The Endless Journey

Two years ago I started exercising with the goal of losing weight. I lost ~18lbs due to my appendectomy, and I figured with all of the change going on in my life at the time I might as well take that “head start” and do something with it. I did what most everyone does when they want to lose weight. I started counting my calories. I started running for long periods of time every day (40-60 minutes). I got on the free weights and weight machines and lifted really heavy weights 8-10 times in a row (or until I failed), rested 60 seconds, and then repeated that two more times. On some days I worked out my arms with a bunch of different exercises. On other days it was my legs. One day would be shoulders, and let’s not forget about my chest on another day. And truthfully, I lost all of my weight doing this; to the tune of 60 total pounds in 6 months. However at that point something occurred to me. Going back to that first sentence, my goal had been met. So what do I do now?

To me this was a very unusual concept. I mean I enjoyed looking at the weights going up routinely, and I enjoyed looking at the running times coming down.. but what sort of goal was I now left with? Body fat? A certain speed or certain weight on a particular lift? It occurred to me that without a goal, without a finish line, I could (and usually do) become very disinterested to continue with things. It’s easy to lose focus or drive when you are not driving TOWARDS something.

It was around this time that I had started talking with a trainer regularly at the gym I was at. Now let me say that I typically abhor personal trainers. Your “typical” personal trainer at a big box gym is someone who usually knows how to get your heart racing, knows what machines or motions build big muscles, and if you’re lucky knows how to do all of this stuff without getting hurt. Again, if you’re lucky. However, in talking with Jeremy very early on I wasn’t entirely convinced that my broad stereotype really applied to him. I mean he wasn’t exactly “let’s do jumping jacks for 20 minutes”, nor was he “3 sets of 20, go”. He had his students using their body weight a lot. Had them doing complex motions with maybe a 5-10lb plate or a band at most. It seemed interesting, but again seemed focused on “anyone can do it” instead of “I am really going to get you in shape.” I have to admit, if you’re reading this Jeremy, that it seemed pretty lame. I mean at the time I thought “I guess they were primarily trying to lose weight, not build muscle”, but I (naively) just didn’t see how this sort of exercise was ever something that could be beneficial outside of some rudimentary weight loss clinic. (Yes I now know I was wrong :P)

Still, in talking with him more and more, it became apparent that, my uninformed opinion on his program aside, this guy knew what he was talking about. Immediately he told me to start reading up on various exercise methodologies. From Russian conjugate periodization to circuit training to gymnastics style calisthenics. In my research during this time I came across and had started doing Crossfit on my own. Taking the WOD (workouts of the day) from the main site, and using another site (Crossfit Brand X) to scale them to my abilities. Again Jeremy’s knowledge came into play. Crossfit many times is about doing complex Olympic-style lifts, and frankly… me hurting myself was a matter of when, not if. You can only gain so much information from watching videos on YouTube, and it’s a miracle I didn’t manage to hurt myself during this period. He would correct my form, inform me on the purpose of the lift, where the potential to hurt myself existed, all without trying to “pitch me” on taking his group classes. I was so confident in his ability that I didn’t hesitate when my wife thought about joining his class as I knew she was in capable hands.

With his help, I found a new level of exercise and fitness. Gone are the days of spending 1 1/2 or more hours in the gym. Gone are the days of doing bicep curls and leg lifts or other isolated exercises. I discovered exactly what Jeremy was teaching his class. Full body movements are more efficient than isolated motions. Being able to move a heavy weight around in an isolated fashion means NOTHING if you can’t even move your own body weight around in a compound motion. Getting really strong using your muscles in ways you normally wouldn’t use them is pointless when compared to getting really strong using your muscles in ways that you use them every single day!

It’s now that I FINALLY understand what fitness is. Fitness is not about where you’re going but the journey in getting there. It’s not about lifting heavy weights over and over so you can move onto even heavier weights. I mean things like PRs (personal records) and six packs are nice, but I’m now finding even more impressive are the things I never thought about two years ago. Playing sports. Doing gymnastics. Being faster. Having more power and endurance. Being able to actually JUMP to get a ball or staying in a game without being winded. Not caring about how much or what I eat because I know that what I’m eating is good for me. In thinking about things I wanted to do with my daughter, recently one of the things that came to mind was rock climbing, something she enjoys doing. Of course it had been in my head for a while “I would like to do that”, but now to actually EXPECT to not only be able to do it, but to keep up with her, that’s something that never would have even been on the radar two years ago. There is no “goal” now, unless you can count wanting to do whatever it is that comes to mind as a goal and knowing that you have the ability to succeed at it. Well I guess that’s it. My new “goal” is to live life to its fullest. I’ve always been capable of doing whatever I set out for myself mentally, and now I can apply that same philosophy to intense physical activity as well.

So life is good now. But there is a frustrating part, because when people ask me “How did you do it? How did you lose the weight?” I simply can’t bring myself to lie to them. I did it by running and lifting weights. :( I spent 6 months of my life ignoring the bigger picture and looking at a scale multiple times a week to see a number get lower and lower. And as a result, for 6 months of my life I completely missed the point. Now when people ask “How did you lose the weight?” I say to them very simply: I wasted six months losing weight. I burned the calories and limited how much I ate. I lost the pounds. And I wasted six months of my time running and lifting weights, where I could have been instead focusing on getting stronger, becoming more flexible, being faster, moving better, eating the RIGHT foods, and letting my body figure out where its weight and fat percentages were supposed to be. Get off the treadmill. Get out of the weight room. Whether it’s Crossfit, calisthenics, intervals, sports like soccer or basketball, yoga, or whatever. Become a HEALTHIER FITTER person. Stop “burning the calories”. Get off of the scale. Get out there and “do it”. Take care of your body and it will take care of you back.

To that end, I just wanted to say that in the past few months I have been very fortunate to find a Crossfit gym FINALLY close to home. Badger Crossfit and Tyler specifically have carried on where my previous learning left off. Spending 10-25 minutes in a day in a high intensity workout, doing motions and exercises that will make you more fit everyday even without realizing it is always a revelation. Yes it makes you better at physically strenuous activities, but it even changes simple stuff like how you go down to sit in a chair, or squat down to pick something up. Or even just stand there relaxed. Understanding how the human body is SUPPOSED to move, and bringing yourself closer to that in how you move every day.. Eating foods that our bodies were designed to eat, and staying away from the foods that have led to over 66% of our adult population being overweight. THAT is a journey I am proud to be on and Badger Crossfit has been the perfect place to facilitate that. What’s my weight or how big is my waistline? I honestly couldn’t tell you at this moment. It’s been a while since I’ve cared. Now you’ll have to excuse me. I’m going to the dog park to tire my dogs out long before they tire me out.

Update: For those new to this page, here is my previous post talking about my final results, as well as pics. http://www.borgh.us/2010/08/02/finally-weight-loss-pics

Update 2: Jeremy now has his own gym where he continues his fitness boot camps. The site is Express Fitness Camps. I owe Jeremy a ton, and unquestionably without his selfless guidance I would have eventually ended up hurting myself very quickly. Thank you Jeremy and good luck!!

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