Week eightWhat an exceptional week! I hit two significant milestones and participated in something really fulfilling ... that I can't tell you about yet. You'll have to check in next week to hear about it. The milestones, though — those I can discuss. I'm proud of both of them. First, I lost three pounds this week. That means I got rid of that pound I gained last week and dropped two more. Why is that a big deal? Well, psychologically, it's always better to find that you've lost weight when you're, you know, trying to lose weight. Beyond that, it's significant because it means I've lost 20 pounds so far. Twenty pounds in two months. If you ask me, that's pretty darn good. Second, I benched 200 pounds this week. I haven't lifted that much since my mid-20s. That weight total comes with a caveat. I did it using a weight machine, not free weights. It's harder to bench press that much weight — or any weight, really — using free weights, because your support muscles have to control the wobble and tilt of the bar. On a machine, your stronger arm can compensate for your weaker arm; with free weights, you're only as strong as your weakest muscle. But still! The fact remains that my arms and chest are now strong enough to move 200 pounds of iron — five straight times. They weren't that strong two months ago. It's a funny thing, too. Tuesday night, I decided to attempt lifting all that weight out of curiosity as much as anything else. I'd been doing two sets of 25 chest presses at 125 pounds. I figured if I could do that with relative ease, I ought to be able to lift a much heavier weight a few times. Sure enough, I did 200 pounds five times, each one more difficult than the one before. I was pumped after that. I fired off e-mails to some friends and text messages to others. I posted on Facebook. I wanted to tell people I passed on the street. I didn't plan on trying that much weight again for awhile. I told myself I'd use lighter weights — 125 to 150 pounds — until I got in better shape. I've got plenty of time to get back to 200, I thought. On Thursday, a single thought took root in my head: What if it was just a fluke? I couldn't shake it. Maybe it was a one-time thing. Maybe I couldn't do it again. That night, I went back to the gym. I'd warmed up on the treadmill and stretched at home, so I was ready when I walked into the YMCA. First thing, I headed for the machine. I draped a towel over the headrest. I adjusted the seat. My movements were ritualistic, methodical. I could have been a doctor setting out surgical instruments with rigid precision. I sat down. There were other people in the gym, a lot of them, but I may as well have been alone. I pulled the peg out of the weight stack, letting my hand carry it all the way to the very bottom. Two hundred pounds is the whole stack on the machine. I slid the peg back in. Until then, I'd been so focused that I'd been able to ignore my doubts. As I settled my gloved hands onto the handles, though, it all came rushing back. No way you can do this. You're still too weak. You were just lucky before. My arms drove forward. The weights rose. I drew my hands back to my chest, pushed outward again. I was doing it. It wasn't a fluke at all. I did five reps, each one more difficult than its predecessor. After that, I released the handles and slumped back. My arms weren't sore. They didn't feel terribly strained. I can do more! I thought greedily. I was wrong. A sixth lift was impossible. I could move the stack a couple inches, but no more. I've been telling myself I won't try to lift the stack again. Not for a good long while. But somehow, I think that's a lie.
Staff Writer Ken Raymond began a yearlong weight loss and fitness journey on April 1.
Here are his stats: Age: 41 Height: About 6 feet 1 inch Beginning weight: 307 pounds Current weight: 287 pounds