Friday, 1 March 2013

Weight loss blog 2: Electric boogaloo

So 98 kilos this week.  It's mildly discouraging after the amount of effort I've put in, but I suppose 2 lbs is what's considered healthy, right?

Wall of text this week, but I like this topic.

So, exercise.  I've read that diet is more important to weight loss, but I personally find that depends on your point of view.  See, the way I see it, committing to a diet is a constant effort, you've got to stick with it all day and if you don't, it's not going to work as well.  No surprises there.  The great thing about the gym?  Once you're there, you're there.  I'm not going to turn around and leave, it's more trouble than it's worth to leave and go home when I've made the effort to come out.

A diet is an all day, every day expenditure of mental energy or as I like to refer to it, "arse", as in "cannot be arsed".  It requires a lot of arse.  By the end of the day, you might be burnt out and want to get a pizza.  The gym boils down to a single decision point, a 10 second period where I decide to turn left and go home or to go straight ahead.  This requires little to no arse.

The other great thing?  Diets usually leave me craving more of a bad thing.  Exercise doesn't do that.  The more I exercise, the more I want to keep exercising and while the first 4 sessions are usually the ones I have to bully myself into attending, from then on the general feeling of well being takes me.

If you're having trouble with motivation, I also like to take advantage of my own mental shortcomings.  I'm a bloody terrible creature of habit, if I make plans and can't commit to them, I get irritable for hours.  It struck me after a while that by making the gym a regular thing, by making my mind think of it as "that thing you do after work", it suddenly became something that, rather like dropping a box of toothpicks in front of the rain man, I felt compelled to do and actually got a little put out if I missed.  I find ways to compensate if I miss a session now.

The gym isn't the be all and end all, though.  Really need to stress that.  While I think that the gym is really important, there are other perfectly reasonable alternatives.  I've quite taken a fancy to having a walk during my lunch break at work.  I get a good 3 miles in, I spend my lunch time actually getting fitter as opposed to eating and when I get back to work, I spend the next 45 minutes eating a casual lunch while I'm working so, tricking my mind again (which tends to become easily obsessed with statistics and numbers), I have a 1 hour 45 minute lunch break every day because my brain thinks that eating equates to lunch break, regardless of if I'm sipping on a boiling pot of soup while I'm coding.

So the gym itself.  You're going to need some supplies.  I won't go without the following:
  • My kit (duh)
  • A towel
  • A water bottle
  • Some source of loud music
  • Decent shoes
Not too much, really.  But, let's step through these:

Kit - goes without saying.  I prefer shorts to tracky bottoms.  Plus, the horror of my milk-white legs and hypnotically jiggling backside gets me some elbow room on the machines.

Towel - Jesus Christ.  I've tried going to the gym without one a few times (I don't always remember it) and it's a miserable experience.  Not only is it gross for the guy that has to use the machine after you and pretty unsanitary too, there's no substitute.  I've tried paper towels, yesterday's work shirt or just my gym shirt, nothing else cuts it.  Hell, even if you've fallen behind on the laundry and have to use a floral tea towel.

Water - I can't drink when I'm working out because I cannot circular breathe and I would drown.  Some people can run and drink, God knows how, but I need a good gutful of water after 15-20 minutes otherwise, just to be graphic for a moment, my sinuses start backing up and I get a throat full of mucus.  But you've got sweat to replace, so there's that too.  I prefer to bring a bottle than to use the drinking fountain, it just seems... more sanitary and convenient, y'know?

Music - here's a controversial one.  I've read that some people swear by it, some think it throws you off your pace.  I hate working out without it, if only because it blocks out the trendy music on the tannoy and the constant "HNNNRGGHHH" from the weight area.  Getting a dedicated, up-tempo gym playlist really helps me a lot.  Get some songs for picking you up when you're completely tapped out, songs for that endurance section in the middle, whatever you need.  And the less you're aware of your own heavy breathing, the less you feel like a sexual predator!*

*Unless you're into that.  In which case, I'm going to need you to stay the hell away from my gym.

Shoes - I like the pair I got from Up and Running.  They're damned expensive but they're real durable and they check out your running style to see if you need anything to correct your gait.  I run on the insides of my feet, so now my shoes have raised insteps.  Helps me a lot.  If you don't want to commit to expenive running shoes, grab a beaten up pair of trainers.  If they're comfortable, you're on to a winner.

Then the routine.  For the first 7 weeks, I did nothing but cardio and tried to go for distance rather than intensity.  Start at 15 minutes on whatever machine you like, add a minute more every time you feel like you're not being challenged.  Thing is, it's a nice start, not too high intensity and I found it pretty good for beefing up my lung capacity which is totally a big deal.

I like a treadmill-cross trainer-stationary bike combination myself.  Get the intense stuff out of the way first then cool down.  I realise I'd benefit from a rower session too, but it plays merry hell with my back.

People will say that you should work some weight training in.  You totally can, it'll help, but I dropped a stone this year without lifting a gram so if you want to stick to the cardio for a bit, I reckon there's no harm done.  Besides, the pain you get after a session of weights can be a little hard to deal with at first, especially if you're stiff from cardio already.

I'm now trying a regime of interval training on the treadmill, high intensity on the cross trainer and then stationary bike if there's time follow by a bit of weight training.  They do say that you burn off more calories while idle with muscle.  Helps to get a bit more protein in your diet if you're going to bulk up and it does play a bit of havoc with your weight, but there are definite benefits.

I guess the last bit is the people.  You get a handful of stereotypes in the gym, some good and some bad.  The way I see it:

  • Regulars - the people who actually want to get fitter and sweat a bit.  You'll know them when you see them.  They're not always overweight, they sure can be, but they tend to look serious and tend to be wearing sensible clothes. They're more than happy to stay out of your way and they're never a problem.
  • Gym bunny - men and women, I tend to find it's mostly women.  The people who come in revealing designer outfits, wear designer fragrances and in the worst cases, actually have full makeup or carefully done up hair.  They're usually in with the early evening crowd and they almost always travel in packs.  I can only assume that they're in the gym to attempt to mate with others of their kind 'cause they never seem to so much as break a sweat.  Thankfully they're not too much of a problem, they rarely commit to one activity for more than 5 minutes at a time.
  • The hulk - pretty much exclusively men.  Female specimens exist, and hot DAMN they're terrifying.  On their own, they're just fine.  They'll jump on a weight training machine or the free weights, do their thing and be on their way.  In groups of 3 or more, they can tie a machine up for half an hour or more as they take turns to yell at each other and do reps.  With the relative lack of weight machines but excellent variety thereof in most gyms, it's a waiting game, really.
  • Socialites - if you're going to use the gym to go for a half hour walk and have a really good chat with your friends... y'know, it'd totally be cheaper to just start a walking group.  See some of the countryside or whatever.  I've nothing against training with friends, but when you've been in a cooldown phase for more than 5 minutes, I've got to question the rationale.
  • That one guy who keeps dropping something really heavy in the weights area - because seriously, what the hell man?  We can hear that in the changing room and I fear that one day you may finally break through the floor and into the core of the earth.

But really, so long as you get consistent exercise, it works wonders.  I feel like a new man.  Something that challenges you with every session (and I mean really challenges you, push your limits but don't exceed them) speeds up the process immensely, but little and often's great too.

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