Greetings readers of Brandonia!
Whilst working on the site over the last couple of days, it came to my attention that a good deal of my Instagram feed includes workout updates. This prompted a thought to occur. That thought: Why not write some posts about fitness?
Here’s why: Because everybody and their grandma has a goddamn fitness blog. That’s why.
Aside from that, though, I see no earthly reason not to write about why and how I’m staying in the best shape of my life while in my 40s. So like it or not, you’re gonna get a dose of
Jesus fitness on this here blog, and it’s gonna be good for ya!
We’re going to start with a bit about my own journey to get fit and why I’m qualified to be talking about this at all.
My Story So Far
I’m not a tall guy. I’m 5’6″… 5’7″ on my best days. When I got my first driver’s license, my weight was listed at 135lbs – which is skinny for that height, but not out of the norm for a teenager. I played sports in middle school, but I was terrible at all of them. I hated P.E. – especially running, and would often take over fifteen minutes to
run walk the mile.
My hatred of physical exertion was pretty pronounced by the time I hit high school, but I would still do guy stuff – like play basketball. One day at the beginning of my sophomore year of high school, I was playing basketball with some friends and I dislocated my left kneecap. I had to have orthoscopic surgery to remove some bone that had chipped off, and I was in a cast for a month. I got a P.E. waiver for the rest of high school, and though I hated the experience of my injury, I was couldn’t have been happier about the waiver.
So I was never muscular, but I wasn’t really ever fat growing up either. Then I turned 19. My diet was terrible. Nothing, and I mean nothing but fast food and other junk entered my mouth, and I started to develop a belly. I did no physical exercise whatsoever, and by the time I was 21, I was already pudgy. At 23, I had to drop weight so that I could join the military.
Before I joined the Air National Guard in 2001, I weighed around 190 or so. The maximum allowable weight for my height in the Air Force was 174lbs, so I joined a gym in the months leading up to my enlistment and started to work on dropping the weight fast. I hadn’t been around exercise since my last P.E. class in 1994. I knew I was going to have to run, so I started working on my mile-and-a-half (the testing standard used by the USAF), and I also started lifting weights on the machines.
I changed my diet up (we’ll talk about my eating habits in a later article), and in about a month I lost the weight I needed to lose in order to sign my enlistment papers. When I arrived at Lackland Air Force Base in February of 2002, I weighed exactly 174lbs. When I left Lackland Air Force Base in June of 2002 to continue my training in Augusta, GA, I weighed approximately 160lbs. When I came back to Spokane in October of 2002, I weighed about 165lbs.
The post-basic training/tech-school weight drop was, of course, temporary. Being in the Air National Guard meant that I only had to report for duty one weekend per month, and working out was not a part of our normal drill weekends at the time. We were, of course, required to meet Air Force fitness standards, but left to my own devices, I quickly lost interest in maintaining my own fitness.
Over the next few years, my weight climbed back up into the 190s, and as my twenties rolled on, I topped out at around 260. I constantly ate restaurant and fast-food, never did any physical exercise, and had mostly desk jobs throughout those years. I looked and was fat. I felt terrible, and unbeknownst to me, I had developed a disorder that was life-threatening.
Throughout my thirties, I went up and down the weight roller-coaster – though never really dipping down to a healthy weight. I’d lose ten or fifteen pounds over two or three months, then get back to my old habits and gain all the weight back again. Everyone tells that story so I’m not going to waste any more time on it.
My Life Changed When I Fixed My Sleep
Remember that life-threatening disorder to which I alluded a paragraph or so ago? It was sleep apnea. Like ultra-severe-I-never-actually-got-any-sleep sleep apnea. I don’t want to give you all the gory details of my health history here, but I really was – and this was scientifically verified – getting virtually no sleep at night. My airways were so blocked by the excess fat and tissue in my neck that I was waking up (partially) to gasp for air an astounding number of times per hour – which meant that I never got any actual, deep sleep.
I’ve always been a snorer, so far as I remember, and I knew I probably had apnea, but I had no idea how bad it was, or how much it was affecting my life until about four years ago. I still weighed around 260, and never did any exercise, but I was starting to notice that I was nodding off in the middle of the day. I couldn’t stay awake, and I always felt tired. I finally went to the doctor, and she recommended the sleep study.
The sleep specialist put me on a BiPAP machine, and it changed my life. I started noticing more energy within about two weeks.
The doctors told me that would happen. What they didn’t tell me, was what else would happen. Now – I AM NOT A MEDICAL EXPERT, AND THIS IS JUST A HYPOTHESIS – but, here’s how I think it went down. I started getting sleep, and my brain was able to function again – which meant that it then had the energy it needed to process all of the anxiety and depression that I’d been building up throughout my adulthood. And once that energy came back, those demons came out swinging.
I went through a serious bout, went to the doctor again, got some help, and got my mind stabilized. If you’re struggling with depression and/or anxiety or any other mental illness, I suggest you do the same. Immediately. Like stop reading and call someone right now.
The rest of my bouts with those diseases are pretty private and I’d rather not go into detail, but what I will say is that exercise helped me through it and still helps me through it.
That bout I went through lasted for about six months before I finally couldn’t deal with the excess energy (manifesting through anxiety) anymore. My changed sleep also (apparently) changed my metabolism around the same time, and while I was depressed and anxious, I just wasn’t eating much. The natural consequence of those things was that I lost a few pounds. Not much, at first, but enough to where moving around was easier.
Toward the fall of 2016, I’d had enough, and I decided to take my life back. I read a book called Level Up Your Life, by Steve Kamb, founder of Nerd Fitness. That book helped open my eyes and gave me a fresh outlook on how I wanted to live my life. I won’t say that it will work for everyone, but it definitely helped me, and I’m a member of the Nerd-Fitness Rebellion.
I started doing the at-home workouts because I lived in a small town and was nowhere near a gym. I was already used to eating less, so I just started making sure that the calories I did eat were good ones, and that I limited my caloric intake to 2000 per day, max.
I put a chin-up bar in the hallway to my bathroom. Every time I had to go, I had to do (or attempt, in the beginning) a pull-up. I also started running, and before that, I would have never used the word “running” without the words “I hate” in front of it. (I’m going to do a whole other piece on running later)
By the summer of 2017, I was down to 185, and I looked damn good. Good enough to run on the beach in Florida without a shirt on – and without a shred of self-consciousness. In the time since then, I’ve gained a bit back, what with some personal upheaval and stuff, but I’m nowhere near 260, and I’m still energetic enough to bring it back under 200 in no time. Just you watch.
What I’m Up To Now
I still follow the Nerd Fitness workout recommendations, but now I live a few blocks from Planet Fitness, and I go there religiously. At the moment, I’m devoted to Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. This week, I’m doing the 30-min express workouts. Next week I’ll go back to what I did last week, which was a combination of 30-min elliptical cardio (avg 6-7mph) and then a Nerd Fitness gym free-weight workout. I’m planning on sticking to that alternation for the next few weeks, then maybe changing it up a bit.
So what I want to do here each week is do a fitness related post on Mondays. I don’t want to get into the science behind some specific new push up, or any of that garbage. I want to talk more about the why of exercise, not the how.
We’re not talking about motivation here because motivation can fail you. Instead, we’re talking about inspiration. I want to write posts that will make the case for why taking care of your body is really taking care of your soul.
There’s a mantra quoted in Steve Kamb’s book that’s popular with the Nerd Fitness crowd: “F— motivation. Cultivate discipline.” Motivation will fail you. It will. Discipline will pick you up when that happens. So we’re not going to call it “Motivation Monday.” Even though it would so scratch my alliterative itch. Instead, we will scratch that itch by calling it “Mantra Monday.”
I’ll write a post and send it out to you each Monday with some meandering rambling message about why you should get off your ass and move this week.
The Mantra Moment for this week – If a guy who spent his twenties and thirties on the couch drinking beer and eating Oatmeal Cream Pies can take charge of his life, drop 85 pounds in a year, and keep most of it off for another year after that, then you can too. Get out there and do something.