Reflection on the Plains: I Work Out Like a Hippie

The title is intended to be misleading, but that’s okay. This post is not about Texas Tech, so if reading about me working out doesn’t interest you, then this article isn’t for you and that’s totally cool. The offseason is almost to an end and this post has been rolling around in my head for a few months and it will probably be the last like this for a good while.

Let’s go back a little bit. About a year and a half ago, maybe two years, I started to work back into working out. My wife kept mentioning to me that I’m not getting any younger and I needed to be healthy.

In my mind, I always thought, “But I’ve got a blog to write, I don’t have enough time.” Naturally, I made time. I was getting up at 3:30 in the morning (I still do this) and I write and then I work out. My wife purchased an elliptical a few years ago because she has a bad back and she can’t run or get on the treadmill any longer. So I started to get on the elliptical in the morning and would work out for 30 minutes or so and I felt pretty good about what I was doing.

But then, tragedy struck one morning last November. The elliptical was and still does work fine, but it makes this horrible screeching sound. The pedals are still smooth as silk, it just makes this sound. As you might imagine, my wife was not real cool with me using the elliptical that made a loud screeching sound at 4:45 in the morning, so I had to come up with an alternative.

So, I had heard about HIIT workouts, which is high intensity interval training, and I did a quick search and found a video from the good folks at Fitness Blender and figured, what the heck. As an aside, this is essentially a burst of quick an exercise followed by a short rest, like 20 seconds on and 10 seconds rest. Various exercises and stuff. I knew that I needed to get my heart rate up and I could have done some jumping around, but at the time, it sounded like a really good idea to have this person lead me through the workout.

It was 20 minutes of hell. I should have looked at the difficulty level, but at the time, I was just clicking on a video and it looked like it would be healthy and so I just thought, why the hell not. I couldn’t make it through 20 minutes of exercise. So, I kept doing it for a month or so, not changing anything up, just trying to get through that one workout without dying and eventually, I got there.

Now, I’m hooked.

I Work Out Because I’m An Old Dad

You might argue with me, but I feel like I got a late start on starting a family. I’m 41 years old and I have one son that’s five and another that’s about to be 4 (when he comes home, which we hope is soon). Just doing the math, I’ll be 54 when Fitsum is 18 and graduating from college, which seems old to me.

I deal with death every day because I do probate things and so the idea of death is never far from my mind. It doesn’t bother me, it is inevitable, but the thought has been that if I can work out a bit, then I’m doing my best to prolong my life. I want to be around for those events and if I don’t do these things, then I’m probably decreasing those odds that I’ll get to see my son get married or graduate from college or those sorts of things.

I’m motivated because I want to see my wife and my child as long as I can.

I also realize that I’m not the healthiest guy around. I never thought I was unhealthy, but despite me getting on that elliptical, I wasn’t really losing weight. I very much was developing old man-bod. This is different that dad-bod in that with dad-bod, you essentially get a gut, but with old man-body, you have already developed the gut, but you also start to get swoll-chest. It’s science, so don’t even argue. It’s essentially where you start to get this barrel chest and at that point, dad-bod doesn’t look so out of place, it’s old man-bod.

I really didn’t realize I was moving in this direction. I felt like I was working out and life was good, but then, we took some family photos with my brother-in-law and his family and I’m wearing a nice polo shirt and at the time I put on that shirt, I thought I looked great. Then, the pictures come back, about the same time that the elliptical broke, maybe the first of December, there it is . . . dad-bod. Clear as day. I ask my wife and she says I look fine. B.S.

That 20 minutes of HIIT was not getting the job done and I’m getting dad-bod and old man-bod. Time to get to work.

Talk to Your Physician

Before you do any of this, make sure and talk to your physician about working out and what you can, or cannot handle. I wish I had done this, but I didn’t. You tend to think that you can do a lot of this stuff, but go get checked out by your doctor and talk to them about how you want to start working out. Tell them what you want to do and they can give you some advice.

Heart Rate and Hard Work

I’ve always said that I weighed 165 or 175 and when I first started in earnest, I weighed at about 175. I wasn’t getting any bigger, but I wasn’t smaller.

I’m not an exercise expert, but I do know two things: 1) increasing your heart rate is probably pretty good for you; and 2) working hard in whatever you are doing is also pretty good for you. This was basically my philosophy.

I mentioned Fitness Blender and it is Kelli and Daniel, a husband and wife, who do these workout videos. They live in the Northwest part of the U.S. (I haven’t stalked them, they’ve mentioned it on a couple of videos). They’re both pleasant and Kelli reminds me of both of my sisters and Daniel seems like a decent enough guy. So I hitch my wagon here and I start exploring some of their workouts. I found a handful of additional workouts, complete with a warm-up and cool-down (more on this later) and plenty of things that required me to get my heart rate up, which is something that’s really dependent upon how hard I work. Pretty easy.

I started to workout 4 to 5 days a week, which is probably too much, but I had a plan and I wanted to get rid of dad-bod and old man-bod, plus, getting up early didn’t bother me. Fitness Blender has these longer workouts and once I got a pretty good base, I would do these longer 50 minute workouts over the weekend. It was akin to going for a long jog.

I’m not real great at keeping track of how and when things started to happen, but by March and/or April I had lost an inch around my waist and I felt like I was in the best shape of my life. In Christmas of 2013 my mom bought me a whole mess of shorts because I asked for shorts and she can’t just buy one pair, she buys a mess of them at one time. They fit just fine for the summer of 2014 and by this summer, they’re way too big, but that’s okay. I’ve literally lost an inch+ around my waist.

I should also mention that simplifying this stuff to heart rate and hard work is probably a way too easy way to look at things, but I’m a pretty simple guy and I need simple things in order to keep me going. I don’t need to overthink this stuff as I’ve got too much going on as it is.

Why This Works For Me

I honestly believe that everyone is different and this is working for me. I abhor running. It is one of my least favorite things to do. My wife will sometimes want to go on a brisk walk and I’ll tell her that I’ll go, but only if I can get on my bike and ride with her. I have tried running before. In fact, I ran a half marathon while in law school, but there was no euphoria or joy that came out of running for me.

Working out for people is like trying to crack a combination lock. It takes time and trying different things. I had always scoffed at what I’m doing now, thinking that it’s silly or dumb or whatever, but the reality of it is that I actually really enjoy what I’m doing and I can see the results and I can feel the results.

Even though this works for me, if the thought of doing some of this stuff makes you want to put your face in a bag of chips I totally understand because I’d rather do that than run.

This begs the question, what the heck am I doing?

Well, I’m essentially doing stuff that you did when you worked out in football. The stuff that made you think you were being punished, like burpees, mountain climbers, jumping jacks, push-ups, star jumps, split squats, etc. If you were to put a sand pit in my wife’s craft room and told football players that they had to do 50 minutes of this stuff for skipping a class or something, they’d probably do their best not to get into trouble any more. But the funny thing is that this is all stuff I’ve done before, when I was 20 years younger and wanting to be a part of a football team. There’s really nothing revolutionary about what’s happening here.

There are a couple of other things here. In a lot of the workouts, there is a warm-up, which isn’t stretching, but just moving around a bit with the body parts that you’ll use. There have been a handful of studies that have been released recently that said that stretching before working out isn’t good for you. This is really getting loose and they emphasize not to hold any of the things that they do before a workout. Since I start at 4:45 am on most mornings, this is incredibly helpful.

After the workout, there’s usually a pretty good stretching routine. Again, there are some that feel that stretching doesn’t have a ton of benefit, but I do think it has helped me, whether it’s just psychological in nature, I still think it has helped me. I’ve done more cobra stretches, downward dogs, glut stretches, and all sorts of other things and I do feel better. If you would have told me a year ago that I’d be doing yoga-like moves and stretching I would have laughed. Now, I’m doing a 55 minute functional strength and balance workout WHILE BAREFOOT I would have laughed and thought you were crazy. I probably would have used the phrase “cray cray” because it may have been slightly still cool to use that term at that time and would have said it to be ironic, perhaps.

I’m also wearing a headband (I purchased it in the ladies section at Walmart where all the headbands are).

I wanted to mention one more thing, which is that so long as you get clearance from your doctor and if this floats your boat, then you can do this. One of the cool things that they do at Fitness Blender is that they’ve got stuff for just about every level of fitness and oftentimes, when they workout together, either one of them is doing an easy version and the other is doing the hard version. You can look for videos of different difficulties so if all you can do is move just a little bit, then you can start.

The only equipment that I use is one of those exercise bands with handles. I think I bought it for $15 and it’s helped me as best as it can. For any of the strength training, I try to use it and it probably isn’t the best thing, but it’s worked pretty well. One day I’d like to own some weights, but you’d be amazed what you can do with just your body weight for the most part.

What to Eat

This isn’t something that started with working out, but I do have a pretty decent diet (I think). I bring my lunch to work every day and I don’t like to eat big meals because I get sleepy and I can’t afford to get sleepy.

Since I’ve been on this kick, I’ve tried to eat more real food. Rather than a bag of chips, I’ll have a handful of peanuts. Rather than eat more pasta, I eat more fruits and vegetables. This is, obviously, very boring, but I do feel better and as mentioned above, how you feel is generally a cumulative effect of the things that you do to try to make yourself feel better.

And I’m not vigilant about what I eat because there’s part of that sort of thing that isn’t fun for me. I try to be as good as I can, eat more vegetables and meats than mac and cheese and eventually I think I’ve done pretty good.

What I’ve Learned

  • This is really a process for me, pretty much like life in general. You never really figure it out or maybe you need to keep figuring it out as you go.
  • I’m sorta a lone wolf when it comes to working out. I don’t need the motivation to keep going. It’s the time expended, or the fact that I feel like I’m doing pretty good without having to spend time driving to and from a gym feels pretty good. Once I get in a routine, I’m pretty self sufficient.
  • At the end of every workout I meditate. For real. I don’t really know how to meditate other than doing what I think I need to be doing, but I get on my knees and I think about my family, my son who isn’t here and how I wish I could bring him home, my wife and my child who are here. The house is totally quiet and I don’t think that my mind could be any more clear when I’m done working out. I’m all but exhausted and I like being able to just focus on other people for about five minutes and I really like it.
  • I’m pretty sure that Don Williams would not approve: 1) I’m wearing a headband; 2) I do yoga type of stuff, complete with the warrior pose and cobra stretch; 3) I do some workouts barefoot; and 4) I meditate. I essentially workout like a hippie.
  • You have to find something that makes you happy both physically and mentally and I find it really interesting that it took me 40 years or so for me to find something that truly motivates me and makes me happy. Working out truly is like a combination lock and it does take time to figure it out.

I’ve written way too many words about this, so let’s hear it from you. I am very much interested in what motivates you to do what you do and stay healthy.

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