As I mentioned in my Welcome Post, I’ve lost a fair amount of weight in the past. I’ve always been husky to fat growing up, but when I was 21, I lost a 30 or 40 pounds over around a year to 18 months, getting down to an adulthood low of around 185 – 190 pounds and kept it off for about 3 years. I lost a similar amount in a similar time frame about 7 years ago. But this time the old exercise program I was using plus improved eating wasn’t working quite as well.
The Old Program
My first gym was a Bally Fitness, and the initial program they gave after filling in my goal questionnaire was 20 minutes on a stationary bike and a sequence of weight machines doing two sets of 10 reps each. (After a few months of watching the new joiners each Monday I realized they gave the same prescription to every new joiner regardless of goals. I’ve since been a member of 8 other gyms since that first one, in two different countries, and they pretty much all give the same program).
I quickly moved up to 40 minutes on the bike and added a couple of extra machines. Finally the bike’s inefficiency (in terms of calories/hour) broke my will (I still can’t stand the stationary bike) and I switched to 40 minutes on the stair master, doing a skyscraper or so per session. I went to the gym 4 or 5 times a week back then, doing Sat/Sun and then alternating between Mon/Wed/Fri and Tue/Thu schedule during the week. It was pretty effective, but required a significant time sink, which was OK when I was 21, living with my parents and took any excuse to get out of the house for a while. I lost a fair amount of weight, was in good cardio shape and had pretty good muscles, though I still needed to lose a few more pounds overall and convert some more weight from fat to muscle.
Then I got lazy, work got busy and a girlfriend came along, all things that ate into my free time. In addition, my I had a Halloween where no kids came trick-or-treating, so I ate a lot of leftover candy. It was the beginning of the first slide.
Ten years later, living in a different country, I lost around 30 to 35 pounds using a very similar fitness regime. I was married now (the girlfriend), but no kids and work had a fantastic gym right in the building who also provided clothes (other than socks, underwear and shoes) and towels. My job at that point was flexible enough that I could skip regular lunchtime, and workout when I wanted at off-peak hours of 10 AM or 3 PM, which meant I could be very effective with my time and do everything I wanted in 60 minutes. I aimed to go every week day, so that when random work crisis came showed up, it was no big deal. I managed to get down there 3 – 4 times a week, and supplemented the time with some hikes around the city we lived in on the weekends. We went on our Australian hiking vacation and had a fantastic time.
A few months after that, I was transferred back home, got a promotion, bought a house, changed companies, and had crazy project after crazy project. I was also diagnosed with an incurable (though treatable) health issue, which has probably been with me all my life, and probably contributes to my struggle with weight to some degree. Also, we had a baby girl. Between work, sleep deprivation and dealing with treatment, my weight ballooned up to its highest ever, where the scale was no longer accurate.
After some false starts, a Planet Fitness opened up near me. For $10 a month how could you go wrong, since most other gyms in the area multiples of that. Planet Fitness is a no frills gym, but it offered me everything I needed to do the same program that worked for me in the past.
After around 18 months (including a fair few set backs due to illness, work related travel and serious snowfall), I’d lost some weight and was doing better, but the progress was glacial compared to the past. Little progress after the initial weight loss. Part of it is probably age, but a big factor seemed to be time – or lack of it. My old program worked when I could workout 4-5 times a week, I was averaging 3-4. I also was not factoring in the lifelong consequences of my medical condition. I needed something that would work over the long haul with the ups and downs of life.
I stumbled across an interesting article about what fitness instructors at most gyms tell you. So based on some additional reading I decided to radically modify my program.
I am going for increased muscle mass to increase my at rest metabolism, even when sitting at my desk at work. I don’t want to be a body builder look tho so I am aiming for tighter musculature for now.
The New Program
The current program therefore works at performing 4 sets of 4-6 reps at a near max weight with a two-minute rest break between sets. After the weights, I do 30 minutes + cool down on the elliptical.
|Seated Leg Press
|Assisted Chin Up
||80 of assist (less is more here)
|All images photographed off Lifefitness equipment with all rights remaining with them.
In about two months of using this program, I’ve definitely seen some solid improvement to both my weight and muscle tone. However, I’m still going to wait a few months before declaring success, since any change-up to your fitness regime usually leads to some quick initial gains.
I also realize I am not getting a total body muscle workout with this setup. I am not hitting the mid-section at all, and I am not hitting all the muscles in the other areas. I am time limited though, and this workout takes 90 minutes assuming no extra long waits for machines. It’s as much as I can do. And the machines I chose represent the most efficient combo I could come up with for hitting as many muscles as possible with only 6 machines and limited lines for machines. It also hits some of my weak areas (legs and back). When I do get down to a good weight, I will change it up to include more weights and less elliptical and start rotating body areas over different days and perhaps switch to free weights (not many at PF tho).
One of the big improvements is that I am sticking more the fat burn cycle on the elliptical by doing it last, since I’m tired. I used to slip a lot into cardio when I did first since I sometimes was still buzzing with energy at the beginning of the session. The down side to doing this over a pure weight loss regime is that I am fighting against myself on my goal. Muscle building instead of pure fat burn will slow my progress on the total weight loss front, but will be beneficial overall.