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After 40 years, My Four Phases of Fitness

What follows are the ebbs and flows of my workout history over the past 40 years. I’ve tried to maintain some kind of consistency over the long haul, but in reality my workouts have been a series of starts and stops over the decades. There are four distinct time periods to date, and I hope that this last phase will have me consistently hitting the gym and eating right for a long time to come.

The Early Years

I’m going to define this as the period from junior high to college. Growing up, I was highly active in sports, and I was a workout machine all the way through college. There was a time when I was working out twice a day, forcing my growing body to new levels of physical achievement. I was in the single digits of body fat and ate whatever I wanted. In fact, the struggle often involved trying to maintain or increase my weight.

The downside to those years: my training intensity was causing me to burn out. I was in the best shape of my life, but I was also training at an unsustainable level. It was easy to get the necessary physical activity as sports were part of my childhood, built into my day by my parents. College was more of the same. I even attended college on a swimming scholarship and my class schedule was again built around my training needs. It was easy to train because I wasn’t required to sit behind a desk for 50 hours a week. But after years of grinding workouts, I simply wanted to give my body some rest.

Entering the Working World

After college I got a job. I was initially hitting the gym around four times a week, a welcome relief after the high intensity world of college sports. My body responded well, and I was able to maintain this regime for a few years, but I eventually succumbed to a several-year period of limited to non-existent workouts. The reason for this was simple: I was chained to a desk for 50 hours a week. I know plenty of people who were able to balance work and fitness in their early careers; however, I was not one of them.

The way I looked at it, trying to advance my career was more important than working out. I thought this was the responsible, adult-thing to do. After all, no one at work cared about how much I could lift or how far or how fast I could run. My physical abilities were basically worthless at the office. It was far easier to just go to work and then go home. Fitness could wait, I had TV to watch and an internet to surf! Somehow, I even managed to get married during this time period. It was the typical go to work, get married and save to buy a house thing. Notice that fitness was nowhere to be found in the stereotypical American dream.

The Fit Middle Manager

After years of working in corporate America and wading a sea of seemingly endless cubicles, things started to get much more routine. I was quite settled into my daily rituals and work was moving into cruise control. That new-job feeling had definitely worn thin, and it was just a natural progression to being an experienced employee. I was grateful to my employers and bosses, but I felt like something was missing from my life. I longed for the adventures from my childhood, and I realized that I missed the regimen of working out from my youth.

Because I had grown up doing so much physical activity, returning to fitness gave me a semblance of my youth back. Lifting weights, running and swimming was something I could do that gave me a sense of balance; it felt good to sweat again and my gains were solely controlled by my own actions. The changes in my body were easily correlated to things that I could control: diet and exercise. I didn’t have to attend endless meetings or submit pointless TPS reports to get results. Fitness had returned for me, that is, until the next big life change.

Becoming a Dad

Nothing in life prepared me for becoming a father. My son is the most important thing in my life. His well-being and safety consume my waking thoughts and there truly is nothing more enjoyable to me than being a father. The role of being a dad is also incredibly time-consuming. I would think that almost all parents of small children find it somewhat difficult to maintain proper fitness and nutrition during the first couple of years of parenthood.

I was no exception. Working out and my own needs became secondary to taking care of my son. I couldn’t find time to hit the gym when I was getting by on four hours of sleep and using any free time I had to give my wife a break from the 24-hour job of being a mom. Fitness went out the window. As he got older, I found that there was more time to tend to my physical well-being, which is the current state of my affairs.

I’m an older parent and I want to be around for both my wife and our children. To keep up with a young family, I’ve found fitness to be critical to staving off ailments like high blood. Fitness is more to me than just trying to look good, it’s also about living a higher quality of life for a longer period of time.

Looking Back

I would summarize this post at a reminder to everyone that fitness doesn’t have to be something that you continually progress at through all stages of your life. Most people will have periods of inactivity and horrible eating habits. There is nothing more motivating to me than seeing someone who is obviously just getting back into the gym in a quest to attain those ever-elusive gains. Life will continue to get in the way, and I look forward to meeting life’s challenges with a healthier lifestyle, even if there are times where I struggle to stand from lifting one of life’s burdens.

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