Many of you who read this blog* may recall that once upon a time I was getting in shape, again.
*as if there are many? SO PRETENTIOUS. Or is that the right way to use that word? Probably not. Or maybe it is. I just looked it up and the definition is
"Adjective Attempting to impress by affecting greater importance, talent, culture, etc., than is actually possessed."
I like any definition that gives up on being accurate and resorts to etc.
That effort was put on temporary hiatus back in September last year when I began having worse-than-usual chest pains, worse-than-usual in that they were bad enough to make me want to go to the ER, and spend the fall going through yet another round of tests and procedures and magnetic imagings and etc., all of which led to (as usual) nothing definitive or anything like that. Just the usual "So you're probably not going to die right away or anything" type of diagnoses that I've been getting since the original heart attack lo those many almost three years ago, and during which time I religiously did not work out, if you can not do something religiously, which I think you can (not) do.
That is, I think you can not do something religiously. I'm getting all confused. Anyway, I didn't work out for a long time, which led to Christmas, albeit not directly insofar as Christmas would have probably arrived anyway whether or not I was working out, but it was Christmas when I noticed something, and that something was "the third notch of my belt."
For a long long long time I had been stuck on the first notch of my belt, which is a terrible place to live, knowing that you are on the very edge of Belt Existence, or Beltxistence (TM) and may soon pass into a different -- larger, but darker -- realm.
With a little bit of exercise and some judicious sucking in and watching what I ate, and when I ate, in particular, though, I had through Project CXC and those efforts, gotten down to the second belt notch -- so I had a whole belt notch to spare, a major victory, by about November.
Now, some of that was not just the determination -- dare I say, grit? I dare -- that I had shown in things like "not snacking a lot" and "trying very very hard to not eat an entire pizza in 24 hours", but was also the result of a potential-wisdom-tooth arriving at perhaps the worst best time it could have: the week before Thanksgiving, a/k/a The Start Of The Season Of Eating.
The Saturday before Thanksgiving, about two months into my health/chest pain imposed hiatus from working out, I had sat down on a Saturday night to do a little reading and have a little ice cream, and that is consistent with all that grit I was talking about because I'd been really very good about watching what I ate, and dieting for me does not mean never having good food. Therein lies the doom of almost every diet or exercise program: A lack of sustainability.
If you make a major change in your life, like not being fat, you want it to last, right? I do, and I assume I speak for all of you, otherwise, why am I bothering? Don't try to tell me you didn't elect me to be your spokesperson. I have the minutes from the meeting right here. Actually, I lost them. Anyway: you want major changes like "no longer being fat" to be major, permanent, or close enough, changes, so you've got to make sure that whatever system you use to not be fat anymore (or whatever other permanent changes you want to make in your life) is one that you can keep up for the rest of your life.
That's why things like "The Cabbage Soup Diet," which I am 64% sure was a real thing at one point don't work. Well, one of the reason, anyway, the other being "the diet is based on cabbage soup," which means it ought to violate the Geneva Convention. There's no reason, ever, to eat cabbage. Take it from me, your spokesperson and also someone who has at times eaten cabbage, albeit never willingly, because cabbage is disgusting. You know it's disgusting, right off the bat, by just looking at it. You know why? Because cabbage looks like lettuce but is not lettuce.
That is a surefire tipoff to know that something is disgusting: it has to pretend to be something else to get you to eat it. That's why fish tries to look like chicken and why grapefruits act like they're just oranges on steroids: because they taste disgusting but they figure if they look a little like something you like you might try them, and they will have tricked you into eating them.
Things that taste good don't look like other things. Does a hamburger look like an ice cream sundae? It does not, and I rest my case.
Cabbage tries so hard to look like lettuce that lettuce should get a restraining order against it, and that is the number one hint you get to tell you that cabbage will taste disgusting. The other hint you get right up front is the name.
Not appetizing, is it? It's not. Think what it sounds like: cabbage. Baggage. Rummage. Which is trash. Rummage sales are trash sales, the things people would throw out if you didn't give them a quarter for it, and cabbage is the rummage of the lettuce world, the Billy Carter of leafy vegetables, and it should under no circumstances ever be eaten.
Which is why "The Cabbage Soup Diet" or whatever stupid diet people who watch Dr Phil are trying now never works. You may lose weight in the short run, from sheer not eating, or perhaps because all the cabbage in your system is scaring away the calories from other food you eat, but you're not going to spend your entire life eating cabbage. At some point, you are going to go back to eating regular food, which is deep-fried (it's time you were honest with yourself: you would deep-fry cereal if you could get up early enough to do that), and you are going to put all that weight back on, and then where are you? A lonely fat person with cabbage breath.
That is not going to be me, which is what I was talking about originally. I think.
Anyway, around about Thanksgiving I was going to have some ice cream because my plan did not involve cabbage, it involved simply learning to eat the things I liked in more moderation, and I had a couple of spoonfuls of ice cream and then I stood up and I said this, and I quote:
You may think that is not a direct quote but it is, because the words I said aren't even English, they were obscenities in some language that either is too terrible to have been invented or which was once known to humans but which has been subsequently wiped from our memories in order to leave us some measure of innocence.
The problem was that my entire jaw had lit up like I'd been kicked in the side of the head by a horse, but a horse that really, really, had a problem with something I had done to it once and was determined to take it out on me in one swift blow.
I thought maybe I had a filling loose or a cavity or something, but over the weekend it got worse and I finally went to the dentist later that week, where the dentist decided it was my lower wisdom tooth coming in, something that took two trips to the dentist, and two X-rays, and a couple of days of not being able to eat much of anything because of how bad my jaw hurt, and holding ice packs to my head and otherwise being the kind of person I usually despise, because I can't stand people who constantly draw attention to how much pain they are in, although I wasn't trying to do that. I was just hurting.
Then, the surgeon who was supposed to remove my lower wisdom teeth, using his own X-rays, decided that it probably wasn't wisdom teeth at all, and said it was something muscular, which sounds good (I'm muscular! YAY!) only it's not because he meant I'd hurt a muscle in my jaw, he figured.
"Take some ibuprofen, and use heat on it," he advised, advice I figured I would take, and then added "And maybe cut sandwiches and hamburgers into smaller bites and eat them with a fork instead of opening your mouth wide to eat them," which was advice I was not about to take because: lame.
(I briefly thought about trying to protest to him that I do not actually eat that many hamburgers, but I decided not to because who am I fooling?)
The bottom line being that I had apparently pulled a muscle in my jaw, by eating ice cream.
Or by just eating. He wasn't entirely clear.
But also the bottom line was that for most of Thanksgiving and the holiday season I was not able to eat as much as I might ordinarily have, because chewing was remarkably painful and so I didn't eat that much, and as a result, I ended up just after Christmas hitting the third notch of my belt.
It was just brief, then, and just for a moment, but as I got ready for work one morning just after Christmas I put on my dress pants and I pulled my belt tight and I realized that I was notching it on the third notch. I had two to spare! TWO!
I didn't go third-notch all that day; it was still a little tight, that morning, but I could have. I could have gone all day with that third notch and been only moderately uncomfortable, whereas just a few months before I couldn't have gone second notch all day, period.
It was then that I began working out again, after a three-ish month layoff. I was thinking how great it felt to third-notch it and decided that I had to keep building on this, but I also couldn't count on my jaw hurting forever, and I wouldn't want it to, so I devised both a workout plan and a workout image.
The workout image is where the subtitle of this new subset of posts comes from. As I was driving to work that morning I was trying to think what I would title this episode of working out -- every phase of life needs a title, doesn't it? It does. A good title is a good start, to anything. If you just wake up one morning and think "I'm going to [work out/get a promotion at work/make these pancakes]", well, you can do that, but it's sort of blah, and uninspiring, but if you get up instead and say
"THIS IS DAY ONE OF PANCAKEAGEDDON!"
How awesome is that? Pretty darn awesome, especially if you have theme music. I recommend something by The Monkees, to lighten up the mood. I mean, Pancakeageddon is pretty dark.
Anyway, I came up with this image in my mind, an image of me running, along a road. The road was the kind of road I remember existing in South Dakota, and Oklahoma, and places where the ground is flat for a really long time and then rises up to something that's no longer flat, only the rise is impossibly far away, and I was running on this road at the base of the picture, with the road stretching out out out before me, straight, long, off to infinity, a blue sky that was so far away it might never be reached.
The caption to the picture, in my mind, was I'm not gonna die fat.
And so that became my new workout mantra: I'm not gonna die fat, but to avoid the kinds of problems (e.g., heart attacks) that have plagued me in the past, I decided to limit myself. After all, the goal of Project CXC had been to get into shape quickly, to see some results by quickly changing my metabolism, which I kind of figured it had, given that I was now a Third Notcher. (WE ARE AN ELITE GROUP.)
So I started, back around Christmas, working out just twice a week, doing a little light jogging, slowly working my way up to a mile, then two, and then three, which is where I landed most recently: three miles, mostly jogging, always indoors because I live in Wisconsin, which is an Indian word meaning "Eventually you will describe a forty degree day as kind of nice."
And it has been working, with only a minor hitch or two until this week, working like crazy, to the point where earlier this week I had this exact exchange with Oldest and The Boy:
The Boy: Have you been working out? You look like you lost weight.
Me: I have been working out. Can you tell?
Oldest: Yeah. Especially in the stomach.
Which was both really good and not, in that -- for the not part -- we were about to have pizza for dinner and I suddenly was reminded that Oh yeah I'm being healthy better not totally go to town on this pizza, and I didn't, but it's still a little disappointing to right at the outset remember that you're "being responsible" and not eating an entire pizza, but that was offset by the fact that people, well, the kids, were actually noticing that I'd been losing weight (that's the really good) part.
And that is not the only sign that is working. I also got to get out old clothes that I thought I wouldn't be able to wear ever again, like my nice black pants, which I'd had to give up because they were too tight, and my awesome three-piece suit with the button up vest that makes me look like an old-timey sheriff, which I'd had to stop wearing a year ago because the vest was too tight. I was able to wear those again, and I love that three piece suit so much that I would wear it on Saturdays if I could.
I haven't weighed myself in a few months. When I first began working out again, back in December, I weighed myself and I weighed about 240, which was way down from where I'd been back in the Project CXC days, but I haven't weighed myself since then, so I have no idea what I weigh now.
I was tempted to weigh myself the other day, at the gym, coming in from my workout, but I didn't, because, I figured, what good would it do? I know that I'm fitting into clothes from years ago, and that I'm a third-notcher, and so if I did weigh myself, either it would simply confirm what was going on and I would weigh some awesome amount, or the opposite: I would weigh some terrible amount, and that would only demoralize me and undercut all the progress I'd been making.
So I walked on by the scale and didn't weigh myself.
Here is what my workout program is right now: Every Wednesday and one day each weekend, I go jogging at the track. A mile is 12 laps on the track I go to, and so for the first two miles, I jog two laps and walk one, and then when I get to the final mile I jog it straight through to the end.
This is how that works, in practice:
LAP ONE: I begin jogging, thinking oh man, I've got this, I'm feeling awesome today, great music is playing.
MIDWAY THROUGH LAP ONE: I have made a horrible mistake. I should not be doing this. Does my breath really sound like that?
BEGINNING OF LAP TWO: Oh my god another one.
MIDWAY THROUGH LAP TWO: I hate this song. I hate that guy with the bald spot. I hate people doing Body Attack which is just stupid weightlifting with remixed pop songs. I hate this track. Those lines are too wide. OH MY GOD I AM DYING.
BEGINNING OF LAP THREE: Dear God, if you make this lap last forever I swear I will try my hardest not to do anything bad I know that's kind of a lame promise but it's the best I can do and I am aware I could promise to go to Church more often but God, have You ever gone to Church? It's SO BORING. It just wrecks a Sunday morning. Why can't Church be more fun? Am I already done with this lap? GOD WERE YOU EVEN LISTENING?
BEGINNING OF LAP FOUR: Oh, man, I've got this, I'm feeling awesome.
And so on, through the first twenty-four laps, after which I jog straight through, thinking for each of the 12 remaining laps the following thoughts, in no particular order:
With the start of the warmer weather (e.g., it's forty degrees) I have started to think about jogging outside again, which means I can expect to stop all that negative thinking about the track, the lines, the other people, and can start hating nature, instead, but that is a small price to pay for being a Third-Notcher.
Don't die.Keep breathingGet the $(#@#& off the track, ladyYou think you're so fast, new jogger? I've been out here 20 minutes.Do NOT DIE.