Linux, musical road-dogging, and daily life by Paul W. Frields
Man on a mission.

Man on a mission.

Kevin Smith and I are a lot alike: both thirty-seven-year-old fathers of small children, and who love movies, pizza, beer, DVDs, and basically all things sedentary. Each of us has a family history of diabetes and yet, inexplicably, we’ve both managed to avoid facing the awful truth that we’re killing ourselves with food. We also share an eerie connection to Jennifer Garner, in that Kevin has worked with her and I’ve watched her many times on TV, but I digress.

Kevin wrote today in his blog that he was trying to make a big lifestyle change to win his personal war against overeating. What I liked about it is that it wasn’t some sappy crybaby story about how he had a sad childhood; or his uncle touched his naughty parts once; or he had ended up stranded at age seven under a bridge with his only friend Corky the Coconut Cream Pie, and they had to resort to cannibalism (nsfw) to survive that long, awful winter. No, Kevin told it straight, with all the self-effacement and vulgarity I’ve come to love from his writing over the years.

He, like me, frankly just hates physical activity, unless it’s in some way related to getting laid.

I’m not sure why anymore, but I’ve always played little mind games with myself about the obvious situation of my flabby fatso-ness staring me in the face when I look in the mirror every morning. I’d say to myself, “I can start exercising after the winter’s over, and it gets warm enough outside to start taking walks.” Or, “Losing weight would make a great resolution the year I turn 28/30/35/senile.” Or, “When’s my 30-year high school reunion again?” Even the lamest excuse or flimsiest timetable somehow can seem sane and rational when you’ve reached a certain pinnacle of laziness, and high atop Poky Peak, in my Fortress of Slothitude, the air is thin indeed, and certain pieces of the brain shut down out of self-preservation, like the part that tells you that you’re full of crap.

But finally, this past November, something in me snapped, when I finally realized I wasn’t getting any younger, the gray hairs were starting to multiply, and I found I had gained 10 pounds in just the last year. In short, my excuses were killing me. So I got off my ass and started an exercise program of sorts; it’s not perfect, but it’s a start. Three times a week, usually Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I get up at 5:15 in the morning and hit the elliptical machine in the basement that I’d been avoiding looking at for the last two years or so. (I have a penchant for buying very slightly used gym equipment and then storing it in my basement as a sort of long, drawn-out appraisal process, before I ultimately give it away to charity.)

When I first got on the machine, I could barely do four minutes before I thought I was going to simply up and effing die. I was sweating like I had just done the world’s heaviest tractor pull with my teeth. But I told myself the experiment was a success, because I had exercised for four whole minutes and lived to tell the tale, and that I would hit the machine again in two days’ time.

Day two, I made myself do six minutes without stopping. It was really difficult, but I thought, “Hell, I didn’t die after four minutes, what’s another two? Buck up, be a man!” I sort of faced off against myself a little, like a double-dog dare from when I was seven years old. And against all odds, it worked. Again, I didn’t die. And again, I went back, and pushed the time a little further. Day three, eight minutes; day four, ten. New Years weekend set me back a little thanks to the almost constant inebriation; lesson learned, just as one does not drive while intoxicated, one should also not ellipticize. But in the following week I worked myself back up to the previous limit and passed it the following week.

I’ve kept up this process through this very morning, when I did 25 minutes without stopping, and for the very first time the first thing I thought when I got done was not, “Oh God, smite me now so I need not feel this pain again.” Instead, I actually felt I could have kept going for another 10 or 15 minutes without dying. At this point, I am starting to consider moving my wakeup time back, so I can push my time past the 30-minute mark sooner rather than later. Now, 25 minutes is not a lot for healthy folks (i.e. the type of person whom I could normally consume in one sitdown meal), but for someone with a pretty severe weight problem, it’s a pretty big mark to have passed.

I’m keeping my heart rate up around where it should be for almost all that time — it doesn’t take long to get there, believe me — so I know it’s the right intensity. And to stay at that intensity, I’ve actually had to start going somewhat faster over the last month, and with a little stronger tension on the machine too. Plus, it has one of those neat digital LCD thingies, and the “calories burnt” numbers keep rising with the timer, so I know I’m making progress.

What I don’t do is weigh myself every exercise day. About once a month I check my progress, and the great thing about doing that is that my progress seems steady and I don’t sweat the little dips and bumps in the downward curve. And so far, I’ve lost at least 12 pounds. That’s, like, a whole small ham, although I like to think of it as a ham-shaped piece of lipo-fat that didn’t cost me $12,000 to have sucked out of my body forcibly by someone with shaky medical credentials and a side business making fancy soap.

I’ve cut down, maybe not drastically but certainly “substantially,” on rice, pasta, and bread. I eat fewer sweets overall, and during the day I drink only water or — if I have to have a soda — diet sodas. I don’t hover by the secretary’s desk at work when she has goodies out, because when I see them, I remind myself that every extra piece of candy is another 6 or 10 minutes on the exercise machine. Remember how I hate exercise? So now I’m cleverly using my bad tendencies against themselves, so if I can only figure out a way to harness my dictatorial grammar policing habits, world domination is seriously within my grasp.

I’m going to try and roll out Phase Two by spring, in which I start pumping some serious iron, and by “serious,” I mean, the miniscule amount of iron that I can actually lift while grunting loudly. My eventual goal is to beat my wife at arm-wrestling, although I expect the road to victory will be long, arduous, and paved with a lot of shame, and arm soreness.

The main reason for me to stick with this is not necessarily the same one Kevin gave, although I have to admit it’s a nice side benefit. No, for me, it has everything to do with my family. Eleya and I have two beautiful kids, whom we love more than anything, and who never fail to surprise us daily by becoming these amazing little people. I know it’s going to be quite a long time before they marry and have kids of their own, and I’d like to make sure I stick around long enough to make both their lives a complete living hell when they do.


  1. Eric

    Bravo, Paul. I’m gonna join you just as soon as we complete our move to Dallas. It’s been pretty much impossible to try to eat right with so many people having us over (or taking us out) for dinner in our last weeks in Richmond!

    But I know I’m playing diabetes roulette and need to get straight. And not just for the reunion!

  2. Paul – I get that your kids like movies, pizza and DVDs, but beer?

    Eric – that Lebanese food was pretty healthy, I think.

    I have been training for the Ukrops 10K (race date 3/31). Running 5Ks at this point, about 3-4 times a week. Feeling OK, except wondering why it’s been slower getting to 10K than I thought it would be. Hmmm… could it be the extra 40 lbs I’m lugging around over this time 2 years ago? 😉

    Actually, I’ve already dropped about 10, but this is just the result of burining 750 calories a workout and eating better, which for me is: 1, cutting out the refined carbs and 2, doing thusly with alcohol.

  3. Meant to say congrats as well. You’ve really taken the hardest step already. I mean that with all sincerity.

    Something Darya sold me on was joining our local YMCA. They have free (well, included) childcare at certain hours (5-8p), so we can go as a family and have at it. Ava has a good time interacting with people other than Mommy and Daddy, Mommy generally takes a class, be it Pilates or Aerobics, and Daddy runs and cycles. Something I agree with Darya on is the notion of building a tradition of exercise / having fun physically in the family. She grew up that way. I did not, largely. I did stuff on my own, but not as a family.

  4. For me, exercise is much less odious if I can do it in solitude. But E. exercises at the local Y and enjoys it a lot. I was up this very morning and doing my routine. 🙂

  5. i am going to have to back off. it would seem the extra 40 i am carrying is not jiving with my right hip. gotsta drop the L Bs before raising the M P Hs.

    coach Larry is helping me find some good cardio workouts while laying off the hip.


  6. Running is pretty hard on joints that have gained a few years and a few pounds. You might want to try elliptical, swimming, or biking. I find that elliptical is very easy on my joints so that I’m really working muscle as much as possible. I’m sure there are other things that would work well, but since I have that machine in my basement I’m not driven to discover them.

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