Week Two: Stepping Up With a Trainer

A visit to Fresh Start Exercise and making running routine this week.

After a slow start last week, I promised myself to be more aggressive about my fitness plan this week—and lived to tell about it.

I've enjoyed running almost every day this week, with one afternoon spent on the high school track (the rubberized surface felt good but there was a lot of heat coming off the black surface).

All told, I ran a total of 98 minutes, and an estimated 5.25 miles ... yes, I know. On Monday, I just didn't quite have the juice and walked intermittently; Tuesday was worse and ended up being more walk than run. Wednesday and Thursday were good invigorating 1.5-2 mile runs.

I felt good. Added two pounds, but felt good.

Also on Wednesday, I cashed in my "Free Week" card at Fresh Start Exercise, where I encountered trainer Gary Conger. The business offers these trials for those who are either completing physical therapy programs and ready for more exercise—or haven't been working out regularly and need to start a program (that's me!).

After some negotiating, Gary got me to set a realistic goal: to lose the eight pounds added over the winter in two months. It seemed ridiculously low to me, but then I have a poorly developed sense of how much work it takes to undo the damage caused by a package of Entenmenn's cinnamon rolls.

I didn't have any this week—in fact, my snacking was limited to two oatmeal cookies—but if I can gain 2 pounds (oh, yeah, I have to lose 10 pounds now ....) when I'm running almost every day, this ain't going to be a picnic.

Thankfully, Gary (an American Council on Exercise certified trainer with a degree in exercise science) was undeterred by my ignorance. He outlined a workout for me based on the acronym SMART: with specific goals, that's measureable and attainable, relevant to my personal goals, and sets a timeframe.

OK, eight pounds (or 10 now) in two months. That's a good start.

We warmed up with five minutes on an exercise bike, celebrating my first calorie burned. At the end of the five minutes, I was warmed up, allright, sweating profusely—but I felt good. Still.

Gary recommended a series of stretches for me, several of which proved challenging. He said it's good to do stretches every day and I've followed on that advice—they really feel good and I can tell I'm a bit more limber and flexible already.

From there, we went to some weight training. Not wanting to intimidate anyone, but I hefted the 50-pound lat pull down with ease (Mr. Show-off showed me how the machine worked at 70 before I took over ...). Gary said to do three sets of 10, and I felt further stretched and invigorated afterwards.

Then, we went to Medieval torture device made by the Nautilus equipment folks, which stretches and exercises lower abdominal and gluteus muscles. Using weights attached to pads you press with your knees, the machine works muscles which people clearly do not regularly use.

Squeezing your knees together is the adduction exercise, Gary told me, and it worked muscles somewhere between my lower back and butt. He said the exercise is good for protecting hip stabilization—it's easy to feel how the muscles are helpful for that.

Next up were ab crunches, which were hurting until Gary showed me how to properly breathe—immediately, I had no problem. I was stunned at the difference.

"Learning to breathe made all the difference for me running," he said. And as a cross country runner, I figured that statement said a lot but experiencing it was mind-boggling.

He also had me do various pulls, curls and other exercises working my triceps and biceps, followed by another five minutes on the exercise bike as a cool down.

"You could call this a comprehensive, total body workout that engages all major muscle groups," Gary said.

And I could feel it: I felt I'd exercised all over but did not feel tired or sore, just energized. I really felt great.

I asked if I could come back the next day, but Gary said it's important to allow the muscles to rest so I'll wait.

"At home, I'd want you to do stretching every day, cardio four or five days per week, and two to four days for strength," he said.   

If I can always feel as good after as I did Wednesday, it's a deal. I'm sure others are like myself in that I generally have not felt very good after exercise—I enjoy running now, but for many, many years any running would leave me feeling completely drained. 

And the same for exercise: I'd do it because I know it's important but I wouldn't say I felt anything special after.

But not this routine, I really did feel good after.

I can continue working out at Fresh Start by either taking advantage of their open gym ($15 per hour or $50 for a month) or to have trainer supervision (probably a good idea for me) for just $75 a month.

"Which is amazing because you're going to pay $75 per hour at some other gyms for supervised training," Gary said.

I really enjoyed the workout and support—and gentle prodding—Gary provided at Fresh Start. The center is squarely aimed at people "tired of sedentary lifestyles" and those "battling weight issues," as a brochure notes, but more importantly they make you feel comfortable.

You don't have to worry about trying to keep up with Mr. America, but won't feel like you're not getting a good workout.


This week   Last week Weight  230  228 Time running 98 minutes  43 minutes Other exercise  1 hour workout  30 minutes with Wii Fit Snacking Low Bad news ... let's not talk about it.

Next week: I'll be visiting the Art of Strength to try out their ROPA program and kettlebells.

Here's —he's setting a goal of joining a 63-mile bike trek through Morris County. 


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