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Rekindling a desire to workout consistently

Published: March 17, 2017 (8 months ago)

For the last 3 years, I’ve been pretty slack about staying in shape and my body was starting to let me know….like really let me know. When it comes to restarting an engine’s that’s been shut off for a while, it’s not easy. But I’m finally doing it after 3 or 4 false starts.

All my life, I’ve always been incredibly active, playing pretty much every single day. When I was in college, I played a massive amount of volleyball, about 5 to 8 hours a day, four or five times a week. Sometimes I was playing all day long when playing doubles or three-man tournaments. After college, I returned to my first love, tennis and was playing 4 to 6 hours a day at least six days a week. In my thirties, I started dealing with back problems more and more, but was still pretty active playing racquetball 3 days a week and running 4 to 6 miles another 3 days a week. By the time I was approaching forty, I was really having frequent debilitating back issues that sidelined me from tennis, racquetball and squash for weeks at a time, but I also happened to be living in Baltimore at the time and started biking the Gunpowder rails-to-trail route that would take me all the way into Pennsylvania and back. During the week, I’d bike 6 to 13 miles up and then back, depending on how early of a start I got and on weekends, I was hitting 25 miles one-way. This was how I stayed moving while recovering from back episodes.

By the time I hit forties, I was back in Athens, Georgia and started back playing tennis after almost 8 years of playing other sports (racquetball, squash, or biking). I tell you this not to brag, but just to illustrate just how active I used to be. I met and married my lovely wife in my early forties and she thankfully cleared up nearly all my physical issues, including debilitating back issues that were sidelining me for weeks at a time. For the first time in two decades, I felt whole and was regularly active again. But two things happened: We had a baby girl and we moved to California. Those two events led me to basically working and caring for my family with little time for myself and exercising. Of course, that’s really my fault. I didn’t prioritize. It was easier to work all day to pay the bills then chill with family and sleep a little later so I was fresh to work the next day. Rinse and repeat for four years and we find me closing out my forties less physically active than I have ever been in my life.

As I reflect on my last year or so of several false starts, I realized I have been extremely inconsistent in getting out there and just doing something physical. What’s entirely surprising to me, is that it is HARD to restart the engine. And by that, I mean, re-igniting the desire to get out there and get moving.

Back around Thanksgiving 2016, my wife and I decided to “go Paleo” with our diet. While she’s been more consistent with her diet, I’ve been yo-yoing between sticking to Paleo and the good ole’ traditional American junk food diet – sure there were lots of healthy choices thrown in as we generally eat healthy to begin with. Enough so, that I’m probably still ahead of 90% of the American populace, but I was no where near the consistency I thought I should be at. By the time January 1st rolled around, I reflected on the prior two months and realized I flunked Paleo miserably and re-committed to following the diet regime. Let me tell you. It’s tough. Everywhere you go, the food choices are decidedly non-paleo and you have to work at it to avoid the junk and kill off the desire to eat the junk.

Three weeks ago, I got an email from my local gym inviting me to do their “Strength Stack” program for 30 days. I looked at it for a minute – no real details to go off of or anything, and just said to myself, “why the hell not? I’m not doing anything else.” So I signed up. I’m 47 and not getting any younger. It’s time to get my ass back into shape. I’m launching a new business venture and I seriously need the energy of my 20’s and 30’s to drive a solid business execution while still having plenty of energy to be present for my family at the end of the day.

I was not expecting what came through the email the next day. The program called for four meals a day and a very lean eating habit at that. A pre-workout shake and post-workout shake and every, single, friggin’ day. What have I gotten myself into? I’ve never hit the gym more than twice in a week in my life, and always did a full-body workout that included a lot of agility training for tennis. This thing was massive and with very focused lower body followed by upper body and alternated strength and hypertrophy (bulking up muscles). I’m traditionally not a bulk guy. I’m a strength and agility kinda guy. Oh well, I thought. I said I was gonna do it, and by golly, I am! (yeah, I said, “golly” Y’all deal with it!).

I’m three weeks into the program and have missed about five or so days of the daily routine. My strategies on missed days is just to treat the schedule as linear – that is, the missed day’s workout was simply moved to the next day I hit the gym, so I still executed the whole program in lock-step.

To be fair, of those missed days, I was also playing tennis or I was recovering from a day I did both a workout AND a tennis match, so I’m not, in the least bit way, upset or putting myself down about those missed days.

I have to give a big shout out to Lifetime Fitness and their staff of personal trainers, especially Coach Cliff who put this program together and to Jocelyn Gates who helped me tailor the workout schedule to better suit my tennis activity. We discussed at length how to adjust the workouts and structure them around my tennis schedule and, to my complete surprise, even got a full base-line weigh-in complete with muscle to fat ratio analysis and where in my body, I had muscle presently.

So I have a new schedule that suits my tennis schedule and some concrete goals to work towards for the next two weeks and we’ll check in again. I’m feeling good about my chances of keeping the engine cranked and running for the long-term this time around.

One last thing, if you’re wondering how my wife cleared up all my back issues, it was really quite simple and 100% related to the foods I was eating. She tested me for the seven top allergenic foods: peanuts; seafood; tree nuts; cow’s milk; soy; and wheat. We quickly discovered I was highly intolerant to casein and whey, which are both found in all dairy based products. When I eliminated those two from my diet, all my joint pain and back pain issues miraculously cleared up. My back issues started spiking in my 30’s because that was about when I started doing yogurt, cottage cheese and whey shakes on a regular basis to boost my workouts and recovery. Avoiding casein and whey are critical to my pain-free existence and also my biggest challenge! If you get nothing else from reading this far and you’re dealing with any kind of daily pain, take a very serious look at the foods you’re eating and consider going Paleo while also eliminating the top 7 listed above for 30 days.

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