Sunday, June 28, 2015

A Nerd in Fitness 4 - First month of gym

At first, it was just supposed to be running.
Things rarely go as such, and only a couple of weeks in, a colleague at work suggested starting working out in a gym.

Maybe it was the high and addled mind of someone recently starting out on an active life-style; maybe it was a latent death wish. Either way, I said yes.

I had a really hard time seeing myself in the gym, though. It was something all the cool kids were doing. I hadn't thought that hard about it till recently; but deep down inside I always felt I'd feel like an outsider – someone who didn't belong there and was intruding on their playground. This in itself is highly ironic, considering the sole purpose of gyms is to welcome people like me.

After a month, I now understand this. I'm such a nerd.
The second concern was one of practicality. This was unknown territory for me. I knew nothing. I mean; absolutely-Jon-Snow-oblivious-blank-nothing about what you were supposed to do with those infernal machines. Usually, when passing by there, I'd always try and stare at bouncy boobs or someone's ass, thinking myself lucky for avoiding such torment.

And now, I was about to become one of these unfortunate souls.

At this time of writing, I've been there for a month. I thought it proper to share some of my impressions.

First things first; the pains and the bro's

My first journey to the gym known as Fitness World was one of amazement, wonder and ludicrous pain.
I'll have to admit; it IS dangerous to go alone, and having someone along who knew the place was a big help. I'm certain I would've gotten lost pretty quickly; mostly because everything, at first, is a blur of mangled, black metal, rugged floors and mirrors.

There is a certain feeling that spreads inside your body, when you realize that you must be the most unfit person in the entire building. It's tragicomic, in a way. I'd hoped my running beforehand would at least give me an edge, but judging from my first 15 minutes of waiting outside, I quickly concluded I was going to set the low bar. Which is fine, since it only goes up from there.

The staff was nice and though it's their job, I was pleasantly surprised and well received. I've gone for a membership that requires me to be present with the other guy I'm training with.

Most of our training has been focusing on the building of muscles on the arms and shoulder+chest, which is classic and well. Legs and hips have been in for a fair share of work as well, and during my first visit, I was somewhat surprised I felt so little pain. So I went home, after an hour, and all was well.

So let me share a little secret with you.

Shit gets real the following morning.
As in, concrete, bat-shit insanely real, if you're like me and this is all new to you.

And it just keeps growing. Though I went to take painkillers, the entire Monday, I was more or less handicapped and unable to use my arms for anything. I thought Tuesday would be better at least, was actually worse.

It was four.fucking.days.till I felt the arms working again. I stretched for ages and nothing happened except more pain. This is the stuff that not only makes you cringe, you also seriously start questioning your previously chosen life-style. Realizing how weak and untrained your body has been for so long is scary to say the least.

On the good side, once this was over, the second and third visits were much, much easier.

Remembering to stretch properly when done likely helped too. Don't ask me how I manned up to go again after that pain-ride. Fuck me if I know.

Initial reaction, when your friend asks whether you're up for a second go.

Second of all, who are these people?

Through psychological studies whenever I had a few moments to breathe; I managed to do some observations regarding the types of individuals who frequent the place. I suppose I wasn't surprised to find archetypes in such a place, yet I was amazed at how many there were from various groups.

A) The “I'm just here to make the rest of you feel like shit”
These men are walking mountains. To the point that I expect them to punch out my teeth and gouge my eyes out a moment later. But we're all safe, because they really are mountains in many respect. They're build like powerhouses, with muscles in about every place that muscles can possibly be, and they look darn impressive (especially to n00bs like me) – yet there's a peculiar pattern the differentiates them from their fellow Stronginthearms; They don't really do much, except standing around, lifting a little bit now and then, but nothing that seems to stress them out the least.

I have no idea who these guys are, btw.
They're kind of like the top-end raiding guild players that just used to stand around in Iron Forge, back when people wouldn't wank it out in their garrisons, and not answer whispers. They don't seem to build or train anything while there, except for something that barely seems to put a strain on them. I don't know if they're training elsewhere and just come down to...stand around... but they sure do motivate you and think 'I can do that.....some time....'

B) The “What the fuck's the point?”
If the former were hardcore raiders, these guys are Dwayne from Day of the Tentacle (seriously, if you got this reference I'm making you breakfast) – These guys/girls just appear out of nowhere, likely sitting at some machine that you were going to use, and they just stare. At first, I confused them for those just being there to gawk at women and their ass (and call me a sexist pig if you please; there is a lot of very, very fine ass in a gym) – but, I've often tried following their stare. It's mostly into a wall or at something I can not see. Some times they just stare into a mirror, which kind of frightens me a bit.

I imagine it's some kind of despair. Or an off-day. Or something else entirely. But there sure are a lot of them. From close observation, some will eventually start doing something; others will disappear into thin air the second you look away.
I'm aware this entry makes me sound like a schizophrenia. Don't worry, I'll have more to say later. For now, I just want to go over there and give them a hug.


Going to the gym is about pushing yourself, I'm aware of that much. I've done my share of pushing during the first month. But these guys surely take it to the next level. At first, I kind of wanted to ask them whether they needed any help or something, because they would usually pound away, relentlessly, at whatever they were doing. And most of their features indicated that they were in pain.

And they seem to really like it.... masochists.

I suppose I ought to call them 'Pures' or something; since this is likely the cardinal archetype of people in a gym. They seem to put everything they've got into it; going that tiny-little-bit-extra-of-distance in order to reach their goal. I aspire to be able to do that one day. I'm still at the point where my brain screams yes but my body says “Fuck this shit!”

D) The “Robocops” aka “Inspector Gadgets”

I'm aware of the hypocrisy of this one. After all, I'm here on the internet writing about it. So I'll have to point out, I've nothing against any of these groups; they just poke my interest in many ways. There aren't many in group D, but I've noticed a few. Some of them have like, three gadgets, attached to themselves while everything is going on. Me, I usually carry along my MP3-player when running, but this seems really interesting. I've been told it has something to do with measuring your pulse or something like that.

I'll have to ask them about that.

E) The “I think I can, I know I can!”

This is me. Will be for a long time. There sadly aren't many like me down there. We're the ones who're likely in the most vulnerable position and we're there to make everyone else look good most of the time. We're the ones who're boiling red in the face, as we struggle with weight-lifting just the 20 kilos bar (I just left this zone today, huzzah!) and it feels like everyone else is just staring.

The amount I've met from this group, I can count on two hands so far. Either they don't show up when I do, or they train somewhere else. But we share a very special bond. One time, when training with hand-weights, I walked past a woman who was struggling greatly with the same weight I used a couple of weeks earlier. I remember meeting her gaze and nodding slightly, and she the same. Because we know; we still have that slightly lost and confused look in our eyes. The one that makes it even more important for us to come back, and make our failures better.

And the common thing for all of these people?
They've been so very kind to me, whether deliberate or not. They've been awesome at making me feel at home right there, and made me glad to come back. And I'm thankful for being part of it.

Now, with the basics being nailed down, I look forward to the next chapter, in which I'll actually talk about the progress and things I've trained so far. Stay tuned!

For now: Achievement unlocked!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A Nerd in Fitness 3 - First month of running

Instead of splitting up the various weeks in individual posts, I thought it'd be way more comprehensible to stick them into one. Because; most of the lessons I've been through apply to every week.

As noted in the previous post; during my first week of running I managed to complete a 2+1 record. Meaning; I did a warm up for five minutes, then ran two minutes, then walked four minutes and finally ran one.

During the following four weeks, I kept to the program; slowly I would escalate things and not really try to rush it. Not rushing things was actually harder than I originally thought. Sometimes I grew impatient, other times I got eager for results and a few times I simply had too much fun doing what I did. The program I follow doesn't recommend going for more than three runs a week, preferably with a day in between each.

The escalation is really slow, and then at times it spikes in ways that make you dread the outcome and fear for your life. The first time I was supposed to run for three minutes, I refused to believe it. Same thing when I was supposed to hit five. And to be brutally honest, in the beginning I was very close to utter collapse after barely one minute.

And this leads me to the fourth rule I learned the hard way.

Running Rule #4: There's no shame in pace
The problem with being alone in such things, is that you've got nobody to say stop and tell you when you need to tone it down a notch. So I think you'll just start doing what everyone else is doing since it seems to be working. In my case, I set my pace at the same level of those pro runners I so often saw outside my window.

I quickly realized, however, that this is a bar set way too high.
Most of these people have been at this for ages, and the only result (besides from a feeling of failure) is tiring out way too early. On the other hand, slowing down to a pace that is barely a notched up jog isn't what I was expecting my running career to be!

I'll be honest. This was pretty much my reaction whenever someone was faster than me.
But it was necessary, because otherwise my body couldn't keep up. My legs would simply refuse. Once I took this to heart, I not only managed to complete the times set by the program; I also managed to speed up certain distances, such as when going downhill or on even terrain.

It was all about finding the speed that worked for me, and be proud that this was a vast improvements compared to my usual standards.

And, of course, there's the mandatory one...

Running Rule #5: Gear, gear, gear
When I began running, I thought I'd be able to do well with just my old shorts and trainers. Fact was, this only worked well for the early runs, when I was doing 2+2 or below. Going higher than that simply wore out my feet and hurt.

Luckily, I have a girlfriend who's way more learned in the field than I am, so she was eager to take me down to the local store and get a proper set of running-shoes. Now, I'm not here to advertise, so I'll just say; finding a set of shoes that match made a world of difference for me.

The store I went to offered a running-test, in which they put me on a machine and filmed me as I ran. It was a weird feeling to say the least, but it helped a lot in deciding what kind of shoes I would need. There are so many options in this regard that I can barely differentiate them from one another (a quick google should help, though) and since they aren't exactly cheap, one might as well get the best.

I think I spent half an hour just trying them on and off in various sizes and models. I'm terrible when it comes to this; I pretty much just want to buy something and have it over with. Having a salesman and your girlfriend talk about you and your feet in third-person right next to you isn't a barrel of fun either, but I'm glad I made it through.

Running Rule #6: Music
One thing I've always known I wanted, should I ever start anything active, was music. I love music. It helps with everything. When I started running, I would bring my old mobile to take time, but it became extremely cumbersome, so setting up musical tracks instead worked wonders. I again decided that since I was anyway going to do this, I might as well get a proper MP3-player. I have a notorious reputation for breaking these.

In a way, I've found music to be a bit of a dual-edged sword. In one way, it really helps taking my attention off the fact that my lungs are screaming for air. But if it's too fast, I get carried away and unconsciously speed up my pace.

So far, I've stuck with fast paced combat music, such as from the Witcher and other role playing games. But slow music, I think, can be really good for those long runs in which its more about enduring than speed. 

Not just a great game; also perfect for running.

Running Rule #7: Determination!
All fun things come to an end. In the beginning, I loved running and wished I'd do it several times a day. Recently, I have to push myself a bit more, especially if it's cold or rainy outside. I know of the old cliché that getting started is half the pain of running, but keeping up determination has been a real bother for me. I like it, though, and I want to do it. Yet, getting out into the shoes is such a drudge some days.

When it comes to running and bad weather, denial will get you far

I often have to remind myself of why I do this. This blog has helped a lot in this regard.

So where are we now?

I didn't skip one day of running the entire month and I'm damn proud of it.
There were days, yes, when I wanted to just throw everything away and quit. These were the ones in which I needed to kick myself even more in the ass to get going. Knowing the great feeling of afterburn when it was over, was a strong motivator all in itself.

So this brings me up to my current stage: The 8+1!!

Achievement unlocked!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

A Nerd in Fitness 2 - First week of running

There's a saying that all beginning is hard; but really, the initial steps of self-improvements have, despite my new found passion and drive, been beyond whatever pain and exhaustion I'd imagined. Yes, this did come as a surprise; I'm supposed to be a tough guy, despite my calm and nice demeanor. I don't cry to movies and get dentist operations done without sedation. How bad could a simple little start up be?

Initially, my only interest was the running-program. Running has always been the thing I used to loathe the most, so it made sense to start out there. The program in itself is rather simple; you go out three times a week and shift between running and walking, with increasing magnitudes of the former.

As mentioned in my previous post, the first trip was surprisingly easy. I've always had good legs, so I suppose that was to be expected. I actually ended up going for another run the following day, though I was supposed to rest (moron mistake number one there) but I still had good fun with it.

At this point, I think the mere taste of success is the cardinal point. Ones personal expectations are dramatically low; feeling this accomplishment was an amazing follow-up to the turning-point in my life.

One piece of wisdom that hit me pretty early on, was the rule number 1 of running.

Running Rule #1: Thou shall always feel like dying at 1 HP and thou stamina drained. But this be folly.

There's is no such thing as an easy run – not in the beginning.

At the initial phase of running; a debuff is placed on you that constantly tickes for an insane amount of stamina. Trust me, if you're like me, you'll see that precious energy evaporate like some unseen foe was constantly mana-draining you. But it's one of those tricky debuffs that don't exactly kill you once you hit 1 HP (WoW-runners, think of Prince Malchezaar – it's safe as long as you remember to run!) But it's enough to make you scream on the inside and go into blind panic. Yet somehow, I seemed to make it back alive every single time. Then I collapse, and lie at the floor, staring into the ceiling, wondering whether the next run will be the one that gets me...

At least one more
 Then, of course, there's the second one. This one is kind of obvious, but it's important.

Running Rule #2: Everyone has a higher level and more skill points in Athletics than you.
Yes, everyone has to start at the bottom. Yes, the mountain is tall. Yes, most people around you have been at this shit for years before you.
But holy hell, why does it hit you so hard in the face?

Pretty much everyone I ran past during the first week sprinted past me like a dervish. Eventually, I started making mental Roadrunner sounds in my head when it happened. Add on top of that, that the program required me to make occasional breaks, which would always be when someone would pass by me. At first this made me feel terrible and like I really didn't belong out here with all the grown-ups. But after the first couple of runs, I kind of started to adapt.

One thing I later noticed, was that semi-guilty-stare-down-into-the-ground gaze some people had when I ran by them, just as they were out for a walk. As if I'd just poked horribly at their bad conscience or something. Running is truly all about impressions for everyone.

Just remember; there will always be someone out there with a higher Challenge Rating than you. You don't hit that level 20 just from scratch; slaying those annoying goblins is just a mandatory fact.

For my first week, I mainly stuck to the forest because it was secluded and seemed safe. That taught me my third rule of running.

Running Rule #3: Don't fuck with the rules for 'Difficult Terrain'
This is entire subjective perspective here (like everything else on this blog, really) – but there's a significant difference from running uphill or downhill.
At first, I told myself that I ought to sprint up those hills...
Well, derp.

But it was way bigger than I thought. Difficult terrain has fucked me in wargames for years, and now it comes back to haunt my real life as well. Great. One thing that truly devastated me when I started running (see rule #1) was that I didn't pay heed to elevations, meaning I'd just trudge on and think it would be okay. It wouldn't. 

If you're like me, you need to respect such things. At least because it made me feel pathetic for not even being able to cross a small rise like that. But things get dicey real fast, and after I started regulating my running whenever I hit such passages, running them has been much more pleasant.



Eventually, I made it past my first week of running. I managed to reach the 3 minute marker (note; that would be a 2+1 marker, as I call it. Meaning, two minutes of running, a break of four minutes or so, then another one) – Pebbles, you may say, but coming from this guy who has been out of it for 25 years or so? I'd say it's pretty nifty! Following up with the exciting next week soon!