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Shinder: Weight-loss journey changed, but not stopped, by COVID-19 closures

Shinder: Weight-loss journey changed, but not stopped, by COVID-19 closures

With no gym to rely on, it's time to improvise
Shinder: Weight-loss journey changed, but not stopped, by COVID-19 closures
Staff writer Adam Shinder at the entrance to the closed Planet Fitness in Amsterdam
Photographer: Erica Miller

God help me, I actually miss the gym.

There was a time — not all that long ago, actually — where if I had typed that sentence, my next step might be finding someone to declare me clinically insane. That’s changed, but just writing it still seems a bit, well, odd.

I’ve been overweight for most of my adult life. A reporter’s lifestyle, a distinct aversion to exercise and a fierce love of bacon cheeseburgers and french fries aren’t exactly the ideal recipe for a svelte physique, after all.

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I’d had varying success with weight-loss programs on and off, and I paid for a monthly gym membership for years and years that amounted to little more than having one more plastic card looped onto my keychain.

A little more than a year ago, that changed. In January 2019, when I tipped the scales at nearly 375 pounds, I made a decision. Enough was enough.

On Jan. 8, 2019, I joined Weight Watchers and weighed in at 373.5 pounds. In a little more than a year of carefully counting points, meticulously measuring out portions and dragging myself just down the road from my apartment to Amsterdam’s Planet Fitness, something amazing happened.

I lost 170 pounds.

I look at my bathroom scale every Tuesday morning and that still seems weird.

But, I did it. I lost 170 pounds, and I’ve got a little more to go before I hit the goal weight I’d like to maintain.

And then the universe threw a big, earth-shattering wrench at my plans — not to mention, everyone else’s.

About two weeks ago, every gym in New York was shuttered indefinitely as part of social distancing measures to slow the spread of COVID-19. There are far, far worse consequences that people have suffered during this pandemic, but for me, it was a true disruption to what had become a pretty set routine.

For 15 months — save for a couple brief vacations — the gym was a five-day-a-week routine for me. Get up, have a smoothie for breakfast, get to Planet Fitness for about an hour, come back home, shower, prep food for the rest of the day and head to work.

Now, I couldn’t really be called a “hardcore” workout guy. I got through a half-hour to 45 minutes of cardio while watching old episodes of “Parks and Recreation” or “The West Wing” on my phone, and switched to one of a rotating band of podcasts during my haphazard weight training sessions.

I didn’t exactly have a plan, but I had a routine.

Now, it’s gone, at least for the time being.

Now, all I can do is make the best of what I’ve got: A few remaining free weights and resistance bands from a failed attempt at the P90X workout, the limited space in my apartment and a cobbled-together knowledge of exercise routines.

For the first time since junior varsity football and wrestling, I’m actually doing real, honest-to-God pushups. And I don’t have to do them from my knees or anything!

When the weather cooperates, I’ll get outside and walk. No jogging, no sprinting, just walking. Not exactly high-intensity, but it’s still a chance to get outside, get active and get some fresh air while watching the number on my pedometer app tick up.

Even in this time of social distancing, that’s still encouraged. 

Of course, this being upstate New York, hoping that we’ll get consistent walking weather in late March and April can be a sucker’s bet.

So, more often than not, I’ll have to stay inside and improvise. That’s OK.

Keeping my diet hasn’t been the hard part. Despite the pressure in these uncertain times to drown my nerves in a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, I’ve stayed the course. I’ve stayed away from the dreaded, evil carbs as much as I can, and I stock up on fruits, vegetables and lean proteins when I get out to the market.

Also, turkey pepperoni. Just, like, a lot of turkey pepperoni. Best snack I’ve found for the calorie-conscious carnivore who still wants something that tastes, you know, good.

Keeping off what I’ve lost, and eventually reaching my goal, all comes down to making sure I get myself off the couch for a little while every day and get at least a little bit of exercise.

I don’t have the gym. For now, coronavirus has taken that much away from me. I’m thankful that’s all it’s taken.

I do have the strength to carry on and not let a very long, very difficult journey go to waste.

I owe myself that much.

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