LGN 34: The Naysayers – Crabs in a Bucket

You know I like to keep it real with you.  Talk is cheap.  Chances are that you won’t change anyone’s direction or habits with words no matter how eloquent and convincing you are.

You can talk someone out of something pretty easily, though, if that something involves leaving one’s comfort zone, a leap of faith, or a lot of work/discipline.

You can very easily talk or tempt someone back into their status quo.

If you don’t have time to read all of this, here’s the point.    I can tell you from experience that a good personal trainer … well, let’s make this less abstract.

When I walked into Underground Athlete for the first time I was intimidated and embarrassed by how I looked.  During the analysis I felt awkward and demoralized by how out of shape I was.  I went in at least 30 – 40 lbs. overweight, dangerously un-flexible and ridiculously out of shape, aerobically speaking.  Justin let me do the 5 minute warm up with the class to get a taste and I was winded and a little muscle crampy just from that.

That’s what Justin had to work with.

Originally, my goal was to get down to 200 lbs. in three months and then stop the semi-private personal training and maybe take a class once a week.  Along the way, I got stronger, faster, and more flexible and I liked the way it felt.  I wasn’t shedding pounds quickly, though.  Steadily, but not quickly.  Well, not magically-quick.

The changes were slowly coming and my clothes were getting looser.  The pounds alone became less important.  I stopped focusing on that alone.  And when I saw how strong and fit other people are, I knew that poundage alone wasn’t going to cut it.  I want to live up to my physical potential, if that makes sense.  I want to see what I’m capable of and reap the benefits of getting there.

I’m still training at UA, of course.   In much better shape but with a long way to go to keep up with the fittest of the fit and get leaner in the process.  I can button the top button on my dress shirts now plus it’s just about time for me to buy smaller sized jeans and shirts — again.  And to dig into my closet to see if I can fit into those khakis I bought a few years ago.

But that isn’t what this blog entry is about…

Click here to see all of my LGN (I want to Look Good Naked) and functional strength training posts.

Crabs in a Bucket

Anywho.  As soon as you start to change your habits, people around you will become self-conscious.  I do not mean this in a nasty way at all, but the people around you are much more comfortable when you do what they’re used to seeing you do.  As soon as you start to change, it introduces stress into their lives.  Not unhealthy stress, but that gnawing feeling that things are changing around you.

Change is a stressor, especially if that change — somewhere in the back of your mind — brings your faults to light like when someone else’s self improvement makes us feel guilty, ashamed or inadequate.

So despite themselves, they’re much more comfortable if everyone keeps doing what they’re doing.  That goes for all of us.  Some are more welcoming and conducive to it.  Some aren’t.

They will say things without even realizing it that are like nails in the road beneath your treads.  (There may be a few people who are actually spiteful or resentful enough to intentionally try to keep you from improving yourself but I don’t think it’s many.  Anyone who is that toxic shouldn’t be a confidant or adviser anyway.)  Most of the time it’s people who do care about you.

It’s tricky, too, because if you’ve been on a lot of diets or fad diets and lost and re-gained weight they may have a good point in trying to talk you down from something unhealthy — the zero calorie a day diet — in favor of something actually health and more realistic (meaning, not too good to be true).  So when they see you jumping on to some new exercise program they may think you’re running off to tilt at windmills again.

This strength training and conditioning thing, however, isn’t too good to be true.  Trust me.  It’s work.  There are no magic pills.  There’s no one super effective move that’s going to make you look like a swim model.  It’s long term working on it with a good coach training you with you and your goals in mind.  It’s the real deal.

I don’t come from a strength training background either.  Nine months ago was the first time I ever joined a gym of any kind or worked out for real (except for a stint in phys ed in high school where I tried to do a maximum bench press every day).

The Conversation

The thing is, I’ve had the same conversation with variations on a theme about functional strength training, conditioning and other exercise programs like yoga with a number of people over the past few  months.  They all say they’re too out of shape to start something like that.  Or they want to lose weight first.

They want to get down to a certain weight before they start yoga or join a gym.  Sure, who wants to be the overweight person at the gym.  I was.  And still am, frankly, although much less so.  It’s embarrassing at first.  But so what.  When I die I’m sure I won’t be thinking about the fact that the coach and fellow trainees saw that I have love handles/excessive abdominal fat.  So a lot of people want to reach some kind of milestone before they train.

But they don’t, usually.  They don’t lose weight.  They don’t eat more healthily.  They just keep doing the same crap they’ve been doing.  Their reasoning becomes defense mechanism/excuse.

My family sees the amount of progress I’ve made over the past nine months training at Underground Athlete and following the recommendations/analyses Justin makes.   Every time they see me they have something to say about the weight I’ve lost or that I look great.  I always say, “So far, so good.”

This is a marked change from before when every time they saw me — I don’t know why they feel so comfortable talking about peoples’ bodies but, there you go:

“Oh, you’re putting on weight.”

“You’ve got a little gut there, mister.”

“When are you due?”

“Damn, boy.  You’re getting big!”

Now that I’m moving in the right direction, they think about changing something.  They may even make a tweak here or there.  They also have living and ailing examples of what happens if you don’t make a long term change.  An elderly relative is just shy of being bed-ridden due to being overweight and complications from inflammation/arthritis.  Another relative had an organ transplant last weekend.  Multiple cancer survivors — and deaths — in the family.

And yet when I say that my weight loss comes from limiting my carbohydrates somewhat — not eliminating but lowering — they look at me like I’m crazy.

Sitting in the hospital room at someone’s bedside, they say,  “I can’t do that.”

I slipped for a second.  I try not to be preachy or overbearing, but yesterday I slipped and said, “Yes, you can.  You better.”

I’m not saying that you can’t do it on your own.  I’m saying that you don’t have to and chances are you’ll make more progress if you don’t.  You’ll also get better and quicker results if you’re willing to invest some time and a little money.

You’ll also learn good habits, warm ups, form, and technique.  Aside from getting more fit and reaching your goals, you’re also getting an informal education.

Anyway, talk is cheap.  These are things I try to communicate to my family but they’re kind of old school.  Now with actions and photographs instead of words.  They equate sugar and starches with home, affection and love.  They equate “exercise” with boredom and being active with luxury/entitlement.

They’re wonderful, loving people but … if you tell them you walked a mile they’ll ask you why.


An immediate family member had a kidney and a liver replaced this past weekend.  He’s doing remarkably well.  I visited him yesterday and my mom was there plus an aunt or uncle.  My mother asks me what I’m doing to lose weight every time she sees me.  How much have I lost.  What kind of diet am I on.  I was telling her that the most important thing for me, diet-wise, was to limit my non-vegetable carbohydrate intake to 100g per day.  (I’ve been veering closer to 200g lately so it’s time to buckle down again and get serious.)

At that very same moment there was a knock on the door and a woman with a tray of food came in and offered some items: Lorna Doone cookies, peanut butter crackers, apple juice, orange juice, a few other items.

I was not happy.  Here, a patient who just had a kidney and liver transplanted, partially due to diabetes, recovering from surgery was offered in a hospital all refined carbohydrates/sugar.  Jesus Jones.

A few days ago, some of us were in the waiting room following the 8 to 10 hour surgery and one of my relatives — talking about the amazing recovery and recovered quality of life — said, “And he won’t have any more dietary restrictions.  He can eat whatever he wants.”

I had a sinking feeling in my gut.  Oh god no.  No, he can NOT eat anything he wants.  Please, no.  I mean, the point was that he wouldn’t have to avoid anything with phosphorous — or was it potassium — and so on, which severely limited his food choices.  But still.  I cringed to hear that sentence.

I wanted to say, “Don’t you dare.  Someone died — a 14 year old girl died — in order for him to have a new lease on life.  Don’t you dare make the mistake of allowing the mindest of mis-using or abusing this chance.”

Picking up the Pieces

My shoulder hurts.  I’m not sure what to do about that.  I can rest for a few more days.  Maybe I should.  Or maybe I should go and train hard.  I kind of like resting up, though.  I rarely have (or give myself) the time off to completely recover, whatever that means.  Then come back and hit it hard in 2012.

Anyway, I’m supposed to be out and about right now.  Just saw something that helped me bring these thoughts together.

Have a great week, friends.  America.  World.  And a Happy New Year.


Add Yours
  1. bbebop

    Gary, Happy New Year! Love the blog (as usual) and especially the focus on LGN! I’ve been working at increasing my healthiness, and have lost about 40 lbs in the last four months. I was working out at the Y and only seeing modest results until a great conversation with a trainer there. Now I’m ten pounds away from my intermediate goal weight, and then more serious fun begins. You’ve got me thinking about a personal trainer, although, like you, I’ve got some nagging pain issues that need some time (or a doctor’s intervention) to heal.

    Anyway, thanks again for the thoughtful writing, and best wishes for 2012.

    Oh, and more music! More cello!! 🙂

    • garyarthuryoung

      And to you, BillTrillion.

      I like all of those walks and photos you’re taking. I used to haunt the Dish and the cow patties. 40 lbs?! That’s more than I’ve lost. I’m jealous.

      Do the personal trainer thing. It’ll change your life. That’s my 2 cents.

      I have to admit that if it weren’t for the holiday vacations and all that I wouldn’t be taking a break, regardless of the shoulder pain. I just tell Justin (or Matt) if, after getting warmed up, it bothers me. He’ll have me do extra stretching maybe with some pressure on the spot. They’re good at coaching me through a workout without risking injury.

      So depending on where your nagging pain is and how intense it is, you may still be able to start up something. It may be what you need to correct imbalances and so on that can lead to pain?

      I should be getting massage therapy in general, but I haven’t so far.

      There’ll be some more music. Can’t say when but … I’ve got a lot of ideas for 2012.

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