Balancing beer & fitness

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It’s kind of like fighting the side effects of craft beer. No it’s not like the end of one of those prescription drug commercials where the list of possible side effects takes longer to announce than the ad itself. But there is one significant side effect of craft beer.

One of the world's most caloric beers. Dogfish Head's World Wide Stout weighs in at 540 calories
One of the world’s most caloric beers. Dogfish Head’s World Wide Stout weighs in at 540 calories


More specifically calories and carbohydrates.

A few years ago, when craft beer was on the verge of exploding I was knee deep in craft beer. Working on becoming the evangelist I am today. However, I was also working on putting on a few pounds, primarily from beer.

I’ve always been a big guy. I’m 6’3” and it’s been more than 20 years since I was below 200lbs. But after a combination of things I found myself not liking where my craft beer (and other life choices) had taken me.

This fall I decided to take steps to change that. I joined my local Merritt Athletic Club. Now the town I live in has about 6 gyms within a 5 mile radius. Merritt, while the costliest, is the most featured filled, and is also by far the closest to my home. I have to look it every time I go anywhere. So I was sold. Using my own guilt against me is a dirty but effective trick.

Then I figured out that the purchase of a gym membership wasn’t the only thing that had to be done to actually get in better shape. (I did actually already know that) I wasn’t looking for a quick weight loss trick. I was really looking for a lifestyle change, and one that could support consuming craft beer.

I did realize that just cutting out craft beer would make this whole fitness thing a lot easier. But it wasn’t a realistic change, I didn’t want to completely cut out something that gives me so much joy, and the credibility of this blog would be shot. Plus I was about to depart for the Great American Beer Festival, and what fun would that be if I wasn’t going to enjoy craft beer.

I did decide that cutting back would be a good idea. That wouldn’t be too hard, right? Eh… some days it’s easier than others to be honest.

Of course watching what I eat would be a part of this as well. But to me the most important part of this would be exercise. Exercise is something that seems to elude many of us, despite our best intentions. When joining the gym, I really didn’t have a specific plan. Of course many of my first days there I felt overwhelmed and lost meandering through equipment that I had barely touched in quite a long time.

IMG_2598One thing nice is that gyms now recognize that many new members are lost. They take the time to make sure you get the most out of your membership. I was automatically put into a 6 week results program, which for me didn’t work out too well since I was out of town for vacations and business trips during the course of the program. But they did provide some tutelage on nutrition and provide a few workout tips. They also encouraged to use a great app, MyFitnessPal, to track my diet and exercise.

The one thing that was included in this program was a complimentary session with a trainer. They matched me with Ross Flanigan. I am grateful to have been matched with Ross, because he seems like he’s possibly their best trainer.

I quickly learned that I didn’t know shit. I was pretty sure I didn’t know shit before I met with him, but I was sure of it about 5 minutes into my first session. But I found that my trainer, Ross, didn’t seem to mind. He did a great job walking me through exercises, with emphasis on form to make sure I got the most out of the exercise, and didn’t injure myself.

Of course the days after my first session I was cursing Ross as I struggled to walk down stairs or get out of a car. During my next workout I was told that it will get easier. Of course this was a lie, his job is to make sure it doesn’t get easier.

Over the next few months working with him I have managed to learn quite a bit. And when I am in the gym on days without him I don’t feel lost or out of place. But on days when I am working with Ross, I know I am going to do more, and be pushed harder than I would be on my own.

So in a few months, of being committed, but still retaining my lifestyle of writing and sampling craft beer I have managed to lose close to 25 lbs, and feel better than I have in a long time. I think now that I am past the holidays and craft beer festival season I should be able to dedicate myself even better to my new found love like for fitness.

My craft choices have changed a bit too. While I certainly love a great Imperial Stout or Barleywine, I do make sure that is saved for treats rather than a Monday watching football.  Now I try to reach for a Pale Ale or Saison. Something that won’t be 600 calories and a day’s worth of carbohydrates.

This is certainly still a work in progress, and one that I will hopefully update later with tales of success, I really feel that I am on the right track, and have the right resources to help me. Maybe in my next fitness update I can share some useful tips. But I don’t feel that I know enough to do that at this point.

If you are a Member of Merritt in Eldersburg, or just live in the Western Side of Central Maryland and want to work off your craft beer give Ross a call. You can find more information about Ross here.