Tag Archives: exercise


I had a great workout this morning.  I bench pressed 285 pounds.  For most people, that would not be a significant milestone.  For me, it was huge.

The last time I bench pressed 285 pounds I was 17 years old.  This morning I was so nervous when I put that much weight on the bar.  I felt confident, because I knew I had done 275 last week pretty easily and I had two good workouts since then.  Yet after putting on that much weight I was unsure.  I paced back and forth staring at the bar.  I remember the last time I did that much.

I was a senior in high school.  I wanted to be the starting center on our football team. I wanted to get a good score on the ACT so I could apply for scholarships.  I wanted a certain girl to think of me as more than “just a friend.”  I wanted to join the 300-club.  I wanted my name written on the board of the weight room in that most exclusive club, but I had to get to 285 first.  I lifted 285 that day, but never more.  The football season ended.  I got a pretty good score on the ACT and won a pretty nice scholarship.  That girl and I were never more than friends.  I never joined the 300 club.

I’ve always said that I feel sorry for people that think that high school was the best time of their life.  I had a great time in high school.  I had great friends.  I had good grades.  I had the respect of teachers and my parents.  I achieved a lot, but that was not the peak of my life.  I have gone on and achieved more.  Yet 285 has always stuck in my head.  That was the highest I reached physically.  That was the strongest I ever was in my entire life.  At 17 I was no where near my emotional, mental, or spiritual peak.  But by at least one standard of measure, I peaked at 17 years old.

Today I am 32 years old.  I am still grossly overweight, but I have been determined to make sure that I would again be stronger than I was when I was 17.

Today in that gym as I paced back and forth, I was standing in front of more than 285 pounds of iron.  I was standing in front of my past.  I was standing in front of my youth.  As my heart started to race and my adrenaline started to flow I knew that I was standing in front of something heavier than 285 pounds.  I was standing in front of my future.  I was standing in front of a promise.  It was a promise I made to myself.  More importantly, it was a promise I made to my daughter.  “17 was not my best,” I thought to myself.

I laid on my back on that bench press and gripped the bar.  I asked my spotter for a lift and counted to three.  As I held the bar in my hands with my arms extended, about to bring it down to my chest, I thought to myself, “I have this.”

And I did.

As I put the weight back on the rack, I practically leaped off of the bench. I clapped my hands, flexed my arms and let out a little “YEAH.”

I still have a long way to go.  As far as overall fitness, 17 might have been my peak.  Or maybe it was 14 when I ran two miles under 15 minutes before basketball practice.  Or maybe it was 20 when I was a captain of my college lacrosse team.  Or maybe it was 28 when I ran a 5 mile race in St. Louis.  The fact remains, I weigh 316 pounds.  I have a lot of work to do.  I need to do a lot more cardio.  I need to work a lot more on my legs.  I need to make sure I get three workouts a week – not just two.  I need to stop eating crap before I go to bed.

Right now though, none of that matters.  All I care about right now is 285.  It was a barrier that lived for 15 years.  Today it is no more.



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For her

Today at the gym my 2 1/2 year-old daughter gave me a reminder, as if the top view of my belly wasn’t enough, of why I was there.  She came with me and my wife today, and she sat in a desingated corner of the room for children.  She watched PBS kids and read books and played with some toys while we worked out.  We can usually see her, but she is really good at staying in her area.

At the end of the workout I was doing sit-ups on the incline bench.  I could see her off in her area watching “Super Why.”  Usually during my sit-ups I pull out my phone and do them while holding a picture of her smiling at me.  Then when I count them off, instead of numbers I use the letters in her name.  Since my return to working out, the most I’ve done in one set was 30.

This time, as I was getting to 30, I started struggling.  When I got to 28, I was thinking, “almost to 30, then I’ll stop.”  Then I heard my daughter’s voice calling out “One, two, three” in time with my sit-ups.  She was counting them for me.  I’ve never cried and done sit-ups at the same time, but I was close this afternoon.  I got to 40.  When I was done, she shouted in glee, “Daddy!”  I walked over to her, bent down to give her a kiss, and she reached up to oblige.

Then at the last second she pulled away, crinkled her nose and said, “You’re all wet.”  I was.  For her.

Weigh-in: 316 (up four pounds in two days – that sucks)
Treadmill: .75 mile (.25 walking, .25 jogging, another .25 jogging after lifting)
Rowing machine: 1 km in 5 minutes
Bench: 135 3 sets of 10, 185 4x
Incline situps: 40 (1 set of40, afterwards my whole abdominen cramped)
Other: curls, triceps, back

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The struggle continues

Yesterday I feel like I made an important discovery.  I worked out at night for the first time in my new endeavor, and loved it.  I commented in a prior post on the stories I have heard about people that work out in the morning and how it gives them more energy thoughout the day.  I have not experienced that yet.  Usually, when I work out in the morning I have been getting worn out quickly during the workout and go home exhausted and remain so for the rest of the day. 

I went to work out at about 6 last night, had an protein energy shake before working out, and then had the best workout I have had since I began.  I went 15 minute strong on the eliptical, I bench pressed 250 pounds (which is more than I have done in over 10 years, and I did it without much difficulty).  I then did 225 twice, and 185 10 times.  I curled, did triceps, back, more chest work, a super-fast set of 100 jumping rope, and more ab work than I have been able to do.  I worked out for about an hour and a half.  Then had dinner, and was tired at 9 p.m. instead of 11 a.m. 

There are still benefits to working out in the morning, but I can’t help but feel like my bio-clock is set for afternoon/evening activity.  I wonder if anyone else has had similar or different experience when they start working out regularly?

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Worn out

So far, the exercise regiment has been going well:

Week of Oct. 12: Returned from vacation.  Went to gym on Thu. and Fri. Goal Reached: I went back to the gym.  I was afraid that my fervor would pass after the week off, but I kept going.

Week of Oct. 19: Went to the gym four times: Mon., Wed., Thur., Fri.  Goal Reached: On Friday I bench pressed 225 pounds for the firs time in three years.

Week of Oct. 26: Went to the gym three times: Wed., Thu., Fri. Two Goals Reached: 1) I moved up to fifteen minutes of cardio on the eliptical.  Next goal is 20 minutes.  2) I carried my daughter upstairs to bed, and did not have to wait to catch my breath before telling her, “goodnight.”

Week of Nov. 2: Was in Schaumburg visiting family.  Went to gym once (so far): Wed.

Things have been going well.  I am certainly getting stronger.  I do not know how my weight is doing, but that is not really why I am doing this.  I usually workout for 45 minutes, and my goal has been to keep my heartrate elevated the entire time.  Things are gradually getting easier.  For instance, my near-stroke inducing 100 reps on the jump rope can now be done with relative ease.  And 20 sit-ups on the incline bench made me want to vomit.  Now I can do two sets of 25.

Here’s my problem though: I feel like my body muscles are getting stronger faster than my heart is.  I am getting worn out so fast.  After doing a set of sit-ups or bench press, my muscles feel like they can do more, but I just don’t have the energy.  If I was a car, I feel like my engine just isn’t getting enough fuel.  I am hoping this improves soon.

I am also waiting anxiously for the exercise to start giving me more energy.   I hear people talk about the fact that when they exercise in the morning they feel better all day.  I haven’t gotten to that point.  After I work out in the morning, all I want to do is go to sleep, and I am wasted the rest of the day.  There was a time when I stopped exercising at night because it made it difficult for me to go to sleep, but I think tonight I am going to try it.

Next Goals:

  1. Cardio: Do the eliptical for 20 minutes.  Next: Run on treadmill for one mile.
  2. Bench press: Complete a pyramid that ends at 225. Long-Term: Bench press 285 pounds (my previous best when I was 18 years old).
  3. Jump Rope: 150 continuous reps.
  4. Sit ups: Sets of 50.

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This is my second blog title inspired by a number.  The first was the complete shock and awe I was hit with when I saw the big part of the scale get pushed all the way over to the right during a recent doctor visit.  This one however, is good news.

If any readers are frequent weight lifters, you might recognize the number 225 as a significant milestone.  Let me explain: when doing the bench press, which is the most basic of all upper body lifts, and the general gauge for strength, the bar weighs forty five pounds (aActually, it weighs forty five pounds regardless of what you are doing).  Free weights come in the following sizes: 2.5, 5, 10, 25, 35 and 45 pounds.  When you put one big one on each end, you have 135 pounds.  When you put on two of the big ones on each end, you have 225 pounds.  This is a real-man’s weight.  This is the weight when you are first taken seriously.  “Two plates,” is the standard test for most football players testing their strength.  A top draft pick going into the NFL can do 30 or so in one set.

When I began my lifting a couple of weeks ago I put 135 on the bar and was unable to do 3 sets of 10.  On Monday I was able to do three sets of 10 with relative ease.  On Wednesday I did a standard pyramid, adding 10 pounds and deducting 2 reps each set, and finished with 2 reps of 185.  So today I decided to test my metal, and do a good ol’ max.  So I decided to go with two of the big ones on each side – Two plates – my first try in over three years at a real-man’s weight: 225.

I stood there looking at the weight, remembering a time when that was not a daunting task.  It was mocking me, daring me to lift it.  Telling me I was too old, too fat, and much, much too weak.  With Metallica playing in my headphones, I started to get that old feeling – that feeling I loved so much when I played football – that heart-racing sense of fear and excitement, knowing that the moment of truth was an instant away.  I was confident.  I knew I was going to win, but I got a spotter anyway because I’m not stupid.  I sat down on the bench, looked up at the bar mocking me one more time and said, “Fuck you,” and lifted it not once, but twice.

For the last couple of days I have done something completely new during my workout.  Instead of counting my reps off to ten, I spell a word.  With each rep, instead of exhaling “one, two, three…” I breath the letters of my daugter’s name.  It is a constant reminder of why I am there.  It motivates me to know that I am struggling for her.  I get done with a set, and picture her at a high school graduation, in a wedding dress, holding her own daughter.  Tired, out of breath, unable to lift my arms, I smile and push back a tear.

Today I realized that I what I am doing is working.  I haven’t gotten on a scale in awhile because I’m not really interested in my weight.  I am interested in being around to see my daughter grow up, and maybe get lucky enough to know her children too.

I gotta go, she just woke up from her nap.


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