Six months ago I was pretty dang pleased with myself. I was just finishing up a 3 week stretch where I lost a pound a day through exercise and diet. Sure, I was hungry all the time, eating about 2000 calories a day and spending lots of time at the gym, walking and doing yard work. I had reasoned that if a pound of fat equates to about 3300-3500 calories, then in order to lose a pound a day I just had to burn at least that much extra. Indeed, I ended up burning over 5000 calories a day and was hopeful that by the end of May when I would tip the scales at 250, down 25 lbs from the 1st of May when I weighed in at 275, that I would be on my way to reaching a target goal of 200 lbs.
Well, that didn’t happen, and now I find myself 4 days before Thanksgiving likely weighing near what I did on May 1st, although I am avoiding stepping on a scale, preferring to have an approximate rather than exact weight.
What happened? Well, a couple of things. First off, when I started to lift weights again in June I was chagrined to find out that my strength was down along with my weight. Huh? I thought I was burning fat. Nope. While I certainly did lose some inches around my waist (since regained) I learned the hard lesson that there is a reason that the experts suggest not losing more than 1-2 lbs a week. Apparently, beyond that mark and you still losing muscle. That’s not what I wanted.
Secondly, I was working so hard to burn those calories that it just wasn’t sustainable. Not having changed my basic food patterns once off the diet, the weight and fat returned, like the tide coming in, slow and steady. At the same time, my strength started to return as a result of some regular weight lifting. I still need to work on a couple of exercises to get back the strength I had, but generally I would say I am as strong or stronger than before.
I had been using the elliptical machine for 60 minutes a day at a pretty good pace and noted that when tested (unofficially) on one of the treadmills, that my VO2Max was in the range of what a 40 year old could expect. That’s about the time I asked myself what I was training for? Initially it was just a method to burn 800 calories an hour, but it was pretty boring and did I really need to be grinding so hard if I wasn’t going to compete? Nope. However I was routinely getting my heart rate up into the 140s, which falls into the Very Intense zone for my age. Moderate Intensity starts at 96 beats per minute. My resting heart rate has been under 60 for the past 6 months, hitting a low of 54 when I was working out the hardest. I’m not saying I’m not going to have a heart attack, but even at the weight I am carrying I seem to be heart healthy.
Yet another realization arose, one that has nudged me in the past. I’m sixty now and while I want to have good health and physical utility, I’m not too concerned with looking good, as in svelte or attractive to the opposite sex. That might seem like a no brainer to a younger person looking at a sixty year old, but my statement to you is “just wait until you get here before judging.” It was only 15 years ago that I crossed the 200 lb barrier and had a 35-36 inch waist. Ugh. Can I really be OK with a 40 inch waist?
Well, yes I can. What has changed is my self-image of being a fit young athlete who was out of shape to being a strong older bigman with gray, almost white hair and missing some teeth. I haven’t competed in sports in 15 years and have no plans to do so in the future. I’ve always hated running and so that’s not something I miss. I see no reason to jump or do anything much that would be prohibited by weighing 100 lbs more than I did when I was playing NCAA volleyball for Hawaii in 1981.
Since changing to VASA from Planet Fitness I have ample opportunity to see the best physiques of the young people in the area. I am truly amazed by how strong and fit many of the younger men appear to be. And then I watch them on the machines and am bemused to learn that in fact they are sculpting those bodies for appearance more than strength. Here I am, fat, old, and able to blow many of these muscular looking guys away with how much I can lift. I can max the seated rowing, lat pull down, seated dip, and fly machines, each with the equivalent weight around 260-300 lbs, with at least 5 reps. I’ve been working on my military press (machine) and have it up to 2 sets of 5 reps with 160 lbs. I’m lagging a little on my chest press, not quite at the 260 lb level I was earlier in the year.
What I am saying is that I’m in the process of changing my self-image, which is not an easy thing to do. Robin used to call me “Scrawny of the Jungle” back in my Santa Monica College days, when I weighed 165. Scrawny no more. Would I like to be a 36 inch waist again and retain all my strength? Sure. That would put me in the top 1% of all men my age, if not more rarefied air. I could do YouTube videos and show the world what a stud I turned out to be. Am I willing to sacrifice the time, effort, and food to get there? Nope. I’m not that vain. Or dedicated. (Maybe it’s more the lack of dedication than lack of vanity.)
So maybe I’ll get back on the horse at some point and try to lose the 1-2 lbs a week that the experts suggest. Probably when I can’t fit into my church clothes, as my regular clothing consists of expandable waist shorts and sweats. Or maybe I’ll just buy another DI suit for $25 with a larger waist.
Here my current workout:
30 minutes on the stationary bike. I just started this past week on the upright bike, having ridden the recumbent style for years. This is my cardio workout for the day and my target heart rate is around 134. I’m currently on level 12 manual mode (no hills) and I’m burning around 300 calories and covering just under 9 miles according to the machine.
After riding the bike I alternate the following groups of machines with the goal of doing 1 group per day, and each group twice a week.
Vertical: Military press and lat pull down. Seated dip and then the seated shrug machine, only bending at the elbow for a fuller lift instead of just a shrug.
Horizontal: Fly and reverse fly. Chest press and seated rowing.
Legs: Leg press and calf raises.
Each day’s workout takes about 50-55 minutes.