"There's no 'moderate' button."

My first "real" workout took place last night. This time I remembered the lock. It was 8 minutes of moderate cardio, one loop at the weight stations doing 16 reps, then 18 minutes of heavy cardio.

It took a much longer time than I'd thought because I had to think through every step -- there is no "numb routine" yet. Find the chart in the bin and go to the floor. Return for a clipboard. Double back again for a pencil. Try to figure out where to put the pencil while you exercise. Say "fuck it" after dithering for all those minutes. Stuff like that.

I started on a treadmill and pushed a bunch of buttons to get it going. It furnishes a range of speeds and I picked one at the middle.

Six miles per hour? How fast is that? Holy crap it's too fast too fast too fast where's the OFF button PHEW!!! Two miles per hour was too slow. And so on.

It took five tries to get a speed and setting that seemed OK. And all the while, this was going through my head.

I watched a little TiVo last night -- I had to see Survivor -- but afterward had some trouble getting sleepy. Once I did go to sleep, I had not slept more deeply. Pure tonic restful sleep. The workout had to have had a role in that.

Keeping Score

On Monday I had a physical exam and they took some blood for standard test. I mentioned my fear I was verging on diabetes, or pre-diabetes, or early pre-diabetes, and that that was a factor in my deciding to shift to my current diet, so I think the doctor ordered a sugar test to be sure.

After eleven weeks of no carbs (well, 20 grams a day) and no exercise, here are the results:

Weight loss: 30-35 pounds
Blood pressure: 120/60
Cholesterol: 187
Glucose: 96

I am stunned at the cholesterol result. I have been eating a three-egg cheese omelette every morning for eleven weeks. Plus, the day before the exam, I had had two egg meals, quite accidentally. I spent the week worrying that I had messed up my blood before the test by eating six eggs the day before -- it is a reasonable position.

To be fair, maybe my cholesterol would be far lower if I weren't on the plan -- I have no idea how to test that other than to try some other diet for a few months and take another test. But what would be the point? At my current levels of ingestion of meat, fat, butter, oil, and sodium, I fall well into the "normal" range for all of these markers of heart health.

What is going to change? I have begun a conditioning regimen. Thirty minutes of cardio three times a week, plus weight lifting. And I saw there is a volleyball game on Thursday nights at the Y that I might join. I have read that exercise brings cholesterol down. So let's see in a year how I am doing.


Workout Man!!!

My first workout and orientation and took place Tuesday night at 7PM. Going in I was in a very distracted state. When you don't have a routine down, every step feels conspicuous and self-conscious. And boy was I self-conscious: clean underwear? Check. How high should my socks go? Should my legs be so paper white? Sure, it's New England.

Once I got there I realized I forgot my lock. I memorized the combination and told my wife where to find it just in case. I brought the combination, but forgot the lock. D'oh.

My interview was conducted with a well-conditioned staffer who seemed to listen and adjust his "ideal" workout to my needs. He seemed surprised by the amount of time I said was able to devote -- perhaps his other clients are in a much greater hurry. I listened carefully, and he seemed to reciprocate.

I was worried about a lot of things. I'm a tall man and, decades ago, I found the equipment to be poorly sized for me -- grips in the wrong place, seats too high or too low, etc. I was afraid after all my psyching up, I'd not be able to use a few key pieces of gear. Turns out I was wrong -- with the settings at maximum, everything worked the way it was supposed to.

The next fear was of looking like a completely unconditioned pussy. I mean, I am a completely unconditioned pussy, but I didn't want a lightweight setting on the bench press to telegraph it to the world. (Perhaps the next big fitness idea will be a merger of a gym and a porno video store: all the weights will be wrapped in brown paper so no one can see what you're lifting.) I soldiered on and tried to immerse myself in the arcana of technique and muscle groups.

Some of the initial settings were too low, others seemed low but on the 15th rep got harder, and still others felt good after 5 and killed me after 8 reps. The instructor was exactly what I needed: clinical and professional and without a whiff of judgment as I tried to gauge my ability.

My lower back muscles are in terrible shape and I may only do the lightest exercise down there. I found my left leg going numb and the "tender" area of my lower back to start throbbing -- clear signs, if I were moving televisions or pushing wheelbarrows, that I was overdoing it and should rest up. This is something I have to watch out for. It really woke me up to how these machines target specific muscles.

I took my first ride on the elliptical machine -- the whing-whang device you see in rows of 12 with svelte aerobicizing women using in complete asynchronous rhythm. The thought necessary to coordinate all those motions pushed out any feelings of looking stupid. Are there "masculine" and "feminine" pieces of gym equipment? "Free Weights Are From Mars, Elliptical Machines Are From Venus"? I'll have to keep an eye on that.

At the end of the lengthy visit I did not exactly have a good workout, more like a runthrough of one. Yet that night I slept more deeply than I have in a long time, and the next day I was literally exploding with energy. Partly a physical release, partly an emotional release. Now I need to craft a schedule: one early morning session, one after-work session, and one weekend session.

Oh, one more thing about the shoes. It turns out my shoes are running shoes. They have little cleats on them, but look otherwise like sneakers. They are Nike Air BRS 1000s (go look them up yourself, I'm not your goddam search engine). I may have to buy real cross trainers.



Another weigh-in morning. I had a strange hunch that my weight loss had slowed, that I had eaten too much or not exercised enough or my metabolism turned down a pinch. I don't know. I woke up expecting to be disappointed.

Once on the scale... no problems. Another 2.5 pounds. Your intuition can be an idiot.

Yesterday I had a physical exam. Blood pressure is 120/60, which means I'm on the warning track of hypertension, but I attribute it to work-related stress. Same probably for my cholesterol, I'm sure, when the results are in, for those were my results last time: not exactly high, but not out of the danger zone either.

Interestingly, my doctor said that the "Body Mass Index" and other weight tables grow much more inaccurate when you get to persons of my height. But that is so far down the road I'm not going to sweat it. When I get down to the last 20 pounds, then I'll worry about where to stop.


The Search Continues

I just joined a gym -- the YMCA. It has a fitness center and pool and gym and classes and it's only five minutes away and I have no excuse for not joining sooner.

To properly participate in the fitness experience, one must have appropriate attire. I do not have a shred of sportswear. My last pair of sneakers are Reebok volleyball shoes I wore when playing volleyball with my old office mates in a steamy gym in the North End some eight years ago. The ones I mow the lawn with now.

Yesterday I went to the first store that came to mind when I thought of inexpensive gym wear: Target. I've never felt more self-conscious than when I entered the dressing room and, looking into the wavy mirror, I tried to imagine what the hell I would look like. Luckily the sportswear makers figure out that a major segment of its Olde Fart audience requires a pre-coordinated ensemble with sufficient variation to make it seem like they're "shopping."

I tried a dark navy T with a dark navy pair of shorts. No. I looked like an eggplant. So I went with tops in various shades of gray and blue and black shorts that promised to hide a multitude of sins.

I then went to a Foot Locker to buy shoes. First I went to Olympus Sports and asked the man to let me see what he had in a size 14. He smirked as he asked me what kind of shoe I wanted and rattled off a list of special-use shoes. I asked him "what is cross-training" just to see what he'd say. He ignored the question and went to the back to bring out what he'd thought would be a variety of great shoes for me to discover.

Idiot. You're lucky if you stock any size 13s; size 14s are like hen's teeth. After five minutes he came out with ONE box. That's it. Opened them up and we both winced: a pair of white Nikes trimmed in Halloween orange. Hideous. I passed.

I then tried Foot Locker, and at least this clerk caught on. She came out with three kinds of shoes, two of which were so aggressively hip-hop you could hear the back beat as you walked.

The third pair were, well, blue and grey and innocuously 21st Century in design, but low and light and they fit. Feet don't fail me now.