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molon labe

20 February 2008 4 comments

Two years ago I committed to making a change in my health and appearance, half because I just wanted to and half because a cardiologist told me I needed to (though i was not sick or damaged in any way, other than perhaps my cholesterol level). Over the course of a couple of months, I dropped about thirty-five pounds and, more importantly, about six inches off my waist. Various mental states later have led me to reversing much of the progress I had made. Basically, I just stopped caring. I figured if a cardiologist I’d never met before is the only person that cared whether I dropped dead of cardiac arrest, why should I? Nobody else had ever said, “hey Dan, looks like you need to lose a few.” So all of 2007 was, in terms of health, for naught.

Here I am at the start of another year, and although I never make formal “resolutions” – generally, anyway – I do need to make a change. And it’s not a change I’m unfamiliar with. I just dislike getting out of bed in the morning. I dislike it because I don’t get enough sleep anyway, and I have to wake another person up to wake myself up, which in many ways is just unfair. And, I tend to use my fitness equipment as clothing storage between laundry sessions – whether worn and lying there or clean and in a basket. I have plenty of equipment – way more than I did when I got more fit in ’06. Some cool stuff, too – the Soloflex a friend gave me, and various weighted balls I bought. And the treadmill, though a 4-mile hiking trail lies not five minutes drive from my house. So there’s no reason not to do the work. Except “lazy,” and that’s no reason.

The reason that I am paying more attention to my health again is because of the plight of a good friend of ours. She is not young, at least chronologically – she has been retired for some years now. But she is non-stop – she is intelligent, sharp, and talented. She has more stories than most history books, and has practically lived in more places than I’ve visited. Still travels all over, and is rarely at home for more than four or five days in a row. And this week, she has to have a triple-bypass.

Many people make the mistake of confusing activity with exercise. As if driving frantically from place to place was somehow aerobic. Over and over, I hear snippets of wisdom, like “it isn’t exercise unless you’ve broken a sweat.” “Twenty minutes, three times a week.” A great one from Matthew McConaughey – “just tie your shoes.” And the most important, although the one we’ve made most trite – “just do it.”

So I’ve committed to starting again. By committed, I mean that I’m putting this out on the web for the world to see. If I don’t do the work, the world gets to know I failed at it.

I’ve started the South Beach Diet, Phase One. Started it on Monday – it’s Wednesday and one inch is gone from my waist. I’m dealing in “inches” because the weight doesn’t matter. I’m trying to lose fat, not “weight.” If I lose “weight,” then I lose muscle, which should be the point of working out. It’s the muscle that burns the fat. So I’m leaving the scale alone, at least until the next two weeks is up. Then I will use my weight, coupled with a simple math equation, and derive my Estimated Bodyfat Percentage. At some point, probably my next physical, I will request a caliper test to find out more accurately how I’m doing. As it stands, I’m probably about twenty percent bodyfat. I weigh about two hundred. That’s about forty pounds of pure lipids. In 2006, I got down to about fifteen percent. And folks say I looked pretty good, since I was serious about the iron. The only place I lost inches was waist; I gained everywhere else – most notably arms. It was the first summer in a long while where I looked pretty good without a shirt on.

One of the motivators for me was the release of the movie “300.” The movie itself was good (as far as a CGI-heavy action flick goes), but what got me took buying the DVD to learn. On the bonus disc was a video of the workouts the cast and stunt crew used to look the way they did. If you’re going to ditch historicity and the formed brass breastplate that was actually common to the Greek hoplite, you better have a pretty tough-looking body underneath. More than that, if you’re going to do that kind of choreography, you are setting yourself up for injury if you don’t toughen up.

I watched that and thought, “if a bunch of Hollywood actors can work that hard, why can’t I break my own mold? Why can’t I make a real difference?” In ’06, I felt ten years younger. I stopped needing to take Prevacid. I didn’t make noises when bending or standing up. I could reach behind my back without straining something. Now, I can feel my years creeping back. All those things have returned.

During the training for the movie “300,” the cast and staff at Gym Jones adopted this mission statement: appearance is a consequence of fitness. I can buy clothes all day long. I can take care of my skin, my hair (which means shaving it), nail beds, whatever. But to look truly good – at least as good as I can look – just rolling out of bed in the morning takes work. Real work. It takes commitment. A belief in what you’re doing. A realization that everything else is superficial – your health and fitness is what’s “real.”


  • Linda said:

    Remember Boot Camp????

  • dan (author) said:

    Of course – a seven-week period in which I gained over fifteen pounds and not a bit of it was fat. but that was with the testosterone level of an eighteen-year-old, not a forty-one-year-old.

    The critical factor there, however, as at any age, is intensity. Always move, never let the body adapt, force yourself to work, eat, and sleep. Or allow someone else to force you, in that case.

  • Linda said:

    I need someone to force me. I sure as heck am not doing it by myself! You are older but you can still achieve the post boot camp body if you wish. I have faith in you. So very much…me…not so much!! I feel you just need to modify and take what you learned so long ago and apply it to you today. But, what the heck do I know…I have rarely exercised in my life. So don’t listen to me! You are wonderful, to me, just the way you are, but I do hope you are around for a very long time. Not that I will be here with my horrible diet, lack of exercise and everything. But we can always wish! Love you

  • Nick said:

    As cheesy as it sounds it takes me saying to myself every morning that “I can either feel like the average guy or I can feel better than that”. That is what I tell myself to drive me to better myself. Its only a thought but I like to think of me as better(in the sense of health and morals) than your average human, it just takes work to acheive it.