PUMPING IRONY: My 44-Day Fitness Test

It’s a sign of the times, I suppose — and of my employer’s zest for innovation — that I now have a wellness coach. We spoke on the phone Thursday, JM and I, for about 30 minutes, reviewing the results of my recent health screening. These are the kinds of situations that beg for embellishment:… Read more »

It’s a sign of the times, I suppose — and of my employer’s zest for innovation — that I now have a wellness coach. We spoke on the phone Thursday, JM and I, for about 30 minutes, reviewing the results of my recent health screening. These are the kinds of situations that beg for embellishment: “Oh, yeah, I run a mile every morning and eat nothing but cruciferous vegetables and wild-caught Alaskan salmon.” But I resisted that sort of prevarication and gave it to her straight: “I have a hard time revving up my cardio on a regular basis and I enjoy a couple glasses of wine with dinner every night….”

Even so, by the time we had run through the whole health-screening thing, JM seemed to think that I was pretty much on the right track. My triglycerides (a word I first discovered in my 20s when my father had his first major heart attack) were low, my HDL/LDL cholesterol was excellent, and that off-the-charts blood pressure reading (see earlier post) was probably an anomaly. I agreed to try running a couple days a week, hike my fiber intake, and ramp up my morning workouts to 30 minutes, and we would check back in a month or so.

JM seemed particularly pleased that I had begun a weekly yoga practice, a fact I mentioned as nonchalantly as possible — along with my biweekly visit to my acupuncturist and my morning meditation practice — as a way of telling her that she probably didn’t need to worry too much about me. Still, I figured it might make sense to keep a record of my activities during the intervening days as a way of tracking my progress, or lack thereof. And you, dear reader, get to share in my journey.

All the above was on my mind, since my second yoga lesson was scheduled for later that afternoon, and I would be headed to Ms. Needle after that. The lesson went even better than expected. As I mentioned to MLW later, it helps to know what the routine is, given that my poor hearing often prevents me from understanding what our learned yogi is saying. I found that my taut hamstrings were a bit more flexible than they were last week and that I could navigate the rest of the moves pretty well (except for that one where you try to grasp your hands behind your back — one over your shoulder, the other from behind your back!!). I’m still surprised at what an intense workout even this beginning, “gentle” yoga class produces.

Later, in the comfy barcalounger at my acupuncturist, I recounted my recent areas of stress and confessed to feeling actually pretty OK. A few needles were placed in strategic places and I enjoyed a lovely nap. Not a bad way to end the day.

So, let’s call this Day 1: Friday, 9/9

I overslept, of course, so I had to cut short my morning zazen and workout, but I did get in a good long bike ride with MLW in the evening. Maybe 4 miles over to our favorite pizza joint and 4 miles back.

Day 2: Saturday, 9/10
Got in a full 30 minutes of meditation and then another 30-minute workout: A little yoga stretching followed by 30 pushups and then three rounds of the following: 10 kettlebell swings, 10 goblet squats, 10 kettlebell cleans, 10 two-hand overhead lifts and tricep extensions, and 10 bicep curls/shoulder presses with each hand. That had me lathered up pretty good, and then for good measure, 10 really slow pushups. I wasn’t wearing my heart-rate monitor, but I’m guessing I was pretty easily into the 130s throughout most of this routine.

Day 3: Sunday, 9/11
Recovery day. My hammies are barking from the squats yesterday, so no lifting today. Instead, I decide to pull on my sneakers and go for a run. Part of my agreement with JM is that I would try to ramp up my cardio, and nothing does that better than a little jogging. I stretch out my calves as best I can and head out.

The difference between jogging on the dreadmill at the gym and running outside is that you can lengthen your stride a bit when you’re off the machine, which is what I’ve been hoping to do for some time. For the first 1/8th mile I’m thinking I’m moving pretty well. The knee feels strong, the calves aren’t cramping, and I’m happy to be finally running rather than jogging in place on some revolving rubber mat. But soon I’m sucking wind like some 60-year-old and looking for some soft piece of lawn on which to collapse. By the time I hit the quarter-mile point, I need to walk. I’d say there’s some endurance issues here. I take a little breather and manage to travel another half mile at a slightly slower pace, but it’s clear that I really need a more gradual routine if I’m going to get any miles under my sneakers before the snow flies. There’s a great program here for preparing for your first 5K (which I’m not), but the whole walk-run approach might make some sense for me. I’m thinking: 1/8th mile run, 1/12th mile walk, 1/8th mile run, 1/12th mile walk. Repeat four times and you’ve done a mile. I’ll take a couple days off and try it again on Wednesday.

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