We moved to Florida in June of 1996. The sunshine state is a very different place to pursue ongoing fitness. You can go out for a run, a walk or a bike ride just about 365 days a year. Once in a while a severe thunderstorm or hurricane might break up your routine. But not very often.
We purchased a couple of bicycles when we arrived and made good use of them for rides of various distances. I continued to run three to five miles three or four times a week. We took the dogs for lots of walks, too.
We spent our first seven months in a rental while we waited for our house to be built. We discovered Alpha Fitness, a gym within walking distance of our home. I started going there three times a week, mostly doing upper body barbell and dumbbell exercises. My legs got plenty of activity from running and biking.
Our new home was on the other side of town, about five miles away. When you’re traveling that distance, there seem to be more reasons not to go and workout. But then Alpha Fitness moved to a location exactly halfway between our house and where I worked. I passed by every day and it was so easy to stop in there on the way to work, at lunch time (only a mile away) or on the way home in the evening. With a decent locker room, I could easily clean up on my way somewhere else. I went there three times a week for several years.
I split my workouts between upper and lower body and added quite a bit of strength. For a while I followed a 5×5 routine to build strength. Five sets of five reps each, rotating between back squats, dead lifts and bench press. You start light and add five pounds each time. I also included a few sets on some of the machines for legs and arms. I actually got up to a 310 lb. dead lift, a 200 lb. bench press and 275 back squat. Not too bad for being 5 foot ten inches and about 165 pounds.
After reaching those weights, I got a little tired of doing that and there was a change in management, so I dropped that membership in favor of doing some exercise routines at home.
I think it was the summer of 2009 that we purchased our first Beachbody workout DVDs, Insanity. You think you are in good shape till Shaun T. takes you through what you think is the workout but is actually just the ten minute warmup! But we stuck with it and found that it really increased our cardiovascular fitness. I still did a little running on the off days of the workout schedule.
After completing Insanity, I got the next two in that series, Insanity: Asylum and Insanity: Asylum 2. These workout DVDs had you working with an agility ladder on the ground, a jumprope, dumbbells and a pull-up bar. I got one of those pull-up bars that hangs from a door frame, but never liked it very much. I was also never able to do many pull-ups. All the plank work really helped my shoulders get stronger.
Some friends of ours had the P90X DVDs and weren’t using them. We borrowed them and for me, this was definitely next level. These workouts involve a lot of pull-ups, push-ups and power jumps. They were tough and they were long, usually around an hour. The yoga workout was ninety minutes. It was the first time I had ever done yoga. I never did that particular workout very often, since it took so much time. But by sticking with it, I worked my way up to ten pull-ups and thirty pushups.
We’ve incorporated so many of Shaun T’s phrases into our conversations. “Why do I do the things I do? ’cause I wanna look good!” “Dig deeper.” “Come on, y’all, let’s goooo!” “I’m smiling because I love it!” “This is bananas, yo” “It’s not a coffee break people”
P90X wasn’t my wife’s cup of tea, but she continues to do Insanity workouts. She also checked out some alternative classes at Thriv Fitness, the reincarnation of Alpha Fitness. She liked the TRX workouts, the spin bike classes and the hot yoga, too. She got me to try them, too, and the variety and challenge was good for us. I also worked my way through P90X3, which are all thirty-minute workouts (even the yoga). I think we also tried a twenty-five minute variation of Insanity, a boxing type workout with Australian coaches, and something called Piyo, a mashup of Pilates and yoga led by Chalene Johnson.
Variety is definitely the name of the game when you are working out at home. Plus, discipline. the upside is, you improve each week, while your video workout buddies stay at the same level. It’s extremely satisfying to outdo them. I think the publishers of these workouts know that.
We cancelled out membership at Thriv when the owner’s verbal abuse got too much for us to take. It was a good move. A few months later, they taped an “Out of business” sign to the door leaving many members and employees in the lurch.
But that only gets us up to 2018. The journey isn’t over yet.