Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Motivators that Work for Me #2: A New Physique

In this second installment of a series of blog posts on things that motivate me to stay physically active, I discuss the fact that once a person has acheived an improved physique, he or she will want to keep it. 

There are plenty of people I have encountered or read about that used to be overweight and then they lost a lot of pounds through diet modification and exercise. Some people in this situation maintain this improved physique forever, and some revert back to their original size. I can understand how difficult it would be to lose all that weight, and then to gain it all back would be hard to deal with, too. My story is not like this, though. I guess I'm one of the lucky ones.

I have always had a thin build. Even my own mother remarks when I come to visit that it looks like I've lost weight. No. I'm the same 6'4" and 175 pound male today that I was back in June 2001. I have records from back then. I have a completely normal weight for my height. However, my impression of myself is that I am a little underdeveloped in the upper body, including arms, shoulders, and chest. Data show that the maximum bench press of an adult male in his 30s should be about 93% his body weight. For me that would be 162 pounds and I don't think I could do that. 

Back in September 2008 I started to do weight lifting to see if I could build my muscles. At the time I was not a swimmer, so I wasn't worried about strength; increasing muscle size was my goal. I'm embarrassed that this was my goal. It's so sophomoric to worry about having big muscles. But guess what? Weight lifting several days per week for 16 months caused my chest circumference to increase 3 inches and my upper arm circumference to increase 1 inch. To be honest, I don't think these minor gains in muscle size were ever noticable in the mirror. But it didn't matter; I knew I had made progress and it made me feel better about myself.

My weight lifting diminished during winter 2010 because of minor shoulder injuries at that time and an increase in my professional responsibilities, and I haven't really done a lot of weight lifting since. Meanwhile, I've been swimming on a regular basis and I think this has maintained my muscle size and strength. It better have, because by swimming regularly, I am walking around in public with no shirt and I have to look good. I can't have a bunch of belly fat. I can't look sickly thin. Thus, one of my motivators for keeping a regular schedule of fitness activties is to hold on to the improvements I made to my physique, and to stay visually pleasing to the eye during my time at the pool. Oh, and ladies, I'm still single!

All kidding aside, I want to stress that what works for me might not be helpful to others. First, I don't know what it is like to struggle with one's weight their whole life. Relative to others, it's easy for me to say "I want to look good at the pool" and be able to work toward that goal. Second, "looking good at the pool" isn't that great of a goal to have anyway. It is a subjective goal. It is an unreachable goal because there is no way for me to know when I've attained it. This goal  emphasizes outer appearance rather than the more important things that count. Lastly, I'm pretty sure that people don't look at my body when I am at the pool as much as I used to think. Maybe they snatch a look or two, but in general, swimmers are there to do their own thing and encourage me as I do mine. There is very little judgment at the pools where I swim--swimmers come in all shapes, ages, and sizes, and we are all far more beautiful than we think we are. You might catch me staring at someone at my pool, but I'm almost certain to be studying their swimming technique than thinking about their body's appearance. Seriously.

In sum, one of the things that motivates me to workout is how good my body looks to me. It doesn't matter that much how I appear to others. I think I look good, and I exercise to keep it that way.

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