Revving his engine, dropping his gas tank

Manager, motorcyclist has unloaded 70 pounds at the athletic club

Health & Fitness

December 07, 2003|By Peter Jensen | Peter Jensen,Sun Staff

One in an occasional series about the fitness habits of Marylanders.

Thanks to his beard and tattoos (not to mention his seven motorcycles), Jim Schruefer looks like a biker. So maybe it's best to measure his fitness accomplishments in biker terms.

In 10 months, he's lost his gas tank, his handlebars and a quarter of his payload. But his engine is revving better than ever.

"Last December I decided I was fat and ugly, and there wasn't much I could do about the ugly part, so I thought I'd do something about that fat," the 47-year-old says.

He and his wife, Sharon, gave themselves a Christmas present, membership in a local health club, and started going fives times each week, often for as long as three hours a day. The results are impressive: Gone are 70 pounds, and 10 inches from his waistline. Not bad for a man who didn't start dieting until two months ago.

"This has been my best experience with dieting and working out," says Schruefer, who went from 305 to 235 pounds. "Dieting-only never worked for me. I'd lose a little and then start rewarding myself."

Sharon has not done badly herself, shedding 25 pounds and dropping from a size 18 to size 14 dress, largely through exercise. But she's particularly proud of her husband's accomplishments and his commitment to a fairly vigorous fitness regime.

"He looks a whole lot different," she says. "I was really surprised."

Schruefer, night foreman for Harford County's water and sewer department, says he put on weight over the last decade by eating and drinking too much and exercising too little. In a sense, he was a victim of his own success -- he'd started as a laborer. As he moved into management and ran heavy equipment, he was no longer burning off the calories.

But the job in Bel Air also gave him an opportunity. He lives in nearby Hickory, and because he doesn't report to work until 2 p.m., he had mornings available for the gym.

He developed a routine after consulting with trainers at the Bel Air Athletic Club. He arrives at 9 a.m., and his workouts usually last until 11 a.m. or 11:30 a.m.

"From the first day, he jumped in with both feet," recalls Brian Price, a club trainer who has worked with Schruefer. "He got addicted right away. With a lot of people it takes a little more time and motivation. He wanted to use every piece of equipment we had."

At first, the weightlifting routine would take up to two hours to complete -- and then he'd need days for his muscles to recover before he could lift again. Price and others encouraged him to break his weight training into segments -- working only legs one day or shoulders another -- so he could lift for shorter durations but train more frequently.

"The trainers have given me a lot of support and motivation," says Schruefer. "They give you a lot of ideas and help you with technique." Schruefer's workout schedule begins on Sundays, chiefly with cardiovascular exercise. He walks on a treadmill 30 minutes (longer if he's feel-ing guilty about his Saturday night activities) at about 3.2 miles per hour, varying the incline from level to as much as a 20 percent grade. He also does abdominal exercises -- crunches and reverse-crunches on a weight-machine, gradually increasing the weight.

He may do as many as 275 abdominal reps altogether. He does the cardio work -- and the ab work -- every day he exercises.

"By the time I'm done, I want to have a six-pack," he says of his abdominal muscles.

On Monday, he adds chest and triceps weight training to his regimen. He works chiefly with dumbbells, and a few machines. On Tuesdays, he concentrates on his back and thighs.

Wednesday is a day of rest. On Thursday, he's back at the club, concentrating on his shoulders and triceps. Fridays are for his legs. It's the one day he prefers machines to free weights, and it's his most vigorous workout.

"That's my hurting day," he says.

Price jokes that Schruefer is old school. He doesn't go for exercise classes. He likes to work with heavier weights -- complaining at times that lighter weights (used more for toning than bulking up) aren't manly enough.

"That masculine pride can work for you," the trainer says.

Admittedly, Schruefer might not fit the mold of the typical fitness club member. The former police officer sports 65 tattoos, including the life-size image of a screwdriver on his right arm and a wrench on his left so he's "never without my tools."

But he's a welcome sight at Bel Air, where the staff and most of the morning regulars have gotten to know him by name. "I'm just a teddy bear," he says, smiling.

In 10 months, he's missed a few sessions, but he's stuck with it and expects he will still be keeping as rigorous a schedule next year and the year after. When it gets dull, he says, he just changes the routine and keeps at it.

"He really enjoys it, and his energy level is up," marvels Sharon. "I expect we'll both stay with it. Joining a club was probably the best money we ever spent."

Training tips

Jim Schruefer offers three tips for staying in shape.

* Stay off the scale. Your weight isn't the only measure of progress.

* Don't overwork yourself, but stay at it. Have patience with the process.

* Cardiovascular exercise is boring. Remember to bring headphones and position yourself by the TV. It may be rewarding, but it never gets interesting.

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