I turned to Sierra N. Wilde, certified athletic trainer at STARS Rehabilitation, who kicked my negativity on its flabby butt. “It is definitely possible for you to go down one pants size, if not more. Just remember that the changes start out slow, so you might not notice anything for a couple of weeks, but that doesn’t mean what you are doing is not working.”
Slow? She obviously had never met Shaun T. From the first minute, dude had me running, jack-squatting, and burpee-ing like a lunatic in my basement—six days a week! I quickly learned three things as I tried to match him move for move:
- I am in no danger of booking a job as a backup dancer for Beyoncé. When Shaun was jumping up, I was squatting down. When he was kicking, I was ... bent over, gasping for air.
- A cement basement floor is not a friend to old man knees (a cheap floor mat did wonders to improve the situation).
- Exercising makes you hungry!
Two weeks into the program, I was definitely starting to feel more mobile and energetic, but my gut was sticking around for the ride. Maybe my “I’m working out so I can have four bacon-egg-and-cheese biscuits for breakfast, no prob!” mindset was, in fact, a prob.
Um, of course it was, explained Nina Eng, MS, RD, CDN, chief clinical dietitian at Plainview Hospital. “If you take in less calories than your body needs, you will lose weight. If you take in more calories, you will gain weight,” she told me. “Exercise does not come with the reward of eating whatever you want.” Geez, Nina, are you always this fun? Eng suggested having healthy snacks like cut-up vegetables and fruits for my post-Shaun T. sessions. And she encouraged me to hydrate, hydrate, and then hydrate some more. She explained that many times, we think we’re hungry, but we’re really just thirsty. And sadly, a doughnut put into a blender does not count as hydration.
So, fine, I stopped eating like a maniac, drank more water and got back to work, kicking my son Gus off the Xbox in the basement because there are some things a son just shouldn’t see his father do, like cry while stretching his hip flexors. I stayed loyal to Shaun six days a week, never, ever missing a single workout. OK, I missed two or three. But I had good excuses, like “I’m tired” and “I don’t feel like it.”
I also tried really hard to stick to my “don’t eat like they’re saving you a seat on the electric chair” diet plan, but then the first summer holiday happened. There was beer, there were burgers, and there was no sign of self-control.
To paraphrase The Shining, “No workout and all-beef patties make Jack a fat boy.” I was terrified that I undid all my weeks of basement torture, but both Eng and Wilde assured me that cheat days are not disasters. As Wilde explained, “Missing a workout or two is not going to make you lose all your muscle. Even taking an entire week or two off each year does not have detrimental effects. It takes about four weeks of missing workouts for visual muscle loss to occur typically.” They both said the real danger was losing momentum, which happens when you figure you blew it and give up. Eng encouraged me, “If you don’t make the best choices one day, tomorrow is another day.”
I must admit that I thought about throwing in the sweaty towel a few times, especially those mornings when I looked in the mirror and didn’t see ripped abs smiling back at me. But just as I was considering liposuction, I put on my belt and noticed I had fastened it one notch tighter. Shaun T., you magnificent bastard! I needed to gain a couple more notches to get to suit size, but still, encouraging!
Sometimes I Shaun T.-ed in the early morning, sometimes at night. Both have their advantages, the experts told me. As you sleep, your body is repairing itself and converting your food intake into glucose, your main energy source, Wilde explained. That means that you wake up fueled, rested, and ready to go. On the flip side, when you work out at night, your body is all warmed up, and there’s all that awful stuff that happened to you during the day at work to fuel your fire. Plus you don’t have one eye on the clock the whole time. “Sorry I was late, boss, lost track of time while pumping out deep-knee squats.”
Ultimately, I went with nighttime workouts, because I didn’t want my first thought of the day to be, “Damn you, Shaun T.!”