I am going through a period of re-adjustment right now as I try to get my life back on track after a few years of laziness, slobbery (no, not slobbering), and general physical degeneration. Most of my friends already know that I was a college athlete (recruited, scholarship, NCAA Div-I… the whole bang) and that I suffered a fairly severe injury to my spine sometime mid 2nd year. Against the advice of several physicians (though I maintain it was the right decision) I carried on racing and refused the “easy out” posed by medical retirement. After graduating I ran off to foreign climes and then started my MA. That was the beginning of a serious physical decline that resulted in me starting my PhD maybe 10lbs overweight and substantially less capable than I was 2 years previously.
The thing about certain injuries – mine included – is that you have to commit to a healthy lifestyle or to a miserable existence largely characterized by loss of mobility, stiffness, and associated depression. While I wasn’t entirely resigned to the idea of being sad and immobile for the remainder of my 20s and onwards, I had allowed things to slip.
About 3 weeks ago, upon returning to New Haven, I decided to make a serious change. The gym was to become my new best friend. So for the past 25 days, I have made the very short trek from my home to the Payne Whitney Gymnasium. Once there I have pushed myself through a sequence of workouts of increasing difficulty and duration. I am proud to say that 45 minutes of cardio now comes very easily to me and that I have started erging again – with promising results, though it is too early to post those sorts of things in a public forum.
How about results? Well, despite tracking my caloric intake (and output – we are working for net reduction of about 500kcal/day… not starvation) and exercising 6 times a week, my weight has remained fairly constant. That being said, my quadriceps and abdominal muscles are notably stronger and tighter. I have much better endurance and my heart rate is beginning to drop faster after exercise. These are all good signs – probably signs that I am converting fat into muscle … hence the lack of “weight” loss.
But the best part – increased energy, increased flexibility (particularly in my back), more regular sleep patterns, and a much healthier diet. And the bottom line – I am just happier!
Do I think 6 days a week of exercise is sustainable? Over the long run – yeah! Sure there will be weeks when I only get in 5 workouts… or 4; but there will also probably be weeks when I get out-and-about for 7 consecutive days (especially when the thaw comes and I can get back to regular hiking). Graduate school can be time consuming and draining but I would rather spend my spare time doing something that makes me happier and healthier than any number of things that have the opposite or no effect.