Today I hauled 135 boxes up from the basement to the ground floor and staged them for our upcoming move. Then I jogged up and down the stairs a few extra times to hit 163 floors for the day.
Personal fitness post ahead! Flee now, or proceed at your own peril!
So two years ago I was basically a plant. I owned a shirt that said “Unathletic” in that college Athletics Department font. It was funny, but also true.
A year and a half ago I started Weight Watchers. I dropped 45 pounds in five months and started integrating physical activity into my week. I started taking my family camping, something I hadn’t done in many years.
About a year ago I started hiking up mountains. I’ve worked my way up (hah) and done some tough hikes, including some beautiful peaks over 11,000 feet. I connect with the solitude of a summit like few other things in life; it’s an awesome hobby.
Somewhere in there I also started backpacking again, although that one’s harder to make time for with all the summer camping. I’ve gone out twice now, and will be going out again next year.
Seven months ago I decided I wanted to look like Chris Evans in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and I started working out every day. For six months I progressed from flailing around to doing a pretty good weightlifting routine and alternating weight days with light cardio.
About three weeks ago, having seen strength gains and some definition but no real size changes in six months, I started seeing a trainer. Holy shit has that been eye-opening. One of the biggest surprises was that I wasn’t eating enough to get bigger — my body was cannibalizing the muscle I was building for calories.
Now I’m eating every two hours, eight 400-calorie meals a day, and am working on overhauling my diet completely. My workout is about to shift to four weightlifting days a week, which is going to feel nuts at first. The kitchen looks like a supplement store, and I’m still trying to figure out how to bring healthy, balanced, 400-calorie meals everywhere I go.
Looking back, if Past Martin from two years ago had read this, he’d have said, “Riiiiight. That’s never going to happen.” And maybe he wouldn’t have started Weight Watchers at all.
But step by step, the whole elephant is being eaten and digested. Which is apropos, since I feel like I eat en elephant on a daily basis. (Fun fact: Three of my favorite burgers from Five Guys, which I can’t eat anymore, would fill my daily calorie goal in one whack.)
I probably won’t ever hit the Chris Evans level (too many other commitments, realistically), but I’m going to get as close as I can. Having never been a strong person, setting aside having been born with reasonably strong legs, this is a weird feeling, and it hasn’t gotten less weird despite living it for the past few months.
TL;DR: Fitness is a rabbit hole unlike any other rabbit hole I’ve ever fallen down, but I don’t regret falling down the hole. The notion of rewiring and rewriting my own body, and seeing it happen — slowly — is totally wild.
When I started hiking again last year, I came up with a plan: Get to the point where I could hike up Utah’s highest mountain, King’s Peak (13,534 feet and a 30-mile backcountry hike), this year. The plan was basically 1) hike up mountains, 2) keep going higher, 3) do some backcountry camping, 4) get in better shape.
I won’t bore you with the fourth one, but I’ve been doing the first one since October, with lots of lessons learned along the way. But I don’t have the expertise to hike up higher peaks in winter, so I waited for this summer to start on the second one in earnest. The tallest peak I summited last year was Mt. Olympus, 9,026 feet.
Today, over the course of a 9-mile hike, I summited my first peak above 10,000 feet: Mt. Raymond, 10,241 feet. It’s got a slightly higher neighbor, Gobblers Knob (10,246 feet), so when I got back to the pass that links them, I summited that one as well.
Prior to these two peaks, the highest I’d ever stood was 10,023 feet, the top of Haleakala in Maui. But I didn’t hike up that — I drove up with my wife, on our honeymoon. It was fun to beat that height!
Next week I’m going to hit number three, a two-day backpacking trip built around summiting Mt. Timpanogos. Mt. Timpanogos is 11,749 feet, which — assuming I make it up and back — will be my highest solo summit, the highest point I’ve ever stood, and the first time I’ve backpacked in about 22 years.
The picture above was taken at the summit of Mt. Raymond, looking west. (It’s a lot better than the tired selfie I took atop Gobblers, because I wasn’t as bushed and I didn’t take this one.)
I hit my 90th session of meditation (zazen) tonight — I’ve missed three days in the last 93. Realizing my “Seinfeld chain” was broken when I woke up on Saturday morning was a bummer (camping; slipped my mind), as I’d done 89 days straight until then, but in the end what matters boils down to: just sit. I’ll work my way up to and past 90 straight again.
Today was also day 94 of working out daily, weight lifting MWF and doing light cardio the other four days. My routine is all dumbbells (plus crunches); I started out with 5-pounders around 9 weeks ago, and am up to 20-pounders for most exercises. A couple are at 15, a couple are at 25, and I’m going to try one at 30 this week. Spurred by lifting, I’m also working on managing my macronutrient ratios and eating healthier, which feels surprisingly good.
The benefits of both of these activities — meditation and working out — have been tangible, meaningful, and more profound than I expected. I’m not big on horn-tooting and I’m not sharing this to brag — I’m a pretty awful meditator, and no one but me can tell I’ve been working out yet. Looking like Chris Evans in Captain America is a ways off, to say the least.
I’m sharing it because of the profundity: These are simple activities with complex underpinnings, and I’m just starting to scratch away the surface and see what they’re all about. It’s a good feeling and an interesting experience.
Sometimes I’ll watch a movie and wish I was more like one of the characters, but Captain America: The Winter Soldier made me want to look like Chris Evans.
Not facially; I’m reasonably content to look like me (kind of weird). But holy shit, that man has a bangin’ bod. Chris Hemsworth might win out on sheer dreaminess, but he’s big in a way I don’t think I could be. But Chris Evans’ physique, while separated from me by a gulf of 15 years of my being fairly sessile — plus probably a host of other factors — looks like it could be achievable if I stick to my daily regimen.
I’ve got muscles like one of those soft, doughy pork buns right now, so next month or next year this ain’t. But it’s a goal I don’t recall ever having before. It’s an odd feeling.
Now I want a pork bun. Delicious pork.