Over the last few months, I’ve discovered something that is distinctly non-Lewisian about me. I actually enjoy exercising. Let me tell you how this odd turn of events came about.

Last summer, I was pretty far overweight. I still am, actually, but it was quite a lot worse back then. I was a bit over 200 pounds and I’m only 5’11” with a pretty thin frame. At the time, Steph had heard from a friend of hers about a diet called Atkins. I didn’t want to go there at first, but a point came where I got sick of my jeans not fitting comfortably, and I knew nothing but true decisive action was going to fix it (Note to self: try not to make Richard Simmons cry) so I decided to go on the diet, and Steph did too.

And what do you know, it worked! I lost about 8 pounds in the first month, but I wanted it to go faster (as I do with almost everything) and Steph and a few others (including Dr. Atkins probably, but I never read the book. I just kept asking Steph questions) suggested I try exercise. This created a problem, because I’m Josh Lewis, and Josh Lewis doesn’t exercise. I’ve never exercised ever except when I was a part of a sports team, which was a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. On the other hand, our apartment had a little gym thing which was free to use, and the gym had… get ready for it… television. And as you know, television has The Simpsons, and other things that make me feel like I’m not exercising. So I decided that TV was my Novocain, and that I would allow that to help me deny reality while I pumped the pedals on that oval-step thingy they had in there.

The fact that I brought my iPod with me was great, and sometimes I would read Zeldman’s book as I exercised too, so it was a lot of fun. I would go for 30 or even 50 minutes at a time. I felt tired and healthy when I was done. And I wound up doing that three or four times a week for three months. I got down below 170 when all was said and done, and frankly, I’m sure Atkins had a lot to do with it, but the exercise was probably the part that truly made it work. So now I’m not afraid of exercise anymore.

Well, I didn’t stay quite as low as I was when I left the Atkins diet of course (and technically I’m not doing it right because you’re never actually supposed to completely stop), although I’m nowhere near as high as I used to be. Since quitting the diet I’ve come to the realization that while I can diet if I really want to, I’m not sure that dieting is something that is overall beneficial to me. Dieting affects my attitude negatively and everything. It’s horrible. Exercise, on the other hand, makes me really happy, and it has the same effect as dieting if it’s done correctly, so… why would I diet?

I don’t mean to say that I’m going to eat everything in sight constantly and never control what goes in my mouth. Let’s not quibble over what a healthy meal plan looks like, and start whipping out our food pyramids. I’m just giving a bit of advice to those who want to lose weight and are sick of all the diets and the gimmicks they may have tried. Dieting may show some results, but no one can deny themselves of something they love (especially when it’s literally for the rest of their lives) and unfortunately that’s what it takes for a diet to work. So skip it. Get a bike. Join a club. Start sweating. It won’t kill you.*

Two weeks ago I went out and bought a cheap Schwinn and I’ve got a 4.4-mile route near my house that I ride now a few times each week. It’s in traffic and everything, so I have to be careful and wear my helmet, but it’s a good time with the ol’ iPod and the road. I see road-kill up close at 14 mph, and there’s a killer hill near the end that goes up (at a 12% grade according to the sign) for quite awhile and makes my legs feel like they’re on fire. The other day as I approached it and rode up (in the very lowest gear my bike offers, panting all the way) Daft Punk’s Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger was randomly selected on my iPod. That made it bearable.

Let’s hear your exercise stories!

* OK, actually it might. Talk to your doctor.

8 thoughts on “Exorcise

  1. Well, I have somewhat the opposite problem that you do. I’ve struggled to top the 165lb plateau on my 6’4″ body and it simply hasn’t happened. Worse, I’ve been running now and again….maybe 20 miles a month in 4-5 mile increments. I aslo bike a lot now that it’s summer. All that does is it makes me hungry, incredibly hungry. So I’ve tried to do the anti-Aitkins diet, large plates of pasta, rice, potatoes, that sort of thing. I simply cannot eat enough to gain weight–or I’m not really trying hard enough.

  2. Like a million bucks I tell ya!!! Boy howdy, gang!

    Just so everyone knows, the misspelling of “exercise” in the title was purposeful. I just felt like I had to acknowledge that.

    Jeremy, I’ve got a great solution for you: exercise less and eat more junk food! Bingo, more fat. The question is, are you really that far below 15% body fat? I mean, that’s something for only you to know, but if you’re hovering somewhere around that spot, you’re in no danger. It’s when you’re as low as I was senior year of high school (7%) that health people try to put you on a weight gain plan. 🙂

  3. Josh, it’s dangerous for women to be below 15% BFC; they might start missing their period and stuff. But for men, it isn’t really questionable until it goes below 4%. When I was at UWSP I was at about 4% and was still considered very healthy.

    Jeremy, don’t listen to Josh. There are weight gain products that you can take. I wouldn’t suggest them because if you use them and don’t exorcise then it really does turn to fat. You’ve probably heard this, but keep eating lotsa carbs, but instead of doing so much cardio work, try to lift weights more using heavy weights and short reps. The best is to use the pyramid workout (something like 15-10-5-3-1-3-5-10-15, gradually increasing the weight so you can just make the number of reps on the pyramid). Also, if you drink too much water you could be flushing your system of the carbs before they have a chance to develop into muscle (or fat). It still is important to do the cardio, but then, yeah, you’ll have to make up the calories you lose when you eat. I’m no professional trainer, but I’ve had enough experience that these are the safest answers to gaining weight.

    Right now I am probably in the worst shape of my life. It bothers me a little, but I know that this summer will bring it back as I am choreographing a piece in which I’ll be dancing as well. I jump-roped yeasterday and where I used to be able to go crazy at it for an hour I now could hardly make ten minutes without stopping. It usually comes back fast, but it’s a solid reminder of how much time I’ve spent on my butt. On the same note, I’ve noticed (and maybe it’s my body’s way of adapting) that my butt has gotten thicker, which makes for more comfortable sitting, but less comfortable fitting into size 30/30 slacks.

    One more thing, Josh. Sweating makes me happy too! When I haven’t broken a sweat for two weeks I feel it emotionally. It’s God’s little reward for not sitting on our duffs. It can seem perpetual at times, but it also can be boring. That’s why I love dance so much; it feeds my physical, emotional, and spiritual healths. But Josh, if you guys move back I would love to go biking with you. That’s one form of exercise I don’t tire of.

  4. You don’t tire of that form of exercise? Was that on purpose? Either way, sweet pun.

    Man, I didn’t think anyone would actually consider listening to my “advice” in my first comment. No, I don’t recommend just eating junk food. Geez, I’m no doctor, but I’m not a moron either.

    Oh, and the body fat percentage I was quoting earlier was only for men. There are good figures on the web (Figures? Ha!) that confirm what I think most people already know: women’s body fat percentage is supposed to be higher than men’s. By about 7%, actually.

    It looks like my senior year 7% measurement was right on the border of the low end. So I guess I know now that I shouldn’t ever try to go below 155 (because my actual frame hasn’t grown since then).

    Well, this has been educational! 🙂

  5. Oh! My story next!

    Okay, so back in the day I was what some might call “chunky.” It never really bothered me because I just figured it was how I was because my diet wasn’t all that bad, but I didn’t really enjoy exercise. Well, that’s not necessarily true. I did enjoy exercising, I just lacked the motivation to actually go out and do it. My max weight was probably around 185 lb., but I was probably around 5’5” at that time.

    So, as the tumultuous days of puberty came and went, my figure unofficially changed from “chunky” to “unfit.” Last year I decided that I wasn’t listening to enough good music so I charged up my iPod and hopped on the bicycle and took the trail around a lake near my house, about a 6 mile trip. Soon I started doing two laps of the lake, and then three, and I could keep a pace of 15-20 mph the entire time. Then I started using the exercise bike in our home more often. One day, my dad asked if I’d like to join him for a session with a personal trainer at our local fitness center. After lifting weights, I felt a huge increase (temporary due to blood saturation, but whatever) in my muscle size, so I added weight lifting to my repertoire. Then my family bought a treadmill for our basement. I remembered the days when I struggled to run a mile, so I made a new running goal to be able to run a mile under 6:00 easily. After I met that goal, I went to running 3 miles, then 5 at a time. Now I run a little over 5 miles every-other day, and I lift weights on the days in between. Well, with all this exercise, I went from a 185 pound 5’5” kid to a bit under 160 lb. at 6’2”, which was too skinny. I added a ton of protein to my diet and about 10 lb. of muscle grew as a result.

    My diet: don’t eat fried foods often, only eat dessert for dessert. FOr anyone who wants to get in shape, I recommend exercise. It’s hard to get into your “exercise groove,” but once you do you’ll be happy you added the activity to your life.

    Now I’m trying to cope with the fact that I may not have time to exercise nearly as much when I start college next year.

  6. JL–great to hear you are getting in shape and biking and all! One bit of advice, though–don’t bring your iPod when biking on the streets! Given how many cars ignore bikers, you need to be able to hear and see to ride safely! BTW, if you ever want to feel pain, come ride with me to Pixar someday. It’s a 16 mile ride each way, and my morning route is 10 miles uphill, and the ride home has about 8 miles uphill. Lots of fun 🙂

  7. I have a dieting story very similar to yours, Josh. Shortly after the end of my sophomore year at Bethel, my weight got up near 280 lbs. For those who don’t know me, that’s not as bad as if Josh or Jeremy got up that high. I have a much larger frame than either of them, and built up significant muscle mass in high school. BMI scales have shown me as morbidly obese even when I was in the best shape of my life, but a more accurate measurement through electrodes attached to my toes showed that my ideal weight is probably somewhere in the 215 – 225 range. At any rate, I was very overweight at 280. I started the Atkins program and lost weight very rapidly. I was soon in the mid-upper 250s, but plateaued. Then I started to exercise.

    I had refrained from exercise up to that point in part because my weight made exercise difficult. Also because for some reason I don’t like people to know I’m exercising, so I waited until my parents went away for a month. I got on the NordicTrack, at first struggling to finish 15-20 min, but soon working my way up to an hour a day. I kept that up until I injured my knee playing softball, but managed to get in sporadic exercise, including a 150-mile bike-a-thon, until school started again. At my lowest weight, I think I was a little under 230, but held my weight in the 235-240 range throughout the school year.

    I guess I got a little discouraged that only one person outside my family ever commented on my weight loss, despite the fact that my parents didn’t recognize me at first when I picked them up at the airport (I get a little self-conscious about things like that sometimes), and I slowly let my weight get back up again, though not quite as high.

    I’m similarly not too gung-ho about any type of dieting. I’m all about eating just about anything as long as you’re getting nutrients and eating in more-or-less moderation. The key is definitely exercise. Exercise and not living with your parents. Two keys. Exercise and not living with your parents; not living with your parents, and exercise, and nice red uniforms. Oops. Got a little Pythonish there. I don’t think I’ve ever gained weight when living away from my parents, and I’ve had a hard time losing or keeping steady while living with them. But I’ve never seen it go up so drastically as when exercise got cut out of my life. Even the exercise of walking to and from classes helped keep it in check.

    What were we talking about again? Exercise stories? Yeah, I think I’m going to get on the bike again. One of the more enjoyable forms of exercise for me. And now that I’m done traveling for a while, I think I’ll have some time.

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