Tag Archives: cardio

On Fitness (and Superman)


As my students would say, time to get jacked…

About six months ago, I asked what I thought was a pretty legitimate question on my Facebook. “How do I get Tom Hardy’s traps?” I received a slew of responses from the gym rats and the military crowd, which was pretty kind in retrospect. After all, at the time I looked like this:


Man, I wish you bastards would quit tagging me in these kinds of photos…

My weight has been Oprah-esque for most of my life. During my freshman and sophomore years of high school, I wrestled at 119. By the end of my senior year, I was about 210. Destroying my metabolism by fasting for wrestling and then eating Domino’s pizza like it was going out of style (it was!) after I quit the team probably had a lot to do why–at least for awhile.

Then there was a horrific car accident from which I was lucky to have walked away, and the resulting inactivity that came with rehab. Then there was Atkins, which worked until I decided that I like bread and beer. Then there was my brother, who put me on a fitness regimen that shocked me into shape for awhile. Then there was P90X, which was turning me into the kind of Dwarven warrior you’d see in Dragon Age, but wasn’t really doing much for my waistline. Then I went Vegan, which worked until I decided I like meat so much I would have killed a friggin’ mastodon with a spear and eaten it raw if it meant some real protein.

You get where this is going, right?

I even tried Hydroxycut. I wouldn’t recommend it unless you like heart palpitations and being really, really dehydrated.

These days, however, I look like this:

Dan Mirror

Yeah, it’s still me. You’d recognize those chipmunk cheeks anywhere, right?

So how did a teacher with almost no summer vacation pull this off in his spare time? Some crazy fad diet? Liposuction? Jenny Craig?

None of the above, kids. I eat pretty much whatever I want these days, within reason.

The truth is, I met Superman.



Superman is a 48-year-old dude who works out at the local gym. He has the right physique, the right haircut, the right friggin’ jawline. He knows it too. He even has a gold chain with the “S” symbol.

Every time he’s in there, he’s doing some weird ass exercise no one has ever seen before. Last week, he had scaled the fitness equipment and was hanging from a harness he must have brought to the gym himself, from which he did the kind of crap you’d only see in a Rocky montage. I’ve also seen him, strangely enough, using the low impact equipment–the kind of stuff you’d see advertised at 3 AM on basic cable.

Okay, so I understand it’s more likely that this guy needs professional help than that he’s from Planet Krypton and absorbs energy from the yellow sun, but I’m not going to be the one to tell him.

The day came when I got up the courage to ask Supes what his secret is. Granted, I’d already lost about 20 lbs. by this point, but I was still in that frustrating phase where only I could really tell that anything was different. I was expecting one of two possible outcomes when I approached the Man of Steel: 1) complete and abject shunning or 2) a trip to the Fortress of Solitude for training as a proper superhero sidekick.

It didn’t really go either way.

Supes explained that he started building his body when he was 18 years old. His physique is nothing less than the culmination of 30 years of physical training. The cartilage in his knees are stripped from running, so he has to do cardio a bit differently than he did in his youth–hence the low impact equipment. And cardio, he admitted, is mostly what he does now because he’s in the maintenance phase.

Cardio, Supes explained, is the most important part of both body building and working out for overall fitness. You can have all the muscle mass in the world, but no one will be able to tell if you don’t “lean out” enough to have definition.

Heh. I thought that drinking protein shakes and lifting 3-4 times a week with some cardio mixed in would do the trick. I switched to running 4-5 times a week and lifting just twice, and my results got better.

But, you say, cardio for weight loss takes forever! I only burn 300 or so calories when I run! That’s like a soda and a bag of chips!

Not really. Looking at the calories you’ve burned on a treadmill is deceiving. Running regularly changes your whole metabolism. This week, I ate chipped beef on toast for breakfast instead of a protein bar (twice!), and I could care less. Pizza is back on the menu. I just don’t eat anything heavy around the time I’m planning to run because it screws up my workout. In fact, if you do cardio regularly, you’ll eat less naturally because you don’t want to feel like you’re wearing lead sneakers. The other thing you’ll do naturally is drink water, which none of us do enough as it is.

Superman taught me that there’s really no secret formula to this. You just have to make a real commitment, get in there, and do it. The rest becomes habit.

The other day, and this was day four of running for me, Superman saw me walking on the treadmill. He gave me this look like I was the puniest mortal that ever crawled the face of the earth and jumped on the machine beside me. I cranked the treadmill up to 7.5 mph and ran until my lungs shriveled like raisins. Hell, I might even have flown. I mean, I couldn’t let Supes down.

When I was done racing the Man of Steel and I felt like I was going to die (he, of course, didn’t break a sweat), I realized I’d only been at it for about 45 minutes, all told.

45 minutes a day, kids. Seriously. You can do anything for 45 minutes a day.

I still don’t have Tom Hardy’s traps, but I am getting there:

See, I'm a badass. Just ignore the finger painting in the background... -.-

See, I’m a mini-badass now. Just ignore those finger paintings in the background… -.-

Just remember, it’s not me that’s telling you to get off the couch and take care of yourself. It’s THIS guy:


Yes, I’m totally stoked for Man of Steel. But that has nothing to do with the content of this blog post.  🙂

Stay tuned for my review of Zharmae’s Irony of Survival. It’s taking me awhile to get through the anthology, and I’m not rushing it because I’m really enjoying the stories. I haven’t read a bad one yet.

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