On Working Out, Running In, Gymming Up, & Gettin’ Down


This week is my second week as a paying member of a local gym. I go every weekday, following this training regimen, as written by one Christopher McAlevy (Portland lifting afficionado & Organic Human Male), and wholly approved by Christye Estes (Seattle personal trainer & nice lady):

Workout A:

  • Full Squats @ 165 lbs. (3 sets x 5 reps)
  • Dumbbell Bench Press @ 45 lbs/hand (3×5)
  • Lat Pulldowns @ 115 lbs. (3×5)
  • Run a 10-minute mile.

Workout B:

  • Deadlift @ 140 lbs. (3×5)
  • Overhead press (called the barbell military press on Fitocracy) @ 50 lbs (3×5)
  • Standing bent over Barbell rows @ 80 lbs (3×5)
  • Run a 10-minute mile.

I do this Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. The workouts alternate, so last week was ABA, this week is BAB, and so forth. Each subsequent workout adds five pounds to every lift, so the values I stated for A will be what I’m lifting on Wednesday, and the values for B are what I lifted today. Now that I’ve written them here, I’m gonna update my note on my phone with Friday’s lifts.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays I run on the treadmill according to a 5k training app, Sundays I run outside with Chris or Ezra before playing Pathfinder for the evening (remind me to write an essay on what I love about pen & paper RPGs, and why I need to start running my own game). I’m entering week six of the 8-week program, and have yet to successfully complete an uninterrupted twenty-minute run. The best I’ve accomplished so far is fifteen minutes straight before I stumbled, walked for two minutes, then ran another five. More on this, however, later.


The simple, easiest answer to this is peer pressure. I have known my entire life that I am fat and out of shape and absolutely miserable during a PE class. And despite my misery and low self-esteem and feelings of unattractiveness and constant protestations that THIS YEAR was the year I was going to do it, I never did. I was lazy (let’s be honest, I’m still pretty frickin’ lazy. Laying down is GREAT). Content to rest. It was an attitude that infected my social, professional, creative, and even, in the end, my academic philosophies as well. I was, and still am to a degree, stagnant (BTW, hoping to hear about a job interview writing for Nike. Wish me luck on that, please).

Sometime in early March of this year, however, Christopher McAlevy, Genuine Flesh Person, called me up with a proposition: “There’s a 5k coming up in July. It’s called the Electric Run. You and I are going to sign up as a team and train together, because you need exercise and I need cardio. And to make it more even, I’m going to buy a weight vest so our running weights are the same, and I’ll wear the vest during the actual 5k.” So I signed up, and I have to say that dropping $50 on this race was probably the most motivating aspect of the whole thing, at least to get me out the door and pound some pavement. If I didn’t run, that’d be fifty bucks just gone. If I do run, and I finish in 30 minutes, Chris said he’d reimburse me for half, but I’ll probably just make him buy me Far Cry.

Within a few runs, though, Chris’ disdain became a much more motivating factor—giving up would mean his disappointment. He’d become the hate-filled father I never had.

But recently, right around the start of April, I started running by myself. I started pushing myself to limits that previously I’d only been pushing myself to because other people (re: Christopher McAlevy, Who Was Born In Exactly The Same Way As The Rest Of Us) were watching. But I also noticed that while I was getting to be able to endure longer runs, running itself was not getting much easier, even with my new running shoes. Put simply: I wasn’t really losing weight, and I wasn’t really getting stronger.

Luckily, the Albertson’s near where I live went out of business some time ago, and in its gutted carcass grew a Crunch gym, which offers a basic membership for $10/month. This was basically a Godsend, because right now there’s no way I could afford other gyms’ $30/month pricetags. So I joined, and I asked Chris to write me up the strength training regimen I laid out above, with the added 1 mile a session (though I need to up that to 1.5 soon).

So why am I doing this? I was doing this for other people, but now it’s for me. I’m doing it because I look and feel better than I did last week, and I know that if I keep doing it, next week I’ll look and feel better than I did this week. I’m doing it because even through all the fat I still carry, I’m starting to be able to see muscles moving and working. I’m doing it because I’m going to Mexico at the end of May, and I’d like to feel reasonably confident while wearing just swimtrunks. I’m doing it because last week I ran a full mile for the first time in my life. In my life. I cannot express how powerful that is for me.



  • Endurance. First and foremost, endurance. I’m still champion-grade lazy, and when I go for a run, every fiber of my body, every bone in my back, and every neuron in my brain is screaming that I should stop and walk for a bit.
  • Portion Control. I haven’t spoken of it yet, but of course changes in my diet have been a major aspect of this whole ordeal. Cutting down on sugars and starches, focusing on more nutrient rich ingredients, goodbye soda and coffee, hello oats. The quietest, most impact-full change, though, has been how quickly I get full now. My stomach has noticeably shrunk. At the same time, my brain and my face think I should keep eating (I call this being “mouth-hungry”) in order to eat the same serving sizes I always have.


I’ve always been a “smile at a stranger” sort of guy, but I’ve been noticing that more and more often, I’m not the one initiating the pleasantries. People smile and nod at me more, and, most pleasantly, pretty girls are doing it too. The confidence boost this gives me is absolutely confounding, because on the one hand, that stranger over there, ever so briefly, considered my potential as a mate. As someone worth her time, attention, and love. On the other, surely everyone is worthy and deserving of love and companionship, regardless of their level of fitness. The idea that being physically fit(ter) somehow made me worth more, or more worthy, was slightly upsetting. The reconciliation I’ve settled on, inspired by this absolutely outstanding article which I need to remember to read every day of my life, is that I’m simply becoming better at displaying my worth. Sure, physical fitness doesn’t openly display that I’m funny, or a good writer, or a damn fine cook, or the fact that I know goddamned near everything there is to know about bulbasaurs, but it does show that I am willing/learning to commit to doing well at new and difficult tasks. I honestly wouldn’t be shocked if this has positive effects in my ongoing job hunt as well.

(None of this counts at the gym. No one smiles at strangers at the gym except the people who work there, and old high school classmates you run into.)

I’m stronger than I thought I was, and I do a great full squat. Did my first pull-up in years the other day as well. No real observations on that, though.


I must leave you now, as I am due in Vancouver to help a little girl learn to read, and to overcome her tendency to want to give up and walk away when things get even slightly difficult.

The thematic resonances are not lost on me.

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