Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Shooting myself in the foot to spite my face

Sunday 29th August - Reflections before week 8 begins

Well we’re almost there. After tomorrow’s session there’s only be four more to go. I haven’t been re-weighed, but I suspect I haven’t changed (dodgy calibration aside). This is no surprise, as, let’s face it, I haven’t really tried.

As I said right at the start of this thing, losing weight takes two things: diet and exercise. I haven’t been dieting at all, and you can’t really call what I do exercise. It’s a weekly torture session, but it’s not exercise.

The reason for this is simply that I haven’t been able to drag myself back up there during the week. Here’s how my week works:

  • Monday: I do one horrible horrible “mandatory” class. What this does is make me tired and resentful all day. I can’t concentrate on my work, and it often hurts to move.
  • Tuesday: The stuff that I really worked the day before hurts even more.
  • Wednesday: The hurty bits have subsided to a dull, but quite noticeable ache.
  • Thursday and Friday: I’m generally OK, but have no enthusiasm for it, because of how I feel on Mondays and Tuesdays.

So after after the weekend, I’m back to where I was the previous week, and the cycle starts all over again. If I maintained a regular, but low impact, schedule of movement during the week, then it might actually have some benefit. But I don’t because I hate it so much. And I hate it so much because I don’t.

I still remember how I felt on the Sunday night after the first week. In that week I had been three times including the Monday session. All doing rather intense, trainer-led sessions. It was an all in approach that left me knackered and disenchanted with the whole thing. It also made me wary about going back. I think the next week I went once, on my own, and have hardly been up since other than the Monday sessions.

If I want this to make a difference I know I need to work harder at it. But I honestly don’t know if I want it to make a difference. I never went into this with any kind of solid goal. The challenge for me isn’t to lose weight, or even to “be healthier”. The challenge for me right now is just to finish it, and to make sure I don’t have to pay the money. It seemed like such a simple idea at the start of it all: if I did 12 weeks of gym, then I wouldn’t have to pay anything. And that’s got to be good for you right?

Turns out that no, it doesn’t. It just makes you inordinately grumpy for 12 weeks. (Well, seven so far).

Sunday, August 29, 2010

When you don’t really need it

Monday 27th August – Monday Session Week 7 – Pump/Bar class

This is the start of the second half of this hellish program. Apparently we are going to be measured again. I have no feelings about this at all, as I believe that the measuring is at best slapdash and at worst rigged.

Let me explain. When bullshit science woman stuck electrodes on us, she also weighed us. The next day, when we went up to the gym, Andrea also weighed us. The difference? 4kg. I had apparently gained 4kg in those 24 hours. She also measured us with a tape measure. The tape measure was, I must say, extremely loose.

The cynic in me explains this by saying that at the end of the program she can re-weigh us, with correctly calibrated scales, and remeasure us, with a stricter measuring regime, and lo and behold look at the difference these 12 weeks has made and did you know we have a discount on a full year membership? I’m not sure this is actually the case, but nonetheless, any measuring done holds little meaning for me. Oh and also, I know that I’ve lost absolutely no weight, and don’t need, and certainly don’t want, to be told that.

Today we did Pump class. This is where you do things while holding a barbell with a few kilos on each end. Squats, lunges, bicep curls. All manner of things, hitting all manner of muscles. Following that was some ab stuff.

The whole idea of pump is interesting. It’s taking an “old school” exercise – lifting weights – and jazzing it up to make it “fun” and new. It’s neither, of course. It’s lifting weights. While moving around. It’s actually quite dangerous in its own way. At one stage we did one where we lay on our back on a Reebok® step thingummy (see the pic here) while curling the bar towards our face. She laughingly called it the “skull crusher” but given this was somewhat towards the end, and given I have no strength or stamina, my arms were shaking uncontrollably, and I was worried I was going to drop it on my face. So I didn’t do too many of them.

Highlight of the day was, as usual for me, the music. It was your usual selection of shitty dance music. Then she said “how about some rock? Who wants to hear AC/DC?” Now, I hate AC/DC. It’s a Long Way To The Top is a fun song, and I think Bon Scott was every bit as camp and fun as Shirley Strauchan, but musically they are kinda shit. Nonetheless the idea of Highway to Hell in the middle of all this dancey crap was refreshing. Then she put on this. I assumed she couldn’t find the accadacca track, and so just skipped to the next one. But no.

(Actually I suspect this wasn't the exact one. There seems to be lots of shitty dance remixes of shitty AC/DC songs on the web. Who knew?)

It made me laugh. Out loud.

So anyway, after that she said “let’s keep up with the rock theme” and then she put on Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love A Bad Name” which made me laugh all the more.

It meant that when my boss asked me again if I enjoyed, after I said “no of course not” (and again she was surprised, cos she finds pump fun) I had to follow it up with “but it did make me laugh”.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

…and don’t call me Shirley

Sunday 22nd August – Reflections before Week 7 begins

I am now, officially, halfway through this thing, whatever it is. What started as a reasonably well intentioned but poorly thought out “I should do something” whim, has turned into some bizarre self-testing blogging experiment. Kind of like “Supersize Me”, only where.

Nonetheless it is twelve weeks long, and we’ve done six. I entirely skipped the fifth week, and in doing so my hatred for the whole thing came back with a vengeance on week six. During my one week off I contemplated going to the gym and was moaning to someone at work (the very person whose idea his blog was, in fact) that I really didn’t want to and wasn’t even trying very hard to find excuses not to. He asked me “what about the treadmill? Why don’t you just go up and go on the treadmill, that’s not so bad is it?” I looked at him incredulously and asked “don’t you read my blog?” Likewise my brother, with whom I shared a bedroom for many years, in the comments of my previous post suggested that doing an ab workout while bound to a piece of metal was not only fun, but the best fun I could have had so far.

This blog is many things, but I wouldn’t have thought “too subtle” is one of them.

Let me be clear. The TV remote control was invented for me. For the kind of person who, when walking the two meters across the room to change channels whined “there’s got to be a better way”. If I have a choice between moving and not moving, I will take the stationary option every time. Now I’ll quite happily walk across town to go to lunch, or to go computer part shopping. I live a very pleasant 15 minute walk to my local supermarket, and I know this, because I have done it on a number of occasions. But I will usually drive to the supermarket, because it’s quicker, simpler and (have I mentioned already?) I really really hate exercise.

In the 19 posts I have made for this blog I have used the word hate or hating 23 times. I’m serious about this. I really don’t like it. And the thing about the gym is, it takes all the unpleasantness of moving about, and combines it with absolutely no immediate benefit whatsoever. There is no burger, no new video card, and no bag of groceries at the end of it. There is just sweatiness, tiredness, distractedness and irritability.

But having done five sessions I am now financially committed. As much as I hate it, I’ve done enough sessions for it to cost me significantly if I don’t go “all the way”. So here I am, going all the way.

Tomorrow we are doing a 15-20 minute ab workout followed by “bar class”. I assume the more common term “lifting weights” is a registered trademark, which is why they can’t use it. And based on advice received during the week I have already packed my bag. I am sure I will still forget something, but it should save me at least some time tomorrow morning.

Bet I still turn up late, though.


Cos I really hate it..

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Hit me with your Gythmystick

Monday 16th August – Gymstick®

I quite like lasagne. But I don’t love it. I think dogs that are always happy regardless of how poorly you treat them are kind of annoying. But I don’t punt them. Teddy bears are great, but I don’t have an unhealthy attraction to one.

One point, however, on which Garfield and I completely agree, is our attitude to Mondays. Mondays are hard enough for many people. They involve getting up after two days of not having to get up, and going to work after two days of not having to go to work. On top of this, though, I add getting up an hour early to prepare for the gym.

On a normal day, getting ready for work is very much a trial and error process for me. I will put some clothes on, assess myself, and work out what needs to be done. Then I will put some more on, and see what remains. For example, something may not feel quite right, and I’ll realise I haven’t put a belt on. Or shoes. I’ll sometimes go out to the car three times before I remember my phone, wallet, keys and puffer. (It will come as no surprise that I have gone to work with my shirt inside out, and “mirror free” days are the norm for me. Getting to work and realising I left my phone, my glasses or even my laptop at home is not that unusual.)

This staged approach to dressing, however, does not work on Mondays. On Mondays I put my gym clothes on, and then have to pack my work stuff. This means I need to be together enough to know what I need to pack before I am fully awake. I need to be a really together guy. In fact, I need to be a really amazingly together guy. So it’s no co-incidence that I also need to know where my towel is.

I don’t think I have ever turned up exactly on time for a gym session.

Regardless, I got there this morning, and found I hadn’t missed anything. Today’s session was all about the Gymstick®. This is a device that is a stick, with a big elastic band on either end, that you hook over your feet. Now the Gymstick®, as anyone who wants to sell you one will tell you, can be used for any part of your exercise routine. If you are doing a warmup, you can jog around, while holding the Gymstick®. If you are doing a post exercise stretch you can use the Gymstick® to lean on. It’s really that versatile. (Of course you can do those things without the Gymstick®, but at $135 a pop, you really need to justify the purchase.)

But where it comes into its own, of course, is while actually exercising. Now for all my snark and sarcasm, I must admit that it certainly felt like a workout. In my last post I mentioned that with Gym Buddy M’s encouragement we had, on the previous Friday, concentrated our efforts on working our shoulder muscles. Needless to say my shoulders were still quite stiff this morning. Well can you guess what muscles many of the Gymstick® exercises worked? Exactly. Not very long into the routine, as we were stretching our Gymstick®s over our heads, I was shooting daggers at Gym Buddy M. I wanted to say something to him, but I’m sure he wouldn’t have heard over the sound of my shoulder muscles screaming “please, for the love of all things holy, make it stop!”.

You know that thing where something is so terrible that when you do something even only slightly less terrible that it feels like a holiday?

Well eventually we stopped doing shouldery things and started do ab things, and it was a sweet sweet relief.

At one point before the abs, though, we were doing squats, and I noticed that my left knee was quite sore. So when the instructor said “We’re going to do some lunges now. Does anyone have any knee problems?” I, of course, said “Yes.”

Many, I would guess at least half, of the people in the room laughed. Of course, I know why they laughed. It’s all about perceptions. I am “wacky Rob”. The class clown. The guy who always has a zany comment about something. So when I say “yes, actually I am in pain” then that’s obviously funny. Right? Still. It cut me deep. I, quite snappishly, said “thanks for your support, guys”. Oddly enough the lunges didn’t hurt my knee anywhere near as much as the squats did.

I should talk, at least briefly, about the music. Gymstick® is not just about a stick with wobbly bits on it. It also has a CD that the guy plays with really dramatic 80s style music. There was something that sounded like an outtake from Europe’s Final Countdown, we had Technotronic (ftg Felly) with Pump Up The Jam and, surprisingly, we had Cameo’s Word Up. Over the top of this odd assortment of tunes, though, were various beeps, buzzes and sound effects to let us know when to switch routines. The highlight, though, was the dramatic American voiced countdown at the start of each routine. It really felt like the Matterhorn at the show.

At the end of the session the instructor, to my huge surprise, informed us that if we wanted to buy a Gymstick® we could buy one off him, or come to his Gymstick® training session. I think any time someone extols the virtue of something and then offers to sell it to you, it creates an immediate conflict of interest that destroys any trust you may have had in that person as a reliable source of information. Thankfully, this guy immediately came off as someone who was selling something, so it didn’t really disappoint.

Then we went down to breakfast which was, this week, slightly different. We had muesli with our yoghurt and fruit, and instead of scrambled eggs and tomato, we had poached eggs and mushroom. It was quite nice, and breakfast remains a definite highlight of the day.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Completely Mental

Friday 13th August – Self paced treadmill and nautilus

At the end of our last episode, I was feeling a bit sniffly and coughy and had decided not to go to Zumba on Monday morning. This had, as far as I can tell, three consequences.

Firstly it meant that I missed out on some sizzling latin rhythms, and some booty shaking saucier than a big-arse bucket of Shakira salsa with a side-order of Jimmy Smits guacamole.

It's lucky that Shakira's breasts are small and humble, otherwise Jimmy Smits might confuse them with mountains.Secondly it meant that I used up one of my “free passes”. This program runs for 12 weeks, and for me to get it all for free, I need to attend 10 of the 12 Monday classes. I can now only miss one more class.

Thirdly It meant that, if I kept up with my pattern of doing bugger all during the week, then there would be two whole weeks between Monday morning classes. I have been told many times that the more you do exercise, the easier it becomes, and whatever you do, don’t lose the rhythm of it, cos it’s so much harder to get back into it. For the record, most things are easier the more you do them. I expect that if you had to get up every single day and get punched in the face, then after a while you would get used to it. (You wouldn’t love it, by any means, but you would know what to expect, and your face would be ready for it.) Take a two week break, though, and that first punch on the first day back is going to sting. Note that I do not advocate getting regularly punched in the face. Nor, for that matter, do I advocate going to the gym.

So anyway, I knew that at some stage during the week, I would need to step back into that gym. I don’t know about where you live, but here in Geelong it felt like it rained all week. Which is great, given our water restrictions, but kinda shitty if you want to motivate yourself to do anything. I brought my gym stuff in on Wednesday, but didn’t do anything because it was raining. It was still there Thursday, but I had a very busy work day Thursday. Along came Friday and I found myself with no excuses. I had no lunch buddies (bastards), I had nothing else to do, and I had three people who were going up at lunchtime and being friendly and encouraging towards me so I would go with them (bastards).

At 9am I was all “we’ll see how it goes”. At 11 or so I was “OK I’ll go up”. At 12, our time to go, I went up to my gym buddies and said “I’m not doing it”

“How come?”

“Cos I hate it. Haven’t you read my blog?”

We chatted for a bit and I eventually grudgingly said I might go. Then, in the 20 or so meters between their desk and mine I piked yet again. I said “Nope, I’m not coming” and walked back to my desk. Gym Buddy M, as he shall be known, just came and stood silently at my desk until I said “OK then”, picked up my bag and walked towards the door.

The thing is, I really really really didn’t want to go. I’m not 100% sure what was going through my head all morning, but I had been thinking about it a lot, and had got myself into this weird mental state where I had thought about it so much that it became this huge thing. In the end I had to turn all that off to get myself to pick up my gear and go. (Then, of course, someone at work saw me with the gear and said “hey what are you doing?” to which I, quite seriously said “I don’t want to talk about it”. And he said “You off to the gym? I’m shocked. Good for you.” And I said “Seriously, I don’t want to talk about it.” “How come?” says he. I mean really.)

We got to the gym, and went up to the treadmill. It was much the same as before only I lasted about 5 minutes before my back hurt. In the end I did about 10 minutes (80 seconds bursts alternating between 6 and 9 kph) and was quite shagged. Then we went down to use the Nautilus machines.

Like from 20,000 leagues under the sea, you see.

Gym Buddy M had suggested that the three of us rotate on three machines which all work a similar area, in this case the shoulders. So we did. The weights were set to light, and we only did 12 or so reps (oooh, hark at me with my fancy gym talk) on each machine before swapping. It went reasonably well, and I had decided to keep going until I felt I had pushed myself, but not go too much harder. This meant that I finished before the other two, but that was OK by me and, I assume, OK by them.

To be honest, I didn’t really like working with other people. The guys were great, though. Encouraging and positive and all that, without having any of that fake veneer that trainers have. But if I am going to do “freestyle” stuff, I think I would rather do it on my own. Even though I know friends don’t really judge friends, I just feel like there’s some kind of external pressure that I don’t feel at all comfortable with when others are involved. Much the same reason I never really got into team sports as a kid.

So I showered and I went back to work. It was only afterwards that I could really reflect on how fucked up my head is over this. I’m not sure what it means. I would like to say that I felt some sense of achievement in pushing past all of that to actually get to the gym, but I don’t think I did. I only know that now I have to fight not just my natural antipathy towards exercise, but also some kind of weird psychological game that my brain has decided to start playing. Exciting times indeed.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Zumba-ya m’lord

Sunday 8th of August – Reflections before Week 5 begins

Holy crap I just saw the time. I have to be up in a few hours so we can Zumba.

I don’t think this one is even trying to be anything other than a flash in the pan DVD-selling fad, and so I’m expecting it to have laugh out loud moments. Having said that, of course, there will be Latin music and that will make it hard enough. I wonder if we’ll hear this:

I don’t really know what to expect, though. In the end it’s all jumping up and down, running around and feeling knackered. That’s pretty much all it ever is. Sometimes with props.

But there’s a spanner in the ointment, here. After last Monday’s session I felt quite tired, to the point where I went to bed rather early, and spent all of Tuesday in bed. I went to work Wednesday, but went home after only a couple of hours (it’s called “doing a Blocky” in honour of a guy in the office who did it once). I have spent the remaining days coughing a lot.

I’m still coughing right now. Last night I was pale and shaky and went to bed early as well. So not only have I not done any exercise over the week, I am still feeling somewhat crap. Which of course makes me wonder if I should go at all. In fact on reflection (that is the name of the post, after all) I may not. Which is sad in a way, cos there’s a hope that someone might be dressed like this guy (who is, I think, the now-multimillionaire behind this fad), and really, couldn’t we all do with some of this in our lives?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Balance of Power

Monday 2nd August - Monday session week 4 - Tabata

Before I get into the session itself, I just want to talk again about music. Today we had yet another trainer, who had yet another selection of music. And what do you suppose got played today? Were you thinking a punk cover of Billy Joel’s Uptown Girl?

Well this time you’d be right. This guy also played Sabotage by the Beastie Boys and a few other songs that I not only have in my music collection but that I don’t skip over when they come up on shuffle.

So that was a good start.

Today we did Tabata. I won’t say “we did Tabata again” because, after reading the wiki article and looking at what we did today I can confidently say that it was genuine Tabata, and what we did last week was something else. So this guy had the room set out in four stations, and we did 2 sets of exercise at each station, 20 seconds on 10 seconds off, for a total of 20 minutes.

As usual, after the warm up I was tired and wanted to go home and was disappointed that we hadn’t actually started yet. But start we did and it was hard. Really hard. You would think that only 20 minutes would be easy, but with no discernable break, and with us being pushed hard (e.g. no pushups on knees) it really was amazingly difficult. Once we had got exactly halfway through the routine, he told us we were halfway, and again when we had four minutes to go, he told us again that we “only” had four minutes to go. This was hard to know (because all you want to hear is that it’s over), but also good to know, as it felt like there was definite progress.

Then when it all finished, he got us to lie down in a circle, and said that we would now do a kind of Mexican wave pushup. We would all get up into the pushup position, and hold that position (on toes) as each person in turn did 1 pushup, and it would go around the circle twice. At this point I put up my hand and said “what about ‘four minutes to go’? You told us we had four minutes to go, and we have done those four minutes. You’re a liar.” He admitted that he was, and then we did the thing. Oh, did I mention he wanted us to “woo” as we did our pushup? He did. I didn’t woo at all on the first one and, because there was a danger he would make us all do it again, I wooed - albeit sarcastically - on the second.

In all it was an incredibly disappointing end to an otherwise OK session. I could have, and indeed would have, been fine with the session. It’s exercise, and I hate it, and I would rather be doing almost anything else, but it was tolerable, the music was good, and felt like it was doing good (and there wasn’t a great deal of running). But the circle jerk, the lying and the woo-ing at the end of it threw it all on its head. I ended the session angrier than the previous week, and possibly angrier than I had been yet.

It also meant that I couldn’t let go of something that I had noticed earlier. At one stage I thought the guy was wearing two watches. Then I looked a bit closer and noticed it wasn’t a watch, but it was, in fact a Power Balance Bracelet:

For those who don’t know, a power balance bracelet has a hologram that is supposedly embedded with a frequency that… no look, if I describe it I’ll probably use biased words that make it sound like bullshit and skew your impression of it. I think the best way to describe this device is to take the text directly from the website:

Power Balance is based on the idea of optimizing the body’s natural energy flow, similar to concepts behind many Eastern philosophies. The hologram in Power Balance is designed to resonate with and respond to the natural energy field of the body.

See? Not bullshit at all. So the wanker who is into the lying and the wooing (and the cool music) is also into magical holograms. I can’t say I’m surprised.

Those of you who know me will know my feelings on shows like Today Tonight, but nonetheless here is what they have to say on the matter (although I get from the intro that this is one of their “last week we told you how good something is, so here is the follow up to tell you how bad it is” stories. I suppose it’s one kind of balanced reporting.)

Now go wash your eyes out.

Sunday, August 1, 2010


Sunday 1st August – Reflections before Week 4 begins

When I started this blog I had the idea that I would do a post for every day I went to the gym, and others when the mood took me. As you can see, I have not done a post since last week’s Monday morning session. This is not because I have been too busy to blog (although I have) but because I have not actually been to the gym (or done any other kind of exercise) since last Monday.

If you remember we did Tabata last week. We did a lot of leggy things, and punchy things, but I noticed the leggy things the most. My legs were wobbly from the start and got worse. I had trouble walking for the next 2 days, and on Tuesday night I checked my legs and had visible bruising on my thighs.

Visible bruising.

On Wednesday I started what would be a 3 day stay in Melbourne, and it began with me walking 1.5km to the train station in the dark and cold. I then ran around a room with a microphone for a couple of days, which wasn’t really a substitute for actual exercise, but it certainly loosened my very stiff legs. Then I stayed up reasonably late both nights and woke early, which meant that by the time I got home I was absolutely knackered, and spent the weekend reasonably sedentarily (although I did walk into Lara yesterday, which I normally don’t do).

Tomorrow, according the most depressing email in my inbox, we will be doing Tabata again. Also according to the email “this type of training is usually performed by the very fit…”. I have received some comments, both on the blog and in real life about whether this training is too intense for a noob like me. I am beginning to think perhaps it is. The email then goes on to say “…but can still cater for those of you that are less fit” by toning down the intensity of the 20 second blocks of exercise. Well that’s OK then.

“So if you are new to exercise,” the email continues, “make sure that you rest if necessary, as this type of training can bring you to a whole new level of intensity.” The thing is, though, I am in their hands. The whole idea of trainer based training is that they tell me what to do, and how much to push myself. Sure they can leave it up to me, but if it was up to me I would more than likely just walk, or hobble, out.

The email signs off by saying “Train smarter, not harder”. I do wonder if the smart thing would be to not go at all.