I Have to Start Somewhere…..

I went to the gym today.  Yes, despite my rants against making New Year’s Resolutions, I imagine you must be thinking to yourself, “Sure, new year, new gym membership, that’ll last about a month at best.”  Well, I’ll have you know that I have been a member of my gym for about ten years and going today had nothing to do with resolutions, despite the fact it is one of those things I feel I should get back to doing.  Why today, then?  Well, why not?  Ok, I had been going sporadically to say the least recently, and I had not lifted weights in months.  Going back to the gym today was going to be a challenge, because I planned on lifting for the first time in a very long time.   Why the long lay-off?  Well, the simple answer is I got lazy.  The more complicated answer was that I was scared.  I guess you could say that sounds a little strange.  I suppose to be fair, I should give you a little of my back story.

Like I said, I joined the gym about ten years ago.  I had been out of high school for a few years and had begun to let myself slip physically.  I thought I was doing all right, but it turns out, I was pretty out of shape.  When I first started going, I didn’t have much of a routine, and I basically putzed around for an hour or so after work and went home.  Then one day I got sick.  I don’t get sick very often, but when I do, it usually whacks me around pretty good.  This one wasn’t letting me go.  I am a stubborn mule, so I refused to go to a doctor until I woke up one morning and found the inside of my mouth was very dry and a funky white color and I couldn’t seem to swallow.  I decided I better get checked out.  I hadn’t been to a doctor in several years, so he did a pretty thourough job on me.  He prescribed some anti-biotics, which I was glad to take, but what really got me was when, towards the end of his talk with me he said, “You could probably stand to lose about 20 pounds.”  Twenty pounds?  That’s like a small child.  Had he said five or ten, I would have thanked him for making me feel self-concious and been on my way, but twenty pounds suggested health problems to me, and I decided I better heed his advice.  After having been a member on and off at my gym, I dove head first into getting in shape.  I started going as often as I could to the gym, lifting weights every other day, and exhausting myself on cardio machines on the days in between.  I carried around a chart I had made myself to track how much I lifted and how often I could increase the weight I was lifting.  I would spend anywhere from one to two hours, often five or six days a week, attempting to not only lose 20 pounds, but get myself in the shape I had been in as a high school student.  As a kid, although never fat, I was, well, pudgy around the middle, until I went to high school.  From freshman year on, I spent so many hours in the gym, I thought they were going to charge me rent.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but I got very skinny.  By the time I was a senior I had put on a little weight in muscle, but for the most part, I was pretty thin.  I swore to myself I would never be out of shape again, and I remembered that promise to myself when I lef the doctor’s office that day.  In a matter of months, I had virtually shrunk.  I was eating better, exercising more, and I found that to fit into my jeans, I had to really tighten the belt.  My mother, and even some of my friends felt I had gone a little too far, but I felt good about myself and how I looked.  I had more confidence and people talked about how impressed they were with my dedication to the gym.

Then I got hurt.

I remember the day pretty well.  I had big plans for lifting that afternoon.  I had worked in the morning and was counting the minutes until I could get back to working out.  It was one of my many obsessive hobbies I have had throughout my life.  I was all pumped up and ready to go, and after doing some chest presses, I moved on to the curling machine.  (I typically used only machines and avoided free weights.  i don’t know, for some reason free weights intimidated me)  I don’t remember how much weight I put on the machine, but it was a lot.  Too much.  I thought I was invunerable and started lifting.  After one repitition, I heard and felt a ‘pop’ and saw my left bicep muscle literally drop.  I knew instantly something was wrong, but I didn’t know what.  I found a trainer and told him what happened, and after seeing the look of shock on his face, I knew this wasn’t something that was going to heal in a day or two.  Thankfully, there wasn’t a whole lot of pain involved, but I did spend 13 hours in the ER so they could tell me I had likely torn one of the two parts that connect the bicep to the shoulder.  Later in the week I had an MRI to confirm this.  Basically, there is nothing short of surgery to correct this, and according to the doctor, most people who suffer injuries like this simply live with it as it is.  He told me I could still go to the gym, but I would have to be careful, and over time, I could strengthen my arm, and while it would never be like it was, I could go on without any serious repercutions, other than the fact that if you look closely at my arms, the left bicep is lower than the right.  Most people don’t notice.

I did try to go back to the gym, but I was nervous at first.  I went slow and took my time.  I was able to work out again in a matter of weeks, but I never quite had the confidence I had once had.

In 2008, my entire routine was thrown off.  My McDonalds was going to close for three months to rebuild the store.  I was going to have to work in another location.  That’s not tragic, but it did make my trips to the gym less frequent.  By the time we re-opened, I had already begun slacking off, and then with the pressures of the new store, new hours, new responsibilities and a lot more customers, I was often too exhausted at the end of my shift to go to the gym.  For the next two years, I was working seven days a week at two different McDonalds.  My trips to the gym were few and far between.  I wanted to go, but it just became easier to make excuses.  I was always too tired, and often people I worked with would encourage me by telling me I warked too hard as it was and I should just go home and rest after work.  Worst advice ever.  It’s now 2012, and despite my best efforts, I have not been able to get my routine back.  For a while I was at least managing to go for cardio workouts two or three times a week, but as the holidays approaced, even that fell apart.  I decided I just needed to do it.  No more excuses, no more fear.  Yes, I was afraid of hurting myself again, and that was always in the back of my mind.  When I thought I could go and do some lifting, I would cringe at the thought of doing any more damage to my arm.  If I were to tear the other connecting strand, I would never be able to properly lift my arm.  That’s a scary thought.  Nevermind that the doctors all told me I could continue working out, as long as I was careful.  Somehow I ignored that and made fear my excuse not to go.  I can’t do that anymore.  I swore I would never be out of shape again, but once again I have let myself go.  I don’t know that I can ever go back to that five or six day a week schedule, but I have to push myself to go more often.

I lifted today, and it was a little depressing.  I didn’t even attempt to lift as much as I used to, and I am certain tomorrow morning is going to bring me all sorts of aches and pains, but I have to stop feeling like 30 is the point of no return in my life.  Maybe I won’t be quite as cut as I was a few years ago, but there’s no reason I can’t drop a few pounds and squish myself back into a 32″ waist instead of 34″.  I think that will be one of my new mottos.  32!

The hardest part of going to the gym is the first day.  It’s easy to say, “I’ll go tomorrow,” but it takes a little effort to say, “I’ll go today.”  Like I said, I have to start somewhere.

~ by James on January 3, 2012.

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