I wish I was one of those people who couldn’t wait to hop out of bed in the morning to hit the gym at some ungodly hour. But I am SO not. A night owl by nature, my natural body clock would keep me up until around 2am, and sleep until 10 or 10:30am. Not exactly on par with societal norms.
Once I’m up I’m ready to work, and I hit my über-productive, fabulously creative stride in the afternoon. At some point, I think, “I should exercise today.” But by then, I’m on a roll with work and don’t feel like I can stop to work out. By nightfall, I’m tired. No exercise happening here.
I’m making progress on the bedtime/wake-up time thing, but the exercise thing has eluded me. I just haven’t felt motivated. That is, until recently. My wake-up call (so to speak) came thanks to my parents. Around the holidays, I spent roughly five weeks with them (two each at Thanksgiving and Christmas, and one when I headed back east to take part in the Women’s March on Washington.)
They’ve both been diabetic for a good two decades. My Dad has had a couple of mild heart attacks and a mild stroke. My Mom has autoimmune issues. And though I’ve known this, seeing their day-to-day again firsthand was an important reminder.
“What can we eat? How many carbs do I shoot for? Did you shoot your insulin? Check your blood sugar.” These phrases dictate their life. They constantly have to think about what they eat, what they just ate, and what they’ll eat later. If they don’t shoot enough insulin, their blood sugar is too high. If they shoot too much, their blood sugar can fall too low and cause a diabetic attack (think Julia Roberts’ character, Shelby, in the beauty shop in the film Steel Magnolias.) Scary as hell, and potentially life threatening. I wish they didn’t have to live like that, but I’m grateful that they are managing it fairly well. And I finally decided, I want to avoid dealing with that if I can.
Which brings me back to the exercise thing. I know I have to do it, and it has to be a lifestyle change. So I am praying to God and sweet baby Jesus that I will stick with what I’ve just started—the Orangetheory Fitness (OTF) Weight Loss Challenge.
I had no clue what Orangetheory was until recently. At a pre-holiday dinner (read: WINE) with some girlfriends, several were RAVING about their workouts at this new place. I was like, “Good for you guys!” and I thought, “That sounds hard. I’m not a gym person. More power to ‘em.” But my curiosity was piqued. Fast forward several weeks of witnessing my folks’ daily diabetes adventures and what did I do? I signed up at Orangetheory Fitness Westside, hoping to become a workout fanatic.
The challenge lasts six weeks. You have to work out at an OTF location at least three times per week. “OK, I can do this!” I psyched myself up. Hubs was totally supportive. “You’ve got this, Baby,” he said. I went to OTF before the challenge to get my fitness tracker (they’re all high-tech over there). I walked in a little unsure, and Bam! It was like a wave of positivity hit me – everyone was so friendly and encouraging. They got me set up and I weighed in. That was another wake-up call. I knew I’d gained weight the last few years but seeing 170 on that scale did NOT impress me. They showed me the place (nice digs, lots of orange) and by the time I left I felt like I’d just joined a fitness support group. Which I guess I kinda have–and truth is, I need the encouragement. So that’s a good thing.
I kicked off the challenge the following Monday with a 7pm class (great for my body clock). They’ve got a row of treadmills, a row of rowing machines (say that real fast) and a weight area. I put on my fitness tracker and boarded a treadmill.
“OK, where are my power walkers at?” the instructor, Bobby, yelled into his microphone. Power walker, that’s me! No jogging here (at least not yet). “Okay, I want you to start at base level for 2 minutes, then we’re going up to a 6 percent incline.”
Six percent. Okay, I can do that. Oh holy crap. That’s harder than I thought. I’m doing it anyway. “I will NOT be a diabetic. I will NOT be a diabetic,” I repeated to myself. Bobby took us through a series of what they call “pushes” and “all-outs” where we switch up our speed and incline for one to two minutes at a time. I was huffin’ and puffin’ and sweatin’ but I kept moving. I also kept looking at the big screen that had my real-time fitness monitor stats. More sweat and heavy breathing and I finally hit the Orange Zone!
Woohoo!!!!! That’s when you reach your optimum heart rate for burning calories. The longer you stay in it, the more you burn, and that calorie burn continues for another 24 – 36 hours after the workout. More bang for my workout buck. I’ll take it.
For every minute you’re in the orange zone, you earn a “splat point” (I’m still learning all of the cool terminology). Their splat symbol represents a fat cell bursting. Kinda gross to think about, but good. Burst little fat cells, burst!
After 25 minutes it was row time. We started with 400 meters. I pushed back with my legs and pulled the handles back with my arms in one fluid movement. Well, I was supposed to, anyway. It took a bit to get in the rhythm, and soon, my quads were on fire. But I was determined to finish those 400 meters! I was the last one to do it and head to the weights. We used hand weights to do bicep curls. Then we did sit-ups while holding a weight. The last exercise was using a TRX band to pull up our own body weight.
Bobby yelled instructions and encouragement. I kept checking my progress on the board. Come on, splat points! My calories-burned number kept increasing. Awesome. I sneaked peeks at the people beside me. Consistently, on the treadmill they were faster or at a higher incline; on the rower, they were faster; and they did more weight reps than me. But at least I did it.
I made it through the first workout. Hallelujah! Red-faced, sweaty, and breathless, I felt like I’d really accomplished something. Because I had! After each workout, OTF emails your personal stats from your fitness tracker. I’d burned 538 calories and gotten 20 splat points! 20! Not too shabby!
Little did I know my numbers would soon plunge drastically, which I chalk up to traveling. I left the next morning for North Carolina to see my folks before heading to D.C. I found an Orangetheory in N.C. so I could meet my challenge requirements.
Again, the staff was super cool and high-energy. But my numbers weren’t. I was tired. Because of my trip schedule, I exercised in the morning. And I felt it. My energy was lower and I just didn’t have enough to give. My email from OTF confirmed my suspicions: 490 calories burned but only two splat points for my first N.C. workout. And 399 calories burned and zero splat points for the second. Zero!?!?!? Ugh!
The trainers said not to sweat it. They said the orange zone is optimal to burn calories longer, but lots of time in the green zone (just below orange) is still a great workout. I’d spent 38 and 39 minutes in the green zone, so I’m gonna consider that success. Surely at least some of my fat cells burst. Plus, at the Women’s March on Washington my personal fitness tracker said I walked over 12,000 steps. I’m totally counting that as a workout.
I was happy to have survived week one of the weight loss challenge. I’ll chronicle my workout journey and let you know how it goes. I’m excited to do it, and hope I’ll notice results that spur me on towards better health (and no Diabetes). Wish me luck. And lots of splat points.