Tuesday, July 10, 2012

"No." (Project 190, Day One)

I had to shower twice today, but not on purpose.

That is, both showers I took this morning were on purpose in that they were not accidental showers, but I didn't set out to take two showers, it just worked out that way because I made an important decision in the first shower, and that important decision resulted in my having to take a second shower.

Here was my important decision that I made in that first shower:  I am going to BY GOD get in shape only for real this time and I mean it.

That was followed by my decision to start right now.

All important things worth doing are worth doing right now.  Not later, not tomorrow, not sometime in the future: right now.  That's why I never make New Year's Resolutions -- because if something is important enough to want to do it, why would you wait until January 1 to start doing it?  When people say "I'm going to do ____ for my New Year's Resolution" what they mean is "I'm not going to do that at all."

I once before in my life lost over 100 pounds, and went from a guy who couldn't jog more than a quarter-mile, period, to a guy who could run 17+ miles without being much bothered by it... and did that in six months.

You wouldn't know that to look at me, now; I did that back in 1992 or so, and from then on it was a long slow slide to where I am now, and where I am now is a guy who wants to wear the snazzy vest he got with his 3-piece suit but he can't because the snazzy vest doesn't fit.

It's too tight in the stomach, see.

Over the past few years, I've realized that I was getting bigger and bigger, despite what I thought were my best efforts but which clearly were not my best efforts because I know what my best efforts can do: my best efforts can get me to lose 100 pounds in six months and become this phenomenally athletic guy with a 32 - inch waist.

I miss that guy.

(He had more hair, too.)

Over time, I've put on weight. And then some more weight.  And then some more weight.  And my pants got larger and larger and larger to the point where now I'm sort of afraid to get pants as a gift because they might not fit... or worse yet, they might fit.

And two things happened recently that caused me to start thinking harder and harder about this.

The first was that I bought a shirt at the Superman museum on my vacation a few weeks ago, and I was flipping through the sizes and saw XL, but I had to move on past the XL to the XXL, because I'm not an XL anymore -- even though I'm not even the biggest guy in my office, I'm of the size that clothing manufacturers feel cannot be encompassed on the regular (S, M, and L) scale of sizes, but instead must be on the X-scale -- XL on to XXXL, which was the largest size they  had at the Superman Museum.

I was standing there, holding up the XXL and looking at the XXXL and trying to decide if I could get the XXL or needed to go to the XXXL, and something in the back of my mind said:


Just a little quiet voice that said


It didn't elaborate, but I knew what it meant.  I'd heard that voice before -- 20 years ago, probably almost to the day.

Twenty years ago, probably almost to the day, I woke up in my efficiency apartment in Milwaukee.  I sat up, and I showered, and I was going to begin my day, which at that point was mostly reading while waiting to go to work at my job at the Subway sandwich shop, and then, for some reason that I never really figured out, I didn't just sit around and read while waiting to go to work but instead I got up and I put on a pair of gym shorts and a tank top and my shoes and socks and I stretched and I went outside and I began jogging.

I jogged only about 2-3 blocks, that day, and then walked a bit and went back to my apartment.  I didn't have any real plans at that point about anything, other than that I felt like maybe I would go jogging again sometime.

And that night, at the sub shop, instead of my usual meatball sub-chips-and-large coke meal, I had a salad and a diet coke.

Not long after that, I was still jogging every day, and I went to see a doctor to get some advice and he told me how many calories I'd burn doing various exercises (it works out, almost every time, to 100-calories-per-mile if going on your own power, and 20-per-mile if on a bike), and by then I was working out every day and getting better at it.

That workout-- that abrupt decision to just starting exercising and getting into shape, had begun with that same quiet but insistent voice in the back of my mind:


Back then, I'd been bigger than ever, just over 270 pounds, and while I'd always been a big guy, this was too big, and one thing that had happened to me, back then, was that recently I'd gone to get a new pair of pants, and the store hadn't had my size on the shelf, so I'd had to ask the girl -- the pretty girl -- if she had a pair of pants in the back room somewhere in my size, a whopping 46-inch waist, and the girl had looked doubtful, as though no person could ever have a 46-inch waist, and I'd left without the new pants and feeling bad about myself because my size wasn't recognized by regular stores.

So I worked out.  In that first six months of working out, I missed only two days, total, one of those days being Christmas Eve, when I went over to my Uncle Joe's house for the family party.  I went in with my sister, who went in first, and my Uncle Joe said hi to her and then turned to me and said:

"And who's this?"

I said "It's me, Briane, Uncle Joe."

And he said "Holy shit, I didn't even recognize you."

When I was standing in that Superman Museum looking at all the Xs that now preface the size I am, I remembered my Uncle saying that, and I thought back to the playground with Mr Bunches a week or so before that.

Mr Bunches was on the jungle gym, trying to swing from bar to bar, but he couldn't get it.  I had in the past held him up by the waist while he did this, so that he wasn't really supporting his weight, but he didn't want to do that this day.  He wanted to swing on his own, and he'd get onto the first bar and reach out a hand but he couldn't quite get the mechanics of it and so he kept falling.

"Here, let me show you," I said, and I climbed around and put my hands on the bar and lowered myself and hung there, ready to swing my left hand to the next bar, but I couldn't and I just hung there.  I tried to lift myself up, to reach a hand out, to monkey bar it to the next rung, but I couldn't and I finally just dropped and said "I guess I can't show you."


Those who follow this blog or know me in real life know that I've made efforts to get in shape over the years, to try to stop the long, slow, seemingly-inevitable slide into being one of those guys with a belly who everybody assumes is just going to take that last muffin on the platter at the meeting, and sometimes those efforts were met with my deciding that I wasn't really into it because I had Mr F and Mr Bunches and wanted to spend time with them, and sometimes those efforts were met with bee-stings and heart attacks that set back my attempts to be in better shape than I was.

So today, in the shower, I was thinking about that, too, and how over the past few years I've tried to get into shape and even got to the point where I jogged eight miles on a track at a 8-9 minute mile clip only to land back in the hospital two months later, and I wondered whether, if I was to listen to that little voice in my head:


Whether my body would go along with it.  I've been joking with people, half-joking, that I'm going to think myself healthy the way that guy in A Beautiful Mind thought himself sane, and so a month ago I decided that I would get in shape and would do so by running three times per week, only the first time I went running I then got strep throat and couldn't run the rest of the week and then went on vacation, which meant I hadn't really started getting in shape at all, and while I was thinking in the shower this morning, I thought about how the week before all those bee stings and heart attacks I'd gone for a jog and how everytime I decided to get in shape it seemed like something came along and kept me from doing that.

And I imagined this conversation:

Me:  "So everytime I get into shape, it seems like my body rebels and doesn't want to and I get sick or have a heart attack or get all stung by bees or otherwise end up feeling miserable and can't keep working out, and why is that?"

To which I imagined the doctor responding:

Doctor: "Because you're fat."

EVEN IN MY IMAGINATION, I can no longer give myself a pass -- probably because that whole thinking myself healthy thing is actually working -- because even imaginary doctors are just telling me flat-out that I'm fat.

And so I decided, in the shower, that I was going to revive "Project 190."

"Project 190" was what I called my workout program back in about 2002 when I decided to get in shape.  At the time, I weighed 210 pounds; I'd been putting on weight since my first year of law school, when, one day, I had decided to not go jogging.

Back then, in 1995, I was still working out 5 or 6 days a week for about an hour a time; I weighed 175 when I started law school.  And one day, I'd gotten a call from a friend. 

"We're all going to the Terrace to drink beer," he said, because we no longer pretended that anyone went to the Terrace at the Memorial Union for any reason but to drink beer.  It was noon on a Saturday, a beautiful September afternoon, about 70 degrees, sunny with a blue sky, and that last lingering summer warmth.

"I'll meet you there," I said.  "I just have to go for a jog."

And then I hung up and put on my shoes and was stretching and listening to my Walkman, and I thought to myself:

What am I in training for?

And the answer being nothing, I changed clothes and went and drank beer.
So about 7 years later, I was now a hefty 210 pounds or so and not real happy about it, and I decided that I would get myself into shape, and I set as a goal that I would get myself down to 190 pounds -- hence the name, Project 190, a project for which I made a mixtape to go jogging to and everything.  (In the olden pre-iPod days, commitment, whether to a person or to a plan, was shown by making a mixtape. In these new playlist-sharing mp3 days, I'm not surprised bonds are falling apart left and right.)

And then I hurt my back -- slipped a disk at a waterpark and spent two years recovering and eventually having surgery and not working out like I wanted to or felt like I should -- and then the Babies!, Mr F and Mr Bunches were born and suddenly here I was, standing in a shower 10 years later, weighing 256 pounds

MY GOD 256 pounds!

And all my shirts are XXs and I can't do the monkey bars and Imaginary Doctors are calling me fat and I was only 14 pounds away from the weight I had been at that day I started jogging out of the blue 20 years ago and I thought to myself, again:


  And with that I decided to make getting into shape a priority, a real priority, not a fake one, a priority that I would do every day, even if it meant not blogging or writing or not sleeping in or not doing whatever I did, that I would first thing every day work out and get myself into shape, every single day and then the part of my mind that's been in charge since 1995 or so said 

"Well, yeah, tomorrow, right?"

And as I dried off and started getting dressed, I told that part of my mind:


And I put on workout clothes and told Sweetie I was going for a jog and that from now on I was going to work out every day until I weighed 190 pounds again, and I went downstairs to put my shoes on.

"Going to work! Bye!" said Mr Bunches.

"No, actually I'm going to go for a jog and then to work," I said back to him. And I did: I went for a jog and came back home and took my second shower of the morning because if something is important, if you're really going to do it, you do it right now, not tomorrow.

So, Project 190 is back on, and I'm going to use my daily posting about Project 190 as a commitment device -- I am going to make sure that I do this, every day, that I work out every day and do this for real this time, not just thinking myself healthy but living myself healthy, even if it means taking two showers every day.

I'm prepared for that sacrifice.

Today's workout:  Running on the outdoor path, distance unknown.
Latest weight:  I didn't weigh myself today.  I'll start that tomorrow.
Today's inspirational song I listened to while working out:  The Monitor, Bishop Allen:

 I got to that song about 12 minutes into the workout, and pumped my fist to it, punching the air as I ran to spur me on. 

That's all for today.  See you tomorrow.


Michael Offutt, Tebow Cult Initiate said...

I wish we lived close to each other because I could really get on board with a fitness partner and I think mutual encouragement could push us both to the levels of fitness that we desire.

Briane P said...

A "Commitment Device" is something that you use to stick with your promises. When I quit smoking it was various rewards such as buying a CD I wanted if I went 24 hours without smoking.

The Internet is my commitment device for this - by posting this I want to stick with it and make it a project.

So let's be each other's commitment devices. Post about your fitness and I'll post about mine and we'll tell our readers about the other's.

Andrew Leon said...

Well, I think that's awesome for you. I should start exercising again, but it had gotten really tedious to the point where I was just hating every minute of it. Still, I'm not doing too badly most of the time since we don't eat sugar. But! I can tell that my arms are weaker, now, than they were a couple of years ago when I was doing push ups everyday and stuff, and I don't like that.

Liz said...

Good for you. And I agree about New Year's Resolutions.

(And if something goes wrong again, instead of quitting, perhaps scale back. Like walk instead of run.)