“Father Time is undefeated.”
You often hear this expression in the sports world, typically in reference to an aging athlete who is clearly past his or her prime and no longer able to perform at the same level. Those who rely heavily on speed as part of their game, for instance, will inevitably lose a step at some point. Injuries sustained throughout an athlete’s career have a cumulative effect, with each ensuing malady usually proving more difficult to overcome than the previous one. As a result, athletes don’t always get to decide when to retire from their sport–oftentimes their bodies make the decision for them.
But we need not have an athletic background to feel the ravages of time–it will affect all of us sooner or later. Most of us regular folks will invariably battle against a constantly expanding waistline as we age, and that war only gets more difficult the older we get. Metabolism slows down, forcing us to work that much harder to get the results we want from diet and exercise. Priorities change as well–in our twenties, some of us will find motivation to work out simply in trying to attract the opposite sex. But by the time we’ve reached our thirties and beyond, we often focus on things like advancing our careers or raising families. It’s easy for regular exercise to get lost in the shuffle.
In one of my last posts, I mentioned that my girlfriend Mia and I had been developing a plan to get in shape. Thanks to my aversion to joining a gym and working out in front of the general public, I was looking into something that can be done at home, like following a workout video program. I combed through the various series offered by Beachbody, the leading producer of home workout videos, who is responsible for well-known titles like Insanity and P90X. Such programs are known for being brutal, but can be wildly effective for those who have what it takes to survive them. Of particular interest to me was a newer offshoot of P90X that was designed to pack its same overall intensity level into a shorter, 30-minute daily workout.
This idea was shot down fairly quickly. Mia considered it, but was unsure whether this was really a good idea. She consulted one of her co-workers–a personal trainer who had once been a P90X instructor–and was advised that such a workout was really meant more for people who are already in pretty good physical condition that want to crank things up a notch or two. For someone just starting out–or starting over, as the case may be–it would be asking an awful lot. And thus the P90X idea is out. Well, for now, anyway.
Not that I was expecting to immediately dive into something as intense as that and succeed. I still felt that we should ramp things up a bit with some easier exercises at first to get our bodies more prepared for the torture that was to come. What I may not have realized is just how much longer the “ramp-up” period would really need to be. After all, I may not have exercised much in a while, but it’s not like I never have before. There is enough visible muscle tone in my appearance to at least suggest that I’ve done some working out in the past. I’ve even occasionally had people ask me whether I’m former military, though I personally believe that has more to do with my typically shorter hair than anything else.
Mia works as a health coach who teaches classes online and works with individuals who are in major need of losing weight. The company she works for offers a series of cardio, strength, and flexibility workout videos to be used by members of the program, as well as a calendar outlining which half-hour workout to execute on any given day as one progresses through the program. There are five levels of cardio and strength workouts overall, with each successive video getting more difficult than the previous one. As this series is designed to be used by people in need of weight loss, it can be assumed that someone popping in the initial video has probably not worked out much in a while, if at all. A P90X-lite, if you will.
The first three weeks on the program calendar involve three or four workouts per week, mostly focusing on the first cardio workout during that time. Since we figured we should be in a bit better shape than a typical beginner, we skipped ahead to week four, which is really the first full week of the program, consisting of two cardio workouts, two strength workouts, and a flexibility / abdominal day, for a total of five exercises and two rest days.
This was where I found out very quickly that I’ve got a much longer, tougher road ahead of me than I had realized. After sweating profusely and scuffling to get through the very first cardio workout, it became painfully obvious just how out of shape I had allowed myself to become. The first strength workout on the following night wasn’t quite as bad, but I wasn’t exactly using heavy weight resistance either. A short but intense abdominal workout proved difficult the next night, but the ensuing flexibility regimen felt like a welcome respite designed largely to help recover from the previous exercises and prepare for the next ones. Thankfully, the second cardio workout a few days later didn’t feel nearly as rough as the first one, so progress had certainly been made by the end of the week.
We’re now in the middle of week two. Once again, it will be five workouts over the course of the week, in the same format: cardio, strength, abs/flexibility, strength again, and another cardio routine to finish the week. But now we’re onto “Cardio 2” and “Strength 2,” and the increased difficulty is noticeable. I scuffled my way through the first cardio workout on Monday, sweating more than Mia has ever seen. Once again, the strength workout the next day was somehow easier, although I did challenge myself with more weight and resistance during a couple exercises, and barely got through some of them. Tonight will be the relative break that is the abdominal / flexibility routine, before returning to the same workouts from the previous two nights.
I can say that I’m feeling a little better overall after a week and a half of exercising, which is to be expected. But it’s also clear that I’ve got a very long way to go before I’m anywhere near where I ultimately want to be. That was also expected, but the sheer gap between where I am now and even where I was a few years ago is startling. The good news is that this time I’ve got a great workout partner to help power me through and keep me going, and we’re both determined to make it happen. Mia has, only half-jokingly, suggested climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in five years, which I’m at least keeping in the back of my mind for now. In the meantime, we’ve got a pretty steep metaphorical hill to climb. Maybe someday we’ll also be scaling a very real one too.