This journey back to fitness was never about weight loss. When I started, I didn’t have much of a goal other than to get stronger and feel better about my health.
So even though losing weight was never an expectation I put on myself, stepping onto the scale right before my eight-week fitness test felt like judgment day. As the little green pixels flashed and rearranged to settle on a number, I somehow already knew what the outcome would be.
Standing on the scale eight weeks later, I could feel the ripple of my thighs under my spandex shorts. The weight I felt on my shoulder was actually muscle mass, as small mounds of strength budded from the top of my frame. I knew that I really didn’t have to suck in my gut any more because I actually had gained muscles to hold my stomach into place.
When I started, I weighed 195.6 pounds.
When the scale stopped, it was at 200.6 pounds.
I know some people will be quick to judge: declare that I’m fat, I’m setting an unhealthy example, I should be worried about my health and ashamed of my body. But those comments don’t matter because here are some other things I gained over my eight weeks.
I nearly doubled the number of sit-ups and half push-ups I could do in my fitness test (53 in a minute and 43 before giving up, respectively). And I smashed my squat record, with 71 in a row, with good form, before I wobbled and stepped back – a huge increase from the measly 32 I did in my first session.
Beyond the test results, the quality of my sleep is better, I generally feel less stressed and I’m happier.
These side effects aren’t all that uncommon.
“When an inactive person becomes active there are some immediate benefits,” said Sarah Daly, my personal trainer from the Greater Toronto YMCA. “These can include an increased heart rate means cardiovascular conditioning, calorie burning which could mean potential weight loss – dependent on calories consumed of course – and an instant mood boost.”
But they do come at a price. And I don’t just mean a lot of sweat and grunting in the gym. When I decided to reprioritize my fitness, some other things were put on hold/on the back burner. Like my social life. To squeeze in seven workouts in five days, getting together with friends on weeknights became pretty much impossible.
I also said goodbye to an old friend: full nights of sleep. I won’t lie: There was more than one night this summer where my sleep was basically a four-hour extended nap in order to squeeze in workouts.
But it’s worth it. My bike ride to work feels easier every day. My heart beats less quickly when I rush up a flight of stairs, some days two steps at a time. And even though I gained pounds, I know I’ve lost fat.
There is physical proof in my thighs. When I started, the circumference of one of my thighs was 64 cm. It’s now 61 cm. I’m also starting to notice little divets (where fat used to rest) on the tops of my meaty haunches. And that says nothing of the fabulous feeling I get when I wear my skinny jeans now that they fit properly.
That said, I don’t plan to stay at 200 pounds forever. Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of my muscular, thick build but I understand the concern that flashed over Sarah’s face when she saw that I had gained five pounds after eight weeks of fairly intense exercise.
“I know you’re not concerned with the number on the scale,” she said. “But I’d like to see that number come down. Losing weight has so many health benefits: easier on your muscles, bones and joints to perform everyday activities and exercises, increased energy, reduced levels of bad cholesterol and a decreased risk of illness.”
Undoubtedly a fair point, which is why even though my eight weeks have ended, this is really just the beginning of my journey.
Sarah and I are now planning the next phase of what will become a year-long journey.
She has already told me that she plans to keep building my strength and muscle definition as well as my flexibility.
“And improvements in your diet,” she added.
And while I love licking the last layer of glaze off my fingertips after devouring a doughnut, I also know that I love the feeling I have after an exhausting core workout. Most of all, I love my new relationship with my sturdier, stronger body.