But I'm TIRED!

In a change of topic to shock everyone, I’m going to talk about.

<drum roll>

Gaining physical fitness when you start out obese and severely out of shape.1

One of the realities of being quite overweight is that you are often flipping tired! Will taking off fat and building muscle help? Of course. No-one argues that. But, if you’re like a lot of other people you’re told, “Oh exercise is great, exercise is wonderful, you’ll feel so much more energetic if you work out!”

Yes, and no.

What very few people who try to encourage us to work out say is, “The first month of starting a fitness program, even a very sensible one within your present fitness level, is going to mean that you are going to be tired. You’re going to need an extra half an hour to an hour’s sleep a night so that your body can build the muscle it needs to start getting stronger and more energetic.”

Oh, they’ll slip in “get plenty of sleep”, and yes, that’s good advice, but the detail is generally lacking. I’m not sure why. Maybe they’re afraid of scaring us off from starting. It’s a mistake, though. We know how to cope with difficult. We do it every day of our lives.

It doesn’t scare me to know that I’ll be tired for a month, but the payoff will be feeling great after that! I bet it doesn’t scare you, either. But, if I’m told, “Just exercise and you’ll feel great”, and I don’t feel great for weeks, I’m going to think something is wrong. Why in the world would I keep up with that? And why don’t more exercise proponents talk about it?

The problem is a simple one. It’s easy to forget what starting out feel like. I woke up this morning feeling a little sore because I’d done some different lifts last night. But it was a “good” sore — kind of a “Go muscles for gettin’ all strong and stuff!” When I got in to work, I ran up to the third floor with Disturbed blasting in my iPod, and my backpack full of exercise gear because I could and it felt great! I felt like I could wrestle a grizzly bear, give him the first fall, then eat him raw without salt. Back in July when I was starting out with serious lifting, I was resting at each landing (which I hadn’t been doing before) because my muscles were sore and I was tired.

A properly designed exercise routine isn’t an instant payoff thing. Oh, you’ll notice little positive changes early on. If you have trouble sleeping, you might find you sleep more deeply, and wake feeling a little better. When I found a cardio-type exercise that didn’t hurt, I was lucky enough to start getting the endorphin rushes pretty early on. You’ll notice little subtle changes in strength and endurance if you pay attention, but they are pretty subtle. In general, though, at the end of the day, you’re going to be tired. That’s okay. Your body is obediently trying to adapt to your new routine and needs the sleep to do it.

But that wonderful rush of energy and strength is a minimum of a month away — more likely two or three.

Thing is, you’ve sweated out two or three months of something difficult to get something good. I know all of you have. You might have a college degree, or have tediously practiced an instrument to learn to play, or done any of a number of things. This is no different, really.

1Yes, I do have other things on my mind, but they mostly involve getting Keith Hamilton Cobb in… Nevermind… Don’t want you clawing out your eyeballs.

Proud as Lucifer

I had a glorious swim today. I checked out a whiteboard that had a workout for a swim team on it, and I figured I’d try to do as much of it as I could in 20 minutes.

It felt great, slicing through the water, feeling my limbs extend and pull as I tried strokes I don’t often use, doing the intervals and just having a deliciously wonderful time getting all hot and out of breath.

After he workout, I bounded out of the pool, and pulled off my cap, feeling the hot slap of my wet hair hit my back.1. I went to get my towel, ID and my workout record sheet.2. One of the lifeguards caught my eye and went over to a table to sign off on the sheet.

“Good job,” he said as he took the sheet, and signed it, then said Very Seriously again, “Good job.”

I had been flying up until then. While my mouth smiled, I thanked and I left the pool area normally, I cringed into a little ball inside.


It embarrassed me that a boy young enough to be my son said such a thing. Now, I have accepted similar compliments from boys that much younger than I am before and wiggled with satisfaction and accomplishment. Granted, they usually wore white pajamas and had black belts around their waists, but they were still that young.

I got to thinking about it as I showered the chlorine out of my hair and tried to pull jeans onto my slightly damp body.

That boy, a lifeguard and I suspect at least a junior swimming coach, did not mean the slightest harm or condescension in what he said. Far from it. For the last eight weeks, he’s seen me several times a week go to the pool. He’s watched my improvements in speed and form in the pool, and while I doubt he’s paid that much attention, my general shape change as well. I would bet a fair amount of money he thinks seeing improvement in anyone jumping in that pool is cool.

I’ve been called “as proud as Lucifer” more than once. I always kinda liked it. Damn’ right I’m proud! I’d think to myself. I did not get that this is not a compliment.

The classic story of Lucifer goes something like this:

Lucifer was the most beautiful of the angels and the closest Being to God, whom he loved with all his heart, soul and angelic might.

He watched with interest and excitement when God made the earth, separated the heavens from the earth, filled the sea with fish, and the land with animals. Then He made a Being in His own image — a being he loved and wanted His angels to love as well.

But then He asked for one thing more.

“I want you angels to bow down to this new Being.”

Lucifer was shocked. He was crushed. He was horrified. “But Lord, you cannot ask me to bow to any but you. I won’t do it!”

God, who could hardly believe anyone, much less His beloved Lucifer would defy Him, cast Lucifer from His sight.

Now…. That’s usually where the story ends.

But there’s more to it.

You see, God repented of His anger3 and reached out his hand to Lucifer, who by this time had decided he needed neither love nor kindness any more, he’d been too hurt and no longer trusted kindness or love. The angel turned his face from from his former Beloved to live in solitude with is own thoughts.4

You can draw many conclusions from the story and take many lessons5. For me, in this moment, the lesson of the story is not to close myself off from kindness, or be so proud that I’m embarrassed rather than pleased at it.

1 You can imagine how hard I was going for my hair to be hot in a pool!

2My insurance company will reimburse an amount that actually covers a basic gym membership at the college for employees if you get it documented that you worked out 2 times a week for 12 weeks out of 20. A sweet and easy deal.

3Don’t get shocked at the idea of God repenting of anger or judgment. God repents of many things in the Bible. Look it up!

“Yes. Yes, of course.”
Death nodded. IN TIME, he said, YOU WILL LEARN THAT IT IS WRONG.
— (Terry Pratchett, Small Gods)

5You could actually make a pretty good case for the fact that the One True Love idea is a serious sin.