If you are a guy somewhere in the vicinity of 30 years old then this post may be all too familiar for you. When I was a kid I was in great shape. Even in the era of Nintendo I was outside most days after school and nearly every day in the summer. I was always playing some kind of sport and I even remember thinking that there was no way I'd ever get fat. Well, if that day hasn't come yet it's getting pretty close. At the minimum, I am way out of shape. I went to the gym today and jogged for 20 minutes and my body is currently revolting. Just 3 months ago I was hitting the gym 6 times a week and jogging for an hour. One day it all stopped and now here I am typing a blog while I gasp for air. Right now my goddamn fingers are cramping up. Where did things go wrong for me? I trace everything back to the workout curse.
You've all known someone who has bitched and moaned about how hard it is to workout. That person may have even been you. The response usually given goes something like this, "It gets easier the more you do it!". And, while I can do without the cheerful exclamation point, that is generally correct. The more you workout, the easier your workout gets. The problem, what I like to call the workout curse, is that the exact opposite is also true. The less you workout the harder it gets. And therein lies the rub.
If you are confused right now you are forgiven. I haven't even gotten rolling yet. To explain the workout curse let's use a hypothetical gentleman to help explain things. Let's say Mark is a 30 year old guy who used to be in decent physical shape until he quit sports in college and learned to drink (damn you vodka redbull!). Mark gets married and finds a job and before he knows it working out gets thrown to the wayside a bit. At some point our hero decides, "Enough with this! I'm going to start working out."
At first, the workouts are predictably tough. Mark's body aches in places he didn't know existed. 20 minutes feels like a lifetime. Mark does some rough calculations and sees that he burned about 250 calories. Sure, it doesn't seem like a lot but that's 2 beers! As time goes on the prognosticators were right, working out does get easier! Mark builds his workouts to 30 and then 40 minutes per day. He begins to get into a routine and even starts to hit the gym 3-4 times per week. One strange side effect is that he starts to eat healthier despite himself. Every time he goes to grab for a beer or a slice of pizza he calculates how many minutes it would take to burn that off and often decides against it. 3 months after his initial foray into working out Mark has lost 10 pounds and feels great. He's going to the gym 5-6 times per week and burning at least 800 calories each time he's there. Where's the problem?
The problem comes the first time Mark gets sick, or misses a day, or has an appointment, or goes out of town. Not working out probably is a shock to his system but a part of him likes it. Whether Mark wants to admit it or not, this little break from working out is nice. I mean, he's been busting his ass for 3 months! The dude could use a break, hell, he deserves a break! Mark thinks, if I'm not going to workout then why not eat some decent food. Watching all those calories means he hasn't had fast food in over a month! That needs to be remedied quickly. Bring on the sausage croissanwich!
Only after this little 'workout break' is over comes the dreaded realization that a much tougher workout awaits. Sure, when Mark first started working out 20 minutes and burning 250 calories was acceptable, but now? That almost seems pathetic. So what does Mark do? Does he suck it up and start back at the beginning or even somewhere in the middle? No! He thinks to himself, I'll wait until Monday and then I'll get back into my routine. Yes! That's perfect, I'll start the week refreshed and rededicate myself.
Of course, we know what happens. The expectations Mark set of going to gym 5-6 times per week for an hour at a time seem like a distant memory. It's just too hard now that he's taken some time off. He should step down a level but pride gets in the way and time moves on. The less you workout the harder it gets. It's the workout curse.
3 months later and those 10 pounds are back and they may have even brought some friends. Mark eventually gets back to that point he was in way back when 20 minutes at the gym and 250 calories burned sounds like a lot of work. But, he decides to suck it up and start all over again. Now he's gasping for air while his fingers cramp up.