So, there I was…
I had lost 130 lbs over the course of a year, but when I looked in the mirror, I saw a much thinner version of me, but also a much softer version of me than I remembered. I had no muscles and even my face was still puffy and round. I had come to the realization that I needed to do something besides just eating right. I had to start exercising.
I was 49 years old, and I knew that I couldn’t count on my body to be as resilient as it was in my 20’s and 30’s. I did a lot of reading and discovered that the key to healthy and meaningful progress was recovery time. For each day of exercise, there needed to be a recovery day.
I incorporated this into my fitness plan, and I set out to get fit. I didn’t expect to get great results, but I did. I didn’t expect it to be relatively painless, but it was. I didn’t expect to improve my fitness dramatically within three months, but I did.
The PaleoMarine Fitness Plan
This is what I did to go from unfit to fit in three months. This is the plan I used to go from barely being able to do 3 push-ups to 100 in two minutes within three months. This is the plan I used to go from walking for 30 minutes to running 3 miles in 24 minutes.
The first element of my plan is to go slow but stay consistent. This is key. Many fitness plans have you push “110%” and give max effort. When you’re young, or if you’re already in good shape, this isn’t so much a problem, but when you’re over 40 or 50 and starting out? This could spell disaster and derail you before you even got going.
I started with push-ups. I did as many as I could until my arms STARTED feeling strain. You will know the difference between a push-up that feels comfortable and one that requires strain. This goes against what a lot of “Gym rats” will recommend, but trust me; it works. I started with 3 push-ups. Then, I waited a day, and did another set of push-ups. That second time, I was able to do 5. I stayed at 5 for the next two times until I was able to do 7. Then 10. Then 15. My push-up count started ramping very quickly until I reached the 50’s. Then, I hit a bit of a wall until I got to 70’s and then ramped quickly again. Eventually, I was doing over 100 in two minutes.
After a month of doing push-ups, I started walking briskly for 30 minutes. That brisk walk turned into a slow jog which transitioned into a fast jog/slow run. Eventually, I was running sub-8 minute miles, and I was no longer running to increase my pace but to increase the distance ran within that 30 minutes. After some time, even 30 minutes wasn’t enough, and my runs would last in excess of 45 minutes.
After a year of running and push-ups, I added weightlifting, specifically the StrongLifts 5×5 program. It’s geared towards people getting into weightlifting for functional strength. It’s not a body-building program. This program makes you stronger so you can handle life’s challenges more easily. This is exactly what I wanted, and I made amazing progress on this program.
I had to stop a few times due to injuries, but each time, when I got back into my fitness plan, I did it slowly, and I did it consistently. I made sure I got enough sleep, and I got rest-days.
The Nuts and Bolts
Here’s what a normal week looks like for me:
Monday: StrongLifts 5×5 (A), pull-ups, sit-ups, push-ups, and a run (right now, that’s 2 miles)
Tuesday: Official rest day, but I usually go mountain biking for about 40-45 minutes
Wednesday: StrongLifts 5×5 (B), pull-ups, sit-ups, push-ups, and a run
Thursday: Official rest day, but like Tuesday, I try to get out on the mountain bike.
Friday: StrongLifts 5×5 (A), pull-ups, sit-ups, push-ups, and a run
Saturday/Sunday: Rest days, but I try to get out on the mountain bike, the kayak, or go for a hike.
Let’s talk about the pull-ups. When I started, I couldn’t do a single one. I bought some assistance bands on Amazon and started using those. I eventually was able to work up to 7 non-assisted pull-ups before my surgery. Now, I’m back to not being able to do any, but I’ve gone from 3 assisted to 7 assisted in a week. I will keep working at them until I’m at 10 un-assisted pull-ups. That’s my goal. I usually start off my workout sessions with the pull-ups
Sit-ups: I always had difficulty doing these when my stomach muscles were split. My surgery involved sewing my stomach muscles back together, and now I’m able to do sit-ups much more easily. Having the muscles work together as designed has made a huge difference. I started with 50 last week and I’m up to 75 right now. I typically do 10-15 between my squats during the StrongLifts 5×5 sessions.
Barbell curls: these are something I added to my workout for no other reason than to bulk my biceps up a little bit. It doesn’t matter how strong I get, my biceps weren’t looking that great, so I started doing barbell curls about a year ago and it’s made a big difference in how my arms look. I’m not looking to bulk up, but I did want them to look a little better.
Push-ups: I used to do a rather sloppy version of push-ups when I began five years ago, but now I do the Army regulation push-up which is a very tight to the body stance where the hands are directly under the shoulders. These push-ups are harder and I likely won’t be able to do as many of them as I did with the old sloppy versions, but my goal here is to hit 50-60 in two minutes.
Sleep: this is super important. Make sure you get at least 8 hours of sleep before your workout days. Sleep impacts our energy levels during workouts immensely. Another tip I learned from one of my TAC Officers at WOCS was to eat half of a banana before a workout and eat the other half afterwards. This has gone a long way towards giving me more energy during the workouts and also helps the body recover afterward.
The bottom line
Will this plan work for you? Maybe. It worked for me, and honestly, that’s all I can attest to. Some people think it’s not working hard enough. If you feel that way, then add exercises or exercise on what I call rest days. Otherwise, this plan allowed me to get fit without pain, and pain is what discourages people from adopting new fitness plans. I made steady progress, and I went from being unfit to fit in three months, without excessive muscle pain. Was I sore? Sure, but there’s a big difference between pain and soreness. Soreness lets you know you worked out; pain is a problem that could need attention or a cessation of physical activity.
So, your mileage may vary, but this worked great for me. Let me know if you have any questions!