I look like a Dalmatian.

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.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Good for you hon! Landing a job, and a physical one at that! Great!
    I don't think you need to worry about getting to the gym, not regularly. I think once you get into the serious swing of this job, you will have plenty of exercise! Already, after one week, you milage is creeping up and it will continue to do so .
    You are rocking my friend!
    2051 days ago
    Congratulations on finding work!
    I kind of know how you feel. I thought I was pretty active too. I spent 5 days cleaning out my mother-in-laws apartment, everything had to be out by the 3rd of August, everything. My MIL was a hoarder. She had bins and bins and more bins. She had tax returns dating back to 2001, bins of clothes with tags still on them and bins of papers.
    She lived on the 2nd floor, far from the elevator, far from the dumpsters. I had to do the garbage trip about 50 times, not to mention the hauling of stuff to the car or down to the rec room to leave good items for residents to have.
    I hurt so bad by the third day I could have cried. Lots of Advil and Tylenol, loads of water. My arms still hurt!

    2086 days ago
    It sounds like you have a group of motivating employees now to keep you going - that is amazing! I have that where I work too and it's really nice to have people with similar goals on your side :)

    2113 days ago
    I don't know how I missed your blog when you posted it, but I hope by now you aren't in quite so much pain each day! This sounds like it will be an awesome job for you in the long run, you won't need a gym membership or extra workouts with this!
    2121 days ago
    Back again, that is who it is.
    2124 days ago
    Congratulations, you won't have to worry about any other exercises. Yoou had a sparkfriend who you two had written something, anyway I checked the article out and I don't know now what it was about, it was early today. Anyways, I added her as a friend just to keep up with her. I tild her that we were sparkfriends, in case sheasks. Ever since the day I posted the blog A Big Mistake, and got yelled at, I am half afraid to answer someones comments. So if you asks, you may tell her I am not a stalker.

    By the way, Sparkcafe, someone posted a comment and thdey are flying with it about people sparking people, befriending them. Man it isn't the best. Boy there are quite a few nasties out there.'

    Oh the persons name, I believe is Dragonchild. I am going to have to go check.
    2124 days ago
    Have you counted your bruises yet? At one point in my life I had a job at the Naval Air Base that I lived at, they were remodeling the kitchens there and I had landed a job in the warehouse that was emptying semis, storing, setting up "kitchen kits", and transporting said kits to the houses waiting for their new kitchens. When I first started it took two of us, usually girls, usually the wives of some of the sailors stationed on the base, to pick up a cabinet and stack it on top of each other to store until we were ready to set up a "kit". (All of the cabinets for a specitic floor plan) And thought I was going to die! By the time I was finished I could pick up any and all of the cabinets by myself, flip it onto another to stack. I could also out arm wrestle almost every man I knew, (these were SAILORS, mind you!), eat everything in sight that I wanted and went from 135 to 121 and stayed there! Down side here? I had over 200 bruises on EACH leg between my knees and my hips, I no longer wore shorts even though I looked GREAT in them for fear my husband would be arrested and once the job was done I knew I would NEVER be able to keep my eating habits up!
    Motto here? If you can keep this up for any length of time, you WILL get better at it, you WILL get in better shape, in a way that you would not have just "watching your weight", and you WILL feel extraordinary! You are an extraordinary person, I just know you can do this, and you will be great!
    emoticon emoticon emoticon
    2127 days ago
    You are so right, your job is exactly like starting a fitness routine. If you've never run before in your life, you can't expect immediately to run 4 min miles, right? I'm sorry that you're in so much pain after your first week but eventually your body is going to get used to it. And look at it this way, if you hadn't lost that 40 lbs and have gotten more fit, think about how much harder that first week would have been!

    It sounds like your new job has so many extra benefits; both the physicality of it and the awareness of healthy foods that you're being exposed to. That's so awesome. Working in an environment like that is really good. I should know; I work for a hospital. emoticon

    I'm also lucky that I don't have a desk job. I wouldn't say that my job is physical but I am on my feet all day, walking around all the time. I don't look forward to the day when I give up the bench for a desk job. I know that's going to be terrible for my health.

    Great (neurotic?) minds think alike? I had a bit of a humbling experience myself this weekend. I know exactly what you mean when you felt, hey, I'm fit now, I can run 4 miles, this job is going to be EASY! Haha, yeah right! After my race on Saturday, we went to the beach. I swam 5 min and I was EXHAUSTED. I'm actually going to blog about that next.

    Despite the pain, I'm glad to hear that you like your new job.

    P.S. That Planet Fitness commercial cracks me up so much.
    2128 days ago
    Can I tell you that I'm actually almost jealous? I would love a job that let me be more physical. I have a job that I mostly sit at the desk all day...but I have the freedom to wander. I can tell you that some days I just feel SO LAZY. I go out and walk around just to get moving. Part of me would love to have a more physical job that kept me up and going. I bet there is a great sense of accomplishment at the end of the day!
    2128 days ago
    Okay, your second-to-last line left me seriously laughing my ass off.

    It sounds like you've landed in a great environment for your health! You're a tough chick... you can get through this. And you will. All in, right?
    2129 days ago
    I'm impressed, a job that will help keep you healthy and co-workers who work at their health. So much better than what I do. I have never worked retail but when I was younger I worked in a factory, it included a lot more than lifting things and putting them down. I drove fork trucks and worked my butt off everyday. It was my favorite job of all time and I was in the best shape of my life. The factory closed and for the past 20 years I have had desk jobs. I envy you and I think you are going to love this!
    2129 days ago
  • LADYJ6942
    Sounds like a great job and a great place to work, knowledgeable co-workers re healthy food is a win. Hang in there, you can do it!
    2129 days ago
    So smart. Job that will keep you healthy. Co-Workers who work like athletes and know how important it is to fuel yourself to do the work and eat real whole foods. Brilliant. Great job! =)
    2129 days ago
    What an amazing opportunity for you. I gotta be honest, even though I feel like I am getting more fit, I am a wimp! I've done retail, even being on the truck team, but never to that extent. I love that you lift things, and put them down. emoticon
    2129 days ago
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