Project Beefcake™

Two things I have come to know: Voltaren gel is my now my new best friend, and I should have done way more exercise in my lifetime. Actually, and thirdly… I am sure as shit getting old.

For those who have been following my Project Beefcake™ tweets will know how far I have come in these last 204 days, to be exact. To give some context to those that haven’t. I was diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) in November last year. An inherent trait for those of us who are ADHD is a perceived laziness which is attributed to the ‘AD’ part. We literally have no interest, if the interest isn’t there to begin with.

I had a timely blood test done in October last year and the result was not good. My blood sugar was borderline Type 1 diabetes. Of course everything else was off the charts, cholesterol and blood pressure. I weighed in at 110kgs (242.5lbs) which meant I was on the fastest bullet train Japan has to offer to me not having a lengthy future. I was headed into my 51st year.

Fortunately, in November I had my first appointment with my psychiatrist who diagnosed me as ADHD. In 2019, my psychologist gave me the same diagnosis but was not able to prescribe medication for it. Unfortunately, 2020 happened and it took me until November to see my psychiatrist. Today, I take 60mg, once a day, of a drug called Vyvanse which is a dexamphetamine.

What was lucky for me, my dad had kept everything I had ever done at high school in terms of assignments, homework and test results. All of which, teachers had written in furious red pen on everything basically highlighting I had no business being at school, at all. Teachers in the 80s were brutal in their feedback. Having shown this treasure trove to my psychiatrist it allowed him to retrospectively diagnose me.

Anyway! I will blog about my ADHD, later. But, adding to this, if you think it is cool to be taking amphetamines to see me through the day, and you want some. The answer is simply, no. If you’re not ADHD? Vyvanse will do nothing to you, at all. Vyvanse allows me to function as a neurotypical person would.

Okay, back to Project Beefcake™. The name itself started out as a joke. Born from interactions between my friend and author, Holden Sheppard (Invisible Boys, 2019) and myself, on Twitter. Holden is a shameless gym junkie who posts photos of himself at the gym. I would joke about how the day will come where I can post photos, too. We started out having a back and forth about him being ‘He-Man’ and me, ‘Skeletor’. That is where it was born from, partially.

I also had the character, Cartman from the animated series ‘South Park’ in my head saying, ‘Beefcake! Beeeeefcake!’ Which was from Season 1; Episode 2 titled ‘Weight Gain 4000’ in which Cartman takes a muscle supplement and ‘Beefcake!’ became his catchcry. Project Beefcake became my Twitter handle.

Image from cartoon South Park. Cartman, Kyle and Stan. Weight Gain 4000 season 1 episode 2. 1998.
“Weight Gain 4000” South Park. Trey Parker and Matt Stone. Comedy Central. Air date: 20th August 1998

In late November and with a brain getting used to being organised and giving me drive and interest to do things. I cleaned out my double garage of over 40 years worth of accumulated crap in one weekend, eight trips to the dump, over 800kgs of junk. Then moved the treadmill and my weights bench into the unused side. The treadmill was actually dad’s which had become a clothes horse in the rumpus room. The weights and bench I had were undercover in the garage and were used maybe, once.

I have literally never exercised. Well, deliberately, at all. This is all apart of how debilitating ADHD can be, for some. I wish I had known years ago. So, once I had everything set up in the garage in November. It took me until the 13th of December to actually start. Hard to explain, but my brain was going through a whole process of getting used to being ‘functional’ in the beginning.

From where my desk is, in the rumpus room, I can see into the garage. Now, this is how dexamphetamine works. I looked at the treadmill and without even thinking about it, I waddled my fat can out to the garage and turned it on. Unmedicated? My brain would be arguing with itself. Like Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde debating on how to say ‘tomato.’ (You say tomato, I say tomarto!) Or like the ‘Little Train that Could’ (I think I can, I think I can).

For my whole life, I have been the ‘Little Train that Couldn’t, Didn’t, Doesn’t Wanna’.

Man, I tells ya. It near killed me the first day. I waddled my sorry fat arse along at no more than 2.5km/h (1.5ml/h). I stopped every 2-5 minutes or so to catch my breath and drink water. When I say catch my breath, I really needed to catch my breath.

As a side note. I quit a fifteen cigarettes a day habit in January of 2020. Not to mention I was also pouring 14-16 pints of beer into myself every night, back then. Along with 2-3 bottles of spiced rum on top of that during the week.

My psychologist helped me quit smokes and cut back on the booze, drastically. (Addictive behaviour is another ADHD trait). Thankfully, however, the dexamphetamine kept my brain focused and interested enough in getting myself into some semblance of being fit.

Image of Grant playing video games.
Mid-December 2020

Each day, I kept waddling out to the garage and simply kept going. Mind you, an Aussie summer is not an ideal time to start strenuously exercising. Man, the sweat poured out of me as if I were a big fat fleshy sponge!

Around 10 days later, I noticed I stopped less to catch my breath. I was making it to 15 minutes and walking closer to 4km/h (2.4ml/h). About this point I started with the weights because I wanted to work on my cardio, more so in the beginning.

Even the weights were a struggle. If you have never moved your body with any form of physical exercise, I can tell you firsthand, it hurts. The older you are, the harder it is, too. For example, I started out bench-pressing only the bar itself. This is one reason I never wanted to go to a gym. I’d have spent 100s of dollars and died of embarrassment and never have gone back because of how unfit I was.

Days passed by. I went from walking at 4km/h to 5 and was managing to walk for a full 30 minutes without stopping. Then 45 minutes to 60. I began to challenge myself. I had to keep in mind not to push myself too hard because I really feared having a heart attack. Serious. There were times I had little scares. But most times it was only gas built up in my chest.

For the first, at least, 2.5 months. Once I picked up my pace I would belch a lot. I don’t any more. I had no idea what the belching was all about. So, I Googled it. I have learnt a lot about the body since starting out. Apparently, if you’re unfit like I was, everything in your body is unfit. Which is a given. The belching was due to my lower oesophageal sphincter being weak and stomach acid belches back up from the stomach into the oesophagus. A drastic change of diet fixed that.

What made me despondent was stepping on to the scales and not seeing any drastic weight loss, in the earlier days. This is the math: 30 minutes of aerobic level activity a day, each day and you will lose 1.5kgs a week. However, the first 30 minutes of exercise is only burning recent calories, so whatever you have in your stomach and that your body is currently processing. It is not until the 45 minute mark, onwards, you burn into stored fat reserves. Sounds hard, eh? It is. I nearly gave up.

But once I saw the numbers drop into the 90kg range really had me excited, so I kept at it. I made myself a proper balanced routine. That’s the catch. To get fit, it’s not all about weights. I started doing core exercises, too. Exercising is different for everyone. Age is a factor as well.

I found I had become too obsessed with doing a whole range of different exercises, every day. It was taking up too much of my time and I wasn’t getting anything else done. Even though I was determined to get fit, strong and healthy. I don’t know how people like Chris Hemsworth finds the time to stay in the shape he is. But I don’t want to be jacked like him. I’m aiming to have more of a ‘Prize Fighter’ physique. A lean look. So, in the last three months I had to dial things back and stick with the basics.

In the last five weeks, I have been retraining my brain to go to bed earlier and wake up earlier, too. Something my brain fought me tooth and nail over for days. See, the thing with my medication is it takes about 90 minutes for it to start working. I can actually tell when it kicks in. Like the moment Mr Hyde reverts back to Dr Jekyll. So, I get up at 5:30 every morning then take my medication at six. My medication is a slow release and it keeps me functioning for around 14 hours.

What has happened lately, is I am now on the treadmill before my medication kicks in. Mr Hyde isn’t so apparent any more. Walking on the treadmill first thing is so different to later in the day when I’d normally do it. Man. This last week, I have finally managed to walk an hour plus without feeling like I had been walking in sand. But, it’s great doing it this way. I aim to be on the treadmill now by 6:30 and walk for an hour and in the last two days I have pushed myself toward 8am.

Why don’t I walk outside? I hear you ask. I don’t really want to as I find being on the treadmill I can keep at one consistent speed that I don’t think I’d be able to do outside. I’d probably go for a run if I wanted to. I’m still somewhat self-conscious about people seeing me exercise. Another ADHD thing of mine. Actually, if I have no plans to be anywhere specific, I prefer not to be anywhere else other than at home. I am possibly on the autism spectrum, too. Which is something my psychiatrist is yet to address.

I’ll wrap this up now. I didn’t plan on making this such a lengthy blog. So I thank you, if you have come this far!

In 204 days, as of today. I am sitting on 85kgs. I am no longer bordering on diabetes as my last blood test showed that from the prior test three months before where it was 6.4 is now a very healthy normal range at 4.8 and my cholesterol is also in a perfectly good range. I am still not confident enough to be whipping my shirt off and getting my guns out. There’s still some remaining flab on my belly and chest that I want to disappear before I go walking on the beach with my shirt off.. 😅

I can now bench-press 38kgs. I can now jog at 8km/h on the treadmill for 5-8 minutes and walk non-stop for 90 minutes at 6km/h. By the 12 month mark, I plan to have these figures doubled, at least.

We all know exercise and diet is important. I feel great! I really hope my journey helps someone on to theirs, too. I also didn’t get to touch on the topic of neural plasticity, but I might save that for a blog on ADHD.

All I know now, heading toward my 52nd year, I will go into it knowing that I am going to be around for quite sometime. I do have to see the end of this story to be honest. Don’t you?

If you’re starting out on your own exercise journey? Stick with it! You’ll get there!

BEEEEEEEFCAKE!!

Published by G.D. Ison

I'm a neurodivergent heavy metal loving motorcycle riding cat owning writer living in Brisbane (Meanjin), Australia. Always was, always will be Aboriginal land. I hold a Masters degree in Creative Writing from the University of the Sunshine Coast and a Bachelor degree in the same, obtained from the Queensland University of Technology. I also hold a Bachelor degree in Visual Communication (Design) from Griffith University College of Art. Considering those academic achievements, I actually failed high school.

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