I dont think I (read: I know I dont) have the world’s best body (again, my goal is Ryan Gosling’s physique as pictured in Crazy, Stupid, Love) but I am often asked what my gym routine is. People are generally shocked and amazed to find that I’m at the gym twice a day most days of the week. They often ask how I have the time to go twice a day, and I’ve generally assumed their shock and amazement is solely regarding having the time and not at the way I look. Yes, I’m self-deprecating a little. I’m allowed; it’s my blog. Truthfully, I go twice a day because it’s easier and I actually get better workouts. I’ll detail my workout schedule further in this post, but I’ve found through trial and error that combining cardio with weight-lifting results in doing one really well or both poorly. I simply get too tired to do both well. Again, some people say “oh that’s only natural”; I think… wow my endurance sucks! Yes, I definitely have the “that’s not good enough” attitude, perhaps not the best when trying to improve oneself physically…
I will say, I’ve been blessed with a body and a metabolism that have kept me tall and thin for my entire life; no one would ever have accused me of being fat, overweight, or out of shape. I’m in no way gloating here or trying to rub it in anyone’s face; it’s merely a fact of life and I’m very grateful. While no one else would accuse me of being fat/overweight/out of shape, I certainly accused myself of being out of shape for years. To clarify – thin does not equal in shape to me. Some of the thinnest people I know can hardly run a mile without collapsing or barely do 5 pullups. I’m continually amazed at and amused by the “jock” guys at the gym who attempt to do a 30 min abdominals class and have to quit halfway through. Likewise, I know people who look overweight but are seriously strong athletes and are in incredible shape.
But I’m not going to lie, I wasnt always like this. Prior to my fourth year in medical school, I hated running and I feared lifting weights at the gym. At some point during 4th year, I found myself with significantly more time on my hands (for those of you who dont know, 4th year of medical school is filled with bursts of hardcore intense rotations and then time off to interview for residency and “elective time”), and that’s when my push started at the gym. To call it a “push” at the time would have been ridiculous. To fill the extra time, I would run 30 minutes in the morning – maybe 3x a week and not at a terribly fast pace or high speed. And by run, I mean use the elliptical. I was truly only running to keep my heart in shape, not to lose weight or be thinner. To me, running is purely for cardiovascular fitness, not to shed pounds or to eat another piece of cake… because lets be honest, I’ll eat the cake anyway.
If I decided not to run, I would lift weights. But I had no game plan, no lifting goals, close to zero motivation, and almost no idea what I was doing. The one good thing on my side was a knowledge from medical school of anatomy and physiology, knowing which exercises worked what muscles in whatever manner, something that still helps me today and makes me cringe at the gym when I see people lifting in ways that are clearly not correct. But at the time, I had no idea what weight level to start at, how many repetitions to do, etc. I’m amazed that I managed to not hurt myself. When the machines at the gym say “ask a professional” in order to avoid injury – they arent joking; you can do some serious damage. I will fully admit lifting weights around men (because gyms are filled predominantly with men) who are significantly larger than me makes me uncomfortable. Thankfully, my apartment building had a small gym where I could lift without feeling completely inadequate. I eventually changed things up after getting advice from a medical school friend who lifted frequently but generally kept chugging along at weights I was comfortable with. No push really…
My time in Chicago came to an end and I moved to Boston in June of 2008. I didnt join the gym until several months later (due to time and also the embarrassment factor), and I joined not because I felt a burning desire to get a killer body but because I didnt feel good anymore. I felt run down, broken, and out of shape. I remembered my final days in Chicago of working out and how good I felt after cardio. Finding the time during residency was tricky though, so I would run and lift after work; so began the conundrum of either running or lifting well or doing both poorly. I found myself exhausted and unable to achieve what I wanted to. And at this point, cardio was still more important to me.
A year later, it was ultimately my roommate who pushed me to hit the elliptical with him when the gym opened – at 5am. Most people believe this is crazy; I admit it’s not entirely normal, and I definitely moaned and groaned the first few times. But cardio at 5am allowed me to fit in some gym time before heading into work. I eventually found I had far more energy throughout the day when I ran as compared to the days I didnt. Eventually, 5am runs became my “thing”. I still lifted weights in the afternoon every so often, but once again – no game plan, no dedication, and still no real clue what I was doing other than knowing I was using the machines properly.
If I missed a lifting session in the afternoon, I always justified it by saying “well you ran this morning”. And I certainly never ventured into what I like to call “the big boys room” – the room at our gym with all free weights. Yes, my damn personal insecurity kept me from going into the “big boys room”, but I also felt it was slightly dangerous/irresponsible for me to attempt free weights alone without someone spotting me or telling me what to do.
Everything finally changed last summer, when I suddenly had even more time on my hands. I would often think “what can I do to not die of boredom right now?” and the solution became the gym. I started swimming in the mornings; swimming is an amazing cardio exercise and also a good shoulder workout, a muscle group I continue to loathe doing weights for. Yes, putting on a swimsuit at gym with a predominantly gay clientele was terrifying and intimidating at first. After much arm twisting, my friend Greg convinced me to join an abdominals class, which I have come to love and almost religiously attend. On the weight lifting front, my good friend Sergio became my weight training buddy. I finally had someone to push me to do more at the gym and give me a goal to achieve (again, see Ryan Gosling above). In return, I convinced him to start doing cardio in the morning and join abs class. The Sergio/Julian combination has thus far yielded great results. Now I often plan my day around the gym, ensuring full time for cardio and lifting/abs. Yes, I may be addicted…
So you’re probably thinking – alright, stop blabbing and tell us your damn routine! Cardio is usually either a 30 min run or 30 minute swim (amen for having a pool at the gym!). Here goes:
Monday: Cardio around 8am, 30 min abs class at 1 PM
Tuesday: Cardio around 8am, lifting in afternoon
Wednesday: Cardio at 6:30am, abs class at 1PM
Thursday: Cardio at 6:30am, ?lifting in afternoon
Friday: Cardio around 8am, lifting in afternoon
Saturday/Sunday: some combination of cardio and lifting but usually only one gym trip per day.
The next stage of the game is yoga… more to come if this pans out!