So the annoying January rush is over at my gym, but I still hate the place. After 9 long years, the four walls of my YMCA are starting to close in on me....
I spend a lot of time at the gym, which I fear immediately gives the impression I look like (or aspire to look like) a bodybuilder type. Complete with fake tan, fake nails and oiled-up physique. Which is far from the truth. I sweat like some kind of farm animal.
I work out for about 75 minutes a day, five days a week. And man, it's boring. But essential.
I used to weigh a lot more than I do now, about 80 pounds more. A sensible diet and exercise helped me shed that weight, but several years ago I hit a plateau, weight-wise, and here I stay. The trouble is, just staying at roughly this weight (ie not regaining any of the lost weight) has become steadily harder over the years.
I used to be able to run/jog outside until about eight years ago. Before then, I could stand the foot pain, even bear the knee pain, but when my back began to give me a lot of trouble, I cut out the running and switched to the workouts in the gym. Stairmaster for a while, and in recent years, the EFX cardio machine. It gives a kind of cross-country ski-style of exercise, and one can adjust the tension to make it harder, as well as adjust the angle, to imitate hills.
Besides switching around my cardio, I've tried to vary my regime in other ways to fight boredom and trick my body into working harder.
Three years ago, I signed on with a personal trainer for about 20 sessions and focused heavily on weight-training. Not heavy weights, but about 45 minutes of machines and light weights three times a week, with some cardio to begin and on rest days. It was fun for a while; I enjoyed seeing a lot of new muscle tone. But the trouble was, as soon as I began to cut back on my cardio workout (because there just isn't time for everything) I began to gain fat. I had expected to weigh more while weight training, because muscle does weigh more than fat. However, I was getting a roll around my waist -- and it wasn't a roll of muscle!
So, I gradually replaced some of the weight training with good ol' cardio. When I turned 45 two years ago, I noticed that 45 minutes of cardio four times a week wasn't enough to keep the weight down, so I bumped it up to 60 minutes a session. Less time for weight training, but I never really enjoyed weights anyway.
Last year, after 46, I noticed at even 60 minutes four times a week wasn't quite cutting it. Unless I was absolutely rigid about counting calories (which I tend to be, anyway) weight was creeping up. So a year ago, I upped the effort to 75 minutes of cardio, five days a week. No more time for weights after that. I also started carrying my I-pod, newspapers or magazines, earplugs -- everything I could think of to help keep my amused and working out!
I haven't lost any weight, but I haven't gained any either. But the four walls of the Y are closing in, so I'm thinking I need to change a bit. Perhaps I might try cutting back just a bit on the cardio and adding a bit of weigh-training back into the regime.
I'm not entirely sold on the theory that muscle burns significantly more calories, even at rest, than fat can burn. That's the conventional wisdom that convinces a lot of women to go heavily into weight training. I have no doubt that muscle does burn some more calories than fat; I'm just not sure that a recreational weight lifter can actually build enough extra muscle to really boost her metabolism by a significant amount.
That said, I'm bored stiff. Maybe I should change gyms, but I like the type of people at the Y. Lots of middle-aged folks like me, so they're not too annoying. Not many serious weight-lifters, and it's not really a pickup joint, where people pose and no one wants to sweat.
Or, maybe I just need some new music on the I-pod and instead of reading Report on Business, take something fun like Vogue. Just to keep me going until spring comes!