In an effort to keep from turning into a gelatinous tub of goo (because I eat cheeseburgers for a living) I’ve started going to the gym for the first time in my life. You can follow this page to watch my progress while I work with trainer and professional performance coach, Georgia Walker, (MS, USAW – Level 1) of Underground Fitness gym, and GWalker Performance! Also, brace yourselves, there will be half naked bathroom mirror selfies involved…
I EAT A LOT
Above: At Hot Dog World in Hendersonville. – photo by John Kirtley.
I eat as much as I want, and I eat whatever and whenever I want. Cheeseburgers, fried chicken, Phillys, French food, cake, ice cream, cookies, doughnuts… sounds like I should be super fat, right? Well, I’m not, and that’s probably in part because of genetics, partly because I don’t eat a ton of overly processed foods, corporate foods, or high-fructose corn syrup, and partly because I walk everywhere, mow my lawn a lot, and don’t rely on fossil fuels or electricity to do all of my “heavy lifting” for me. I wrote a whole thing about all that for AVLToday.com, bahhht… even though I’m doin’ okay, I am over 50 years old, and by no means the rock-hard specimen of sexy manhood that I once was. Back in the day, not that long ago, I was in great shape. An alabaster statue, god-like, and chiseled. Now I’m a little more like the Pilsbury Doughboy. All soft ‘n’ giggly ‘n’ shit. Plus, my cardio sucks. Running ten feet makes me gasp and gulp for air like a fat albino catfish in the bottom of a coffin-shaped boat.
I’m sad to say that I’m probably in the worst shape I’ve been in since I was in my 30’s, when I was in horrible shape, because for about ten years I barely moved, I ate shit all day, drank gallons of beer, smoked packs of cigarettes, and was a slacker of epic proportions. Glorious days, Yo, but being in shit shape is not good, especially when Ol’ Grandfather Time comes a’knockin’, and your pecs start morphing into moobs, and your gut suddenly touches your private parts when you sit down and lean over to put on your socks in the morning. I’m telling you what.
Nuthin’ makes me feel old like my belly touchin’ my dick.
The changes in my body are not just from old age and my fat-filled diet, but also from a distinct lack of actual exercise, like push-ups, sit-ups, chin-ups, and stuff. I use to do all of those things and more. I even had a bench press, and I lifted weights every fuckin’ day! WTF?!? That seems like another lifetime, and an entirely different person. NO! That was me! That can be me again! I recently decided to get back into an exercise routine, but I was having a hard time motivating myself, so also decided that I needed an outside motivator, in the form of a personal trainer.
I wanted to find someone who would swap me some training for some social media buzz, so I posted to Facebook about it, and got more responses than I thought I would! Several people were interested — one respondent even offered to train me in MMA! (My favorite sport ) but that seemed a leeeetle too intense for me — so I finally picked someone whom I had never met, but came very highly recommended, and seemed like an awesome person all around. Her name is Georgia Walker! she works at the Underground Fitness gym, and her private company is called GWalker Performance. Technically Georgia is a “Performance Coach,” not a personal trainer, and the differences involve a couple of college degrees, some official letters after her name, and a lot of specialized knowledge about the human body, including diet, and nutrition. Basically Georgia is a total bad-ass, with an actual Masters degree in bad-assery. Also, she’s real nice. Niceness is important to me.
Via Facebook messenger, we decided to meet once a week, plus she would give me homework, to see if together we can’t get me back in shape, to some semblance of my former cast-iron self.
I know that a lot of you are in my same shoes: Not in terrible shape, but getting older and lazier and softer around the edges & middle as time marches on. Or, hey, maybe you’re in fucking horrible shape, that happens too. Whatever shape you’re in, exercise is super important, so I hope that by showing you my own pain and progress, I might inspire someone as lazy as me to get off their ass and get into the gym. I recommend Georgia and her gym, of course! She can be contacted directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Okay… here we go…
Thursday, June 7, 2018 – “Meeting My Maker”
Above: Georgia and I were all smiles when we first met. That was before the toe-touches.
I walked from my house in the South French Broad neighborhood to the Underground Fitness gym over on Biltmore Ave across the street from Wild Wings Cafe, and Sweet Holy Jesus, it was HOT AS FUCK outside. I was absolutely dying, so I stopped into Vortex Doughnuts halfway for an iced latte… and… of course… a big ol’ doughnut. YUM! The iced lattes at Vortex are my #1 favorite iced lattes in all of Asheville right now, and the doughnut was awesome too. Salted caramel or something like that.
The second half of my walk was equally brutal, so I was dying again by the time I got to the gym, where I met Georgia for the first time, and took a look around the facilities with her.
THE GYM: Underground Fitness
Address: 144 Biltmore Ave Suite 002, Asheville, NC 28801
Phone: (828) 367-7272
Wow. I was impressed. I fuckin’ loved it. It is actually underground, as in below the surface of the Earth, so the name is fer realz, and since I am a cellar dweller from way back, I felt right at home, right away. Not a window, or ray of of sunshine to be seen. Just a deep, dark, cool, comfortable, cave… with tons barbells and stuff. It was air conditioned of course, so, fucking yay for that. The gym also has a nice shower and bathroom. It’s a small gym, and I like that too. I’m a small person.
These facilities are BRAND NEW, so the whole place is really clean, and crisp-looking, and even has “new gym smell.”
Georgia showed me all the equipment: Weights, machines, punching bags, medicine balls, etc etc. All good. I guess. I know nothing about exercise equipment, because I had only ever done push-ups, pull-ups, and other basic prison-cell activities that one needs no equipment for, except a horizontal bar. Sure I lifted weights for years, but I had never touched a medicine ball in my entire life, (Except, I think, maybe I had a drink once called a Medicine Ball) and a punching bag is something I’d only seen on TV and in movies. I’ve never punched one. But I totally plan to. I’m gonna punch the shit outta that thing as soon as Georgia lets me at it!
THE COACH: Georgia Walker / Gwalker Performance
Georgia works one-on-one, or in groups, with all kinds of people, from professional athletes, to little old ladies, to young kids, to short, paunchy food writers. She holds a Master of Science degree in Kinesiology, and Exercise Science from the University of Tennessee – Knoxville, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Exercise Science and Phys Ed from the College of Charleston. She’s a former assistant strength and conditioning coach, and graduate assistant strength and conditioning coach for Olympic sports at The University of South Carolina, and she basically rules.
photo courtesy of GWalker Performance
THE SUBJECT: STU HELM, FOOD FAN
After showing me around the gym, the next thing Georgia did was to ask me a bunch of questions. Here’s some of what I told her…
Height: 5′ 4″
Weight: 130 – 135 pounds
Daily Caloric Intake: Anywhere from 2,500 – 5,000 calories per day.
Exercise Routine: I walk. A LOT. And that’s more or less it.
Then Georgia asked me to show her how I do a squat, and a push up, and stuff like that, so I showed her how I do those things… and then she showed me how to do them correctly. Yerp.
I also explained some of my physical limitations to her (we all have them!), as well as any aches, pains, tiredness, discomfort, and generally shitty feelings I might be experiencing. I tried to be as honest as possible, and not leave anything out.
She asked me my goals, and I told her I want to tighten up my fifty-something-year-old body as much as I can, and keep this beotch as sexy as possible for as long as possible… while still eating doughnuts and stuff. Yes, I told her about the doughnut… and the latte…. and all the chicken sandwiches and everything.
Georgia needs to know her client’s diets in order to help them achieve their goals. She fully understands that because of my job, and my hedonism, that my diet ain’t gonna change very much. She suggested that I add more protein. Fuck yes. I was afraid she’d say lettuce. I can add protein. No probs. Mmmmmeat.
Okay, so then Georgia sent me home, and I returned a week later to learn the exercise moves that she thought I might benefit from the most, and do the routine she laid out for me.
Thursday, June 14, 2018 – “Box Squats and Renegade Rows”
Okay, I promised you half-naked bathroom mirror selfies, so below is the first one, taken in the super-clean restroom and shower area of the Underground Fitness gym, directly after my first actual work-out with Georgia. I was super hot and sweaty, and if I look bright pink, that’s because my natural, resting color is bright white / transparent, but the moment I exert any appreciable amount of energy, I turn all kinds of shades of crimson. Neat!
Above: Bathroom mirror selfie after my first workout with Georgia at Underground Fitness.
Was the work out hard? Fuck yes.
I thought my heart was going to explode at one point, but that’s just because I am a queen-sized wuss, and Georgia is doing her job exactly like I asked her to.
Although it was certainly taxing, the whole session was mercifully short, and it was all over before I even had time to give up completely, assume the fetal position, and admit defeat. That’s one thing about with me: I am very easily bored, and also prone to saying “fuck it,” even with things that don’t 100% suck, so when it comes to something like exercising, which does 100% suck, I can get super bored super fast, and the “fuck its” come more readily. I need to do small spurts of highly intense shit, or I won’t do anything at all, and Georgia seems to have sussed that out perfectly.
Here’s what she had me do…
Box Squats – These are just like regular squats, only you stand in front of a wooden “squat box” that tells your ass how far down to squat. When your butt touches the squat box, you stand back up. No, don’t sit on the squat box, Stu, you lazy fuck! Just touch it, then back up. I think the squat box is like training wheels until you get good enough to do squats without it. I did several sets of six. PS – I enjoy saying “box squats,” and “squat box.”
Barbell Push-ups with Renegade Rows – Oddly, these are my favorite exercise of them all, even though they are kinda brutal and Georgia says everyone else hates them. I like regular push-ups; they’re simple, effective, and relatively painless for me to do, and a bar-bell push-up is not much different; you just hold two barbells, one in each hand, while doing push-ups. Easy! Until… you add the “renegade row” part, which means that for every push-up, you lift one, then the other barbell up to your chest. Ooftah! Not easy. But not too difficult either, and I’ll tell you what, you feel pretty dang good about yourself after a few of those babies. Again Georgia made me do reps of 6 of these, going back and forth between reps of box squats… on the squat box.
Toe Touches – Fuck these things. I hate them. I want them to die. They are my least favorite exercise of them all, so of course, they are exactly the one that I desperately need to do in order to keep my ever-expanding gut from flapping out over the top of my super-skinny jeans. For this particularly cruel torture, Georgia has me lay on my back, lift my legs straight up in the air, and then use every ounce of strength, energy, humility, chi, willpower, and The Force that I can possibly muster, to almost touch my fucking toes. All while trying really hard not to fart. Fucking brutal.
Lunges – Meh, I neither hate nor love lunges. I prefer lunches, for sure, but I can do lunges all day. Or for about 20 seconds at a time, as it turns out. Even easy shit gets harder when you do it a bunch. I lunged for several reps with Georgia encouraging me to keep my core tight, stay purposeful with each lunge, and push off of my heels. If you don’t know what a lunge is, please join us here in the modern world, and look it up on Wikipedia. Or simply imagine a stationary version of John Cleese’s silly walk from Monty Python. Same thing.
Hip Extensions – For these Georgia made me get on my back again, and thrust my hips into the air while squeezing my butt-cheeks together. Sure, it sounds fun, but these kinda suck too, plus they are a little bit lewd, so in my head, I was all, like, “please look away, Georgia!” But she’s a total professional, of course, like a doctor, so I got over my shyness quickly. Besides I was too busy learning the hard lesson that even squeezing my butt cheeks together starts to fucking hurt after a whole bunch of times. I better have a really cute ass after all this work!
Medicine Ball – Holy shit, I didn’t even know these were still a thing! To me they only exist in old Three Stooges episodes and shit. But, yeah, they still make medicine balls, and gyms still use ’em. I’m sure there are lots of ways to work out with a medicine ball, but for my first excursion, Georgia had me lift it up, high over my head, going up on my toes, and then slamming it down at the ground at hard as I could. It’s got a wee bit of bounce in it, so you catch it on the bounce, and repeat. The bounce in minimal, so you gotta whip that thing HARD at the ground to get any air on it at all. It’s actually fucking exhausting, and it was the very thing that made me feel like my heart was gonna explode. Moe! Larry! I can’t feel my arm!
Squat Thrusts – These are sometimes confused with burpies, a term that I hate. Not that squat thrust is much better, now that I think about it, but whatever. Doing them kind of sucks, but I actually kind of love them too. Because it’s more exhausting to describe a squat thrust than it is to do one, here’s a LINK to a video. (Sorry about the ads.) And because she’s very cruel, Georgia makes me jump up in the air after each squat thrust, which is totally anathema to my usual MO.
Very rarely do I jump. Almost never.
The first time I jumped up in the air for Georgia, I felt really weird. Like a brick trying to fly. But now, when I do my jumping squat thrusts, it’s all one graceful motion, and I’m getting air and hang-time like an NBA pro. Yeah, no, that’s a lie. I’m able to launch myself about an inch off the ground, and then I thud back to Earth like a block of government cheese. Still, it’s actually kinda fun to jump up and down. It’s like being a kid. Or an idiot. And Georgia doesn’t judge.
That’s one of the greatest things about Georgia: She don’t judge.
She’s worked with so many different body types and ability levels, she does not care where you’re at, she just wants to help, and be supportive of whatever efforts you make to get wherever you wanna go… while coming up with increasingly cruel methods of keeping you challenged and improving your performance, of course!
The program of exercises that she’s developing for me is designed specifically for me. She would come up with something different for a different person, who had different goals and different health and body issues than I do.
Georgia is personable, funny, and fun to work with, and perhaps most importantly to me, she’s perceptive. She seems to be good at reading people. For example, I don’t require a lot of cheer-leading, it kinda bugs me, and she seems to have picked-up on that. An occasional, “two more, one more, done,” is all I need, and that’s about all she gives me. Of course, she’s very positive and motivational, and gave me tons of strong, encouraging words before, during, and after the workout, she’s just not annoying about it.
Georgia and other performance coaches, personal trainers, and even a good work-out buddy can also serve to keep us motivated and accountable with our workouts, and Georgia emailed me some homework to do twice before our next session…
Done and done. I crushed my homework, and I’ll check in with you guys again soon, with an update about my second session in the Underground Fitness gym with Georgia Walker, and I’ll post another sweaty half naked bathroom mirror selfie for you too… because I know that’s why you’re really here.
The whole point of doing all of this for me is to be able to keep on eating like a gluttonous pig, while remaining svelte and sexy AF. Or something kinda close. The point of posting it for you to see and read and follow is hopefully so that you’ll get a laugh or two, and maybe feel inspired to get some much needed exercise yourself. If a lazy sack of shit like me can do a jumping squat thrust, you can too.
Above: Me about to work out at a gym for the very first time ever in my life. That’s the squat box in the background. Upon which one would do box squats.
— STAY TUNED —
Stu Helm is an artist, writer, and podcaster living in Asheville, NC, and a frequent diner at local restaurants, cafes, food trucks, and the like. His tastes run from hot dogs and mac ‘n’ cheese, to haute cuisine, and his opinions are based on a lifetime of eating out. He began writing about food strictly to amuse his friends on Facebook.