Atrophy is a Helluva Place to Start

Whenever I get frustrated along this crazy winding journey of mine I have resources at my fingertips that help me recalibrate and regain my motivation. It’s easy to find visuals such as “before” pictures but it’s the memory that fails in most cases. I do have a tremendous long-term memory yet my short-term memory can best be described as “CRS” or “Can’t Remember Shit.”

I have written on my occasions what my childhood was like from sports and play perspectives. From an early age it was play all day – basketball, baseball, football, street hockey, Frisbee, cops and robbers, you name it, we played it.

In the military, physical fitness was a requirement. That’s a relative thing since I was in the Navy. We weren’t Marines. But I played basketball, softball, tennis and flag football. I bowled. I was physically active. I did smoke a pack of cigarettes a day, but I was still very active. I got out of the Navy in 1997 at age 27 and pretty much stopped any and all “exercise.” I’d shoot hoops in the driveway once in a while but here was no running, there was no weight lifting. After I moved to Columbus, Ohio, in 1998, I think I played tennis twice.

I moved to California in 2000 and I don’t think I started any kind of exercise until 2007 or so. I may have weighed about 185 pounds at the time. I lifted weights and used a nautilus machine maybe three days a week. I had no program and I didn’t follow any diet.

There were no more teams to suit up for, there were no more practices, no more calisthenics, no more pick up games – no nothing.

My point? I have spent the last two years eating right and exercising to not only lose weight but to get in shape, and to get fit. I have documented this journey and my memory of it is pretty fresh. What doesn’t register is that from age 27-43 I really didn’t do a whole helluva lot when it comes to exercise.


medical : gradual loss of muscle or flesh usually because of disease or lack of use

That’s Merriam-Webster’s definition.

“Lack of use” is the operative phrase here. I know people who have achieved more success faster than yours truly. They either have a better physique or can run faster or run further or lift heavier weight. That region of my brain that houses my memory, that data warehouse, the repository of my experiences all of sudden loses connectivity with the time-space continuum and I don’t process that 16-year gap of relative inactivity. I have often opined, whined even, that I don’t understand where I am supposed to be when it comes to progress and my physique. And then it hits me like an anvil dropped on Wile E. Coyote from a 250-foot cliff. I am not trying to undo a couple of years of avarice and gluttony. I am trying to undo the better part of two decades of pure, unadulterated laziness. After spending nearly 30 years as tear-ass through the neighborhood kid, an athletic high school student, and an intramural sports playing sailor, I became a lazy, sedentary sloth who decided that exercise for the sake of exercise was stupid. This was fine until my metabolism betrayed me.

So, as I continue to try to improve my physique I have to avoid fitness envy. I need to learn to measure my progress and do for me and not worry about what others have done or can do. I am currently off the running regimen due to a calf strain and a hamstring pull so I have been hitting the weights four days a week. I’ll do Shortcut to Shred again as soon as I feel I’m up to it. I think, since I am down to my goal weight or so, that this six-day a week, six-week program will produce some very visual results this time.

The bottom line is there is a very real disconnect between what my mind believes and what my body actually is. I still think that I am still that 21-year-old who should be able to do this or that without thinking much of it. No, I am a 45-year-old who has to think about avoiding a stick from about a quarter-mile out. I still have the agility of a dead cat.

I know you folks were wondering why you haven’t seen any running updates – clearly the blog comments and Facebook posts have told me how concerned you were…wait, what? Just messing folks. I’ll be running again soon but since I’ve managed to get down to this weight I won’t obsess about it so much. I think I’m done losing weight, now I just need to carve it up.

I read something interesting lately. You can only make a muscle bigger or smaller, you can’t get “cut.” The definition you seek comes from losing fat. I think my muscles are made of fat and I also think they’re still covered in fat. That’s the next mission – to uncover these muscles and show them off.

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