Day Eighty-Three: Space to Exercise

I’m lucky. In many areas, really, but I was just thinking today that I’m lucky to have a large enough space that there’s space to exercise.

There have been a lot of times in my life when I’ve lived in cramped quarters. Not submarines, but small enough that I couldn’t stretch, let alone get a rowing machine in or jump rope. And in Canada, not having a home space for exercise means months of incurring gym fees or not exercising. Or potentially breaking your butt slipping on ice.

“You can exercise anywhere!” say chipper people making DVDs or websites from their massive exurban homes. It’s really not true. It’s hard as hell to work out in tiny spaces. So while we are definitively house-poor (I looked it up), I kind of don’t mind scrimping in other areas to pay the mortgage, because I really love our house and what it affords us in terms of space.

The podcast is quiet today because we have a visitor in the next room. We have a guest room! That’s great!

But back on topic: we have space to exercise.

Space to exercise is mental space

When your natural tendency is don’t-exercise, your brain is always looking for excuses. “I have to move three chairs and roll up the rug” is an excuse.

I’m also fortunate to have a partner that is also invested in having some space in which to exercise. So it’s not like a dedicated room, but there’s part of the family room that is mentally earmarked as The Space Other Stuff Doesn’t Go In. It doesn’t look like a home gym or anything, but we both know, and that’s enough.

So getting up and going into that space is itself kind of motivating. It’s a good space to have.

I’m lucky.

Day Eighty-Two: Ramping Up

I was at a point by the end of last fall where I was running multiple 10ks a week. Not 10k races, just 10k routes, usually twice a week, sometimes three. Now that the weather’s getting less stupid, I’m ramping up again.

Today was kind of an accidental 8k — it started as six, but the geography of my city is really weird. So I thought I’d turned down a street that ran parallel to another one, but they diverged considerably more than I thought. I wound up running in the wrong direction for seven or eight minutes.

It was good, though — I’d been doing sixes, and never really felt like eight when I set out in the morning. So being trapped in an eight this morning reminded me that eight isn’t much worse than six… and ten isn’t much worse than eight.

Ramping up without overdoing it

My big problem is I tend to get enthusiastic. Then I do too much. Then I hurt myself. I have to stop. I feel bad. And I wind up back where I started. And recovery takes longer now that I’m older.

So the constant mental battle in my head is “are you ramping up too fast? Are you overdoing it?” versus “are you using ‘don’t overdo it’ as an excuse to be lazy?”. This is the actual mental conversation I have pretty much daily.

I don’t know how to reconcile the two sides of that equation. Because sometimes, I’m pretty sure that I am being lazy. Other times, I definitely feel that I’ve strained it and I’m teetering on injury. But it’s super difficult in the moment to know which I’m doing.

One way out is to get a trainer, but that’s not financially in the cards right now. And the whole justification for the rower was it’s saving money over time on gym memberships and other fitness spending.

So it’s a tough one. Ramping up without overdoing. Not overdoing but not making excuses. The ouroboros of my fitness brain.

Day Seventy-Eight: Spring is Sprung

Spring is sprung! The grass is riz. I wonder when dem boidies is? Dey’s on da wing? Why that’s absoid? Of course, da wings are on da boids!

The first day of spring in Ontario is frequently not that different than the winter; this morning’s run was exactly at the freezing mark. Sidewalks clear, except for one patch of ice that nearly did me in at the end. Fancy dancing saved my butt.

I have never been this excited about running before — the rowing machine should be arriving today, so I’m looking forward to getting back to the rowing/running alternations that marked the fittest period of my life. Which was admittedly about 15 years ago. So I’m not setting myself up for 30 pounds of weight loss and being absolutely back at peak fighting trim in weeks. It’s going to take work, and I may never get back there. But I’m looking forward to trying.

Spring is sprung, and UPS is insane

The only hitch in my day is having to engage in tense negotiations with my wife. I have a new person starting at work today on a placement, so I absolutely have to be there in the morning. But UPS has a delivery window of, get this, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Twelve hours of uninterrupted possibility. We don’t own a car, and the box is 70 pounds, so it’s really, really inconvenient to try to pick it up.

Twelve hours. Seriously. In 2017. Uber can have a car at my door in five minutes and I can track it in real time. UPS can’t narrow down a delivery window to less than 12 hours.

Anyway. Lots of negotiation about her being home this morning, me maybe having to come home this afternoon — it’s a pain. But by tomorrow, I’ll have a rowing machine, and spring is sprung with my absolute favourite form of exercise in the world. Life is good. UPS is dumb. But life is good.



Day Seventy-Five: Walk Away the Pounds

The weather’s been weird — or normal, given how badly we’ve screwed up the climate — lately. At any rate, I was getting back into my running groove when we suddenly dropped back into sub-zero temperatures with a 15 cm snow dump. My small city is… fine?… at sidewalk clearing, but not good enough to run without fear of slipping. So I have returned, once again, to Walk Away the Pounds.

Walk Away the Pounds
It gets weirdly Jesusy near the end, but it ain’t bad.

This is, believe it or not, awkward for me to talk about.

Those who know my wife now know her as a pretty fit person — not a triathlete but, you know, in pretty good shape. When we got married, though, she was just getting back into exercise after a bit of a slump where chaotic work hours had taken a toll over a couple of years.

So when she moved to Canada, her mom gave her an exercise DVD that she’d liked; three “walk away the pounds workouts” in which a bunch of women (and a beleaguered older man named Randy) do a routine where you walk in place, lift your legs, move your arms, etc. In the last bit, you hold three-pound soft weights.

Walk Away the Pounds surprised me

I thought it was goofy as shit.

But that, combined with a Wii and a WiiFit board, and Marisa lost some weight, gained some stamina. Out of sheer curiosity, and solidarity, I decided to give the walk away the pounds thing a try.

I was surprised. The three-mile walk, especially once you get some weights in there, is tough, if you take it seriously and try to execute it with good form and vigour. Especially if you jack up the weights a bit.

So it’s been my winter fallback when I can’t run. FitStar covers the odd days, when I want to do all sorts of muscle work. Walk Away is actually a chunk of my cardio. Over time, I challenge myself by carrying five- or seven-pound weights throughout the whole thing.

It’s no substitute for running, or rowing. Did  I mention that we finally bit the bullet and ordered the Concept2 on my birthday? But it’s something. And it’s more of a something than I initially gave it credit for.


Day Seventy-Three: Results! The plan is working.

I don’t want to get a swelled head, here, but I believe I’m actually improving. I’m getting results.

Today I tried something I hadn’t done in a while — my push-up circuit, which is 10 push-ups, 10 sit-ups, 10 leg lifts and 30 seconds of planking, in a row, rest for 45 seconds, repeat the circuit five times.

It’s been a month or so since I’ve done it; lots of FitStar and other things in the interim.

It was… not bad! Not easy by any means, but I wasn’t a weeping mess by the end of it, which is a nice change from previous attempts.

Results mean more results

I’m not setting out to be a triathlete or win the WORLD’S FITTEST MAN competition here. So it’s pleasing to see that things that were hard, are now less hard. But this is where I also have to be careful not to get too enthusiastic. Because that leads to overcommitment, which leads to injury. And then time recovering, and losing ground, and etcetera.

After a couple of days of being sick and low-energy, though, I needed a shot in the arm to encourage me. This was it. Zipping through the circuits this morning was my first “THINGS ARE HAPPENING ” moment in a while. It’s quite galvanizing.

So without pushing myself too hard, I’m motivated to at least maintain. Maybe kick things up HALF a notch. Running is back out this week — blizzard yesterday, and our sidewalks aren’t safe after it snows. But I’m definitely motivated to keep going with FitStar.

I feel good! Sinusy and headachey, but good. Motivated. It’s nice.




Day Sixty-Seven: Home Gym & Big Buys

I’ve never really wanted a full home gym, but I do prefer exercising at home over out of the house. It’s partially because I am acutely uncomfortable exercising around other people. Also because really just getting up and doing it is the best formula for me.

Before the Ontario move, I had a pretty good set-up: weights, a good bench, punching bag and Concept 2 rowing machine. That all went when we moved here to a much smaller place. Now that we’re in a house again, I’m kind of missing it all.

Home gym versus the one big thing

Of all of it, the thing I miss the most is definitely the rower. I miss my Concept2. I’ve tried using the ergs at two gyms in town, but they’re always kind of janky, or there’s a wait.

Rowing was also the only machine-based exercise I’ve ever bona fide enjoyed. I really liked it! Hard, intense, full-body workouts. I’d get on with headphones and get off 30 minutes later feeling blasted. I still enjoy and will keep up with running, but the rower was the one home gym thing that I loved.

The problem, as it often is, is cost. My wife and I have been crunching numbers, though, and if she gives the rower a good shake, it means her pausing her spin classes for a while. So if this replaces a gym membership, and her spin membership, it “pays for itself” in a year. That’s not bad, given that these machines are nigh-indestructible.

That’s kind of a false savings, though. We could also be just like the approximately 7.1 billion people on earth that don’t have a rowing machine and are doing just fine.

So it comes down to goals. Am I failing right now in a way that a rowing machine would change? Would spending the money substantially improve things? Can I commit to something like rowing on a three- or four-times-a-week basis? All the questions to answer before we decide.

Day Sixty-Five: Chestercize

I don’t think “chestersize” is a word. After attempting the pushup-centric workout on FitStar this morning, by golly I’m gonna try to make it one. I was feeling pretty good on the exercise front, and tried to strike out in a new direction.

I got slapped down hard. By my iPhone.

A bunch of thoughts on that: first, I’m pretty happy with my attitude. It wasn’t “this is impossible and I’m never going to do it again.” It was “this is really freakin’ hard and it’s going to take a long time to get good at it.” I’m trying to visualize a future me who can do typewriter pushups and get to that guy.

Chestersize gets stupider the more I think about it.

Now it just sounds like something to slim your chesterfield. Which is crazy. And apparently “chesterfield” is an Ontario regionalism for “couch” that isn’t used anywhere else, so now everyone is confused.


Anyway. I’m pretty happy with the running; fairly routine 6ks, building back up to two or three 10ks a week once the weather gets consistently good.

It’s a bit frustrating, because I can remember a time in my life when I could do 100 pushups. It existed. And I’m never quite sure what I should be thinking is reasonable to re-attain, and what, at 43, I just need to look at and say “that day will never come again.”

I think I’m okay with giving up on some things, if the alternative is eternal frustration and serious injury.

But with the Internet, it’s too easy to find the fringe cases. Genetic anomalies that get into bodybuilding at 65 and are benching 400 pounds at 70. It’s hard to gauge what I can expect as an average person with a job and a life. I don’t have 90 minutes a day for the gym (or the money for a gym membership). I can’t afford a trainer. I’m just a reg’lar fella. I don’t know what I can expect from chestersize.

So for now, I’m sticking to pushing my boundaries with things like FitStar and trying to take failing as a goal marker rather than a frustration.

Day Sixty-One: Cool Runnings

Okay, I know I can’t resist a bad pun, but “cool runnings” is just stupid. Sorry.

But I ran today! Despite it being COLD AS BALLS. I’m pretty proud of that.

I’ve had an on-again off-again running winter, mostly off again. The main issue is the our sidewalks are never quite cleared after snowstorms, and the city doesn’t sand or ice sidewalks. So it has to be clear and dry as a bone before I’ll take the chance.

Today was the test; we’ve come out of a spate of “the planet will die in a lake of fire” midwinter heat. So everything is dry and clear. But now we have a cold snap. So it was sub-minus-ten this morning, which is normally not weather I’d run in.

But I ran today!

It wasn’t that bad. Cold air in the lungs is no fun, but once the body warms up, it’s a fairly good running experience. Just don’t stop. Don’t ever stop. Because stopping means cooling down, and all the sweat you’ve generated starts to cool VERY quickly and then you’re basically your own tub of ice water. Frosty sweat. It’s gross and uncomfortable!

Cool Runnings is also a dumb movie.

In case you didn’t get that reference earlier. John Candy, they weren’t all winners.

Other stuff… meh, not so good. I gave into the allure of Free Sandwiches yesterday, and ate too many cookies. I have failed to dialogue with Evening Me. But I ran today! That’s a good boost of confidence.


Day Fifty-Two: I Hate Yoga

Maybe “hate” is too strong a word, but I strongly disfavour yoga.

Because I am bad at it.

And it makes me feel bad.

Yoga is one of those things in the unattainable category for me: I tried yoga at many points in the past, but have more or less written it off. I don’t have the time, or the inclination.

I especially don’t have the flexibility.

“Anyone can do yoga!” say people who have never seen me attempt yoga. On the surface, I look yoga-capable: I have the standard number of appendages, I’m a bit overweight but not obese, I’m capable of a full range of motion.

But I am not flexible.

I am inflexible.

I am anti-flexible. 

My body has the inverse flexibility required to do yoga.

I hate yoga, and I need to be okay with it.

I tried yoga this morning — again. It was a humiliating half-hour of being reminded of my stretching limits and how absolutely terrible they are.

And I think I need to get to a place where it’s okay to hate yoga. It’s an aspiration I’ve failed at many times and at some point I’ll have to let go of. I don’t intend to, like, swear I’ll never do it — people get into stuff later in life — but I need to not feel bad that I’m bad at yoga.

“And what,” says my stupid internal dialogue, “what if this is just the realization you require in order to free your mind for yoga, grasshopper?”

“Shut up, internal dialogue,” says my external dialogue.

I think most people have a yoga. An aspirational thing you think you should be doing and you think your life would be better if you did. But you can’t. For time reasons, money reasons, family reasons.

You can’t eat all the squirrels. Uncle Rodney said that before he was taken away and we never spoke of him again. I guess yoga is one squirrel I’ll probably never eat, and I have to be fine with that.


Day Twenty-Two: Bad Sleep II — No Exercise Boogaloo

Arrgh. Another bad night for sleep — this time not the cat’s fault, just me and my busy brain. Today, I opted not to kill the bear, and slept in. No exercise.

The bad sleep may have been due, at least in part, to some really bad food choices yesterday as well. My wife was out all day co-hosting an event. I didn’t plan my day, foodwise, and wound up just kind of grazing and eating poorly. Not intent, just a kind of laziness combined with a natural gravity toward bad food choices.

So I’m coming out of a real bad weekend in terms of my goals, and starting the week on the worst foot.

How do I right this ship?

First, by being kind to myself. Beating myself up over this won’t change anything and won’t help anything.

Second, by trying to learn from this. One lesson: I need to really plan my food, especially if I don’t have a partner around to work with.

Third, by getting right back on the horse. I can’t dick around for a day or two in a fug, I need to finish this, and then plan my food day. Then figure out a way to sneak in a little exercise at least (a good walk at lunch, maybe).

Fourth, I need a ‘planned cheat day,’ which sounds ridiculous. I think accruing a bunch of good days with no plan for a cheat day was ruinous, though.

Anyway. I’m disappointed with myself, but nothing’s changed — I need to learn from this, and recognize that being good to myself is more of a treat than ‘treating myself’ with old standbys when I don’t have anything better on the go.

I know I can do this, I just need to get out of my own way and let myself do it.

Back on that horse. Onward and upward.