(last updated on April 29, 2014)
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.
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.
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: