Ripped

By now everyone knows Lance Armstrong is attempting a comeback to professional cycling. At 37 years old, of course, the odds are against him. But he’s an inspiration to many, and probably to many older folks like myself. At age 42, a mere five years older than Lance, I strive to work just as hard on my fitness. If he can get that ripped, then so can I.

Well it took 42 years

Other than a couple of weeks ago on NBC TV’s The Biggest Loser, I had never seen a really fat person do pull-ups. It’s so unlikely isn’t it? I mean how does someone who weighs in excess of 280 pounds with gravity acting on that mass pull themselves up over a bar? I know for a fact that it’s difficult to do.

Do you remember those physical fitness tests you had to take in middle school P.E.? Never mind about the trauma of undressing in front of people in the locker room. Maybe you were the type that looked forward to physical fitness testing: the sit-ups, the push-ups, the mile run, and yes, the dreaded pull-ups. Were you the one that could do 15 pull-ups, and keep going and going like the Energizer bunny? Were you able to do 80 sit-ups in three minutes and 100 pushups in the same amount of time? I remember being envious of those athletic people in gym class.

As for me, I was the short, fat kid who couldn’t do anything, maybe 5 push-ups and 18 sit-ups on a good day. The most humiliating thing was to go to the pull-up bar, knowing that it would take a huge effort just to get my hands on the bar, and then not be able to do a single pull-up. Pretty much it was only the girls and the fat kids who couldn’t do pull-ups at that age. Just one of the few reasons I hated P.E…

I just can’t believe what happened today at the gym during my workout.

I was getting ready to do a “negative” pull-up. That’s when you jump up to the highest position you can just below the top of the pull-up bar, and let yourself down as slow as you can. These “negative” exercises are designed to build up the strength to perform difficult exercises. My trainer says that negative pull-ups help you to get better at performing the bench press, and obviously, better at doing pull-ups. I’ve been doing this negative pull-up exercise for about two weeks now, maybe only three times total.

So I get my hands on the bars, and was just about to hang, when I sensed additional strength in me. And then I actually pulled my head over the top of the bar!

Un-be-lievable! I actually did a pull-up, and not just one pull-up, but a total of 16. My five sets of pull-ups were: 5, 3, 2, 3, and 3. Wow. These pull-ups were 42 years in the making. I’m totally stoked.

From Fat to Freedom

***** Adapted from “About Me” originally posted on October 11, 2008 in the IntoFitness section of whatsbruin.net *****

In the summer of 2007 I decided to step on a scale just for the heck of it. The number I saw shocked me out of my sedentary life of obesity that was leading me down the road of cardiovascular disease and an early death. On August 30, 2007 I purchased a personal training membership at LA|FITNESS and have never looked back.

About 14 months into fitness

About 14 months into fitness

Before - circa June 2006

Before - circa June 2006

My name is Gerry, and I have been overweight most of my life, except for maybe 16 years (ages 0-6, 14-24). Those years were when I was a young child and when I was a competitive tennis player. But even during those lean years, food and overeating, as well as a yo-yo pattern of gaining and losing weight, were the physical issues that plagued me for as far back as I can remember.

At the age of 34 in May of 2000, I was denied a lower premium on my life insurance policy so I decided to get a physical to find out why. The routine physical showed no sign of disease; however, the blood work forecasted a grim future:

  • Glucose = 92 {normal 70-110}
  • Triglycerides = 1084 {normal < 200}
  • Cholesterol = 257 {normal 100-200}
  • HDL = 21 {normal = 35-60}
  • Other cholesterol ratios were too high to be calculated.

My doctor said:

Gerry, if you don’t make a change in your life, you will contract Type II diabetes, and will most likely have to be on high blood pressure medication for the rest of your life. This will lead to cardiovascular disease and wide array of medications. You will die of either a heart attack, stroke, or complications from diabetes.

The fear of that conversation produced a change in my diet and exercise for about a month. My subsequent blood work improved over the next five months. But eventually the fear wore off, and I went back to my old habits of overeating and not being active. My doctor suggested follow up blood work and regular physicals, and had scheduled another round of blood tests for me, but after seven years, I still had not gone back for those tests or physicals.

Before - circa July 2007

Before - circa July 2007

In July of 2007 at the age of 41, my father-in-law underwent heart surgery. While we were visiting him in the hospital I noticed that the other cardiac patients were of varying ages. One in particular was in his 30s and extremely obese. Upon my return from that visit, I vowed never to end up in the cardiac ward. I was tired of that nagging pain in my knees as I walked up the stairs. I was weary of the pain in my ankles as I walked the short distance from my bed to the bathroom every morning.

So that’s when I decided to weigh myself.

My stats that summer were:

  • Weight = 250+ pounds
  • BMI = 37
  • Body fat = 33.4%
  • Waist = 44 inches
  • Pants = size 44 (tight)

The brand new LA|FITNESS gym in my neighborhood was having its Grand Opening event. I wanted to get a free t-shirt, which was the only reason I planned on going on August 30, 2007. But during the evening ofAugust 29th, I had a very vivid dream that I was working with a personal trainer, and I was really fit and buff. I took the dream to be an omen, and the next day I listened to a sales pitch about the benefits of personal training. I bought a membership because I knew I needed to lose almost 80 pounds… and yes, I did get my free XL t-shirt, which barely fit.

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