Level Up: The beginning

LevelUpGeeks are stereotyped.  We’re either scrawny or fat, but never the kind to be mistaken for for the captain of the football team.  The phrase “in shape” probably isn’t a term used to describe most of us. Like most other stereotypes, however, it’s not always close to accurate.  For example, the buff Vin Diesel has been vocal about his love for Dungeons & Dragons.  You don’t get more geeky than that.

However, a lot of us fit the stereotype.  I know I do, and I know a lot of you do as well.  So, the question is, “What do we do now?”

This is the first Level Up column, a new feature here at Otherwhere Gazette, where I’m going to outline my own journey toward fitness as well as things I’ve learned along the way.  First, a bit about me.  I’m a writer here at Otherwhere Gazette and at my own website, as well as having a couple of books out.  Physical transformations are central themes in one of my novels, and a novelette that kicks off that series, and part of that is because I’m realistic enough to know that people built like me are going to have problems.  I’m not just talking about problems from society either, but actual health problems.  Just because they’re not here now doesn’t mean they won’t be.

This is me:

Yep. Notice that slope of the gut?

No, I’m not going to post a shirtless photo because I like my readers too much to inflict that level of horror upon them.  However, it’s clear that I’m not a svelte model of geekdom by any stretch of the imagination.

Currently, I’m 5’8″ and weigh 243 lbs.  It does not look good on a short package like me.

A couple of weeks ago, I started this journey.  It was kind of simple for me.  I asked my father-in-law for some help.  He was a long time competitive bodybuilder and a charter member of our local weightlifting hall of fame.  He’s also been sought out by members of the local gym seeking to make some good gains because he knows a thing or two.

Luckily, he agreed.  It’s still early, so no massive changes just yet, but between what I’ve learned from him, what I’ve learned on my own here at the start, and elsewhere on the internet, I’ve got enough to start with.

1. Do not starve yourself before gym time

I did the opposite, so this is the voice of my own experience.  I didn’t mean to starve myself, but I just didn’t eat before hitting the gym.  Then, I did a kick-ass workout and started feeling a little lightheaded, so I sat down on a piece of equipment to get my bearings.

The next thing I knew, I was on the ground looking up at a number of folks.  I’d passed out, slammed my head against the piece of equipment, opening up a nice gash above my left eye, then fell back and slammed the back of my head against a cross piece on it.

The gash wasn’t too bad, and a couple of bananas took care of the blood sugar crash, but the concussion screwed me up for a couple of days.  Not a good way to start off a journey, so learn from my mistake.

2. Don’t make massive changes all at once.

Like a lot of folks, I’m guilty of walking through the house, tossing everything that’s not good for me, then grinding away at the gym…

…only to have it all fall apart.  However, goofing off yesterday, I came across this article on bodybuilding.com (and that site is about more than just packing on meat for competitions, lemme tell ya!) about how to tell if your transformation attempts are going to fail.

This year, commit to less. Make small changes you know you can manage without clawing your eyes out. Rather than cutting out all processed foods, start by cooking one or two more meals per week at home, and making healthier choices when you eat out. Rather than overselling yourself on six days a week in the gym, aim for three days or three 30-minute walks a week.

Find the sweet spot of intensity—both in the gym and out—and you’ll see changes more quickly—and more consistently—than with an extreme approach. Your journey is your own, but I want to help you sustain it for a lifetime!

While many of the other things they use in that article are things I steer clear of, this is my worst sin.  I know it, and now you know it.  So, as a result, I’m going to take a step back and just let it flow a bit.  That’s why right now, it’s all about the gym.

The truth is, the gym doesn’t really do all that much to burn fat.  Most of that comes from diet, but my goals aren’t just about losing the fat.  My overall goal is to finish a 5K in under 20 minutes, then be able to walk right up to a bench and do a set with my body weight for reps.  That means lots of exercise.

Now, that’s not to say that the diet isn’t changing.  I’ve already swapped out regular bread with whole wheat, a staple of weight loss plans for decades now.  It’s a small change, and that’s by design.

3. It’s OK for this to be about you

I’m going to do something that’s not generally accepted in today’s society.  I’m going to give you permission to be selfish.  When it comes to something like this, it’s just fine to do it all for you.

This is especially true for the ladies.  In the past few months, I’ve encountered multiple people trying to tell women that they shouldn’t pursue their goals.  The most recent was just yesterday with a friend who is preparing for a figure competition in Alabama next month who was told that she was getting too “big” and looked too manly.  She doesn’t.

Another was a woman who has lost a lot of weight who showed a photo of where she wants to be before it’s all said and done.  Now, someone tried to point out that it might not be realistic to compare herself to another woman (and they were right), others tried to tell her to not bother.

The truth is, someone transforming can bring out the haters.  Big time.  Sometimes it’s jealousy.  They’re upset that you have done what they haven’t.  Sometimes, it’s just people flapping their gums about stuff they don’t understand.  Either way, don’t let them get to you.


So, that’s the close of the first column.  I want to ask you all what you want to see out of this column, so chime in down below and let me know.

25 comments on “Level Up: The beginning

  1. I’ll add something. When the Victorians (or was it the Romans?) talked about “Mens sana in corpore sano” they weren’t wrong. All sorts of mental health issues are improved if not cured by regular exercise. Just a little every day (or a little more every other day – which I would recommend) is all you need. And it doesn’t take long for that little more every other day to become rather a lot more than what you could do when you started.

    Also a rousing “Hear Hear!” on the “It’s OK for this to be about you” bit. I’m a runner (and cyclist) and I see lots of people who get to the finish line in races and take twice as long (or more) as I do to get there. So what? they are better than the sluggards who didn’t get up at all. The achievement is you finishing that race (lifting those weights, running not walking up that hill, actually climbing that mountain etc.), it doesn’t matter what the rest of the world thinks. Non-athletes may mock you, but no athlete I know of mocks those who a slower/weaker… we all know and respect you for doing the best you could. And probably we’ll give you well meant, if perhaps not terribly useful, about how to improve. It’s well meant advice because we’d like yo to succeed too. It’s not terribly useful because everyone is different so what works for us may not work for you

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m a gym rat. I love lifting, and I will admit that there is some mocking that goes on, but never of the guy who is just starting because he’s not where others are. Like you guys, we offer advice.

      Friday I was in the gym doing cardio. Just a few feet away was this really skinny guy lifting. He wasn’t lifting much, but he was lifting. The next piece of equipment he needed was being used by a pretty big guy. The big guy started chatting with him, offered to jump off of the piece for a few minutes while the skinny guy did his set. He was encouraging to a guy he’d never met…just like we all should be to people who are new to whatever activities we’re involved in.

      I used to be a runner, but never did the cycling thing. Glad to know those folks do the same thing. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  2. […] obesity epidemic in this country as well as Fandom, why not start a fitness column?  He agreed, so Level Up was […]


  3. Working on muscles will probably help you get into shape better anyways, and it’s more of a reward than just “the number of the scale may go down.”

    I really miss the orbital runner our apartment complex had– perfect for stress relief, low impact, and I could listen to music.


  4. I’m going to read this with interest because I want and need to get in better shape too. I have some physical issues holding me back (knee, foot, hand, etc), but I have to figure out a way around them. I used to lift weights a lot before these developed, but it’s gotten a lot harder. Managed to lose about 25 lbs through being careful with what I eat, but I need to exercise to get any farther. I’m 5’11” & currently 240-245.


    • How bad is your knee? Is it “walking is painful,” or “not going to do enough running to make it worth it”?

      If walking and/or swimming is fine, an elliptical on a low setting might work; my husband tried it because I raved about it so much, and it was helping his knees (…military, doesn’t EVERYONE have bad knees?) before we had to move.


      • Swimming is one of the best all-around workouts you’re going to find, provided you have a place to do it. Low-impact, resistance, cardio, just about everything you could want in an exercise.

        As for lifting, talk to your doctor. Resistance training has been used to actually help painful joints at times, so it’s worth it to at least talk to him/her and find out what they advise. If you’re a little heavy, I can promise you that they’ll want you exercising and will have suggestions.


      • “Travelling kneecap, & the backside of the kneecap looks like kingcrab shell” was how my orthopedic surgeon described it. Can’t lift weights, run or do stairs with it, or it’ll inflate in short order afterwards. (I can only run in emergencies, for that matter) So no more squats or deadlifts, which is a shame. No elliptical, it’s too much like stairs.

        I can use an exercise bike or a walking speed treadmill. Swimming is probably okay too.


  5. “The truth is, someone transforming can bring out the haters. Big time. Sometimes it’s jealousy. They’re upset that you have done what they haven’t. Sometimes, it’s just people flapping their gums about stuff they don’t understand. Either way, don’t let them get to you.”

    Now that you mention it, You-Know-Who will probably find his way here, oozing his usual trollish hatred. He might especially hate this one, considering his physical limitations.


  6. I am *so* much the person who tries to do everything at once and ends up nowhere. ;-P So I’ll be watching this, too!

    Some of the times I’ve been happiest–separate from weight or shape, but literally when I performed mentally best in my daily life–was when I was doing half an hour of dancing video game every morning. Tends to fall victim to 5-more-minutes after a few weeks, though. -_- But I’m so much *happier* when I do it….

    So I think that’ll be my “small thing to start”. 🙂


  7. […] it’s actually been two weeks since my last entry was written.  Quirks on the editing side delayed it a bit more than it was originally intended to be […]


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