Yup, I Actually Did It: I Went to the Gym Yesterday

Yesterday afternoon, I did something I haven’t done in about 15 years: I went to the gym and worked out. Why? It was time (well, if I’m honest with myself, it was past time). I’m 6 foot 2 inches – when I stopped gaining height in high school I was about 160 pounds. When I finished college I was about 185 pounds, and stayed there for a few years. In my mid 20s though I started to gain weight through the typical combination of getting less exercise, eating a bit worse, and the slower metabolism of getting older. In high school and college you get some exercise from carrying heavy books from one class to another. When you’re self-employed and sitting on your butt all day in a home office, the most exercise you tend to get is moving from the office to the fridge and back again. When I hit 200 pounds I thought “Wow, this isn’t good”, but I didn’t do of anything much about it.

Sure, there were attempts at altering my diet, eliminating sugar, eliminating carbs (I did the Atkins diet), etc. I tried dieting alongside Ashley off and on for a couple of years, but nothing really stuck (due to my own lack of self control) and I continued to shift between 200 and 220 pounds (I think at my heaviest I was up to 225). A couple of years ago Ashley starting going to the gym, and I saw something interesting happen. There wasn’t much change at first, but when she started working with a personal trainer, she toned up, lost some weight, and looks a lot like one of those women you see on the cover of Oxygen Magazine (though I keep asking her not to work out so much that she gets arms bigger than mine! ;-)).

But back to me…for the past year or so I’ve been stuck at 215 pounds and that’s at least 30 pounds heavier than I should be. I’ve tried to control my diet, but I love food too much! So when you can’t live on lettuce and rice crackers (calorie input), you need to work on the other end of the equation (calorie output) and burn calories the old fashioned way: working hard. I’m still going to tighten up my eating patterns, mostly by eliminating sugar wherever possible, but it’s gym time.

Yesterday I spent about an hour in the gym, mostly working on my cardio – because without cardio, you’ve got nothing. How bad is my cardio? If I go from our bonus room (2nd floor of our house) down to my basement and back up again, I’ll be panting and it will take a good five minutes for my heart rate to go down to normal. That’s…pathetic. So, not surprisingly, my cardio was pretty bad at the gym. I did 10 minutes on the treadmill, then five minutes on a stationary bike, then another 15 minutes on the treadmill. The treadmill had measurements for my heart rate, which felt like it was going to explode out of my chest at certain moments, but it was kept between 160 and 185 for all of my cardio workout. I then did some work on the weight machines, mostly getting motion in muscles that don’t get worked very often.

Tomorrow morning I head back to the gym – I’m going to go three times a week for the first two weeks, then try to ramp up to going every week day like Ashley does. I’m writing this to act as an encouragement to others who might be in the same boat as me, and also to make a commitment (in public) to getting in shape over the next few months. My short term goal is to make it down to 200 pounds by the time we leave for our vacation to Japan, which is the third week of March. It should be do-able…I just need to do it!

  • http://filips.net Filip Norrgård

    Hey, hey! Glad to see that I’m not the only one taking up more exercising this year! :)

    Don’t trust those built-in heart rate monitors at the gym too much since I have seen multiple monitors that showed spontaneous spikes to 200 bpm at times. No, I didn’t feel like I was having a heart attack, and my heart rate wasn’t even close to 200… :D

    It might be a good idea to buy some personal heart rate monitor sports-watch from Polar or Suunto (I’m sure there are more than those two) for keeping more accurate tabs on the heart rate and maybe even analyze the exercise data at the home computer. (Ok, now that is nerdy but quite fun.) Just make sure that they have a separate heart monitor belt that connects wirelessly to the HR watch since other methods are usually more inaccurate.

    I’ve started taking up speed walking more recently, taking Nokia’s Sports Tracker with me for satisfying that nerdy side of me. ;) It is great to go out for a walk, put on some great tunes whilst watching the Sports Tracker program plot the speed, heading, distance and precise location of where I’ve been using my Nokia phone and a Bluetooth GPS. Even cooler is the Sports Tracker website, to where one can upload the tracking data and share it in a community of sports tracking. Also with me on those walks, is a Suunto t3 HR clock for making sure that my exercise is somewhat optimal and fat burning.

    Next up for me is skiing (which I haven’t *cough* had time for last few years), if only it would get colder and we’d get some snow for once… January has been a warm yet rainy, gray and dark mess until just a few days ago when the snow and cold finally arrived.

  • http://www.jasondunn.com Jason Dunn

    Filip,
    Great to hear you’re making strides (literally) toward getting healthier too! I just came back from my first 6 am workout (that’s normally when Ashley works out, so that will be my workout time) and it nearly killed me. I didn’t have nearly the energy I had in the late afternoon, and I just couldn’t last. I still did 10 minutes on the treadmill, 5 minutes on the rowing machine (boy that was brutal!), a few minutes on an elliptical machine that I gave up on because the stride was far too short for me to be comfortable, 60 reps on that machine with the bar that you pull down toward your chest (lat machine?), some stretching, and 10 reps on the pectoral machine before I couldn’t take any more because I was so sore from the last workout.

    So, all in all, not a horrible workout but not great either. It’s going to take me a few weeks to get to the point where I can last…but every journey begins with a single step. ;-) I’ll think about that heart monitor stuff – I’m not disciplined enough to go out walking on my own (if I was I would have done it by now), so I not going to bother trying to fool myself into thinking that I would. ;-)

  • Janak Parekh

    Good for you, Jason! I will say this: having started full-speed in October, going every weekday will eventually be *easier* than three days a week. Basically, you don’t give yourself a choice to skip any given day, you just go. After a while, the hardest part is getting up and dressed, and the gym itself is the best part.

    You’ll eventually want to ramp that cardio up, but it’s probably good to start small. I have separate weight/cardio workouts that I alternate (3 days of weight, 2-3 days of cardio per week). For cardio I do about 25 minutes on the treadmill at ~ 6mph at a 4% angle, then 10 minutes of rowing, and 10 minutes of StairMaster, followed by stretching. Although, any combination of workouts is probably good enough…as long as you sweat it’s all good. :) The first week was tough, but now I actually feel better and more energized after the workout, which is a fantastic feeling.

    Oh, and the “machine with the bar that you pull down” is called a “lat pulldown”, and 60 reps sounds a bit high. That’s a strength machine, so you typically want to do 3 sets of 10 reps each (at a weight that challenges you, make sure you pull it down to the collarbone) with a minute break between each set.

    Finally, if you’re having trouble getting motivation, consider signing up for a trainer. They’re not cheap, but it makes a huge difference, and an appointment forces you to get to the gym. In my case, I had little-to-no prior experience with weight training, so that’s what I work with a trainer on.

  • T-Will

    Good job Jason, I’ve been going to the gym for a few years now (off and on) and lately I’ve been more serious about it, but my nutrition has been pretty bad…last year I was eating 1 or 2 Chipotle burritos every day and got up to around 220 (I’m 5′ 11″). Lately I’ve been adding more cardio to my workouts and gotten my nutrition a lot better, so now I’m down to about 196.

    I found this sweet site (The Daily Plate) that has over 200,000 foods in it’s database and it allows you to track your nutrition for the day and breaks down the fat/carbs/protein and other nutrients. Check it out, it’s free… http://www.thedailyplate.com It’s helped me immensely to keep track of what I’m eating, and brought light to some food that were really bad for me. You can even track your workouts and weight, plus it has a diary for each day and there is even an active discussion forum.

    Keep it up!

  • http://codefox.livejournal.com Codefox

    I tried the 6 am gym thing for a while and I just couldn’t do it. Its hard for me to be up by 5:30 am. So I do mine in the evening which I find much more conducive to my schedule. I don’t like doing weights and stuff so I do most of my stuff in the evening. I’ve always done something at least once or twice a week. My favorite thing to do is road biking but that takes a couple hours a day and when I get home at 6 at night its just not very convenient. I’ve been playing tennis once a week for an hour and a half or so on Wednesdays (switching to Monday with the more advanced class next week). My big problem was I always felt really winded halfway through. I used to run a lot (I was in the Air Force Academy for a couple years) so I’ve been kinda bummed I didn’t have that endurance anymore.

    A friend and I were talking a couple weekends ago and I mentioned it and my past attempts at getting back into running are usually a total failure since I try and go for 30 minute or more runs instead of just doing babysteps. She just said “Go run for 10 minutes and don’t worry about it. You have to start somewhere” Last Monday I got home from work and thought, y’know, what the hell, its just 10 minutes. Let’s go. So I went for a quick run. Since then I’ve done something almost every day. Last Saturday was the only day that I haven’t done /something/. I’m not running every day…that’s just too monotonous for me and I honestly hate running. I just like feeling fit. I’ve been alternating my running with tennis one day a week and DDR a couple times a week. I’m going to throw in some cycling on the weekend since that’s the only time its really conducive for me.

    So far this week I ran Sunday, DDR Monday, ran Tuesday, tennis yesterday and plan to run today and tomorrow. My run was about 15 minutes or so and 1.8 miles. My goal is to get around an 8 minute mile for now and do 30 minutes or so by the next couple weeks.

    I also wanted to lose some weight to feel better overall. My job has put like 15 lbs on me (and most people who roll on this project) and I don’t like it. I was 6’2″ and 191 lbs which isn’t quite overweight but I feel like its heavier than I wanted to be. I’ve already lost a couple lbs by adding in the running and DDR. I thought of taking more than just a day off but I decided to just keep pushing. Next week I’m going to start doing pushups & pullups after I run & DDR it up. I don’t mind doing some strength training…I just hate lifting weights.

    I’ve also been using VidaOne’s myPersonalDiet on my Wing w/ Diet & Fitness on my PC. Its useful because you can set goals and keep track of what you’re eating and your exercise. It lets you know what you can do to keep on track and its really just overall very helpful to have a record of what you’re doing. If you’re doing strength training you’d probably be better off with myPersonalTrainer than Diet since Diet allows me to track more information about my food than my workouts. (Running is running really… ;) )

  • http://www.jasondunn.com Jason Dunn

    Janak,
    Thanks for all the tips! I’m giving myself two weeks of thrice-weekly workouts, then going five days a week after that. It’s basically just a way for me to warm up to the idea of working out. Regarding the lat pulldown, Ashley’s trainer has her doing two sets of 50 reps, so he must think it’s more that just a strength machine. ;-) Part of what I’m doing in my first month of working out is focusing on restoring flexibility to my muscles – working at a keyboard so much has made me quite inflexible and just getting my muscles moving through their full range of motion is a critical first step.

    Regarding a trainer, yup, that’s already in the works – I’m going to give myself a month to work on cardio then I’ll be working with the trainer Ashley uses. He’s done amazing things for her, so I’m confident he’ll be able to create some programs for me that will do good things as well. First I need to get in good enough shape so that his first program for me doesn’t kill me. :-D

  • http://www.jasondunn.com Jason Dunn

    T-Will & CodeFox,
    Thanks for your encouragement, and I wish you the best with your own work-outs!

  • Janak Parekh

    Jason, you sound extremely positive about this — that’s probably the most important thing right there! Re lat pulldown: whoa. 8O If the trainer is recommending it, then clearly there’s another goal, maybe some form of lower-impact toning. Most folks use it as a strength machine, but I’ll obviously defer to those who specialize in this stuff.

    Also, music makes a *big* difference for me. I tend to listen to more electronic/fast-beat stuff when doing cardio, but YMMV. Either way, this is a great opportunity to give your Zune a workout too. ;) I have a pair of Sennheiser earbuds with an over-the-ear clip, so they don’t shake out.

  • http://www.jasondunn.com Jason Dunn

    Janak,
    Yes, I’m trying to be as positive as possible – in general, as a person when I make a decision to do something I try very hard to follow through and do it. So while it’s taken me quite a few years to decide to hit the gym and get into shape, now that I’ve made that decision, I’d better DO it.

    Re: the lat pulldowns, because Ashley’s not trying to build bulk, I suspect her trainer is using the lat pulldowns to tone the muscle that she has rather than build more muscle. It’s entirely possible (in fact, likely) that when her trainer becomes my trainer, he’ll have me doing exactly what you suggested. ;-)

    Re: the music, I’ve loaded up my Sandisk Sansa Clip (2 GB) with rock music, but it’s not all fast-paced, so I have to get some fast stuff on there because it was slowing me down when working out. ;-) I wanted to get something very light and small that clipped onto my clothing, so even the 8 GB Zune was too big. I’m using some Ultimate Ears Metro.fi headphones, but they’re not the behind-the-neck kind and they’re sort of bugging me. ;-)

  • Janak Parekh

    Ah, the Sansa Clip makes sense, as long as you’re willing to refill it more often. All of my gym shorts have pockets, and I find that a Nano-sized device (I have a beat-up old 1st-gen Nano that’s perfect for the gym) fits in the pocket and I don’t notice it. The Zune 8 seems to be a similarly-sized device, but like you, I think a lot of people want something smaller.

    Definitely look for a pair of headphones for the gym when you get a chance… I personally find that in-ear earbuds are somewhat annoying when doing lots of physical activity. Of course, YMMV.

    Good luck! The two best things about hitting the gym are: a) once you’re up to speed, feeling better after the workout; and b) not feeling guilty about eating anything. :-D

  • http://www.bwfamily.us EABonney

    Hey Jason congrats on getting out there and working on your health! My wife and I started doing this ourselves almost two years ago. It started first with the purchase of a Bowflex and then a recumbant style bike. It has been awesome for both of us. I will say that one thing that has kept me moving and motivated was having a goal. Not losing weight or just getting healthy but something to look forward to and something to gauge my fitness level. On a whim I looked into Triathlons and signed up for one before I even had a bike. I know this sounds crazy, but trust me anyone out there can do one. I am not talking the full Iron Man, but just the smaller types, called Sprints. These are short races usually about 500-800yd swims, 12-16 mile bikes and then usually a 5k run at the end.

    If you enjoy the three sports, give one an attempt. I am sure come summer time you can find a ton of them in your area. I can tell you this, if you take it seriously, it is a great way to lose weight and because of the balanced approach you will work out the entire body.

    The biggest tip I can offer for working out is not to beat yourself up when you miss a work out and also to make sure that you take rest days. The body can’t grow without rest. :) Make this a life long journey, not a race. Eventually it becomes habit and then you start to actually look forward to your workouts. I know that when I start to get a little cranky around the house my wife has been know to hand my my running shoes and tell me to go for a run or tell me to go for a bike ride. :)

    Good luck and stick with it man, your body will reward you I promise! Oh one other thing…try to find a coach or get some kind of training program even if it is just for weight training. A focused approach works way better than just doing different things each time.

    -Eric

  • http://www.jasondunn.com Jason Dunn

    Eric,
    Thanks for the comments and for the encouragements. I don’t see myself doing an Iron Man Sprint any time soon, but it would sure be great to get in good enough shape to do be ABLE to do one. I’m definitely going to be getting a training program in place in month #2 – right now I’m so out of shape having a trainer wouldn’t help much because all he would say is “Wow, we need to get you into shape!”. One question I have is this: how long, roughly, does it take to see noticeable improvements in cardio endurance? As in, how many days/weeks of 10 minutes on the treadmill (which is all I can last right now before the agony in my lower legs/ankles becomes too much to bear) should it take until I can/should start to ramp that up?

  • Janak Parekh

    I’d say that you’ll notice a difference within a few weeks. The treadmill, while a relatively boring device, is incredibly useful as it makes it really easy to ramp up. You’ll find it easier, and that’ll let you slowly ramp up the time, then the pace, and possibly the angle. When I started in October, I found 5mph to be tiring (at an uphill angle). Now, 5mph feels like walking and it takes around 6mph to get me to push myself.

    Of course, it’s different for everyone, so YMMV. Try it slowly — say, try 12 minutes instead of 10 next week, and see how it feels.

    Also, one thing a trainer will teach you is to breathe. It’s surprising how easy that is to forget, and it makes exercising much harder. When you feel like you’re out of breath, focus on your breathing for 20-30 seconds; I usually find that gives me a boost of energy.

  • http://www.bwfamily.us EABonney

    Hey Jason,

    Well you will most likely see some results in a couple of weeks. Again having a structured plan would help a lot more than just going until you can’t go anymore each time. My wife is currently preparing for her first 5k race in August. She is doing a plan that has her start out with walking at a brisk pace for 30 minutes 3 times per week. Then in week 2 it started with walking 9 minutes and jogging 1 minute x 3 for total of 30 minutes. Then 3rd week is 8 walking 2 running x 3 etc etc. Eventually at the end of the 16 week program it has her actually jogging 30 minutes at a time. :)

    When you are on the treadmill what is your breathing like? Are you very labored or could you carry on a conversation with someone for the entire 10 minutes? If you are going at a rate that you couldn’t keep up a conversation, then chances are you are going to hard right now. Yes it will seem very slow at first, but you will see the quickest improvements in cardio fitness if you keep your HR lower and consistent at the beginning of this.

    Work on stretching, especially after your workouts. This is the best time because your muscles are already warm and loose. Be very careful if you are jogging either on a treadmill or outside. Try not to increase your total time or mileage for any given week by more than 10% of the previous week. Running/Jogging is very very stressful on the legs, ankles and knees (as you have already found out). Increasing the total mileage or time too quickly can result in injuries easily. I speak from experience here unfortunately. I ramped up to quickly this fall in preparation for a 1/2 marathon I wanted to do in May. I ended up not being able to run for almost 2 months and now I am back down to only about 3-5 miles per week and that is after three weeks of running again.

    I can’t help much on the strength training area because personally I hate it. I do the bare minimum that I need to keep my core strength up for my races and concentrate mostly on my cardio. My coach that I have for my training has me do all my cardio work based on HR and zones, but first we had to build up a good base before it became useful.

    Also diet is a huge part of the over plan, especially if the goal is to lose weight. I eat terrible and my diet sucks. Even though during the summer I train 10-12 hours a week of cardio I still don’t lose much weight because I have never been able to get my diet under control. :( It is my biggest limiter that I have in my over fitness plan.

    Stick with it man it does get easier and eventually you will start to look forward to your workouts.

  • http://www.jasondunn.com Jason Dunn

    EABonney,
    Thanks for the detailed feedback. When I’m on the treadmill, after about five minutes I’m breathing very heavily, sweating hard, and my heart rate (according to the monitor on the machine) is around 160 (I’m 32 years old). I definitely do not feel like I could carry on a conversation, so I guess that means I’m working hard enough. ;-) I’m on week two now (going to the gym this afternoon) so I’ll see if I can last 12 minutes. I usually have it on a speed setting of 4.0 and an incline of 3.0 – any faster and I find that I’m nearly jogging, which I don’t know if I’m ready for. We’ll see how this week goes…

  • Janak Parekh

    Hmm, maybe you should try reducing the incline a bit. You want to challenge yourself, but if your heart beats that hard, you might want to ease off just a little bit on the difficulty at first while you slowly scale up the endurance.

    BTW, the speed of 4 — is that km/h or mph?

  • http://www.jasondunn.com Jason Dunn

    Janak,
    I manged to make it to 12 minutes on the treadmill yesterday – though at the 8 minute mark I dropped the incline from 3.0 to 2.0 because the burn on my lower front legs was just brutal. The speed has to be in km/h, because I’m still walking not running, and 4 mp/h seems quite fast for walking. My heart rate is around 150 to 160.

  • Janak Parekh

    Good for you, Jason! I’m not a trainer, so take this with a grain of salt, but I think you want to reach a point where you have a good level of endurance first, so that you can then challenge yourself but that you’ll still have the stamina to go on. By this measure, I think you did the right thing.

    Another strategy I see a lot of people do, at least initially, is to have “slow periods” where you don’t stop walking, and then to scale it up again. I personally don’t do this, and go for sustained endurance, but that’s another trick you could use, e.g., go down to 2-3 km/h after 12 minutes, get your breath back to normal, and then scale it up again, etc.

    Re mph/kmh: I think it depends on your stride. I can pretty much walk (really fast) at 4.5mph, and have to only start jogging when I go faster than that — so I do my warm-up walk at 4.4mph before I start running. Of course, everyone’s stride differs. :)

  • http://www.jasondunn.com Jason Dunn

    Janak,
    Yeah, it’s pretty interesting how challenging the whole “stride” issue is. I tried the elliptical machine last week for the first time, and it was sheer agony – I simply could get any sort of a stride happening…it’s like the machine was made for someone 5 foot 10 inches and no taller. I gave up after three minutes because all I felt was tremendous pressure on my knees. I found a great work-out in the stair-climbing machine though…it goes from difficulty 1 to 20, so I tried it on 10, and after about four minutes I couldn’t go on – it *completely* kicked my ass! I found out later that my very-in-shape wife does it on a setting of six and that does her in…so tomorrow AM I’ll give that another try. I understand what you mean about slowing down then ramping back up – I’ll give that a try.

  • Janak Parekh

    You *started* with 10 on the StairMaster (assuming it’s the same branded machine)? No wonder it kicked your ass. :-) I’ve been doing it for a while, and I warm up with 8, spend most of my 10 minutes on it on 9, and 10 is my current challenge level. I’ll move to levels 9-11 soon, but that’s an ambitious start indeed. 10 is roughly running up the stairs, so…

  • http://www.jasondunn.com Jason Dunn

    Janak,
    Yeah, well, I really know nothing about the machines at the gym, I’m the n00b, remember? ;-) The machine went to 20, so I figured 10 was half-way hard. Boy was I wrong! Today Ashley taught me some free weight workouts, so I did two sets of 20 reps each doing a one-knee-on-a-bench thing and lifting the weight with one hand up beside me. Seemed to work my shoulders. Another two sets of 20 reps doing the sitting up a pushing them over my head. And one set of 20 reps lat pulldowns at 60 pounds and one set of 12 pulldowns at 75 pounds (I just couldn’t push myself to do any more). Each of those was in rotation, so I did one set then another at a different location. Four minutes on the StairMaster at a setting of 5 had me feeling like I couldn’t breathe, so I need to keep at that one slowly but surely. 12 minutes on the treadmill, altering the speed and incline at bit lower at the 50% mark. 5 minutes on the stationary bike. Lots of sweating, but at least I had music this time (my last working the SanDisk Sansa Clip was out of juice).

  • http://www.bwfamily.us EABonney

    Hey Jason,

    Congrats on staying with the work outs! So has it gotten to the point yet that you are actually looking forward to them yet? :) Wow you are an ambitious guy aren’t you!? 10 on the Stairmaster…..I don’t use many machines but from the folks I have talked with in the past, yea I can see how it kicked your ass. lol

    Has the soreness gone away yet the next mornings after the workouts? I just started back using our Bowflex a couple of weeks ago and even though I have been doing cardio like crazy for the past 9-10 months, that first day downstairs on the Bowflex had my body aching like it hadn’t in a long time.

    Are you stretching at all before and more importantly after the treadmill and/or Stairmaster? I hate to stretch, but when I wasn’t stretching after a few months of running I developed ITBS in my right knee and it knocked me out of doing any running for almost two months. So make sure that you are getting some stretching in at the very least after the workout.

    I can’t tell you how happy and excited I am for you. :) I don’t know you well, but any time I see someone make a true effort to start working out and getting healthier I am always happy. Stick with it and keep having fun.

    -Eric

  • http://www.jasondunn.com Jason Dunn

    Eric,
    Nope, it’s not gotten to the point where I’m looking forward to them yet. ;-) As for my ambition, well, in the gym it seems ignorance often looks like ambition. Hah. The soreness has mostly gone away, except for yesterday afternoon I tried two new things: leg presses (20 reps at 135 pounds, then 15 reps at 215 pounds) and I did some work with the free weights back at a 70 degree angle which sure made it a lot harder! I usually stretch, though I don’t know many good stretches and generally stretch my hamstrings/quads and that’s about it.

    This week was supposed to be the week I started going every weekday morning with Ashley, but last night and this morning (and, actually, all day today) I just felt completely destroyed. I don’t know if I over-did it yesterday or what, but I simply couldn’t bring myself to work out this morning. I’ll try for daily workouts next week, but I’ll be working out tomorrow and Friday AM. I’m finding that I’m doing a bit better on the treadmill now, I’m making it to the 8 minute mark because I feel like I want to rip my legs off below the knees. :-D

  • Janak Parekh

    Checking in on your progress… ;)

    “Yeah, well, I really know nothing about the machines at the gym, I’m the n00b, remember?”

    Believe it or not, I was the n00b in October. You’ll pick it up really quickly as long as you stick with it.

    “The machine went to 20, so I figured 10 was half-way hard. Boy was I wrong!”

    Well, no, that’s exactly right. But 20 is basically sprinting up the stairs as fast as one possibly can…

    “Today Ashley taught me some free weight workouts, so I did two sets of 20 reps each doing a one-knee-on-a-bench thing and lifting the weight with one hand up beside me.”

    If you’re bending over while doing it, it sounds like rows. There’s different ways to do rowing, which is a key part of a weight training workout. Trainers like to mix it up, so there’s a combination of free weight rows, barbell rows, cable machine rows, and low rows. If you’re straight up pulling the arm wide, that’s a lateral raise. There’s also a bunch of other exercises in that area…

    “Another two sets of 20 reps doing the sitting up a pushing them over my head.”

    Shoulder presses. Works the shoulder muscles. Another key workout step. :) There’s also chest presses, which involves lying down with your back on the bench and bringing the weights up to your full arm extension above you, and bench presses, which is basically the same thing but with a barbell.

    “And one set of 20 reps lat pulldowns at 60 pounds and one set of 12 pulldowns at 75 pounds (I just couldn’t push myself to do any more).”

    That’s actually pretty strong. One thing a trainer will help you is to both standardize and mix up the number of reps. By-and-large, my trainer has me doing 10 or 15 reps, the former for strength (at a higher weight) and the latter for endurance (at a lower weight). There’s also the cable pulldown machine if you want to mix it up.

    “The soreness has mostly gone away, except for yesterday afternoon I tried two new things: leg presses (20 reps at 135 pounds, then 15 reps at 215 pounds) and I did some work with the free weights back at a 70 degree angle which sure made it a lot harder!”

    Is that 135 pounds total or individual leg? If it’s the former, damn. 8O I’m up to 115 pounds per leg pushing up (there are two leg press machines, one of them has your back basically offset from the floor, which is harder — and which my trainer makes me do), and I’ve come to call that machine the “Soul Sucker” because of the effort it takes.

    Anyway… one thing to keep in mind is if you’re doing heavier/challenge weights, especially with free weights or barbells, have someone spot you. Once you’re in the swing of things, your body doesn’t get sore as much, but you just hit a wall; it’s pretty remarkable, but a little scary if you’re by yourself. I’m guessing Ashley’s watching over you, right? :)

    Also, when you start doing it regularly, take notes. I do and it helps me figure out what weights to do the next time I lift. Unlike cardio, I can’t memorize my level. :)

    Keep it up! :D Also, I will say that after 5 months of going nearly every day, I can’t say I look forward to actually *going* to the gym. But when I’m there, after the workout stretching (make sure to stretch!), I feel much much better.