If you're just catching up, here's part 1:
THE FIRST WEEK OF FREEDOM
“So you’re quitting your job? No other plans? Just going to work out?”
These were the common questions I was getting, met with this face by most of my colleagues and friends
It's a terrifying thing, jumping without a net. Well...mostly without a net. I had saved enough money to live for 5 or 6 months without gainful employment, and the only thing on my current agenda, outside of being the best father I can be, was to “get healthy.” I thought I had some idea of what this meant, and what it would entail, but in the real world, nothing really quite goes on schedule…
For those that know me, they might say that I’m pretty methodical (some are shaking their head right now thinking that might be the understatement of the century). To put it bluntly, I’m a pain in the ass in this regard. I’m the guy that plans out almost everything. For example, I rehearse phone calls before I make them…both sides…
It goes without saying, I like to have an idea of how things are going to turn out before I start. This was no different. I had spent hours outlining 3 or 4 different versions of a daily schedule, what I would eat, when I would eat it, when I would work out, etc. I was putting all of my prior fitness knowledge and experience to work. I had decided that I was going to maximize this time. Nothing would have disappointed me more, than to have had this opportunity, and blown it.
To illustrate this point, I had written out a 2 week schedule of how I was going to use my time, I had each day planned out, down to the minute, in excruciating detail. I was going to kick this fitness thing’s ass. Time to put everything together and dominate. So, day one arrives and what did I do?
As in, 14 hours of uninterrupted, cannot muster the will to get out of bed, type sleep. This wasn’t the lazy Sunday, recovering from a hangover sleep that is cured by bacon, eggs, and coffee. This was full on “Boy in the Bubble” recovery sleep. I was broken. My body was sore, it ached from hours, upon hours, upon hours of sitting at my desk or in the car. Wearing a suit every day. Wearing hard soled shoes. Eating shit food. Sore from carrying 120 extra pounds around every single day. I had become somewhat blind to all of this discomfort on a daily basis because of the daily rat-race/stress induced coma my seemingly necessary “routine” required. It was no wonder I could no longer muster the will to workout, or do anything. I felt miserable physically, and this played on my psyche something fierce.
My closest friends will tell you, I’m generally fun to be around. Cracking jokes, generally affable, pleasant, accommodating to a fault. I’m not afraid to say what’s on my mind, or point out flawed thinking when I see it. When I’m at my best, I’m generally well liked. This was not who I was at this point. Far from it. To sum it up, I was a miserable prick. Quick tempered, sharp-tongued, and no filter. I imagine it was something like drinking from a condescending/snarky fire-hose every day.
So, this initial restorative sleep/hibernation was necessary. With no other distractions, my system shut it down and said “you should probably reboot here…you’re kind of a dick.”
This went on for about a week. I spent most of my day in bed, decompressing. By about the 4th or 5th day I started to see the seeds of my former self emerge. So, lesson one was forced upon me. Get my damn sleep in order. Check.
All of my plans, so carefully laid out, needed to be redrawn.
The second thing I did was get my food/diet back in line. Now, I love food. Clearly. I often joke “you don’t get a body like this NOT eating…” I also love eating quality food. Cooking is actually fun, and not at all a chore. When everything was going well a few years earlier, not only was I the primary chef in my household, I was constantly helping other folks get their diet in check. I like that sort of thing.
I was the “Paleo guy” (whatever that now means), at work and at home. I read all the books, blogs, and went to seminars. You know, basically got my geek on and proselytized at every opportunity possible. So, armed with all of that knowledge, I had gone out and done the kitchen cupboard purge. If it didn’t fit the plan, it was out. From there, my hours not sleeping were spent shopping for and prepping this week’s food and I was on track, prepping meals, etc. This is typical first week behavior for most people. By week 3, they’re back to pizza, potato chips and beer.
So, how do you avoid such regression? Well, sometimes its better to be lucky than good. That first week, I happened (quite randomly actually) to be invited to a Facebook group put together by a few people from my gym that were also trying to keep their diet in line. There were something like 6 members of this group, so not very big at all, but it was critical for me early on. I now had a group of motivated folks, posting recipes, pictures, motivational memes, and other words of encouragement. Just having fun, while eating clean. I jumped in and started posting, commenting, and sharing. Almost immediately I felt accountable for my food choices. My friends were expecting something from me in the way of content every day. I highly recommend doing this!!
So, sleep is on point…food is on point…let’s get down to it. What’s the plan physically? Well, first, we have to see how big a hill we have to climb. I’ve documented that I was 362lbs, had the agility of a terminally ill donkey, and fit into exactly none of my clothes. Here’s what I wrote the day I saw that number…
“A horrific feeling looking at the scale. I knew it would read something like this, however, seeing the number and comparing to how I feel makes it so much more real. I have spent this week dealing with the feelings that come along with seeing myself exactly 120 pounds heavier than I was 5 years ago, all that work I had done, in the toilet. It’s been destructive to my psyche. I’m now walking/talking proof that working in the traditional office environment, plus the S.A.D. diet, lack of sleep, plus stress is the recipe for death.”
So, the day arrives, time to gear up and head to the gym. I dust off my gym bag and do a quick inventory. Shit…I have three shirts. Three. Three t-shirts that I feel that I can wear to the gym and actually workout in. What the hell?! This was humbling to say the least. Boy was I in for a shock as to how this was the least of my problems.
Here’s what’s great about my gym. I walk in, and a guy I had literally never met, says “Shane! You’re back!! What’s up brother?!” and gives me a high five. Holy shit. They want me to be here. Also, that guy needs to chill out a little.
I spent the next 10 minutes catching up with my Coach (Cameron) and “new guy.” In no short order I hear “Ok, enough of this crap, let’s see what you got.” Ahhh…the sultry sounds of someone about to catch a beating.
The next hour and a half was some of the most humbling, and at times humiliating, of my life. Oh…how the mighty have fallen. First workout was a SHIT-SHOW. Something, though, was different. I was laughing when I couldn’t squat to depth. Laughing at the burning I felt as I attempted to do so. I smirked as I failed to bear-crawl 25 feet. A sense of satisfaction came over me as I watched the sweat drip off my forehead and pool on the ground as I attempted strict pushups, failing to get one. I was cracking jokes about my failure, but not in a “let’s hide the pain” kind of way. I had embraced the fact that I was who I was, at this moment in time. I was out of shape. That was a statement of fact. This time, however, this didn’t define me as a person as it had in the past. I could see, that as a person, I knew that I was flawed, but I am still of value. I had enough perspective to see that this work I was doing was going to make me an even better person, an even better father, and capable of living a longer, more fulfilling life. For this, I was appreciative, and every excruciating rep, was a step along that path.
There is no amount of planning you can do to gain that kind of perspective. Fighters say that the best plan in the world goes in the garbage, the second you get punched in the face. Such was the case here. I had to accept who I was at that moment, find the good things in myself, my progress, and then just focus on showing up and doing my subsequent homework. I would trust my coach would handle the rest.
On it went like this for a few weeks…I show up, I catch a beating, I laugh, I go home and eat properly and brag about it with friends in my little Facebook Food Nazi group, I sleep. Lather/Rinse/Repeat. The routine begins to set in, and more progress is made, slowly, incrementally, one day at a time. One morning, I realized, that I no longer hurt when walking barefoot. I noticed I could lightly jog a short distance without wheezing, or feeling pain. These are very little things, but just like your thoughts, you have to be mindful and aware of these things, and celebrate them. These are the early signs of major progress being made, and the little successes are what need to be celebrated the most, as they are cumulative. While initially, the there was that brutal inner dialogue each day driving to the gym, within a matter of a week or so, you start looking looking forward to that time. You know it's going to be tough, but you also know that you're up to the task. The feeling of accomplishing something that is difficult becomes the replacement for any food cravings, or desire to sit back and let life pass you by.
Enough for now…next up, current progress...the distance traveled, and the transition from Student to Coach…
Thanks for reading along,