I went home very irritated, “What is my problem?”. I have had street fights with some pretty tough boys and come out victorious, yet this guy totally took me apart. I must be too slow. It must be because I’m too heavy and just can’t move fast enough. I had to admit that my weight was really irrational. Why should a 5’7” guy weigh as much as a 7” tall basketball player. I looked at myself in the mirror and thought, “Your going to get killed in the ring you big old cow.
So I decided I had better start running more often and cutting weight dramatically. I organized a regime of running 2.5 miles 3 times a week and doing cardio kickboxing to drop the weight. I was 272 when I weighed myself at the start of this program. I calculated that if I lost 8 pounds per month I should be more than able to meet a goal of 200 pounds when I fight.
My business life had caused long stressful hours with little time for exercise. I had tried to maintain fitness through a home treadmill and my regular Karate classes. The stressful nature of my career and the sedentary posture in which I had to carry it out were like fat magnets. I really didn’t eat a lot, only about 2000 calories per day. My diet wasn’t as good as it should have been and I drank too much pop.
I hadn’t ran consecutively since my early 20’s. My first run was a disaster. I ran about 1 mile and had to walk. My chest felt like it would explode and my legs were wondering what the emergency was. I walked about a quarter mile and ran another ½ mile and walked the rest of the way. I convinced myself that it was ok to start slow. My legs agreed and my lungs squeaked in that I shouldn’t bite off too much or I might expire.
I went to my first cardio kickboxing class. I was so tired halfway through the class, my arms were shaking, my legs were numb and my head was pounding. I was beginning to get the point, “Hey Fat-Ass, your totally out of shape.” As I soaked in the tub, I couldn’t lift the soap to wash. I was doing my best to console my legs that they would be able to walk again in a day or so. My arms were glad I wasn’t going to use them for several days again.
The next few weeks were a pain filled, mind stretching, aggregate of one failure after another. If it wasn’t that I was so pissed off that I couldn’t do the work, I don’t think I could have kept going. My shoulders hurt, my knees hurt. Most of all my male ego hurt. I had to go to the physical therapist for my shoulders because they were so swollen I could hardly lift my arms. I had shots of cortisone in each to take the swelling down. My frame was just not designed to bench press 270 pounds on a daily basis.
Moving that weight around was way too much for my body, “The rebellious joker”. My body liked to play tricks with me like weighing more after a workout than I did before I started. Or losing 10 pounds over a week and gaining back 5 on the weekend. Or my favorite, lets crave ice cream and keep me up all night thinking about it.
After several weeks of running, I was finally able run the whole 2.5 miles with considerable mental effort on my behalf. Half way round the lake, my body would be screaming, “Quit torturing me you senseless bastard!” I ignored my inner child and kept pushing. I could finally get through a cardio kickboxing workout without totally dying. I say totally, because the little skinny girls in the class were outpacing me on a regular basis. I couldn’t keep up with the count.
I had lost 10 pounds in 4 weeks. Not bad, but if I was going to fight in 1 year, I would need to do better than that. I started to diet as well and cut out all my soda, chips, fried chicken and candy bars. Yes, I was a candy bar junkie, but they were just the short ones that you get in the big bags. You know, about an inch and a half long. They only have 35 calories each.
Well I only had a couple a day. Well, ok I had 5 or 6 a day. That’s only about, 210 calories a day. That won’t hurt you? It’s not as bad as the three Pepsi’s I had every day. They had 450 calories.
Yea, I know what your thinking, “No wonder your so fat, dumb-ass.”
And yes, your right, by cutting all that junk out, I cut an additional 20 pounds. I was now 240 pounds and feeling much better. If I could lose 1 pound per week, I could make weight at 190 pounds in a year. I just needed to keep working.
Life has a funny way of intervening in my most secret strategies. Thanksgiving, Christmas and a new baby thwarted my best laid plans. After the holidays I still weighed 240 even though I was still running. What was I doing wrong. I was running almost daily and still not losing any weight. I was counting calories like some mad scientist measuring his love potion and I didn’t eat more than 2200 calories a day. Then unexpectedly, not like we didn’t know it was coming, just that he came sooner than expected, our third son was born. Along with severe complications for my wife, who we almost lost. My son was premature and weighed less than 4 pounds. He couldn’t breath on his own and had to be fed with a tube for several weeks. I was sleeping at the hospital on a coach and eating hospital food, which is really not that bad. What was bad, was the stress. I was under intense stress trying to manage my wife, my career, my two other sons and trying to stay in shape. Well, my priorities rearranged and my running came in last. Four weeks later, my son came home from intensive care at 5 pounds and I came home at 255 pounds. Perhaps I was the one having the baby?
I was almost back to square one. Now I had to add less sleep at night and less time to my schedule. Cain and I had been working out sporadically. I say working out, but I was really just getting beat up. Broken nose, black eye’s and sore muscles. I kept going to grappling class on Wednesday night hoping to gain some secrets of the sages that would save me from assured destruction. I resumed my running schedule with much protesting from my legs. The running was very difficult, but not as difficult as grappling for 3 minutes. I had to stop repeatedly to catch my breath. It wasn’t my lungs so much as my head saying, “Hey stupid I’m losing brain cells here”.
Shane Simpson, my Karate instructor was still unsure if I was serious about this getting in the ring thing. But to his credit, he introduced me to Jeremy Saunders. Jeremy is a recognized fighter in the area with a belt in his division for the state title. Jeremy came in and agreed to do a class for me on Monday’s at 3:00 for an hour. I knew I needed more fight specific training. Jeremy was gracious enough to come in and train me.
My first workout with Jeremy was memorable. I’m sure when we were done, Jeremy was saying, “what the hell”, I mean “heck”, Jeremy would never say hell; “What the heck am I going to do with this guy.” I was a real project case. I don’t know if Jeremy had ever seen a worse performance. I was completely exhausted in about 15 minutes. I couldn’t grapple to save my life, in fact I’m sure if I had to grapple to save my life at that point, I would have been better just to let the assailant shoot me in the forehead so they don’t have to waste the time killing me slowly. I could only spar for about 3 minutes without puking and my speed on the bag was almost as fast as my two year old.
Jeremy probably thought he could get away, but I called him every Monday morning to ensure he remembered I was going to be there. He thought up ingenious ways to punish me for doing so. His greatest punishment was plyometric jumping. He had me use a set of mats which was about 1.5 feet off the floor. He had me do my first set of 10, which was really 30 jumps, I think he had some problems with math? Anyway, about 3, really 9, jumps into the set I was beginning to think I really didn’t like this. By number 7, really 21, I knew absolutely that I hated this. As I fell on my ass for the 12th time and Jeremy kept counting the same number until I did it right, I knew he was upset about the phone calls. When we started the second set, I was trying to jump with one hand on my knee to push off and Jeremy kept counting, “One”, “One”. I really think he has an issue with math. As I fell on the floor in a puddle of sweat, exhaustion and pain, he looked over me and said come on, the body can do it, it’s the mind that’s weak. I know how you feel, I had to do this too. I was thinking, “you were a fat out of shape slob too?” I felt a little energized. I say a little, because the energy it took to get excited was just too much for me at that point. I couldn’t smile without cutting off my air supply and passing out so I just panted and gasped and I guess that conveyed my general acceptance of his wise words.
As we trained, he upped the ante each workout. I was becoming aware that just once a week wasn’t good enough. I needed more time. I started coming in on Wednesday’s as well and just doing the cardio and plyometric workouts on my own. I was beginning to notice a difference. I was still just as tired, but I could do more of each item each time. I was starting to feel some gain in my capability. My weight had come back down to 235 and I could run the 2.5 miles with less complaining from my legs. My lungs however were a different story. Why was I having such a hard time breathing all the time. I felt as if my chest would explode all the time. I went to the doctor to see if I had asthma or was missing a lung or something. The doctor assured me all my parts were in the right place, he wasn’t so sure about my brain after he found out what I was training for, but everything else was correct. The doctor told me that I had borderline hypertension. What the hell does that mean. Borderline? I didn’t have asthma, just high blood pressure and a lot of blubber. He gave me some wise words which I promptly ignored, he said, “Jay, your 35 years old, its ok to be 35, perhaps you should try something less strenuous.” I said, “Hey I’m only 35 once I better get the most out of it”. He wasn’t sure about my logic, but the argument was academic at best. Then he said, “Ok if your going to do this, lose weight and cut out any high cholesterol foods”. What the hell did he think I was doing? So much for medical assurance. I figured if I would die from asphyxiation, it is better to do so at 225 pounds so that I don’t need a forklift for my coffin.
It was now March and I was going to try and fight in the summer. I had a long way to go still. I had to lose 3 pounds per week to meet my goal. I didn’t know how to do it. It had taken me almost 6 months to lose the initial 40 pounds. 6 months of denial and punishment, heartache and pain. Maybe I was just too old, too fat and too lazy to do this? Maybe my glory days are over and I should just wheel, forklift included, my fat ass into oblivion and relegate my ambitions to less strenuous activity like Playstation.
Jeremy snapped me out of my funk with a suggestion to start running with me. I thought that would be great. I needed a running partner who could keep me going. Running by yourself is no fun. Except in the summer when all the college girls are out running in those spandex running tops. Then conversation just gets in the way. Of course those college girls were giggling over my fat ass trying to get up the hills and the sweat drenched sweat suit I was wearing. Was it that my sweat suit was too out of style? No I’m sure it was the panting, grunting and look of near death on my face they found funny.
So, Jeremy and I started running. The first few weeks were great. Not too hard and not too intense. We would do some stairs at the end, but not too bad. Then one day at the foot of the largest hill on the lake, about 200 feet of 8% grade, Jeremy stopped. I thought he had tripped or something. Then he said, “Ok, so what your going to do is carry me up that hill.” I laughed. He didn’t.
About half way up the hill, I began to feel faint. I wasn’t sure if I could make it. No wait, I was sure I couldn’t make it. I couldn’t breath. My footsteps got slower and slower as we went. I was sure I was going to pass out. Jeremy kept saying in my ear, “the body can do it, the mind is weak.” We reached the top and I started puking. Luckily I hadn’t eaten in the last few hours so I just got dry heaves. I say fortunately because anyone who has spent 2 minutes with the dry heaves thinks they would better off if they had some dynamite strapped to their back and could suicide bomb themselves. After Jeremy got done laughing at me, on the inside of course. I’m sure he was, because I know I must have looked hilarious because he kept trying to run away. He slyly covered it up by saying keep going come on you can do it. I don’t know, but whatever it was, it wasn’t working. I eventually got myself sorted out and did this sort of half run. Like some old man scuffing along the street on a very cold day after he had been out drinking all night long and his prostate was blocking his bladder.
Jeremy said we would do that until I could get up the hill without puking and keep going. I was thinking, “Plyometrics were hard, but this Sucks!”
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