Sunday, October 15, 2006

One month in, and it's time to pick it up

So, it was a month Wednesday since we started our diets. Mel is down to 217. I was at 395 this morning on the scale, and I'm retaining a bit less water; probably about 4lbs now vs. the 8-12 I was retaining before; so let's say 391.

I've lost an inch off my pants (I wont say waist, since I wear my pants between my waist and hips) since this whole thing began, and my energy, alertness, and general fatigue are all WAY better.

24lbs in 4 weeks, now if I could only keep that rate up for another 4 months, I'd be at my goal before my birthday. Of course that's physically impossible, but a guy can dream right?

Honestly, I expect it will take me the full 19.5 months I've set for myself to get back to the fitness level I want, at the weight I want; which is 265-285lbs at near my 18 year old muscle mass levels, and under 18% bodyfat. No I can't be 18 again; but at 18 I was at 13% bodyfat, I figure I can spot myself the extra 5% for being over 30.

So, I said once I got below 400 I would really kick up the excercise levels, and I meant it; but having to go to the gym means you won't do it if you aren't "in the mood" so today we pulled the trigger on a home gym setup. Yes, it's expensive, but we've been paying $720 a year for two gym memberships we aren't using; and having it at home means we WILL use it (I actually LIKE working out, and Mel is going to do it whether she likes it or not).

Of course, this is me, so I'm not talking about any stupid bowflex crap.

I've been checking out home gyms for a while, and I was trying to decide between a Smith machine, and an olympic leverage machine, both of which use olympic free weights. The Smiths incorporate a power rack and a hack rack on rails, with a weight bench; and a pully system so that you are using real free weights, or free weights riding on rails for your resistance. The leverage machines use pivots and pulleys without the rack.

Here's an example of the Powertec Olympic Leverage machine I've been considering:

Anyway, Mel said to me today "I've got all this excess energy and no way of getting rid of it outside of the bedroom" (which is another thing that has much improved in both frequency and duration thank you) "I'm tired of it, we need to buy the gym stuff now".

I was all for it; since I've been feeling the need for more excercise anyway, with this excess energy. Plus, I'ver really got to build my legs back up again, or my knees are just going to fail even further. I need to do my own physical therapy, and in addition to losing the weight, I need to build my leg strength back up.

I learned a long while back from the sports medicine specialist that got me back to walking without a cane in the first place, that the only way I was going to last til 45 without a knee replacement, was to have my legs strong enough that my joint wasn't taking all that weight unsupported.

Anyway, those Powertecs are EXPENSIVE, so we were going to just go ahead and pick up a recumbent bike for now; but the place we picked the bike up at had a half decent Smith machine on sale for a terrific price, so we picked up both this:

and this:

Those are the Marcy SM4000 Smith machine, and the Schwinn/Nautilus 213 recumbent bike.

Normally I wouldn't even consider buying a Marcy product, but you wouldn't believe how solid this thing is; plus it's got a lifetime warranty; and I checked out the reviews which have all been positive. This particular machine has a hell of alot of options, AND it can be used with or without the bench as a regular free weight bench, and a regular power rack/power cage, and as a preacher bench, and a row bench etc... etc...

Basically it should do almsot everything I would do in a full gym. Sure, I'll have to spend more time changing configurations, but it means I can do everything I want, with free weights, all in one machine.

Yes, one of the more conventional home gym plate machines would be easier for Mel to use, and faster to switch between excercises. Unfortunately, all but the top professional gym grade machines have pathetically small max weight stacks of less than 300lbs; and they have a very limited range of motion, that just doesn't exercise your muscles as well as free weights can.

I'm less sanguine about the bike, because usually consumer grade excercise bikes are pretty flimsy, but it feels solid, and it rides well; plus it's got a good warranty. Given the price we got it for, even if it dies right outside of the warranty period we will have got our money out of it.

We were planning on spending well over $1000 for the Smith machine, and $1500 for a used lifecycle; as it was we ended up paying $200 under list for EACH of these bad boys, AND got a 300lb olympic weight set in the deal. All in all, we spent less than what the bike alone would have cost us, for everything; so if they hold up to our use, then we got a great deal.

I can't tell you how much I've missed working out. If you've never really worked out heavy you don't know what it's like, but after a good workout I'm so pumped up, and yet so tired at the same time, that I get this weird kind of relaxed high. It's great.

Anyway, I had my first real workout in three years tonight. I did 20 minutes of fairly heavy effort on the recumbent bike, managed just under 5 miles in the process and kept my heart rate in the 135-155 zone for almost all of that time.

A note on heart rates: For "ideal" aerobic and systemic benefit, you want to keep your heart rate at 65-80% of your maximum heart rate (which is 220 minus your age) for at least 20 minutes; and don't eceed 85% or you'll quickly exhaust yourself. For any significant excercise benefit at all, you want to get your heart rate up to at least half your maximum heart rate, and at least twice your resting heart rate, which for me is around 54.

So, around 95-110 is the minimum heart rate for me, for aerobic benefit; 135-155 is the ideal excercise range; 165-180 is the exhaustion zone where you are overstressing; and over 180-190 or above is dangerous tachycardia.
I cooled down a bit, and then lifted for a half hour. Moderate effort, high reps low weight shrugs, squats, leg presses, bench presses and dead lifts at 135lbs for 20 reps, then 205lbs for 5 reps each excercise.

When I say high rep low weight, I mean that's nothing weight for a guy my size. I can do 205lb bench presses until my arms give out. A single pushup puts more tension on me than 205lbs. The point of this wasn't to do serious weight lifting, it was to get into the circuit, and keep my heart pumping... to get the high going.

I haven't built the curl bench, butterfly attachment, or pull down attachment yet so I didnt do a full circuit (which takes about 45-60 minutes, and consists of one full set of high rep low weight fast as you can do them with good form; then one set with medium weight and low reps to finish it off) but I still got the high, which is great.

Once this thing is dialed in, and I get some more weight (320lbs isn't much weight for leg excercises in a guy my size. I need to pick up another 300lbs for any kind of serious leg work, and 500 lbs to max the machine), I'm going to get a solid routine going.

My plan is to do 20-30 minutes of cardio on the bike twice a day. I'm also going to do a full circuit every day at relatively low weight just for the fitness and weight loss side of things; plus some spot work on legs, arms, chest, and core (pelvis, back, neck, and abs). These machines should let me do what I need to do; I just hope the Smith setup is convenient enough to switch between stations that I can keep a good circuit going.

Now, what do I do in my circuit?

Well, what I DID when I was training a lot, was a long circuit; starting with a 10 minute stretch and warmup, followed by a 20-30 minute bike session, and a weight circuit consisting of 20 reps of each excercise at a light weight, followed by 5 reps of each excercise with a higher weight; as fast as I could do them and switch between them, but still keep good form; and finally a short cooldown and stretch.

If I did everything right, it took me about 90 minutes to two hours to do it. When I was working out my heaviest, I'd often do it twice a day every other day, and then heavy lifting on the days I wasn't doing the circuit.

My circuit consisted of (not necessarily in order - you want to mix it up to not overstress a particular muscle group during the circuit):

Hack squats
Leg presses (sled)
Calf raises (8" - 4" elevated toe to 4" heel extension)
Single leg extensions (left and right)
Leg curls (left and right)
Bench presses
Military presses
Lat pull downs
Preacher pull downs (pull down curls)
Standing rows
Low rows
Preacher curls
Dumb curls (left and right)
Seated butterflys
Dumb flys (lay down)

Let me tell you, after 20 reps light and 5 reps medium of each of those, fast as you can, you feel like rubber; but it's a GOOD tired.

Given the machine I've got, I can do all of that, except the dumb flys, dumb curls, and preacher curls; and really for those all I need to do is pick up a preacher bar (it's already got a preacher bench), and a couple of dumb bells.

You know what's funny? My knee isn't screaming at me. Oh I know it will be tomorrow after I wake up (hell, both of them probably will be), but for now, the pleasure of working out is dealing with the pain.

Now if I can only manage to get out of bed and walk in the morning....