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.

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