Me: "Hey, it's, like, a moral imperative that I get new shorts to work out in."
Misty: "Did your pants fall off at the gym today?"
Me: "Almost! I looked down and there was this nice big stretch of purple and I thought, 'Oh, that's REALLY not supposed to be there.'"
(Black shirt, denim shorts, nothing purple in the outerwear list, you get the idea.)
An hour later, after a shower and some well-deserved lunch, I went hunting for a pair of reasonably-priced shorts for exercising. One thing I won't miss about the excess weight once it's gone: the incredible difficulty of finding good clothing at a reasonable price. It's difficult enough to coax an overweight person into the gym; even more so when they really and truly can't find reasonably-priced workout clothes.
My body is changing. It's a slow process. One I can't see. To me, I look exactly the same as I did two months ago, but my clothing size has changed, my friends are beginning to spot some changes, and my charts from my weights workouts tell me that I'm gaining muscle mass literally by the day. (Anyone who doesn't believe that last statement can take over the task of feeding me after weight training workouts. I still have food aversion issues, but they get drowned out amidst my body's screams for Protein Now Dammit!)
It's inspiring, but it's also a little daunting when I walk into a clothing store. Does my mental image of my body's shape still correspond with this week's reality? What size am I anyway? Will the answer still be the same next week?
Given one of my purchases from this past week, I'm counting on the answer to the last question being 'no.'
I've been reminded (pointedly) by a few friends lately that I have a habit of setting lots of long-term goals, airy frothy "Next year I'll..." goals, but very little that I'll see come to pass in the next six to eight weeks.
It's not a bad idea, really. When the vast majority of your reward comes from decreases in body weight and increases in strength, it's difficult to pass the ephemeral results around for group celebrations at the dinner table. Sure, I can show people the strange bizarre gappy waistline that my denim shorts have mysteriously sprouted, but I suspect that's oversharing a bit. Especially at dinner.
So I went to the mall, and wandered around a bit. For the first time, I experienced that strange disorienting feeling I had again today while shopping for shorts - I know what size I was, but I don't know what size I am now, nor what size I'll be in six weeks.
I grabbed jeans of a few varying sizes and took them to the dressing room. The jeans I would've tried first, two months ago, were now blatantly, inappropriately large. I liked that. The next size down was a little loose, but still acceptable. (My daily-wear jeans are that size right now.) The jeans sized below that could be buttoned ... if I wanted to look like a nice, squishy sausage. They were unacceptably tight in the thigh, and no way in hell would I ever let anyone see my ass squished into them.
In the bizarro world of ongoing weight loss, those were the correct jeans to buy. Goal jeans. A piece of clothing that's small, but not unachievably small; a piece of clothing that I could conceivably wear comfortably within about a month's time. A piece of clothing that I could keep in the bathroom, growl at after a particularly evil workout, and secretly try on once a week just to see if maybe I've gotten small enough to wear them yet.
Don't get me wrong: I kept the receipt. I can't think of anything, barring catastrophic injury, that will stop my exercise program anytime soon, but life's got a terminal case of the fickles, and I'm a firm believer in disaster control.
I may be preparing for the worst, but after today's post-workout shower, I tried on the jeans. Even though I knew it was too soon, I had to do it anyway. Still too tight, but perhaps a bit better than they'd been a couple of days before. Afterwards, I draped them back over the chair, back where they were before, tags and stickers still attached.
Before I turned out the lights in the bathroom, I patted the jeans gently. Just you wait, I thought. You may be too tight to wear now, but just give me time. Soon you'll be baggy too, and oh yes, I will dance that day.
* * * * *
My current weights routine doesn't bear a lot of resemblance to the original numbers I posted on March 23. On the first day, this past Monday, I did the full workout without changing any of the weights that Val suggested for me. Instead, I just made notes on what I thought I should change. On Wednesday, I raised weights on half (12 of 24) of the exercises, but still suspected I hadn't done enough. On Friday, I raised weights on 11 of 24 exercises - three of which had also been raised previously on Wednesday.
Afterwards, I did my full cardio workout. I'd really planned not to. Really hadn't. Swear it. For many of you reading this, the workout I did wouldn't be terribly difficult, but for me, it pushed the absolute limit of what my body was physically capable of doing. When I put down the 25-pound dumbbells at the end of the last exercise, I wasn't sure if I had enough forearm strength left to pick them up again. I had done literally everything I was capable of doing, and I wasn't sure that I'd have the energy left to do any reasonable amount of cardio work.
But there was this woman trying to work the elliptical machine next to me, and she was so obviously new, and so obviously struggling, that I took off my headphones and talked to her.
I may look like an old hand at this now, but I remember what it felt like two months ago, when I was trying so hard to fake competency until I really had it. I remember feeling like an outsider in the gym, wishing that I could lean over to Ms. Perfect-and-Unsweating working out next to me to verify that it really did get easier.
I leaned over and told her what I'd so desperately needed to hear that first day: Hang in there. The first week's horrid; you'll think your chest is going to explode and that maybe you should just give up and go home and find some way to live with yourself. But if you can just tough it out, your waistline starts shrinking and your heart stops racing and eventually, one day, you realize this wasn't nearly so damn hard as it was on the day you started.
"It gets better. I promise."
She looked at me - hopeful, sad, sweating, trying to hang in there: "Have you seen any results?"
I didn't tell her about the near-escape with the wardrobe malfunction, but I did grab the waistband of my shorts and pulled it away from my belly. "See that? These shorts weren't even comfortable two months ago."
We ended up talking for ten minutes. When I looked down, I was past the worst of my cardio workout, and was firmly into the cool-down period, with only eight minutes left to go.
Might as well finish, I thought. Every day I do this brings me one day closer to finishing.
I wish someone had been there to say those words to me the first day I got into the gym. Starting a fitness program - and I mean really starting it, with deadly serious intent of finishing and reaching your goal - is daunting, terrifying business. You know how likely it is to fail; the world is littered with unused gym memberships. Sometimes you need to see someone imperfect on the machine next to you, unashamedly sweating and determined, to know that tomorrow morning when you wake up you'll haul your ass to the gym again.
If nothing else, so that you don't have to return the jeans.
Adam: whenever you get a little while, I have some links that I dug up for you. Kudos to you for deciding to start working out! Since you're wanting to work out at home, and you don't have a lot of equipment, I did some sniffing around on the web. I found some links that will help you put together a pretty comprehensive weight training workout based off of the dumbbells you have, and about a $30 investment.
Pencil me in an hour sometime soon and we'll talk about it. I'm no substitute for a personal trainer, or a good book on weight training, but at the very least we can get you started.