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Instructors Struggle, Too

Instructors Struggle, Too
Here is a great guest post by my friend and fellow Spinning instructor David Allen. How many of us have been in his situation, where we think we are fit and look a certain way, just to realize that it is, indeed, not so? Read, enjoy and share you thoughts below.
(By David Allen)
THE LIE

I used to half-jokingly tell myself that as a Spinning instructor, I could eat whatever I wanted and as much as I desired. After all, I rationalized, I taught at least four classes each week, and must be burning hundreds of calories.

With that attitude, I ate to replace all those thousands of calories that I imagined that had burned off in class. I had no idea what I was putting in me, except that it stopped me from feeling hungry. Half of a deep dish pizza was my weekly fare, with leftovers the next day “as a snack” between meals. If an apple a day was supposed to keep the doctor away, then three would insure that I could skip a few checkups. Free food at events was an invitation to take at least two portions.

As long as I believed that I was burning off hundreds of thousands of calories, I ate whatever I wanted.

THE LIE EXPOSED

But as the case with all lies, cracks eventually started to surface. I noticed, for example, that climbing the stairs to the elevated subway platform left me gasping for breath. How could that be? Wasn’t I aerobically fit? I was sufficiently concerned to ask my doctor for an explanation, and he gave me the perfect rationalization: “those stairs are steep.” Of course they were.

I am lucky that in late 2011, one of my students mentioned that she was a journalism major working on a story about how to stick to New Year’s resolutions, and that she wanted to interview me for her story. The interview consisted of her videotaping my answers.

That videotape opened my eyes. I saw that I was out of shape. My face was full, and my arms had no definition. When I looked in the mirror at home, I saw that the rest of me was out of shape.

I stepped on the scale, and it registered 205 pounds.
With my shoes off.

I don’t know why, but everything came together: my being out of breath, the image in the videotape, the lack of muscle tone, the number on the scale.

I decided to do something.

NOW WHAT?

If you’re like me, you probably had some vague idea about how to change things you didn’t like about yourself. I would tell myself, “I should start lifting weights,” or “I should probably lose a few pounds.” But left to my own devices, I had no idea how to implement those changes on a lasting basis.

So I decided to hire a personal trainer. I know there are other ways to make lasting changes, like having a workout partner, or joining a boot camp class. For me, I needed someone to keep me accountable to my decision to change.

I told my trainer that I wanted someone to kick my butt. She did that, and more. She suggested that I track my exercise and food intake on myfitnesspal.com, which showed me that my Spinning classes burned roughly 440 calories and that I was eating approximately 3,000 calories. A surefire recipe for weight gain.

She also showed me strength and flexibility exercises to challenge my body. While I don’t completely understand the physiology, it seems that…

if you keep doing the same exercise repeatedly, the body adapts and takes the attitude of “yeah, so? What else have you got?”

I am fortunate to know people who suggested that I try new foods. Like fish. Or vegetables. Strange new foods, like kale or quinoa.

THE RESULTS

At first, the results were barely noticeable. Starting at the end of 2011, I was just under 200 pounds. But slowly, I noticed the weight coming off. At the end of January 2012, I dropped below 190 pounds. In March, I hit 180 pounds, and stayed there. Until April, where I dropped to 175 pounds. In six months, I lost 35 pounds, and kept them off. Some of my students mentioned that they had small children that weighed that much. If I need a reminder, all I need do is pick up a 35 pound plate to see how much extra I was carrying around.

But the results went beyond the weight loss. I had to buy new jeans and have my suit pants taken in. Then dropped two pants sizes, and the tailor took six inches out of my suit pants’ waistline.

My doctor insisted that my weight loss wouldn’t have much impact on my cholesterol levels. He was wrong.

My bad cholesterol levels tumbled 20 points, and my overall cholesterol dropped over 10 points.

I’m no longer living the fitness lie. I know that there are consequences for what I do and what I eat. If I want to eat deep dish pizza and chocolate, I can if I’m willing to accept the consequences.

But most important, I know that I’m not alone in
my struggle to stay fit.

{Editor’s note. I first “met” David Allen online. I had written an article for Spinning.com and he emailed me about it. About a year later he emailed me again, and we connected on Facebook. David and I became fast ‘virtual’ friends, and it was fun to discuss Spinning and our shared love for—you guessed it—chocolate. I’ve even become friends with some of David’s peeps on Facebook. We met in person a couple of years ago when he was on a trip to California, and we had a blast…and dessert overlooking the ocean in San Diego – heh. I am very proud of David and the health changes that he’s made in his life. This guest post is what I hope will be one of many in the future. ~Helen}

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