A Year of Going to the Gym: Recap

A Year of Going to the Gym: Recap

I started going to the gym on July 1st, 2007, so it’s been a year of time and expense. Was it worth it?

In terms of weight, I am about 10-15 pounds lighter than I was before, which is still a rather hefty 210 pounds. I have also gained an inch in height, measuring 5′ 8″ tall. This was an unexpected development, and is perhaps due to stronger back muscles and improved posture. I attribute the lack of weight loss to a lack of control of my diet. I’ve shed about 3″ from my waist, however, and I think some of the fat has been replaced with muscle. I have to take one of those body mass index readings on my friend Duncan’s scale to find out.

In terms of cardiovascular endurance, I am vastly improved and can go almost all day moving people’s houses or running around outside. It took about three months to get to the point where I can maintain regular 160-170bpm heart rate on a machine without feeling winded. This came in handy last winter when I was in downtown Boston and my friend had left their luggage in the taxi we’d just vacated. We ran as fast as we could down Newbury Street, suit coats flapping behind us as we booked down the brick-paved sidewalk on a beautiful autumn day as passers-by watched on in curiosity. I’d always wondered how FBI agents chased anyone down in their dress shoes, and apparently the secret is that they are in good shape; I was just a touch winded, and felt pretty darn good.

I haven’t really focused on muscle development, but I am a little stronger. I haven’t really pursued a regimen of exercise other than to work the core muscle groups, alternating between lower and upper body. I also do some abdominal things on some machines along with some isolation of the arm muscles.

Other areas such as posture, balance, and mental clarity have also improved to some degree. My biggest challenge currently is keeping the daily workout to a reasonable amount of time. If I had time to burn, I could spend about 90 minutes total. However, I tend to get sleepy afterwards, and that kills the rest of my momentum. I’m experimenting with a lighter regimen that’s designed more to wake me up and get some sweat out of me, but this isn’t very satisfying.

Ok, ok, enough stalling! Here are two pictures to compare “pre-gym Dave” to the current state-of-the-art.

Dave in 2007Dave in 2008 At the left I’m at a “Chainsaw Garden Party” event I attended in 2007, a few months before I started going to the gym. I’m looking pretty hale and hearty after layin’ down some manure. Definitely chubby, but I’d like to think I’m lovably so ;-)

On the right is a picture I took for an online dating profile in late June 2008. Since no one was around to take my own photo, I had to use a mirror (hopefully distortion free). I think I can detect shifts in the subcutaneous fat of my face with some improved definition, and there is an increased leanness in my torso, and my posture seems more balanced.

Long Term Lessons from the Gym

Hey, it’s cheaper than having Starbucks every day, especially if you factor in your health insurance provider’s willingness to reimburse you for part of the cost of joining. I paid $249 the first year to join the club, a one-time fee, plus $19/month. My health insurance required that I go 3 times a week for at least 3 months to kick in $200. The subsequent year, I am just paying the $19/month because I’ve already paid the joining fee. Theoretically, that works out to $240 for 12 months, minus the $200 that my health insurance provider kicks in once you show them the proof that you’ve been going. Grand total: $40/year. It’s better than cable, and it’s infinitely better for you.

If you get to like the feeling of physical exertion, sweat, and exhaustion, then the gym gives you an automatic hobby when you’re too bored to go to the mall. I’ve done this a few times; there’s always a muscle group, sport-like activity, or exercise that you can work on for a few minutes.

My gym is fairly quiet, so it’s become a place of solitude for me. There are a lot of books and podcasts that you can consume while you’re doing that 30 minutes of cardio on the treadmill. I sometimes just meditate or zone out. Some days I try to work through programming problems. It’s a great time to be with yourself.

If you go to the gym every day, you will eventually run into people and make their acquaintance. This has happened to me three times, and in two of those cases I made some new friends.

Next Challenges

To lose another 10 pounds would be fantastic, and this will take concerted effort on my part to count calories and increase the intensity of my workouts, which are not as rigorous as some of the ones I’ve seen people follow. I also have become a little lazy in going to the gym every day because work is pulling me away through guilt. It might be time to put together my own targeted regimen to emphasize the areas I’d like to most improve: upper body strength and core abdominal and back muscles.

You can read about the first few weeks of going to the gym here:

13 Comments

  1. Wade Winningham 12 years ago

    That’s awesome. I would like to lose 10 lbs. and it’s definitely going to take a combination of calorie counting and more rigorous exercise to do it. It seems a lot harder now than it was when I was in my twenties.

    As with you, I frequently find myself thinking through coding problems when I exercise. I find my best problem-solving occurs in the shower, in dreams and during exercise.

  2. haylo75 12 years ago

    Congrats on your achievement, the first couple months are always difficult when making a life change like you did.  You are right to focus on cardio endurance, mental clarity posture, etc., but I did notice you focused on weight first.  I would replace that focus directly with BMI as one can easily gain weight, say on a weight training program, while still shedding inches and becoming more lean.

    You may want to look at doing Hight Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) as both a time saving measure and a way to potentially boost your metabolic rate.  With HIIT you basically split 1:30 mild exercise intervals with 0:30 all-out sprint intervals bookended by a 2:00 warm-up and cool-down period.  The workouts are about 25 minutes and, as the name suggests, very intense.  Studies have shown metabolic rate to be increased and that the body burns more calories for up to 24 hours after an HIIT workout.  There are a large number of websites detailing this type of regimen.  It’s popular enough to where a lot of cardio based machines has a “Sprint 8” or equivalent workout.  I have been doing a mix of cardio and compound body weight resistance exercises (dips, pull-ups), having gotten up to the 90 minute cardio workouts you mention.  For me, they were nothing but a recipe for burnout, and I ended up sacrificing precious muscle as a result.

  3. Emily 12 years ago

    Awesome! And I think it’s really cool that your health insurance only kicks in money towards the gym cost if you actually GO. :D What a great incentive.

    Interesting that you gained an inch in height. This also happened to my friend Amy, some time after we had started Nordic walking together…she thinks there is a definite correlation. :D

  4. Lance 12 years ago

    Great work!  I have become a believer in the importance and power of exercise over the last few years.  And, I also agree that diet is the hardest part of the whole equation.  It’s actually pretty cool that your health insurance kicks in a portion of the cost of gym membership.  I think that’s a great step in proactively promoting good health habits, and one that more providers should do.  I wish mine did that anyway!

  5. Karen 12 years ago

    I’ve been going to the gym for about 8 months now. I’ve tried working out regularly in the past and it hasn’t stuck; not sure why it is this time, but I’m grateful. I’ve only gone from 130lbs to 120lbs, but I feel much stronger and healthier. My goal is about 115 lbs and 22% bodyfat.

    I supplement the gym with rock climbing, walking and biking the mile to the train station to get to work. I like having the more active lifestyle, as opposed to just the chore of the gym.

    Since muscle requires more calories to maintain, focusing on strength training will also help you lose fat better than cardio alone. Good luck meeting your next fitness goal!

  6. Dave Seah 12 years ago

    Wade: Hey man! Have you thought of any good ways to do the calorie counting? I’ve been thinking of a system based roughly on taste and size, which will also help develop my tasting skills :-)

    Haylo: I did mention weight first, but that’s because I’m at the end of this phase. I actually should get one of those BMI electronic scales. The HIIT sounds pretty cool too…I’ve been doing something like that on individual machines to alleviate boredom and test my body’s response to different stress levels…cool to know that there is increased burn rate! I should clarify: my 90 minute time includes driving and locker room time; actual gym time is at most 45 minutes. Today, when I am only doing some cardio to wake up, I spent about 30 minutes.

    Emily: Your health coverage might provide it too…call ‘em up! It appears to be fairly common. I have BC/BS and am on a self-paid PPO plan, and if MY crappy coverage has it, maybe yours does too.

    Lance: You should call and see if they do cover it, if you haven’t already.

    Karen: that’s awesome! I’m starting to get into more active stuff too, but I have yet to find an outdoor activity that I really like. I am leaning toward sports that don’t require you to chase balls constantly, which sort of rules out tennis. Badminton is probably up there. I also hate keeping score, so maybe I should give rock climbing a go. There is one of those rock climbing walls at my gym that is on a belt.

  7. Wade Winningham 12 years ago

    Luckily for me, my girlfriend is a calorie counter so she helps keep me in line. When grocery shopping, she’s a lot more observant than I am with sodium/fat content. It can be scary sometimes how much sodium is in a lot of pre-packaged food items.

    We tend to eat lots of grilled chicken/fish with a salad and some vegetable like asparagus, broccoli, corn or zucchini.

  8. Rose 12 years ago

    Congrats Dave!
    That takes real commitment to stick to exercising, and for a year! Nice results, your face looks thinner. You can see your posture is better too.

    I have lost 16 lbs since January and I have a thyroid problem!
    80% of my food is fruits and veggies and lot’s of em!
    The rest is beans and whole grains.
    Nothing pre-packaged.
    Once a week I have all-you-can-eat sushi.
    I do eat meat but try to go for quality, like a steak but that is only two or three times a month.
    I had an Angus burger, it smelled delicious & I forgot to put ketchup on it!
    My perception of flavors has changed dramatically in just a few months.
    I went to the used book store and got veggie cookbooks.
    I have tried so many new recipes and have bought a dehydrator!
    Currently addicted to sweet potato chips!
    Exercise was bouncing on a mini trampoline during my favorite show: BBC America’s “you are what you eat”.
    But have not lately. Haven’t gained any back but losing slowly now.
    I regained short term memory and feel more energetic.
    Things taste better.

    It has been a fun adventure, bought leeks and fennel for the first time ever last week, made a yummy soup.
    Real beets, the root, not from the can, are great.
    Lately I am into making salad dressings from scratch.
    I make several meals ahead and actually save money not buying fast food. Beans and rice are cheap.
    I spend on fresh fruit for my morning smoothies.

    Not at all painful or hungry. I eat constantly (fruits and veggies).
    Can be fun trying new things.
    It is a life style so I can’t fall off!
    M

  9. Tal Ater 12 years ago

    Keep going Dave!

    Over the past year, you’ve inspired me countless times to start going to the gym again… and again… and once again today… I hope this time I will stick with it.

    You mentioned you’re looking for a calorie counting method. A few years ago I shed about 13 Kg with diet and exercise. And surprisingly the diet part was relatively easy… All I did was enter anything I ate into a calorie counting software… The act of entering every single bite into a software made me realize what I eat, stop snacking out of boredom, and see food in a new way. I used CrossTrainer, but there are many others. Let me know if you need some input on the whole calorie-counting-mode.

  10. Dave Hardwick 12 years ago

    A bit late to the party…

    First, very nice news. You’ve worked hard, and the results are clear. Congrats!

    Second, a recommendation for your next segment. Go find a gym that has workouts focused on freeweights & kettlebells and go do that. Crossfit is a chain that might have a gym near you, so you could try that (http://www.crossfit.com/).

    I make this reco based on my own experiences. I had a similar experience as you describe in this post, and then started doing workouts that are very close in nature to the Crossfit workouts, and shifting to a modified Zone diet. After a year, all I had to say was WOW!

    Best of luck in all this. Totally worth it!

  11. Rose 12 years ago

    Hi Dave,
    I read the links leading up to this post, very funny stuff.
    The wrong bathroom and the questions you asked the trainer.
    In an early one you said you lost 10 lbs and a year later you say 10- 15, I think you may have lost more!
    I realized in my previous post I did not make the point that you do not have to count calories, just eat healthy! I got carried away realizing how much I have grown in my quest.
    I am not one to keep lists and track goals, a weakness that led me to your site. So counting calories just bores me. I count fiber and vitamins mostly.
    You have inspired me to get jumping on the mini trampoline again. I am 5 lbs from goal!
    M

  12. Dave 12 years ago

    Hello Dave.

    Losing 10-15 pounds in a year is a great accomplishment! Few people reverse adding on once that begins to kick in as our metabolism slows and our we grow more sedentary.

    You might want to check out the book “Mindless Eating” by Brian Wansink. The idea is that by making a few small changes in how you approach eating, you will be able to consume a little bit less each day and slowly shed those extra pounds. Part of the point is we “mindlessly” have habitats that lead us to eat a little more, rather than a little less, and changing these habitats can make a big difference in the long term.

    This is the first time I have commented on your blog. I did want to tell you thank you for sharing your Printable CEO resources. I have found them very useful.

    Dave

  13. Gavin Boyd 11 years ago

    I joined the gym last year and have just quit. Don’t worry though as I have taken up jogging in the pouring rain. It is a lot better than on the treadmill. I started the gym looking for the six pack and losing the beer belly but after a year non have worked. One thing for sure is that I am a lot fitter. I trained to do the 10K in Glasgow and thought under and hour ten was good. I surprised myself by not stopping the hole way and coming in on 52 minutes :-). Even though I have been working out I now know that to lose the Wait I need watch what I eat and drink. Not easy but as I work in the Private Medical Insurance industry I know more than most how important it is to look after yourself. Great post.