resisting my inevitable death

black and white photo of a kettle bell weight and two medicine balls, along with part of a human leg and sneaker-shod footI’m getting older. It’s hard to avoid. My body isn’t as resilient as it was fifteen years ago when I started this blog. As my income increased, so did my pant size, and being in a sedentary job didn’t help.

January began as January often begins, with a renewed commitment to stay as physically active as I can and work on getting stronger. For the first two weeks, I managed to get out and hike/walk/gym every day but three. Then my choir rehearsals began and things picked up again with new music being sent to the radio station, and I was reminded why I don’t spend two hours at the gym every day.

One of my favorite blogs is Fit is a Feminist Issue, and several of the bloggers over there are talking about a 218 workouts in 2018 challenge. I missed jumping on from the start, but I’ve been keeping track for other reasons and I’m up to 23 so far. Not bad. Could be much better — there was one week in there with zero. If I’m going to hit that goal, I’ll need to be doing 4-5 workouts a week, not the average 3-4 I’ve been doing so far.

I’ve also been keeping track of the food I eat. I’ve done this in the past with mixed success, but I’m finding the tool less frustrating this time. (Or maybe I just care less about being absolutely precise?) I haven’t approached this with the intent to prescribe some sort of diet regimen, but the data has been useful for making tweaks. Since I’m also weight training, I’ve been paying closer attention to macros and increasing protein without blowing up the fat percentage, too.

I’ve also discovered how easy it is for me to consume a massive amount of calories and not even realize it — it simply doesn’t seem like that much food, and by weight, it isn’t, but the nutritional composition is very densely packed with caloric energy. So, I need to out-think my survival brain that compels me towards high energy foods my body can store for later use in the lean times that will never come.

My goals are simple: get stronger, avoid physical injuries, lose some weight to relieve stress on my joints, and get ready for prime softball/baseball/hiking season. Oh, and delaying my inevitable death.

becoming a better me

I have struggled with my weight for most of my life. As a kid, I was heavier than most of my peers, and gym class was my least favorite time of day. I played some softball in my early teens, but by the time I got to high school, I had dropped that and was headed into 10 years or so of sedentary behavior and avoidance of all things athletic.

Over that time period, I allowed myself to gain 100 pounds, mostly through a love of carbs, fats, and sugars. I wasn’t actively choosing to be fat so much as I was actively choosing to indulge myself with food and my inherent laziness.

A few years ago, I decided that enough was enough. I joined a recreational softball team and started going to the gym more regularly. However, I was never able to stick with a strict diet, so all I’ve been able to do is maintain my weight. It wasn’t going up anymore, but it also wasn’t going down.

In December, a friend asked me to be her partner in a Biggest Loser-style competition at work. At first my inherent laziness and fear of the unknown made me hesitate, but I went to the information session anyway, and that sold me on it.

The participants (about 20 of us) are working with two trainers who run at least one group workout session five days a week. The sessions are a mix of strength training and cardio, and they vary the activities with every session. In addition, I’m taking a cycle (spinning) and tone (weights and crunches) class two days a week and walking several miles on the weekend.

I’m also meeting with a dietitian as a part of the program, and she has made helpful suggestions based on the food diary I turn in every week. I have been making small changes to my diet over the past year, and I found that works best for me. I’m also learning to make conscious decisions about food. Sure, I could have that doughnut from the box in the staff lounge, but I’d rather spend those calories on a tasty Belgian quadruple beer later that evening.

Right now I’m six weeks into the program, and so far the scales haven’t moved much, but I am slowly shedding the pounds. Meanwhile, I’m seeing muscle definition that I haven’t seen in a long time, and my endurance is increasing. I don’t look forward to the hard work, but seeing how much I’ve gotten stronger in such a short period of time keeps me coming back.

Aside from having two enthusiastic trainers, the other thing that has kept me going is the team spirit that has settled on those of us who are regulars at the group workouts. Theoretically, we’re competing, but I mostly forget that it’s a competition, in part because everyone encourages each other to push beyond what we think we can do. I need to have some internal motivation to keep pressing on, but having an external accountability means I still show up, even on days when I would rather be anywhere else but the gym.

It’s never too late to change your life. Whether it’s something as simple as drinking a glass of water instead of soda or something more challenging like committing to an intensive workout routine. And there’s no better time to start than today, because I’m sure you can find an excuse to not start tomorrow, either.

Whatever you do, remember to be kind to yourself. Making one bad choice doesn’t mean you have failed or should quit. Just do your best to make the next choice a good one, and take it one moment at a time.

Article first published as Becoming a Better Me on Blogcritics.