Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Food, Feet and Attila the Hun

267 Pounds
Back in February of 2011, the doctor gave me a rather stern warning about my weight and my current health issues that are related to it. Although my blood pressure has always been about 140 over something, hey I am mostly a Type A, he thought it should be lower. So at 276, 111 pounds more than I weighed when I graduated high school, I made a few changes in the way I ate. Then my wife asked me to join a sadomasochistic trainer to do circuit cardio twice a week. (We are still married!)

The shrink-wrapped 6-pack has to go!

In my first 'In It to Lose It' class, I nearly blew my cookies; God's way of letting me know that eating cookies was a large part of the my weight problem. (Actually in 2004, I had an injury to my foot from improper use of the treadmill along with cheap sneakers and I stopped exercising.) This class, however; was pretty bad! I should have left my water bottle closer to the floor and brought an oxygen tank. The one-to-ten pain scale used in hospitals, now needs to be extended to 15! Webster, the writer of the definition for 'Agony' was certainly well under 50-years-old when he penned it. The editors need to add a fourth description: "just freaking shoot me!"

I got home that evening and didn't feel like eating - sort of like a New Years morning hangover.

I am now done with the seven weeks of torture and there is just one left to go. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, I can! In fact, I have even gone for two additional workouts each week without the scrutiny of Attila the Hun. God knows his eternal destiny – hey, I am no Rob Bell.

Now that I can actually talk during a workout without swallowing my tongue, I intend to contact Sir Hugh Beaver to request a record review for the use of the phrase "this sucks", which has eclipsed the Guinness Book of World Records for the utterance of aforementioned phrase in a single hour.

I am making progress. I am down about 55 US pounds, my running speed is up to 7 mph from .007 mph, I have gone from less than a mile per workout to around 3, and everything that hurt before, hurts now more than before.

Then there is the food, glorious food. God in his infinite wisdom had McDonald's razed! My favorite drive-thru restaurant, the one just a few miles from my home, it is gone! And the local Uno's Chicago Restaurant is closed for remodeling until fall. A couple of weeks ago I went into Big Fresh and had an allergic reaction to the all natural food. My wife and I have figured out how to order Kids Meals at Olive Garden, we just have the 7-year-old call; three meals, under $11!

The byproduct of a high fruit and vegetable diet is obvious, but I can't find anyone to pull my finger. I don't miss the rice and potatoes too much either. Honestly, I haven't made that many changes to my former diet - or I didn't think so until now. Here is a self-test to see if you are actually a dieter, or a normal eater.

1) Does the dog food look appetizing?

2) Do you try to eat the crumbs from the bottom of every package and lick the bottom of the yogurt cup?

3) Have you extended the 5 Second Rule to 40 minutes?

4) Do you only weigh yourself after going #2?

5) Have you purposely tripped a skinny person on the escalator at the Mall?

6) Have you called the cable company to block pornographic restaurant commercials?

7) Do you "suck it in" and look at yourself in the mirror?

8) Have you  ever dreamt of a vacation to the Food Court at Disney World?

9) Have you thought of eating foods sacrificed to idols?

10) Have you started to read the Bible to see what foods will be on the table at the Great Banquet in the clouds?

If you answer yes to two or more of these questions, you might have a clue as to what has been going on with me the past eight weeks.

I know, diets usually fail, and one needs to make a lifestyle changes. For a desk-jockey this is a big change, and if all goes well, I will be running a 5K soon!

How about you, are you in shape?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Run for Your Life!

Newly Painted Crosswalks
I am up at 5:45 every morning. I head on downstairs, switch on the PC in the office, make my way to the kitchen for my daily cup o' joe, let the dogs out while it brews, and head back to the keyboard to check my email, Facebook, log my blood pressure, and get ready to run a few miles.

It is the same all the time; my formula for getting the day started. It's pretty rigid, and very religious. It is sort of like church every day; predictable, ordered and well, routine.

Having suffered a major heart trauma in April (2011), I am not only grateful for the simple things, such as not being in the hospital, that I could not go back to work unless I had my life in better order. Although I was exercising regularly, I wasn't as serious about it as I am now. 

I like to run outside as often as I can. We did get 88" of snow this past year, so the gym is a good option during the winter months and the treadmills are wide enough for snowshoes!

As spring became summer, it is best to run early when it a cooler; that and I only have to take one shower a day. Recently I noticed the crosswalk gods were good to me, and repainted them all, not that there are many cars on the road at 6:15 am.

I get to the end of the block, some times I am still half asleep. My trusty Android watching my heart rate, counting my steps, averaging my pace, monitoring my speed and route along with a custom play list of "running" tunes such as: Take the Money and Run (S Miller), Born to Be Wild (Steppenwolf), Set Me on Fire (Burn Service), Born to Run (Springsteen), Let it Rain, Turn it Around (Israel Houghton and the New Breed) and similar fast paced rock and worship tunes.

The music can really set the pace, and wimpy slow stuff is out!

Gleason Pond
I pass by a small pond with swans about the same time Noom (A sponsor of the Marathon Project) tells me that I have just completed 3 tenths of a mile. On occasion there is a Blue Heron who fishes among the lily pads. As I pick up the pace, jogging a few more blocks to warm up, I decide on a route for the morning. I have 4, with the shortest being about a mile and half, and the longest being closer to 4 miles. I like the one with the steady 1/2 mile slope that passes by Mass Bay College the best, though I run it backwards as well.

A mile in, I check my time to see where I am. My stamina is good for longer, but my knee (a bit of runners knee due to not warming up!) and the fact that I need to get to work, push and pull the pace for the second mile.

Adjusting the tempo of sneaker-to-pavement, I have certain songs that make me want to pray, so I do. I pray for revival in my town, my church, my state and the US, all while I huff-and-puff my way down the sidewalk.

I don't get to be too religious in my prayers as I am zipping by the scenery at 6.5 miles per hour. I just ask, and move on to the next item on my list. I don't recommend this as a regular way of praying, but some of the music just lends itself to certain prayers.

I pass a few other runners from the National Guard Armory. Those guys move! There are a couple of other faces that give a quick smile or slight wave as they pass in the other direction fiddling with their iPods. On the lawn at the school I see a few folks practicing Tai Chi at 6:30 am.

I often think about what one does in Tai Chi that might connect them with God. I guess it seems a little religious to me - ha!

Like a little city, dozens of squirrels amuse themselves beneath the oaks, gathering acorns and eating breakfast.

As I round the corner and head down the hill towards the lake, I can see the hospital where I was in ICU just a few short months ago. I think about how many thousands of beats my heart has made since that day - I thank God.

I am glad that I had good care, insurance, and have had an excellent recovery; many do not. I often think about folks who rely on all that and don't have faith like I do.

I pour on the speed for the last half mile. Now I am thinking about getting home, getting a lunch made, grabbing a shower and heading to work in rush hour traffic.

As I walk the 2 houses to my front door, I often wish I could go longer. Certainly not working would help

How about you, are you religious about anything?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Good Health is Not Picking Your Nose with a Kleenex!

I had lots of excuses for why I became obese, and eating dog food and jousting with lances were not among them!

In April I contracted hellacious flu virus which kept me on the verge of throwing up, in bodily pain, and sleepless for four days. On the third day of the siege I had so much chest pain I thought I was going to die. My wife took me right to the ER - the EKG went crazy!

They gave me all the heart attack related drugs: nitro, aspirin and Plavix. The nurse worked quickly and efficiently, all the time assuring me and my wife that my vitals were good and that was a good sign. I am not so sure how blood pressure at 62/28 is so good, but she's the expert, not me.

As the paramedics whisked me out the door she kissed me on the check and said "Don't worry, God bless you."

Sirens wailing, the paramedics raced me across town via ambulance for an emergency catheterization at the cardiovascular unit. They slid me onto the operating table, and within minutes were looking through my arteries for blockages - there were none - WTF?

In spite of the lack of atrial blockage, I was having congestive heart failure.

Exercise saved my life.
Since I spent a week in the hospital, I have a few observations about hospitals:

1) The care was excellent.- I was amazed at the compassion of both nurses and doctors, something I never saw before. Kudos to the staff! And during my ER visit over the weekend, my little one got a nose bleed while I was having an EKG - one of the nurses stepped right in. It was sort of like a 2-For-1 deal.

2) The lack of showers was a shock.- I am not too good without a shower! It was a glorious first stop the day I got home! I am trying to imagine why this is the case?

3) Drugs, drugs and more drugs.-They have drugs to fix this and that, and drugs to counteract the side-effects of the other drugs. I had 13 different ones during my visit, and I was taking 7 for months afterward. I am grateful for medicine, but my head is still spinning over the amount that one person needs to get well. But if I had to pick a favorite...

4) Tape!-I had 3 IVs and nearly a dozen heart monitoring pads as well as a dressing on the incision in near my hip. All I can say is this: there is money, big money in tape that does not rip off your body hair.

5) Dignity- there was pretty much none. Covering my privates with a 3-inch neon orange cloth was not comforting - well unless it was meant to save me from some other disaster. However; with enough Fentanyl, you could care less!

5 1/2 Sleep- it was no where to be found.

What do you think, did I miss anything?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

5 1/2: A Lesson on Gym Etiquette and Fitness

Readers of other my blog know that I had a serious cardiac event a few months ago, that I bought a new Android phone, and that I have been working out for quite a while. Today you get to meet the child of those three parents! Gyms are interesting places. The YMCA where I live is sort of the Walmart of gyms. It's big, it's got a lot of stuff in a huge building, and the people, well, they are colorful. I am going to start a page People of the Y. They are some of the same characters you see on the People of Walmart site only dressed in spandex.

Come with me on a short journey from desk jockey and couch potato to amateur runner and health nerd as I share the essentials of getting into shape.

1) Equipment: If you are going to be a health nerd, you need health nerd stuff. First, you need running shoes. It is best to get the ones that do not have the flashing LED's and Dora the Explorer or Diego on them (seriously, get good ones!). Then you need a musical device: iPod, SmartPhone or MP3 player will do. If it is a really sharp looking gadget, then you'll need to get the Velcro armband holder for it. That way you don't have to hold it when you use the rest room. If it is a cheesy Barbie phone, you may want to stitch a pocket for it in your drawers.

Be sure that you have headphones; at the gym, sharing is not caring!
If you are really cool (like me!) you need a heart rate monitor (HRM) to keep track of your pulse. Some of these have alarms so you will know when you are about to die on the treadmill. Mine is wireless, and to my surprise, not only does it show up on the special decoder wristwatch I have, as well as my SmartPhone, but it displayed on the Precor treadmill too. Freaky! What's next: A study to show that diet and exercise is the only good way to lose weight?

2) Apparel: In the old days we had sweat pants and sweat shirts. Period! Walmart could have saved aisles and aisles if that were still the case - but it's not. Now you can get Spandex (please don't if it makes you look like a package of pork tenderloin!), polyester, fake velvet and even sequins. I am just kidding about the sequins - I hope. So what's up with cheap polyester? It makes noise, lots of noise. The good news is that if you are huge like I was, you won't be going fast and you be able to keep it under 90 decibles! The velvet sweat suit with the nice little piping and stripes, be careful. If you fall on the treadmill, it 's like a long-haired cat caught in a lawnmower. I'm just sayin'. Oh, and remember, Richard Simmons is not trendy.

3) Diet: Come on, you've maybe tried a few such as Jenny Craig, Atkins, South Beach or the Dill Pickle Diet. If you are going to lose pounds, you need to change the way you eat. Dill pickles are 0 calories, so try them seriously! Dump the sweet drinks, cookies, candy and chips. It's over. You may want to get rid of white rice and potatoes too! Only whole wheat or whole grain bread, bagels and crackers if you are serious. Get yourself an 8 oz measuring cup. You get two filled with veggies or fruit for each meal, plus 3-4 oz of meat or fish. The trick is to chase it down stuff that makes it taste good, there are loads of spices besides chocolate and salt. Three snacks a day of something nutritious and you're done! I went from 276 to 219 exercising 3 times a week for 30 minutes. Without the exercise while I was sick, I still lost 10 pounds in 2 months.

4) Music: If you are going to move, you need music. It should rock, you are not meditating for God's sake! I suggest, Led Zeppelin, Burn Service, Steve Miller, Kutless, Tim Hughes and Jason Aldean.

5) Events: I need a goal, and you might too. Mine is a 5k race. My first for the next month is Run, Walk or Crawl 5K in a nearby town. There has got to be some slow people there! Sure, in high school I ran it in 16:57, but now I'm happy with 35 minutes.

5 1/2) Noom! - I have an app on my phone entitled Noom/Cardio Trainer. It keeps track of all my exercise and food consumption! Another app that is pretty cool if you don't have a SmartPhone is the MyFitnessPal. 

How about you, are you as healthy as you'd like to be?