So, here we go. I am actually beginning the long and toilsome task of getting back in shape. I reached a health low point a few months ago, and it was a wake up call. This came on the heels of one of my good friends passing away unexpectedly. A friend years younger than I am, with no obvious history of illness. I’m not going to talk directly about that, short of saying that it was both a tragedy and an eye opening moment in my life.
I don’t think we imagine that people in our peer group will pass away from what could be termed “natural causes”. Not in our thirties or forties. I mean, sure, a few people have accidents, a few people develop a disease of some kind. By the time we reach middle age (ouch, still getting used to thinking of it on those terms), we know that we’re mortal, fallible, and growing a bit creaky in various ways. Still…most days, we don’t confront mortality head-on. We leave it for twenty or thirty years further down the road. That’s old person shit, right?
Except that we sometimes get our legs kicked out from under us, and we have to realize that death is not necessarily old person shit, specifically. We are made to understand that, if we fail to take care of ourselves, we may never get to see what it’s like to be fifty, or sixty, or points beyond.
Here’s the situation. I have a few lingering health issues. A bad stomach is one of them. One morning, things had gone so sideways with my stomach that I was miserable. I could hardly sleep. I felt like a hot balloon of fire had been inflated in my ribcage. Several things had come together to bring this about. First, there was my poor coping mechanisms in terms of some long term stress situations in my life. Both personal and professional. Second, the holidays, wherein I’d acted like an ass and eaten lamentably. Third, I was exceedingly worried about the health of a close relative, who’d been in and out of the hospital for a long time. (She’s better!)
In reality, I was just dealing with standard stuff, things that many of us have to deal with. (Many have to deal with much worse. I’m emotionally fragile, I suppose.)
Well, back to that fateful morning that found me feeling like I was about to die, sitting in the waiting room of an Urgent Care center.
The long and short of it: There was nothing really wrong with me, other than perhaps having had a minor panic attack, and a wicked case of the acid reflux.
Still, it saw me have to totally go off of solid food for a week, and very gradually get back into a normal lifestyle. I wasn’t ready to imagine that this would be my life, that I would be constantly bouncing off the bottom of the barrel, always feeling like crap, always being exhausted and at my wit’s end.
I had to change things around. Lots of things.
So I did. From work to food, to rest, I changed things. I began de-cluttering my house with a vengeance. I mindfully worked on moderating my proclivity for stewing, raging, and otherwise holding onto negative emotions. Strangely enough, this helped. I won’t say that I flipped a switch and now I’m perfectly adjusted to everything, and that all my problems are in the past. But I mindfully decided that I HAD to learn to enjoy life, and find some happiness again. Looking back, I found that so often, over the last (way too many) years, I’d been putting a good face on things, with true happiness and enjoyment coming far too rarely.
A month or so down the line from the great-(re)happiness project, I finally felt well enough to get down to one of the pillars, in my mind, of being well adjusted. Getting into some kind of physical shape, namely.
Now, I took stock of things. I was not ready to get back to my old caveman ways. No, I would have just injured myself. Two years lost in the noisome swamps of World of Warcraft addiction (another story, for another time), then another eighteen months of being terribly unhappy all the time, and I needed to start from scratch. Old school.
How old school? Well, I was crawling back to five sets of five reps. Kicking it old school.
And you know what? It’s working.
I’m doing four sessions per week, one hour at a time. Back and chest on day one. Legs and arms on day two. Back and chest again on day three. Legs and shoulders on day four. It’s not quite the “Bigger, Faster, Stronger” program that I did in High School, but it’s not so far off, either. It’s cautious. It’s basic, and if I can keep my various old wounds from flaring up too badly, I think it’ll get me in shape. I’m doing cardio every day, too, like good boys should. Actually, of everything, that’s the thing I’m seeing the biggest and most impressive improvement in. The first week, my body immediately went into “thou has slain me with thy evil machinations” mode. Second week, slightly less so. In the third week, though I’m already able to start upping the intensity, and I’m not as likely to be gumby-legged afterward. It’s progress. Another six months of this, I might be ready to start cavemanning again.
Day one: Bench, lat pull-downs
Day two: Squat, barbell curls, barbell triceps extensions (skullcrushers)
Day three: Dumbell butterflies, bent rows
Day four: Stiff-legged deadlifts (with shoulder shrug), dumbell military press
All days: Elliptical machine warm-up, Recumbent Bike cooldown; stretching and abdominal work in the evening before bed.
Well, that was a bit of a longwinded affair. I’ll check in and let you know how things are going with me as time progresses. I hope that I can keep creaky knees, inflamed elbows, and torn-up shoulders from raining on my parade.
Oh, and you’ll be amused to know that the elbow brace that I’m using to some good effect for my bad right elbow – it’s actually a size large knee brace.