Level Up: Making Do


Last week, I asked for some suggestions for what to put here, and I got one.  Dave W. mentioned that his knees are so FUBAR from military service (among other things) that he can’t do the weight room like I’m doing.  Well, he can, but he’d have to ignore his legs.  As I will point out later, that’s a bad thing.

However, I also know that Dave isn’t exactly alone in his knee problems.  While I have advised him to talk to his doctor, and I advise you to do the same if you’re in this boat, we’re going to operate on the assumptions that the official word here is that no, you can’t do squats and deadlifts, but you’re fine for exercise that doesn’t cause more problem with your knees.

So, what do you do?

First, swimming.  That is, in my opinion, the absolute best activity for someone who can’t do the weight room but is otherwise fully functional.  I’m not talking about putting on your swim trunks and horsing around in the pool while you pound a few beers either.  No, we’re talking laps here.  Back and forth, back and forth.  Yes, it sounds kind of boring, but it’s a great workout that provides both cardiovascular training as well as resistance since the water works against you.

However, pools may not be the easiest thing to get access to.  While every community has some, you have to content with people playing around at most of them, so you’ll need one that is focused on fitness swimming.  That may not shake out for you.  If not, what?

Next, I’m going to suggest spinning.

If you’re unfamiliar with spinning, it’s basically a stationary bike that has variable resistance and can really give you a great workout.  The downside is that it’s not as “total body” as swimming, but it is pretty low impact and is scalable to an insane degree.  A beginner and a ten year veteran can take the same class and both walk out exhausted from a great workout.

The downside, however, is that this tends to be in a class setting.  Yeah, you can bike all on your own, but my own experience tells me that it won’t be the same.  Part of that is the way the bikes are put together.  Spinning bikes use a weighted flywheel system that means if you stop pedaling, the pedals are going to keep going regardless like a fixed gear bike.  Plus, having someone direct you keeps you from slacking off too much, which is something a lot of us tend to do.  Another downside is that riding a bike like that takes some getting used to.  After the first couple of classes, expect to be walking like a cowboy from an old western movie.

Obviously, there are more alternatives out there, but these are the two I tend to lean toward myself.

So now, onto my own notes.

First, 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 delayed.  No big deal, but it does mean that a few things need to be framed in that context to make sense.

One example would be my mentioning my weight at 243.  That very night, however, I hopped on the scale at the gym and was 241.  That’s two lbs in a week, which is actually kind of ideal.  Slow and steady is really how you want to do this, but it’s also surprising since I haven’t really done much to change my diet.

As I mentioned last week, making too many changes at one time is a recipe for disaster, so I’m trying to take it slow in that regard.  My one change, switching regular bread for whole wheat, had been maybe a day earlier so it hadn’t had much chance to do anything.  Yet I still lost a bit.

“Yeah, but you’re working out.  You’re burning what you’re eating,” some might say.  Some might, but they’d be wrong.

People have this idea that they’re able to “work off” whatever bad things they eat, but it’s not really possible.  For example, I earlier mentioned two exercises for Dave to look at: Swimming and spinning.  However, take a look at the calories burned for each (this article does it based on a 150 lbs female doing it for 30 minutes).  Now, look at how many calories are in a Big Mac (467 calories).  You could work off one Big Mac, but what about the fries?  What about bacon, egg, and cheese biscuits (plural) for breakfast?  Take all that into account and you start to see how it’s impossible to burn off all the bad stuff we eat while on the treadmill.

And that’s why I put a pound of that back on the next week.

Diet really is about 80 percent of your body.  No amount of time in the gym will burn enough fat without the right diet.  If you’re trying to put on muscle, it’s doubly important because your body needs fuel to build muscle.  I’ll get more into building muscle later, but for now I’m going to focus on burning the blubber (such as the largish patch around my own midsection).

So, with that in mind, last week the spousal unit and I sat down and discussed the next step over pizza.  Yeah, yeah, don’t judge me.  Anyways, it’s going to be the last pizza for a while.  The decision we reached is pretty straight forward, and it may be useful for many of you.

One of our worst eating habits is not really having anything to fix in a hurry, so we order out.  Pizza and Chinese food being two of our biggest weaknesses.

I’m the cook in the family, mostly because I love to cook and I’m pretty good at it.  Unfortunately, I get caught up in stuff and drop the ball.  So, our plan is for me to cook a lot more when I do cook and focus on leftovers for the days I’m busy writing stuff.  It’s a lot easier to throw some chicken breasts in the microwave to reheat than to thaw, prep, and cook the exact same thing on a daily basis.  If you’re one of those people who thinks there are health dangers associated with the microwave, then just reheat in the oven like people did for decades before the nuke box was as common as it is today.

The idea is to eat the kind of stuff we usually eat when we cook at home, but because don’t really eat that bad when I cook, we’ll be eating a lot more healthy with a minimal change.

I’ll let you know how it works.

In the meantime, let me know if you have an questions and I’ll see what I can do about answering them.

10 comments on “Level Up: Making Do

  1. Tom, one place to look for resources on fixing things (soft tissue) is MobilityWOD.com. It’s primarily targeted at CrossFit folks, but the guy has a doctorate in physical therapy, and knows of whence he speaks. I don’t know that it’d necessarily help Dave W, as long-term joint abuse like that experienced in the military can simply grind away many of the body’s mechanisms for cushioning bones, but it’s also unlikely to hurt, and could make things *feel* better, at the least.


    • Awesome. I hope Dave will be alone soon to comment. 😀


      • Thanks Tom, I greatly appreciate it! I’m booking an appointment with my orthopedic doctor to get my knee looked over. Hopefully he’ll have some good news. Totally agree on the diet, too. I’ve gone from a high weight of 265 to my current 240-245 from cutting out regular soda for diet and pretty much all junk food. I’ve never tried spinning, but I think my gym might offer classes. I’ll look into it.

        Also, I wish the cause of my knee issues was something as honorable as military service, but mine were just from high school football and bad genetics. Sorry I didn’t make that clear.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. […] Last week, I ran my first column on fitness over at Otherwhere Gazette.  Well, it’s a weekly thing, which means it’s today. […]


  3. Ok, so I’ve gained back 140 of the 130 pounds I lost at one point (nope that’s not a typo) so I don’t look like I have a whole lot of room to talk here, BUT…

    Something you might want to go over at some point in the future is healthy foods that are not good for weight loss. Things like orange juice (which has a lot of nutrients in it but has the same amount of calories ounce for ounce as Mountain Dew) or raisins (again with lots of nutrients but has the same amount of calories ounce for ounce as M+Ms.) are not necessarily all that great if you’re trying to lose weight. Some people refuse to believe that but it’s true. That ‘s just a pet peeve, but it might make a good column when you can’t think of anything one day.


    • Yep, that’s a very good point. Even so-called “healthy” food can be too much if it’s the wrong stuff. It’s all about the calories, and while most healthy foods are really hard to overeat, there are a few things that are.

      It was actually on the agenda down the road, so don’t worry.


  4. We’ve been doing the overcooking-and-freezing for ages here; it really is awesome. Particularly ’cause the food tends to taste better than takeout. 🙂 (We tend to focus on soups, stews, and chowders for easy storage–they stack really well when you just put single-serving portions in Ziploc bags.)


    • I try to steer clear of things like that primarily because of how difficult it can be to keep hold of your macronutrient levels (more on that in next week’s column), but that’s a personal thing.

      For the vast majority of people, that kind of thing is ideal because it keeps healthy food close at hand. By making your own soups, stews, and chowders, you keep a lot of the crap out of it that comes in the canned version.


  5. […] (after my column was already put to bed over at Otherwhere Gazette), I read this interesting piece on io9, which is a place that I don’t normally go.  […]


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