One Guy's Way To Get In Shape

How I'm getting healthier without spending a penny

A few months before I turned forty, I was looking at a photo that I had recently taken.

Though I was never the thin body type and was always a big person, I was a bit taken back at what I saw: I sported quite the big belly and looked like the black Santa Claus.

It was then that I decided, once and for all, that I had to do something; not just about my weight, but more importantly about my health. I decided to make a commitment to dropping the excess weight and becoming healthier.

Especially since the last time I had a checkup, the scale said that I weighed over 330 pounds.

I knew that the forties were the time when people who were obese and made bad choices - smoking, having fast food as a main staple of a diet, and clicking the TV remote being one's primary form of exercise - started to get diseases, heart trouble, and die.

Since I had no desire to become a statistic, I decided to create a personal health / fitness program for me, without any scantily clad, overly perky, type-A fitness trainers in tight spandex overseeing me or spending a gazillion dollars at Bally's - no Denise Austins for me, thanks.

The first concern I looked at was my cardio fitness level. To address it, I started to do the old fashioned thing: Jogging.

I first started to run to my nearest bus stop, which was not even a quarter of a mile away, but hey, you've got to start somewhere, right?

I didn't want to take off like Usain Bolt, the Jamaican gold medalist, and sprint a mile right away only to collapse on the ground out of breath and hyperventilating, and I didn't want it to seem like a chore; that's why I never stuck with any exercising in the past. And that's why I started small.

After a while, I increased my running to the local library, which was roughly a half-mile away from my house. Then I continued to increase my distances until I reached about a mile, which is where I'm currently at.

I don't run every day, just three or four times a week. As I've said, the last thing I want is for my exercising to be a chore, so I make sure I include off days.

So far it's worked out pretty well; my stamina has gotten better and I don't feel like collapsing in excruciating pain, so I must be doing something right.

As for my stomach, which is probably my main area of concern, I went with doing abdominal crunches, different types that work the lower and upper abs, plus the obliques.

I started off with around 200 crunches three times a week, then I increased to 300, then 500, which is where I'm at now. It takes about ten minutes to handle my business there, and as everyone knows, it helps to flatten the belly and for me, to not look so much like Fat Albert.

Weights and strength training? Unlike those overly muscle-bound (and likely steroid-addicted)men in those magazines, I set aside one day to take care of that, usually during the middle of the week. I go to a nautilus machine in my housing complex and hit all the muscles; biceps, triceps, pecs, shoulders, back, and legs. It takes about 30 minutes and is a good way to stay strong without overdoing it.

The best thing about all of this? It costs absolutely nothing.

My most challenging aspect in this self-improvement thing is food and my choices of such.

I don't do anything radical, and I'm definitely not a vegetarian or a vegan, nor do I have any desire to be one - my apologies to Paul McCartney and Pamela Anderson.

But I do make an effort to make healthier choices as to what I take into my mouth. For instance, I officially gave up eating at the major fast food chains like McDonalds and Burger King nearly four years ago. The meat I intake is roughly 90 percent poultry and tuna, with poultry being my number one choice - I love chicken in all forms (except fried). And eating turkey is the reason why Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays.

Red meat and pork are dead last on my list, especially pork, which is the worst for you among meats. The only time pork is on my menu is when I have pepperoni and sausage pizza, and that's a fairly rare thing for me.

And I'm not afraid or ashamed to admit it - I've broken down and have had cookies and potato chips once in a while, and continue to do so. Unlike in the past, however, when I'd buy and eat them all at once, I usually choose one or the other.

This shows that I am not quite the health nut; you won't see me on those early morning ESPN fitness shows or consuming stuff like tofu and wheat germ mush. But at least I am doing something.

And it has paid off so far; I've noticed that my clothes have been fitting looser, and I have had more energy.

I am not trying to be a preacher or push my views on anyone. Choosing to become more fit and healthy is a choice only that person can make. But...

All I'm saying is if you want to at least try to insure that you'll live past forty-five, then doing something to upgrade your fitness levels is perhaps not such a bad idea.

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