I remembered this thing called Exercise

wake up and workout slogan on light box among sports equipment

One morning a couple weeks ago, I was sitting here at my trusty workstation typing some code for one of my many projects. As frequently happens, the little fingers on both of my hands started falling asleep. I have had this issue since I hurt my back a few years ago. Both of these were caused and made worse by the fact that I am quite out of shape.

In some of my previous blog posts, I have mentioned the surgery I had 26 years ago put a limit on how much weight I can lift. More or less, that is 15 pounds. That, along with 20+ years of sitting behind a desk doing server admin and programming work, I had become complacent with the way I was. I have bounced around 300lbs for the last 10 years.

Oh, I have been bigger in the past. At one point, about 20 years ago, I was approaching 400lbs. One morning I woke up and realized my size 50″ pants were getting tight. This was an eye-opener, so I cut sugared soft drinks out of my diet and cut down my portion sizes. I went from drinking 2+ Liters of Mt. Dew per day to drinking almost no more thinned-out flavored high fructose corn syrup. I went from eating 2 hamburgers and a whole plate of french fries to 1 burger and a handful of french fries. Making these minor changes, I ended up losing about 100lbs over the span of about 10 years. I landed around 300 and have been there for a long time.

While this was an accomplishment, it still did not add to my life what I really needed, which was to move more. Because of my desk job and the situation with my head, and a few other minor factors, I was content to sit at my desk and move as little as possible. Then I got a job where I had to travel a bit and found myself frequently in airports, which I had never had to do in my life. The first time I flew on an airplane was in 2018. My wife and I also decided to take a few vacations during this time, and back to the airport we went. Generally, by the time we got where we were going, I was worn out, way more than jetlag or just being tired because of navigating the airports. It was because I was so out of shape. The real eye-opener was both times I went to California, well the vacation to Denver was the same. Everyone I was with was cool with walking everywhere, and I found out I couldn’t do it. I could not keep up with everyone else. It got to where even if the destination was a mile away, I would call a ride.

This bothered me, but at the time, I still didn’t care. I would come home, recover from the travel and the walking and go back to my desk, sit down and pretty much not do any physical activity until the next trip or maybe a trip to the grocery store. And I was cool with this. Complacency is a hard beast to overcome.

So on that cold February morning in 2021, I decided to get up and do some stretching to get the feeling back in my fingers. I stood up, did a big stretch, stretched out my arms, my fingers, my hands, twisted my back left, right, back, and forward. The stretching actually felt pretty good. Then I realized, hey, I can still touch the floor bending over straight forward. I remembered the same stretching and exercising when I played football in school. I remembered I had a 10lb weight hidden in a storage tub. I remembered I could do this. I remembered that there is a nice layer of muscle under all of this fluff, and I am not too old, nor do I have any condition stopping me from doing this if I do it the right way. The only thing stopping me was me.

So right then and there, I decided to add exercises to my stretching. Nothing glamorous at first, I started setting my reps that day. Starting with 10 of everything. I have given all of my exercises names that I recognize. For the most part, I know what exercises work which muscles and give them names that I recognize instead of using someone else’s names I find on the Internet. One I call The Statue, one I call The Bag Lift, one I call The Cross, and so on. They all have other names, even in some cases names that have been used for a century, but this is me and my exercise, so I use what works for me.

When I first started, I only did this for about 15 – 20 minutes per morning. But as I move forward down this path and can do more repetitions of each exercise, the amount of time I spend exercising has grown. At this point, I am up to about 30 minutes every morning.

The first few days were hard. I was in the pattern of getting up and sitting in the recliner for 2 hours, then moving to my workstation. Anything beyond that, my mind would push back tooth and nail, why, what is the benefit, you lived this way for this many years why change it now, it is hard, it hurts and so on. Of course, all of the negative stuff a complacent mind will tell you. But I forced myself through these thoughts and did it even on mornings when my mind was screaming at me, why are you interrupting my peace with this. It has been around 3 weeks since I started this. I have only skipped 2 days.

I am getting to the point now where I look forward to doing the exercises, and I push myself a little further every morning. Sometimes I go too far. Last week I added squats to my exercise routine. On the first day, I tried to do 10, that hurt. Beyond the muscle burn, my legs hurt all day. That was too many. I had to take a break on that for a couple days but started it again yesterday with 5. That worked out swell, so I will be on 5 of those for the next 7 days. I try to increase reps by 5 every 7 days. My dumb-bell curls are now at 30 per arm, yet my squats are at 5, and my beloved dumb-bell exercise that I call The Statue is at 15. I do what works for me, not what someone else thinks the best pattern is. And this is all with a single 10lb dumb-bell. Though I think I am going to buy at least one more.

More or less, I started doing this because I wanted to be in better shape if we had to navigate the airports again, and I should be able to walk 1 mile at a brisk pace without getting winded. But the other benefits you hear about started to appear after only 1 week, well hell generally they started after 2 days.

My mental focus is so much better than it once was. Before I started this, I would be up and down from my workstation at the least every hour. I would just lose focus on what I was working on and have to walk away. But since I started this morning routine, I do not loose focus near as quickly. My current working project, the Elite Dangerous to WebGL project, was shelved 3 years ago because it was getting deep into territory I did not understand. I could not focus on it long enough to finish it or get it anywhere near where I have it now. With my improved focus from the exercising, I have now taken it from an idea with a bit of programming done to a nearly ready-to-release web app in the span of about a week. I have not had a focus like this in years.

But it gets better. Just last week, it was time for the dreaded deep dedusting of our home. Where we live, we are surrounded by farm fields, so it is a dusty environment. Though we run multiple HEPA air purifiers, dust still gets hidden in the corners and on the ceiling fan, so we have to do this pretty frequently. I dread this work because part of it is, of course, like I mentioned cleaning the ceiling fan. In the past, when I would do that job, my arms would be so sore from having to hold them over my head long enough to clean all of the fan blades I always complained about it. This time, for no other reason than the arm exercises I have been doing, my arms didn’t get sore. I actually cleaned the blades, the lights, the cover, and anything else I could reach. This was a wonderful feeling. This may seem trivial to others, but for me, it told me, this actually working, I feel great.

That great feeling just propels me to want to keep up with the exercise every morning. But the good feelings about what I was doing did not stop there. Yesterday I decided that I would finally finish putting up new wall panels in our laundry room. We had the panels leftover from when we did the kitchen, but I had sat on the project for 6 months, with the panels taking up most of the room in my shed. Yesterday, just out of nowhere, I woke up and said I am going to get this done today. I had all of the tools and supplies, but I was not motivated to get it done until that point.

So after my morning exercises, I chilled for a little bit then got to work. The first thing I noticed is the multiple trips up and down the stairs to get supplies from the shed did not wind me as much. I was actually quite light in my step. At one point, I needed to move the portable table saw to the porch to cut everything to the correct length. When I picked it up, it seemed much lighter than the last time I moved it back about 6 months ago. That was an all-day job. I finished at about 4pm. I still need to do some trim work, but the heavy lifting is done. Afterward, I felt great. I felt accomplished. My body was sore, but I was not completely worn out as I would have been before I started these morning exercises. And to top it all off, where I generally have trouble sleeping through the night, last night I slept comfortably. Another awesome of this is when I woke up did not feel the anxious need to jump right out of bed and do nothing. I lay there for about 30 minutes, just waking up, feeling comfortable, and looking forward to this morning’s exercise routine.

I am starting to feel that most of the problems, mood swings, severe lack of motivation, and other things that I always wanted to blame on external factors have, in essence, been my lack of movement and my complacency with my situation.

This has helped me tremendously, and it can help anyone else that wants to take the first step. Everyone can do something, even with my limitation of what I can lift. A 10lb barbell works just as well when you do enough repetitions. And remember, the mass of your own body is a weight in its self. Do not compare yourself to others. Everyone’s situation is different, everyone’s abilities are different, everyone is not you. You are you, and you do it the way it best fits you. Stick to it even when your complacent mind tells you it’s worthless. I guarantee you that in 1 week, if not a few days, you will notice a difference across many aspects of yourself, mental and physical. You will feel better about yourself. This will compound over time as you exercise more and start to stack the accomplishments that come from the focus and general feeling of well-being that comes along with it.

You have to start sometime, why not today. Remember, I started just because I needed to stretch.

–Parting Wisdom–
-Start today, you know its yours.

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