mrsveteran (mrsveteran) wrote,

A Quest for Strength: Part III

You have to understand something: I am not, and have never been, a "let's go work out" kind of person. Even in the Army, working out (or PT, as we referred to physical fitness training) was something that you had to do, not something you did just for fun. It was something to be endured, evaded as much as possible, and generally tolerated only when there was no other choice. Even in school, I ducked out of Phys Ed any chance I got, and took Dance class when they offered it as a substitute. About the only exercise I ever enjoyed was gymnastics when I was a child, and even then I could have done without the running and the jumping jacks and the situps and all that kind of conditioning exercise.

"Exercise," to my mind, was a bad word. "Exercise" was not fun. "Exercise" was not a good thing. "Exercise" was boring, painful, repetitious, and generally a big waste of time that could be better spent sitting at the computer and coding some nifty new application.

In short, it was a fairly extreme sense of despair that led me to even consider working out at all.

Back to the gym: years ago, Charlie had spent what, at the time, I thought was way too much money on a multi-exercise weight set. This thing had pulleys and weights and bars and straps and was set up in such a way that you could work almost every muscle group on one machine. There was a provision for ab crunches, leg lifts, bench press, lat pulldowns, chinups, pullups, curls, calf raises -- you name it, and you could probably do it on that machine.

This marvel of modern home workout technology was now sitting in our garage. It got occasional use by Charlie, but I had never touched it. Well, that's not quite true: I'd touched it, but only to lean on it while getting a box or something down from one of the garage shelves. Certainly I'd never used it to exercise. I didn't even know where to start! I mean, it was obvious that you were supposed to push on some things and pull on others, and that doing so would make various weights go up and down, but setting the weight, and how and what to push or pull was pretty much beyond me.

Hey, I'm a software person, and this thing was all hardware, baby. I had to get the expert, and since Charlie was the one who'd bought it and used it, and since he'd also been the one to show me how to work out with the heavy bag (which was also hanging in the garage) without hurting myself too terribly much, I knew he'd be the one to go to about this.

I found him in front of his computer. "Hey, honey," I approached him, "Could you come show me how that weight set works?"

I'm lucky that Charlie has not yet, apparently, inherited his father's heart problems. He tried to hide the look of shock on his face, but it was there, just for a second. Just long enough for me to see it.

"Um. Right now?" I could tell he was struggling to reevaluate his view of the universe in light of my request. My wife … weight set … does not compute! Does not compute! If he were a Windows box, I think I would have gotten a blue screen of death right then and there. Thankfully, he wasn't.

"Well, yeah, if you could."

I was afraid if I waited, I'd just put it off again. And again. I was ready now, but I had to act fast before I changed my mind. I know myself well enough to realize that if I didn't start right now, this instant, while I was still determined, I'd let it slide. If I let it slide, I'd just continue to get weaker and weaker because, honestly, I didn't want to work out. I wanted to get stronger, and right now, it seemed that strength training on the weights would help me do that, but if I let myself think of it as "exercise," I just simply wouldn't do it. I tried not to show my desperation, but I think he sensed that this was somehow important to me.

"Okay," he said, logging off the computer, "Let's go."

As we made our way to the garage, I explained that I'd been reading about strength training -- where you use the heaviest weight you can do between 10 to 20 repetitions of -- and that I wanted to try to build my muscles back up. He nodded.

"Yeah, that's a pretty good idea. You're going to need to make sure you get enough protein, though, or there won't be anything to build those muscles out of," he said.

That brought up a whole other problem: I definitely wasn't getting enough protein. In fact, I suspected that I wasn't getting enough nutrition in general, given that A) after my last bout with Crohn's I was somewhat afraid to eat and B) that when I did eat it tended to be something light like soup. Sure, my occasional visit to the All-You-Can-Eat sushi bar got me my protein for that day, but otherwise, my eating habits were -- well -- bad. Very bad.

Okay, I'd have to deal with that later. We were there. The weight set stood before me in all its dark mystery.

"So, where do I start?" I asked. I hadn't the faintest idea.


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