Sunday, September 5, 2010

How Does a Super-Super Obese Man Exercise?

Simple - I didn' first.

As I outlined in "Throwing Out the Standard Approach" Part 1 and Part 2 I think starting off with the full on diet and exercise onslaught at the same time dooms many weight loss efforts. I also feel it contributes to the "failure penalty" people impose after each unsuccessful attempt which leads to an upward spiral in weight and downward spiral in both physical and mental health.

Instead of focusing my efforts on two fronts I waited until I had progressed through most of my nutrition phases outlined in my Logical Dietary Goals. By that point I had lost considerable weight, had some success locked up, and actually felt like moving more.

Also as I did with nutrition I planned a phased approach to changing my physical activity level to once again avoid an overload of effort that could lead to a sense of failure (think of all those people in January who go faithfully to the gym everyday for 2-3 weeks and then when they miss just one day are so overwhelmed they stop all together). Remember this graph from my earlier posts:

I waited until the most significant dietary changes were in place before moving on - and started at a low level stepping through changes as follows:

1. Minimal Activity ----> Normal Activity

Believe it or not when your 415 pounds you really do not feel like moving any more than you have to. I used to get out of breath tying my shoes let alone the three step staircase from the garage to the house.  So my basic thought was to just start moving more. Nothing new here just a lot of good basic things you always hear recommended.

I stopped looking for the closest parking spot and walked the extra 20 yards to the store, made an effort to be the one who got up to do XYZ (let the dog out, get the mail, etc..), and took small short 5 minute walks throughout the day. Nothing strenuous, but it gave me a baseline of normal activity and feeling of accomplishment.

2. Normal Activity ---->Moderate Exercise

After a month of what I felt was normal activity I added in regular short exercise sessions of very moderate intensity. At this point I did not want anything intense so I went with one of the exercise programs for the wii and did it 3-4 times per week when I could for about a month. It was mostly body weight movements with some plyometric movements mixed in. This really got the joints moving again and gave me a nice base of activity to work from.

3. Moderate Exercise ----> Intense Exercise **I think this was a misstep now***

At this point I decided I could put the gym full of equipment I had accumulated from many previous attempts to good use. I went back to what I knew from my previous weight loss triumph (At the end of high school 15 years ago I had lost ~100 pounds on a low fat diet and body building regimen - more on that in a different post).

So I lifted weights 6 days a week for a good 3 months. By this time I had lost enough weight to actually enjoy the exercise and got a little addicted to increasing weights and/or reps every week. Eventually though the constant stress on the body left me feeling run down......I had become and exercise slave.

4. Intense Exercise ----> Moderate Primal Exercise

After reading some good material on exercise from the folks on the blog roll especially Mark Sisson's take on exercise - I decided to dial everything back. Not to go into it it here - but I came to the conclusion the body is not designed for such constant stress, periodic stress yes, but constant no. Besides what good is being fit if you are miserable??

I went from 1+ hour five nights a week to 2-3 days of no more than 20-30 minutes of excercise. I also went from using heavy weights to almost exclusively body weight exercises with some walking and sprinting interspersed throughout the week.

At first I was deathly afraid that my muscles would deflate and i would be on the road to skinny-fat within a week of giving up the weights. To my surprise I have maintained my muscle mass and continue to lose weight and now have much more flexibility and free time.

What I would have done in Hind Sight:

I really over complicated this going to the standard moderate and then high intensity excercise - if I was starting over today I would simplify it to the following:

1. Minimal Activity ----> Normal Activity
2. Normal Activity ----> Moderate Primal Excercise

Although I think I took a misstep it definitely did not hurt the weight loss - it just took quite a few hours out of my free time that I probably could have used elsewhere.

Next time I will try and combine the nutrition and physical activity steps into one brief sequence and try and add a page for those new visitors who want to what I would do today.


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