Sunday, October 14, 2012

How It FEELS To Get In Shape

When I started my new habit of fitness, I had one primary motive: to stave off winter depression. It was July and the days were just barely getting shorter but I could feel the downward shift in my energy.

Years ago I was diagnosed with depression and went through an intensive outpatient program. Part of this program was education - we learned how to recognize the early warning signs of depression and do something about it before it got debilitating.

Well, it worked, and this time I didn't have to go on drugs. I used diet and exercise instead. I have only lost half of the fat that I expect to lose and just began building muscle in the last few weeks, but I already feel at least ten years younger. I've lost 16 pounds since August. To simulate my weight when I started, I could hang two gallons of milk from my belt. By the time I'm done it will be four gallons. No wonder I had been moving slower and slower, groaning every time I stood up from a chair or (gasp) sitting on the floor. And the more muscle I build, the easier it is to move the weight that I do have. Seriously, it feels like I'm dancing around the studio as I do my work now.

The muscle-building has all happened very naturally. First my legs got stronger and more defined because I was hiking 5-10 miles in the mountains every day. Then, I started doing interval training, which was mostly focused on the core: abs, obliques, and back. And now that those are pretty sturdy I can stand up or sit up straight, even on a bench.

This is a big deal, by the way. I was born with a condition called Spina Bifida. Mine isn't that serious, but it's serious enough that I should have been building core muscles since I was a kid. For the last 10 years or so I haven't been able to sit comfortably without sturdy back support and was in pain half the time even with it. Well, that has changed with the recent development of strong core muscles. I can now sit on a bench for hours. My posture is upright and totally effortless.

So, just like building a tower, I can move on to the next step: chest and shoulders. These will need to be strong before I can devote real work to my noodly arms. I mean, how do you work out your arms if your shoulders are too weak to lift the weight?

So now, I've got more goals than just to keep depression at bay. I want to look great and feel even better!

For years I have never been willing to invest in decent clothes because "I'm about to lose some of this extra weight and they won't fit anymore." Well, I'm finally doing it and look forward to being able to invest in some of the clothes that I've wanted for years: a Utili-kilt and a vest from Phoenix Rising.

(I tried one of these vests on at the Oregon Country Fair. They are gorgeous, but let's just say that I was not pleased with the effect of drawing attention to my very large midsection.)

(And when I got sized for a Utilikilt, also at the Oregon Country Fair, I was shocked at my waistline measurement.)

So, yeah, I think vanity has crept into the mix. As a good friend of mine said when I told him about this, "Whatever it takes to maintain your discipline, go ahead and use it!"

But, vanity aside, I cannot emphasize enough just how much better I feel. I'm way more stable, balanced, flexible, and energetic. And I feel like I'm just getting started!

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