Tag Archives: getting into shape

Going Back To The Gym: Relief And Realizations

I missed going to the gym.

Those are words my teenage self never thought I’d say, write, or think. That makes them all the more satisfying to say in the past tense.

This global pandemic has ruined a lot of things and disrupted a lot of lives. It’s also not done. It’s definitely going to get worse before it gets better. Many of us are already feeling nostalgic for a time when we didn’t have to wear masks, could go to a movie theater, and went out to eat on a whim. That was only four months ago. Let that sink in.

Coincidentally, that was also the last time I went to the gym before this week. Back in early March, I was told by the gym manager, who knows me very well after going twice a week for nearly a decade, that the gym was closing indefinitely. I thought it was only temporary. I’d hoped to be back in a few weeks. Weeks turned to months. We all know what happened during that time.

I was starting to lose hope. I still made an effort to stay in shape. If anything, I became more motivated. Being healthy during a pandemic is an objectively good idea. However, that wasn’t easy without the gym.

I don’t have a lot of exercise equipment of my own. My exercise routine was restricted to doing push-ups, sit-ups, and squats before running along the local trails. That definitely helped, but it wasn’t the same. Plus, I was at the mercy of the weather. If it was cold or rainy out, then I couldn’t do much.

It wasn’t the same and I felt it. I lost some muscle mass and gained some weight. It was frustrating, but that was the situation I had to deal with.

Finally, that changed this past week. I finally got word that my gym was re-opening, albeit to a limited extent. We can only go for hour-long chunks at a time and the capacity is severely restricted, but I can work within those constraints. After these past four months, I’m willing to jump through some extra hoops.

When I made it back, it wasn’t just a relief. It was cathartic. I almost forgot how satisfying it was to make it through a nice, rigorous workout. I also forgot how nice it was to have the luxury of doing something other than running in the blazing summer heat for cardio. I’ll never take that for granted again.

I also realized that I am definitely behind the curve. I still remember where I was, in terms of how many reps and sets I could do at a certain weight. When I tried to go back to where I was four months ago, my body did not cooperate. I had to turn the weight down to get through my sets. It was humbling. It also revealed that my efforts to duplicate the results of a gym were only partially successful, at best.

I know it sounds like I’m making a big deal about this, being able to go to a gym again. Believe me, if my younger self was reading this, he would’ve believed an impostor wrote this. However, the act of regaining part of my old routine, as trivial as it might be in the grand scheme of things, was nothing short of therapeutic.

The world is still in an awful, chaotic state. We’re nowhere close to being back to “normal,” as though that’s possible anymore. However, the fact that I can go back to the gym gives me hope that the effort, struggle, and persistence will pay off in the long run. We can’t regain the lives we lost, but we can push forward.

That will inspire me with future workouts. I hope it inspires others, especially those still living in a state of lock-down. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. It is worth enduring. Just hang in there. Like a good workout, this kind of strain will only make you stronger in the long run.

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Body Weight Exercises For Those Wanting To Stay In Shape During A Crisis

At this point, almost everyone’s life has been disrupted in some form or another by the ongoing Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic. Unless you live on a deserted island, a cave, or shack in the mountains, you’ve been effected by this crisis. Whether it’s living in an area that’s on total lockdown or just had your favorite sporting events cancelled, you’re feel the pinch of this crisis.

I certainly have. Recently, the crisis hit home in another profound way. Every gym in my area, including the one I go to on a regular basis, closed for the foreseeable future. A few may not open again until mid-May. That’s a long time to not have access to a gym. If ever you wanted an excuse to avoid working out, this is it.

However, I actually enjoy working out. That’s something my 21-year-old self might laugh at, but it’s true. Working out is one of the most cathartic parts of my week. The prospect of not having a gym to go to is genuinely jarring for me.

As difficult as it is, that doesn’t mean I’m just going to let myself go. I still intend to stay in shape and I strongly encourage everyone else to do the same. If you have free weights, an exercise bike, a treadmill, or some other piece of gym equipment in your house, I say use it. I don’t because I always had access to a gym. I didn’t imagine everything could be shut down to this extent.

Luckily, there are ways to stay in shape without the aid of equipment. I know because I’ve used them whenever I’ve had to travel or be away from home for an extended period. They mostly consist of bodyweight exercises, which is exactly what it sounds like. You work out, but you don’t use weights or a machine. You just use your body, physics, and a clear space.

They’re not quite as effective or satisfying, in my opinion, as using weights. They still get the job done for the most part. Combined with regular running and jogging, which I highly recommend as well, you can maintain your health and your physique. At a time when a novel disease is ravaging civilization, good health has never been more important.

To that effect, here are some handy charts I’ve found that depict both the types of bodyweight exercises you can do and ways to go about doing them. If I find a routine that works, I’ll gladly share it. If you have a routine, please share it in the comments.

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Stay safe, stay healthy, and stay awesome everyone.

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Staying In Shape, Eating Right, And How A New Appliance Helped Me With Both

Contrary to what every fad diet and overpriced exercise gizmo may tell you, there’s no real secret to getting in shape. You just have to eat right and exercise regularly. It’s not something you can do every once in a while. It’s not something you can condense into a few minutes and see the same results. It’s a habit that becomes a routine. If done right, it works. There are plenty of documented cases to prove this.

The exercise part is hard enough. I’ve shared my struggles with this before, but it’s the eating right part that most people find extremely challenging. I’m certainly among that crowd. One of the hardest things I did when getting into shape was changing my diet. At that point, I’d become very fond of sugary cereal, carb-heavy snacks, and candy of every kind. Just cutting back on that stuff was a huge test of self-discipline.

However, it can be done. In fact, there are many ways you can go about it, none of which involve buying into fad diets or purchasing overpriced meal kits. Trust me. If a guy like me can do it, then anyone can do it. I’m not that special, in that regard. I figured a lot of this stuff out through trial and error, but you don’t have to endure my errors.

When it comes to eating right, there’s only one way to avoid eating those sugary foods and overeating in general. You have to not feel hungry when you’re around them. That may sound like something that requires self-hypnosis, but it doesn’t. It just requires a little knowledge of which foods make you feel less hungry.

Those foods do exist and you can buy them anywhere. There’s no advanced science behind them. They’re just foods that are high in protein, fiber, and volume. They include chicken, fish, oatmeal, potatoes, fruits, vegetables, and eggs. For me, the one food that helped me the most was eggs.

This is where my favorite new appliance comes in. When I first got serious about eating right, one of my go-to meals after a workout was an omelet with tuna. It was tricky to make and if I was in a hurry, I wouldn’t bother. However, I knew eggs were a great food for feeling less hungry, so I tried to figure out a more efficient way of consuming them.

That’s where my favorite new appliance comes in. It’s nothing fancy. It’s just an egg cooker I bought off of Amazon. It cost me less than 20 bucks. It’s easy to use and it effectively streamlined the process of cooking eggs for me.

The way I use it is fairly simple. Before a meal, or as a snack, I use it to make three hard-boiled eggs. You just put the eggs in, poke a hole in the top, pour water in the device, and turn it on. The cooker does the rest. After just five minutes, I’ve got three hard-boiled eggs. Before I eat anything else, I make sure I eat those. As a result, I’m less hungry overall and end up eating less.

I cannot overstate the value of being less hungry when you’re trying to get into shape. It’s probably the biggest obstacle everyone faces when trying to eat better. It doesn’t help that we’re surrounded by so many delicious foods. Will power alone is not going to help you avoid them. In fact, relying on will power can be damaging in the long run.

Thankfully, the human body can be tricked, as can the mind. It’s not some fancy transcendental mind-body meditation strategy. It’s just simple chemistry. Eggs and foods like them have the chemistry that makes you feel less hungry. As a result, you’re less inclined to overeat. That’s what this egg maker has helped me do since I got it and if anyone is struggling to control their hunger, I highly recommend you check it out.

Please note that everyone’s body is different. Some people require more than just tweaks to their diet and a few extra eggs to get into shape. I am not a doctor or an expert. I’m just sharing some tips about what has worked for me in the past. I don’t make any bold claims or ask for your credit card information. This is just useful information that I thought I’d share.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, all this talking about eggs has given me a craving for an omelet.

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My Workout Playlist (For Those Still Committed To Get In Shape This Year)

The first few days of 2020 have gone by quickly. We’ve still got plenty more to go and for those still serious about their New Years Resolution, I applaud and encourage you. Anyone who has given up on theirs by now was probably not serious about them in the first place.

Since one of the most common resolutions is to get in shape, I thought I’d touch on that again. A few days ago, I wrote about how certain people at the gym I go to didn’t seem to be taking that effort very seriously. I tried to be fair and offer advice for those who genuinely want to improve their health, fitness, and overall well-being. In hindsight, I think I might have been a bit harsh.

To make up for it, I thought I’d share one aspect of working out that I genuinely enjoy. It involves listening to music during a workout. I know that’s not a novel concept. Chances are that when you go to a gym, most of the people working out will have headphones on. I know because I’m one of them. In fact, listening to music while working out is something that makes my workout genuinely enjoyable.

If you want to do something that’ll make exercise feel less tedious, a good playlist is a great way to achieve that. What constitutes a “good playlist” varies from person to person. Not everyone has the same tastes. I know people who can work out listening to classical, jazz, country, and rap music. There’s nothing wrong with any genre. As long as it helps get you in the right mindset, then it can only help.

I have a lot of music on my phone, but I have a special playlist that I call my “Workout Mix” that I listen to whenever I’m at the gym. Whether I’m lifting weights or running on a treadmill, I just put the list on shuffle and have at it. Before long, I’m rocking out and working out. It’s win-win.

If you intend to get into shape in 2020, I highly recommend putting together a workout mix. If it helps, I’ll share mine. Please note that mine is tailored to my tastes. Yours are likely different. Pick the music that works best for you. This just happens to work best for me.

Metallica – Enter Sandman

Metallica – Hardwired To Self-Destruct

Quiet Riot – Come On Feel The Noise

DMX – X Goin’ Give It To Ya

Lady Gaga – Applause

Flo Rida – Right Round

AC/DC – Thunderstruck

Motley Crue – Kickstart My Heart

Collective Soul – Shine

Collective Soul – December

Soundgarden – Spoonman

Robin Schultz – Sugar

Rick James – Superfreak

Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit

Nelly – Hot In Here

James Labrie – Pretender

Guns N’ Roses – Welcome To The Jungle

Guns N’ Roses – Sweet Child Of Mine

Eve 6 – Inside Out

Drowning Pool – Step Up

The Beastie Boys – Fight For Your Right (To Party)

Bruno Mars – Uptown Funk

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A Bit Of (Obvious) Advice To Those Trying To Get In Shape In 2020

I know it’s just a few days into 2020. I also know that this is the time most people try to uphold their New Years Resolution to get in shape and get healthier. I completely respect that resolution. In fact, I encourage and applaud it. I’ve made a concerted effort to get into shape. I can personally attest that it’s worth it.

However, I noticed something when I went to the gym yesterday that’s worth noting.

As always, it was crowded a few days after New Years. I expected that. I try to plan around it. While I still applaud people for making the effort, I question their approach.

To illustrate, here’s what happened. I saw someone sitting at a weight bench doing butterfly curls, but stopping for a few minutes after every set to check their phone. I don’t know if they were discussing something urgent. For all I know, this person was a doctor trying to communicate life-saving medical advice.

Even if that were the case, it’s not the kind of thing that’ll help you get into shape. If your workout is easy enough for you to text in between sets, then it’s too easy. You’re not pushing yourself. You’re not burning calories. You’re not building muscle. You’re barely getting your heart rate up.

I also saw other people just sitting on the weight machines, doing a set every several minutes or so, but still focused more on the TV that was hanging from the wall than actually pushing themselves. Again, if you’re able to focus on a TV show in between sets, then your workout is too easy.

I know you shouldn’t push yourself too hard, especially if you’re new to working out. I made that mistake more than once when I started working out. I injured my foot and my back the first week I went to the gym. I also learned quickly that if your workout isn’t intense enough, then you’re not going to get much benefit from it.

Like it or not, you’re going to have to strain yourself. You’re going to have to grunt, groan, and sweat to actually make a difference, both for your health and for your appearance. You can’t do that and stay engaged with your phone or the TV.

I feel like in the age of the internet where a simple Google search will show you everything you need to know about getting a good workout, nobody has excuses. If it helps, just check out this video for simple workout tips and let that be your guide.

If your focus is on losing weight and shedding fat, check out this video. It offers a nice tutorial on how to make a trip to the gym successful.

Again, and this is probably the simplest advice I can give, if your workout isn’t intense enough to keep you from texting someone, then it’s not intense enough.

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Getting (Back) Into Shape After Thanksgiving

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By now, with the Thanksgiving festivities over and the family gatherings complete, it’s finally sinking in. You realize just how much you ate and how much you’ve probably set back that New Years Resolution you made 11 months ago. If your Thanksgiving was as successful as mine, then it’s likely you feel as anxious as I do about what we just put our bodies through.

That’s not to say it was a bad thing. Thanksgiving is a holiday. You’re supposed to overeat, over-indulge, and forget every sound nutrition advice you ever got from your doctor. That’s part of what makes it special. At some point, however, you have to let go of the holiday spirit and get back to more responsible health habits.

It can be frustrating, tedious, and strenuous on so many levels. It’s still worth doing. Take it from someone who eats like a pig on the holidays and was out of shape for the first half of his life. You do feel a difference when you make an effort to get back into shape after Thanksgiving.

To that end, I’d like to share a few tips, along with some personal insights. Over the past few years, I’ve developed and refined my own method for getting back into healthier habits after a successful Thanksgiving. I’ve even developed my own unique workout routine.

Now, I’m not going to claim that this is one of those gimmicky fitness regiments that you see in infomercials and fitness magazines full of Photoshopped fitness models. What works for one person isn’t going to work for everyone. Everybody’s body is different. Everybody reacts to holiday gorging and exercise differently. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to getting into shape, at least for now.

That said, there are many health benefits to exercise and staying in shape, especially after the holidays. It goes beyond just looking better naked and looking sexier at the beach in the summer. In some ways, the exercise you do after the holidays is even more rewarding and not just because you have more calories to burn.

You work hard on yourself to ensure you can indulge during the holidays. Like anything worth achieving, putting in the effort makes the end result more satisfying. I’ve certainly come to appreciate that effort and in the interest of helping those still digesting that extra slice of cheesecake, here is my personal process for getting into shape after Thanksgiving.


Step 1: Refocused Diet (That Makes Me Less Hungry)

Make no mistake. Diet is the hardest part of staying in shape.

There’s a popular saying that six-pack abs are made in the kitchen. That’s not just an adage. It’s true. How you eat is a major factor in how you look, feel, and conduct yourself in any effort related to your health. I know Thanksgiving tends to throw a wrench in any diet you might have maintained all year. I say that as someone who ate no fewer than three slices of cheesecake on Thanksgiving.

In a sense, Thanksgiving is the ultimate cheat day and one you should take advantage of. When that day is over, though, the key is less about eating less and more about eating right. What I mean by that is you should focus not on just eating fewer calories. The goal should be to feel less hungry.

That can be done without sheer will-power. It’s a fact that certain foods make you less hungry. Those foods are often high in fiber and protein, including things like eggs, nuts, and whole wheat bread. You don’t have to eat much of those to feel full. Most of my post-Thanksgiving meals consist of chicken, mixed vegetables, and eggs. Much of it comes from frozen meals which aren’t that expensive.

On top of that, I ditch soda and drink mainly water or black coffee. That helps keep sugar intake to a minimum. While it’s difficult to cut sugar out completely, especially after enjoying so many holiday desserts, it is important to limit it. Whether it’s your coffee or your snacks, it’s the sugar that’ll make you feel hungry and keep you from feeling energized.

I usually dedicate the first two weeks after Thanksgiving to sticking to my diet. I make sure most of my meals involve chicken, eggs, and vegetables. I do keep a cheat day for which I will indulge a little, but I try to usually make those first two weeks the most important. Get through that and you’ll be back into less festive eating habits, at least until Christmas.


Step 2: My Workout Routine

This part is somewhat easier for me because I love working out. I know that’s not a feeling everyone has, especially if they’ve never been big on going to the gym. I understand that. I too used to resent going to the gym. When I started taking my health more seriously, it became part of my routine. Now, I get upset when I can’t go.

My routine isn’t on par with an Olympic athlete or body builder. I also wouldn’t call it easy, either. You will get winded and sore from my workout, but only to a point. It will get the job done, though. I know this because it has helped keep my weight stable, even after holidays. I can also see my abs, biceps, and leg muscles too, which is a nice touch.

My workout isn’t all about going to the gym, either. In fact, I usually go to a gym at least twice a week. That’s as much as I can squeeze in. On days I don’t go, I still work out. It’s just usually involves something different. For that reason, I’ll separate my workout from my gym days from my non-gym days. With that in mind, here’s my routine.

On my gym day, I start by running at least 3.5 miles on a treadmill or outside, if the weather permits it.

I then do a series of weight training with either machines or free weights that include 4 sets of 12 reps of the following:

  • Bicep curls
  • Tricep curls
  • Butterfly chest
  • Shoulder pull-downs/extensions
  • Ab crunches
  • Leg lifts
  • Leg press

In general, this whole routine takes a little over an hour. I’ll also mix it up at times, either by doing the weight training first and then doing cardio at the end. I’ll also sometimes exchange the treadmill for an elliptical, which is easier on my feet and gives a better workout for my legs. If you have knee or foot problems, I highly recommend using an elliptical.

For days when I don’t go to the gym or can’t make it, I try to go running. Most of the time, it’s around the block. I try to run for at least 30 minutes, sometimes longer. In addition, I’ll also do 100 sit-ups, followed by 100 squats in my bedroom. This keeps those muscles strong and gets my heart rate going to burn extra calories.

I also reserve one day of the week for rest. Usually, it’s Wednesday. That’s not just a cheat day, either. It’s critical that you rest your body, even if you’re doing a modest workout routine. I’ve tried going 7 days a week a few times. I often end up hurting myself or making myself too sore to work out for extended periods. Don’t learn that lesson the hard way. Leave one day for rest. Your body will thank you.


Step 3: Staying Focused (Until Christmas)

I know it’s easy to encourage diet and exercise as a means to get back into shape, especially after a holiday like Thanksgiving. Most people can even make the effort for the first couple days after Thanksgiving, just like they do in the first few days after New Year’s when they promise themselves they’ll get into shape.

In the same way people tend to break their New Year’s Resolution, they’ll often break their post-Thanksgiving resolution and it doesn’t help that there’s another major holiday right afterwards. Christmas, with all its sugar cookies and candy canes, adds plenty of temptation to the mix and it’s not easy to resist. I don’t deny that for a second.

That’s why the most critical aspect of getting into shape after Thanksgiving involves focus. By that, I don’t just mean keeping a schedule. One reason why it’s so easy to slip back into unhealthy habits is because the holidays can be overwhelming. You find yourself wanting to just stop, take it easy, and let everything slow down.

However, the holidays don’t slow down, especially as Christmas gets closer. If anything, it makes things even more stressful. When you’re stressed out, you’re less inclined to exercise. You’re also more inclined to reach for those sugary holiday treats. It can quickly become a self-reinforcing cycle that’ll leave you even less healthy than you were after Thanksgiving.

The best way to combat this is to maintain focus. One of the benefits of having other holidays after Thanksgiving is that it offers plenty of distractions. When you’re distracted, you’re less likely to eat and slack off. Use that to your advantage.

Sometimes, it means going shopping or just hanging out with friends more often. It also can involve things like preparing holiday decorations and preparing gift lists. It may not always be productive, but if it keeps you from slipping into that ugly self-reinforcing cycle, then it has merit.


I hope these tips help with everyone still digesting their Thanksgiving treats. There’s a time and a place for indulgence and the holidays are definitely one of them. However, it’s for that reason that we make the time in between as productive and healthy as possible. As a result, it helps make the holidays feel more special in the end.

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