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Leave it to a woman to push your limits

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POSTED March 8, 2009 5:54 a.m.
I still remember the day 14 years ago when instructor Susan Stricker walked over to me in the middle of a group exercise class at In Shape.

We were using weights in the step class. She told me I could do more than what I was doing and took the 8-pound weights out of my hands and replaced them with a pair of 15 pound weights. There was about 40 minutes to go. It started hurting after just a few minutes. Strike that. It was killing me. My bursitis in my shoulder was about to finish me off with pain. No matter what, though, I wasn’t about to admit there was anything wrong. After all, there was one other guy in her class plus two dozen or so women. If he could do 15 pounds in each hand, so could I.

I finished the class but swore I’d never do anything heavier than 8 pounds ever again.

Eventually over the years I worked my way up to 15 pounds in class but used mostly 8 pounds. I even bought free weights and a bench to use at home on a semi-regular basis. Except for leg lifts, I never went beyond 8 pounds at home.

My rationale was simple. My genetic make-up is such that I could take steroids and never develop muscle definition or more strength. Besides, I was quite happy with aerobics complemented by some free weights.

I should also mention I avoided push-ups like the plague.

Then something insane happened. I met Margy.

She substituted in the 6 a.m. class for Angel who, without a doubt, is still my favorite aerobics instructor. It’s nothing to do with the fact Angel’s named a move after me – a double grape vine. I say that because she’s the reason why I’ve spent the good part of the last 10 years getting up after three hours of sleep to hit a 6 a.m. group exercise class. She’s got a great disposition, she mixes things up without being dance-y, she encourages without being pushy and she plays music I can sing to. Forget rap crap and the new junk. Just give me that old-fashioned rock and roll.

Margy did what she calls boot camp. It was a workout and a half.

She is why I started hitting the 9:30 a.m. classes. I’ll pass on the 6 a.m. class if I get off work much past 2 a.m. I used to just jog instead but I figured I’d try Margy’s 9:30 a.m. class. That’s when I met the likes of other instructors such as Jennie and got reacquainted with Laurie who had substituted for Angel previously.

To make a long story short, I’m now using a 24-pound bar, using primarily 15 pound weights and adding a number of new high impact moves plus push-ups to my weekly fitness repertoire.

I’ve actually developed more upper body strength and have wiped out the last traces of the infamous love handles as well as have the makings of a two-pack.

Leave it to a woman to push your limits.

The point I’m making is simple. It is never too late to transform yourself.

I never thought I’d ever weigh 168 pounds. It didn’t really bother me too much as I was quite happy to be at 195 pounds after spending a good chunk of my life between 240 and 300 pounds. About 20 months ago I changed my diet to put a greater emphasis on fresh fruits, nuts, and veggies while dropping my 1,800 calorie a day junk habit that included a bag of king sized plain M&Ms. I felt smug being able to staying around 195 pounds for years while eating empty calories thanks to my daily commitment to aerobic exercises.

I literally lost 40 percent of my weight going from 320 to 192 pounds at age 30.

Prior to turning 30, I got winded just climbing stairs. I’ve spent the last 22 years bicycling across mountain passes, hiking deserts and places like Mt. Whitney, doing high impact aerobics, and jogging.

I’ve now been at 168 pounds for 15 months.

I was able to do that at age 51.

Now, as I close in on 53, I’ m actually developing more upper body strength.

There is no magic pill. It’s a lifestyle commitment that requires watching what you eat and exercising. There are no “ifs, ands or buts.”

You are never too old to start. It won’t happen overnight. You can reverse the way things are.
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