I've changed my routine
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
I'm struggling at the gym these days. I've switched up my routine. I didn't want to. I did it out of necessity.
I started going to the gym many years ago. I did it after a scare sent me to the hospital. The scare was enough to convince me to change my lifestyle. I made the change and lost 80 pounds. These days I feel better, I'm outside and active more, I ride a motorcycle and I go the gym five times a week.
When I started going to the gym, it was hard. At first I could stand about 10 minutes on a rowing machine and much the same on a treadmill. Gains were counted in five minute increments. It took sweat and it took patience. But friends and family kept me encouraged and I kept improving. Ten months later (and 80 pounds lighter,) I graduated to free weights and the elliptical cross trainer. And that's where I settled.
Fast forward to today. I have kept the weight off for seven years, save for a brief period when I blew out a knee. Surgery repaired a torn meniscus and three months of therapy got me back in the gym. I lost a little ground because I was out of the gym for several months. But your system returns very quickly. I was back to my old standard in one month. So I've kept the weight off. But I haven't taken any more off. What gives?
It turns out that your body becomes accustomed to a standard output, a routine. If you find a workout routine that you like and it becomes "your routine," it becomes easy. Even a concert pianist reaches the point where their performance becomes automatic through repeated practice. It's called "muscle memory." It means I don't have to think about this anymore, I don't have to struggle. I can take my mind out of gear and just work my routine. For the pianist this is great. For me in the gym, it's a plateau. It means I've reached "maintenance" mode, I am no longer in "weight loss" mode. It means that I was are no longer on track. I still burn calories, I still benefit from the exercise, but I'm no longer building muscle and I will stop losing weight.
How do we beat this? The current thinking is that you need to change your routine every thirty days. A popular workout concept is built around "muscle confusion" where your workout is constantly changing. The point is,you can't just settle into a workout "routine." Any workout is good workout, but the one that makes you reach outside your comfort zone is the best routine. This is the one that builds muscle, that wonderful tissue that is four times as dense as fat. Tissue that takes up a lot less room under your skin, tissue that burns calories while you're sitting in a chair, tissue that makes you look so good in the summer on the beach.
So I'm changing up my routine. I now do cardio three days a week. The other two days are for strength training, grunting and sweating and swearing under my breath "who set the weight stack at 145 pounds?" And it's working. I've lost 18 more pounds. That means my next goal is only 58 pounds away. And I'll get there. I've already seen it. And if you can see the ball, you can be the ball. As an extra benefit, the days I'm doing my old routine are really easy now. Eventually I have to change those days too, but for me gradual change works best.
So I'm changing up my routine. And I'm looking forward to next summer. I'm going to look good on the beach. Well, as good as fifty-something allows. But I'll be ready. I hope I'll see you there.