Since getting married this year, I’ve resolved to improve my overall fitness. Years of walking, running and basketball have allowed my legs to be decent in terms of stamina, but my upper body is another story. I still remember the days when I couldn’t complete one complete pushup in high school. A lot has changed since then, but I still have a lot to improve on.
One of my mental challenges to improving physical strength is that I enjoy cardiovascular activity a lot. When I used to go to the gym, I would use the treadmill more than anything else. But in recent years, I’ve become disenfranchised with running in one spot. The superior method is to run outdoors, but Beijing pollution doesn’t always allow for that.
I also read something that said building muscle is much more effective for fat burning than pure cardio. Tearing down and recovering muscle allows the body to be a lean, mean fat-burning machine. And there are diminishing returns with pure cardio up to a certain point. The body tends to break down more than fat after one hits the post-one-hour mark in cardio exercise.
The other thing that I’ve been mightily aware of — due to my penchant for self-reflection and mental growth/mindset regimes — is that when it comes to anything in life, doing the same thing repeatedly can be suboptimal. Developing good habits is one thing, but I had been going to the gym on my own and not seen much tangible improvement. There had to be a better way because I was plateauing.
That’s when I decided, six weeks ago, to purchase personal training classes from my company gym. It has the convenience of being at the office, which is a huge benefit. I can time open time slots during the afternoon to go, and I get to receive professional instruction from someone who knows his shit. In just a few short weeks, I’ve seen some noticeable improvement. It is exciting and motivating.
The trainer I have right now is great at making me do exercises I don’t want to do, but are ultimately good for me. I hate abdominal exercises and many forms of lifting. I also tend to stop lifting when I’m tired. But having a trainer unlocks the excuses I give myself. He encourages me to do an extra set of reps, or go a little heavier on the free-form weights. He also recommends a lot of exercises that I can do at home. I can’t say that I’ve been disciplined to do those self-exercises daily, but it’s been good to have that knowledge when I’m on the road.
When I say improvement, I can feel it on a practical level. The other day, I ran 10K in as effortlessly a session as I had in over five years. I didn’t even build up to it — I just decided to run 5K. When 5K was done, I realized that I had extra gas left in the tank and doubled it. Basically, I am finding myself in better overall condition to do those kinds of serendipitous things. That, and doing sets of burpees in the gym must have helped.
When it comes to full-court basketball, getting up and down the court has been easier. My legs don’t tire as easily. The improved upper body strength helps a bit when it comes to boxing out opponents and standing my ground. The only caveat is that my jump shot is incredibly inconsistent right now, but that’s something I need to work on through shooting drills and scrimmages. I just don’t get enough consistent basketball runs, but once I do, I should be good to go.
I have the type of personality that looks on the negative side. There are still a lot of things — such as eating the right foods — that I’m terrible at, but knowing is half the battle. It is reassuring to know that at 35 years of age, I still feel the same way physically as I did 5 years ago. Fitness truly is a life process, and the key is to develop good habits that will mentally and physically sustain for a long period.
I hope that by reading this, you’ll be motivated to start your own fitness journey. It’s never too late.