays, my rest day. I also refused to look at the scale until at least three weeks into my new lifestyle. I knew I would not see results right away, and so I didn't want to be discouraged. I knew that going by the scale would lead to madness, so I didn't look at it until it was absolutely necessary.

Somewhere after the first week, however, I came across an obstacle. Shin splints. This was a blinding, awful pain that would shoot up my shin bones on each leg every time I started a run. The pain would go away after 5 minutes of forced running, but then after the session was over it would come back with a vengeance and leave me in horrible pain for the rest of the night and all of the next day. I bought new sneakers, and started binding my legs during runs. But it only got worse. Finally I had to just sideline myself for 3 full weeks to recover. I applied heat compresses and ace bandages liberally throughout those 3 weeks, slowly strengthening my legs back to form.

In the meanwhile I continued eating all the healthy stuff I outlined in Part 3 of this tale, and working with weights. By the third week, I was doing 30 pushups, 60 situps, benching 150, and curling 70. I didn't notice any major differences yet in my body, except a hardness to my arms. But when I weighed myself on the scale, I had gone from 230 lbs to 219 lbs!!! I was stoked! 11 pounds might not seem like much, but I was more happy that there was at least some evidence of my efforts paying off. That my routines were working! With my legs back in order, this only made me redouble my resolve to loose even more weight.

To make sure I would not repeat the shin splints, I took things slow on the treadmill this time. And I developed specialized stretches to strengthen my calf and support muscles around the shins. This helped dramatically.

Before long, I was running 10 minutes straight, then 15. I had increased my session time to 30 minutes, and was burning around 450 calories at each go. The weight continued to pour off at roughly 2.5 lbs each week. And each new week I would tweak both forms of my workout just slightly. Adding more weights in the weight room, and increasing the speed and incline on my treadmill just a tad. I also started counting calories, discovering that I was eating only 1,600 a day. Simply by the fact that I was eating many smaller meals throughout the day now, I can't say that I really experienced any terrible hunger. I allowed myself a "cheat" day every now and then -- usually my off day on Friday, but every other week -- in which I would eat whatever bad habit food I had been missing and secretly craving. Chinese food, pizza, etc. I had cut out fast food completely, though. I rarely ever cheated with that type of food.

It just so happens my Aunt was getting married the same year as Lisa and I. Her wedding was in April, while ours was in July. By the time of her wedding, I was 3 months into my new lifestyle. And I had reached my first goal -- I had dropped 25 lbs, and now weighed 205.

I felt great! You can't believe how happy this made me. And yet, I was not satisfied. I said to myself: okay, then this was not a fluke. You CAN loose the weight after all. In that case, let's try for 185 by July now. Whereas this number seemed impossible at the beginning of the year, it now was very attainable. I had my doubts, though. I hadn't been below the 200 lb mark since 2000.

But I set to work, increasing both routines yet again. By now I was doing 60 pushups, 100 situps, benching 160, and curling 80. I was also running 3 miles straight through, on a slight incline, and at a speed of roughly 1 mile every 8.5 minutes. I was burning 580 calories a go on the treadmill.

I was sailing. With the onset of Spring, my spirits were looking up. My doc was very happy with my progress, and shocked by how far my blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure levels had dropped. He halved my medications in June and told me that I might eventually come off it all together. I walked out of the doc's office that morning in a daze.

I was doing it!

Somehow, despite the darkest hour of my despair, I was turning things around and taking control of my destiny. The news from the doc only made me that more determined to see this through. I continued motivating myself and making sure through hell or high water to ALWAYS commit to my workouts and diet, despite how tired I might be on a particular day after work. I allowed no excuses and never missed a day unless due to a family emergency or something equally important. But at least 98% of the time, I stuck to the 6 days a week workouts, burning roughly 580 to 850 calories per day.

There was a light at the end of that tunnel after all, and as I neared the time of my own wedding, I now knew that I would make it.

Little did I know just how well I would actually do . . .

TO BE CONCLUDED IN PART 5.

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