Sunday, June 24, 2012
Allow me to bring you up to date: I was unemployed for a little over 5 months, during which time I focused on working out and eating a proper diet. I lost a little over 40 lbs. but have stagnated lately (my new euphemism for “plateau”, a word with which I am getting increasingly irked).
Recently, I happily accepted a job described as “very physical.” Well, sure – that was the appeal. Keep the weight loss going. Stay on my feet. 30 minute breaks spent jauntily walking around the city before reporting back to work. So Awesome!
Part of my decision was based on the HBO's, “The Weight of the Nation,” and a surprising statistic: the number of physical jobs has declined to only 20% (from 50% in years past). I did not want to slide greasily into my 50’s being overweight and unhealthy and I thought this job would help avoid that.
I’ve spent 30+ years in retail and know the demands of a shift spent on one’s feet. During the course of the day, shipments must be received and product put out. Sometimes the product is heavy (carrying 2 full size runs of freshly steamed jeans or lugging boxes of books). You hardly ever sit and when you do, it’s only when business is slow. Physical? I laughed. I scoffed. I waved my hands dismissively.
I just finished my first week. OMG. My poor hands. And back. Knees, too. No really: OH. MY. GOD.
The first few days on the job were a little disconcerting: I felt I was doing a lot of lifting and walking, but in reality (retail brethren/sisters), I only logged about 3 miles max on a 10 hour shift: only 3000 steps day 1; 4000 day 2, 6000 day 3, but only because I used break time to walk. Sleep was interrupted and I was stressed, not hydrating properly, and my packed lunches didn’t include much salad (though they were pretty healthy). I gained three pounds. I worried about not getting to the gym as planned – I didn’t. I was too sore and tired. Face it; I went from 0 to 60 overnight.
No fear, Sparkers! I lost those pounds plus one more, and I don’t think they’re ever coming back.
I work for a specialty grocery store. You’re probably familiar with seeing flat tables of produce wheeled onto the sales floor of your own grocery store, where store associates skillfully stack it into appealing piles/trays/bins/coolers; same for employees stacking cans of beets or building 12-pack soda mountains.
What you don’t see is how this stuff comes off the truck. In say… 50-pound cases. Or more. Whether it’s snowing, raining, hailing, or like this week, 100 degrees. An entire truck full, which needs to be unloaded, rushed to the floor and then the extras put into storage within 4 hours, at which point in time the frozen foods show up… then 6 hours later the dry goods show up. It requires forklifts, pallet jacks, hand trucks and lifting. Lifting and carrying, carrying and lifting. All day long.
It’s like the commercial for Planet Fitness: “I lift things up and I put them down.”
My learning curve is brutal and steep. I THOUGHT I was in decent shape. I carefully lifted with my legs (not my back) and tried to avoid hurting my hands (semi-successfully). I ran over my toes with a loaded handcart once (thank god I bought work shoes).
Even being very careful, I wound up icing my back every night and I took so much naproxen I broke out in a rash. I have very pale skin and I am dotted with bruises all over my arms and legs (see blog title). I felt very aware that one of these things (me) is not like the others.
These people are FIT. One guy told me he lost 30 lbs in a month, cancelled his gym membership and had to increase his calories to 4000 or he doesn’t have the energy to do the job. He said on a busy day, he logs about 13 miles (the difference between knowing what you’re doing – him; and not – me). Oh, and speaking of calories, my coworkers read food labels. They don’t eat junk. They know a LOT about real food and its value to the body. I compared this to past jobs, where – stuck in a mall (mostly), if you didn’t pack lunch, the main choice was to buy fast food or, knowing that fast food wasn’t a good idea, to not eat at all and then eat everything but the drapes when you got home. Brilliant strategy.
I thought about this a lot after collapsing on the couch after day 4. I stared at the ceiling. I hurt so bad I felt like I had the flu. I was seriously considering I’d made a big mistake.
I thought, ‘Okay, so when I first started working out I could only use 5 lb kettle bells and walk at 2.5mph for 15 minutes. Now I can jog 4 miles and use 35 lb kettle bells. Same thing, this. It’s going to get better.’
My new co-workers assure me that everyone – big guys, little ladies – goes through this and comes out the other side just fine – if they stick it out. Come to think of it, isn’t that true of any exercise program?
Day 5: Like focusing on NSVs, I thought about the week. I got to know new, fun, hard-working people. I helped a lot of customers. I feel a little more useful each day and each day will get better -- unless it doesn’t, and that’s how the scale works too – even if we keep working diligently at our fitness, the scale mostly goes down, occasionally it pops up, and we deal.
I looked at my pedometer.
Huh. 13,587 steps.
I lift things up and I put them down.
All in a day’s work.