Exercise: Where To Start?

Date
April 20, 2021
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In my last post about metabolic knobs to turn, I told the story of coming home from college at 280 pounds. To nobody's surprise, I did basically no exercise that year at school. But, what about after I came home back to a more familiar setting? I'll start there demonstrating how I started and progressed with my exercise habit.

Start From Zero

There's only up from desk-ridden. I got out and played my favorite sport growing up: basketball. I was lucky enough to have a half-court in my backyard, so that made it very simple. Shoes on. Go out back. Get a ball.

What if I didn't have that luxury? I would tell myself to get out and walk the neighborhood. Start with around the block. Do that twice a day, then three times. Extend the habit to longer distances until I'm out around 2 hours a day. If that's all the movement I'm doing in a day, I'm doing pretty well.

Ok, what if walking wasn't safe or welcoming. Honestly, living in the suburbs with no sidewalks wasn't the most walking-friendly situation. Start lifting. No, not heavy weights to start, just my own bodyweight.

Squats. Can't do squats? Sit in a chair and stand up from it. Do as many as you can.

Pushups. Can't do them? Push yourself away from a wall at an angle. Make that angle harder. Move to a table or counter. Eventually, pushing off the floor won't be so daunting. Do as many as you can.

Pullups. Woah. Nobody should be starting with strict pullups, but that's not a big deal. This one takes a bit more planning and coordination, but totally doable for most everyone. The simplest start is to put two chairs about 2 feet apart and pull yourself between them. Make the angle harder until the start is lying on the floor. Do as many as you can.

Once 12 quality repetitions are easy, find a progression that is harder.

What Next?

It took me moving out and wanting to gain more confidence to step up my exercise game. I hired a personal trainer. It definitely made me accountable and got the exercise habit going for me. But, it wasn't cheap. He made a loose program and told me what to do when I got to the gym. I took it from there after a few weeks.

Cardio in the morning. Treadmill or elliptical. In retrospect, I would say I was wasting my time, but I'll come back to that.

Weights in the afternoon. Almost all machine exercises. This is a great approach coming from no experience. It teaches the movements and how to feel that the muscles doing the proper work and form. Chest, back, legs. Mostly compound movements like squats, deadlifts, rows, and presses.

Doing this program for a few months got me in decent shape, and combined with a pretty strict diet, helped me drop a few pounds.

Regression

Life took me to a place (mentally) where I didn't want to be. I regressed in my training. Periodically I'd pick up some exercise program like Insanity (sadly, I can still quote Shaun T), but I definitely regressed. My walking continued, which was a great benefit for my mind and body. Having dogs really helps!

CrossFit Hype Train

We moved and a new opportunity came into my life: CrossFit. My wife suggested we go to a local free Saturday class. I was hooked, my wife wasn't. Two years later, I was still going about 3 days a week.

The Point

I could go on with what I'm doing now that earned a body I thought I could never achieve, especially now that I'm almost 40. But, here are the main points I want people to take from my exercise journey:

1. Just start doing something

This applies to a program, a type of exercise, how long you workout, with whom, whatever. Don't wait until something perfect comes along. If you try something and it doesn't work for you, then at least you'll know what not to do.

2. Keep trying things

Don't assume what you're doing is perfect for you. Keep experimenting. I even have a day of the week when I experiment. One thing that stuck is a Yin Yoga practice I work in at least once a week.

3. You'll never reach the top

There won't be a day when you'll be done. This will go on forever until you die. Honestly, it is a lot of the fun and adventure in life. Test yourself. Push yourself. See how far you can take it.