Saturday, December 29, 2007

Frostbite 2M

I completed the 2 mile race in the Frostbite series today. My unofficial time is 20:03. That is just shy of 6 mph and I’m pretty pleased because it was only 3 or 4 months ago that I couldn’t run 2 minute intervals at 5.5 mph.

I’m still trying to learn POSE running. My foot placement is still in front of my body but I’m wasting a lot less energy on bouncing my 250lb body up into the air and then reabsorbing the shock of it coming back down.

I ran with Harry again for most of the race. (Harry is the aforementioned ‘metronome’ from my 3K race. He and his wife were both running. Again, his pace and his words of encouragement during the race were key in finishing as fast as I did.

The next race in the series is the 5K. When I complete that race, I will mark this goal complete. Only 2 weeks to go before my first official 5K race.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

On Track

So far, I’m meeting this goal. I’ve been working out T-W-T, S-S except for this last Sunday when I was sick as a dog. My workouts have been everything from climbing the stairs at Creve Couer park to CrossFit classes, from running the Frostbite 3K to lifting with my trainer. As long as I can keep it going over the holiday weekend, completing this goal should be simple.

Saturday, December 15, 2007


I’ve just realized that as I’ve posted something new and fulfilling for each month, I’ve actually completed this goal. It was worth doing and I think I’ll try to keep it up. You should do at least one new and fulfilling thing each month, if not each week.

Frostbite 3K

Nerves before the race. I nearly lost my breakfast approximately a quarter mile in. Michele kept up cheerful banter before the race and I just sat there mildly sick to my stomach.

Standing in the mob before the start, I pick my mark; I will beat him. No matter what happens, I will finish before he does. Of course, as the race started, he disappeared behind me never to be seen again.

There is a strange thinning effect at the beginning of a big race. Everyone starts out together in a semi-shuffle with barely enough room to take a step. Then, gradually, as people begin finding their pace, the crowd pares down. After several minutes, you are surrounded by those who are likely to be nearby the whole race as well as though who will soon find adrenaline has dropped them in the pot and running a pace they can’t sustain. For most of the race, the flow of people around you will be from the front, falling back. It seems not too many people realize they should be running faster, not slower and start actively passing people.

At the end of the race, there is a corollary effect as the strong finishers start picking up the pace for that final run in. Those hearty souls who have the heart to dig deep and leave it all on the track begin to creep forward until the time for the final effort, a mighty burst with, surely, some impact on their speed. I wonder, do the spectators see the change in speed or is it just in our hearts and our heads that we are sprinting like the wind?

Michele had hot chocolate and chicken noodle soup waiting in thermoses in the car. Of course, I was home before the thought of something in my stomach wasn’t repulsive. Gasping for air, just past the finish line, I managed to keep my breakfast down for the second time.

I’m glad I did this run. The longest run in the series will be 4 miles. I think the 5K is the 3rd run so it is a month away right now. Running in the slush and falling snow, searing my lungs with gaseous fire, tempering myself to make a stronger, more resilient me.

First Official Run - Frostbite 3K

I just completed my first running event. The first run of the 2007-08 Frostbite Series by the St. Louis Track Club. The weather was perfect for my inaugural Frostbite run. 31 degrees F, 2 inches of snow accumulated on the ground with more falling throughout the run. Running through slush was a new experience.

I owe sincere thanks to the gentleman who ran more than half the race to my right. I shall call him metronome until I discover his name. He set a perfect pace and offered encouraging words several times throughout the run, especially when I realized I’d just set a PR on the mile, halfway through a nearly 2 mile race.

Results (probably not available until after December 17, 2007) Until the official results are available, my wife’s unofficial report on my time is 19:01.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Registered for the Series

I registered for the Frostbite Series this week. Nothing like cutting it close. The reduced fee postmark deadline is today. One week from the first run of the series. 3K on Saturday, Dec 15. CrossFit has really upped my tolerances for faster paces but I still have no idea how to pace myself on the road. We will see how fast I can pull this one off. I think my trainer is running the short version of this series as well. I guess I can eat her dust for a couple minutes.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Innaugural Class

I attended my first CrossFit Des Peres class on Wednesday. In honor of this, they named the WOD after me.

The following is the workout as I completed it. Weights were scaled and I subbed jumping pull ups for regular pull ups.

Complete for time:
25 KB swings (30 lbs)
25 jumping pull ups
25 forward squats (30 lbs KB)
25 lemon squeezers
15 KB swings (30 lbs)
15 jumping pull ups
15 forward squats (30 lbs KB)
15 lemon squeezers
5 KB swings (30 lbs)
5 jumping pull ups
5 forward squats (30 lbs KB)
(this is where I lost the contents of my stomach)
5 lemon squeezers
25 burpees

I finished in 19:28.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Hunger and Cravings

For 6 months, I’ve been paying a lot more attention to what I eat. I’ve also been working my body, sometimes much, much harder than I have in the past. Sometimes, watching what I eat is really hard. Sometimes, I completely lose it. Today was a perfect example of this.

I started the day all right. For breakfast, I had 16oz whole milk, 3oz fat free turkey breast, a slice of whole grain bread and just a little mayo. Added up, this was a 5 block meal on the zone diet. I ate at about 5:00 AM. At 9:00 AM, I had 3 oz turkey, 1/2 an avocado and 2 small granny smith apples. At 11:45 AM, I had 4-5 oz turkey, the other half of the avocado, several walnut halves and another 2 apples. I got home at about 2:30 PM.

When I got home, I was ravenous. I felt like I hadn’t eaten for days. Suddenly, I cracked and started devouring everything. 2 slices toast with copious butter and jelly. 4 oz turkey. 7-8 chocolate covered, peanut butter filled pretzel bites. 20 minutes later, I was still starving. I ate 7-8 peanut butter pretzel sandwiches and drank another 16 oz whole milk. Finally, 20 minutes later, I wasn’t hungry.

Now, it is 6:00 PM and I have a craving for food. This is different than when I got home though. This is a mental desire to be eating and has nothing to do with the stomach churning hole than demanded to be filled. I don’t understand either urge but I would call the earlier one hunger and this one a craving. I seem to be mostly successful fighting cravings but I collapse against hunger. For example, while I eat everything that was handy earlier, I’m not eating anything now.

I don’t understand how to fight hunger or even if I should. Should I refrain from eating and only eat to my specified schedule, no matter how hungry I feel? Is ravenous hunger an indication that I’m not giving myself enough fuel to support the muscle building that is happening. (This is possible as I’ve just finished 4 days of incredibly tough workouts.) Is there something I can eat to fill the void without destroying what I’m working so hard to achieve? What do you do when you are fighting hunger or cravings?

Sunday, December 02, 2007


I have to register for the frostbite series. I need to get it out this week. I’ll post something if I get it done. Every day I procrastinate is another missed chance.


I think I’ve met this goal. Today, I met with Dan and Orie at CrossFit Des Peres .

I worked on dead lifts, back squats and overhead presses. Dan also taught me the turkish get up and SOTS presses. At 95 lbs, I did a set of 3 overhead press and a set of 6 back squats.

Finally, we did a WOD. With continually running clock and rounds of 3 minutes do the following: 30 sledge hammer tire slams, 20 KB jerks (10 each arm) and 2xround pull ups (2 first round, 4 second round, etc). I subbed 20lb dumbell jerks and ring body rows. Also, after we failed a round, we had to do the incline trainer at 5mph 30 incline.

I completed 4 rounds. After lifting the sledge the second time in the 5th round, I just quit. I think I rested for about 15 seconds then hit the incline trainer for 30 seconds. The last 10 seconds were beyond rough.

I believe Dan completed 5 rounds and 20 seconds on the trainer. Orie was a monster with 6 rounds.

To finish a perfect workout, I bought a 10 session package. I’m hooked on CrossFit. 2 weeks and I have seen marked changes in my upper body. My chest is bulking up. My shoulders and biceps are larger and more defined. My abs are starting to peek through my spare tire. The impact has been remarkable and my weight has started going down again. This morning I hit a new low of 243.5 lbs.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

CrossFit Zone BBQ

Orie invited a bunch of St. Louis Crossfitters over to his house for a CrossFit Zone BBQ.

We started out with a workout on the high school track, literally across the street from his front door. 6 stations setup on half the track. Kettlebell swings. Medicine ball cleans. Box jumps. Sandbag presses. Slam balls. Push ups. 2 rounds of 30 reps each. And to make things worse, between stations we alternated bear crawls and lunges. We did get a 200m recovery jog from the push up station to the kettlebell station. This was an epic exhaust fest. Between my last 2 stations, just walking was a challenge. I’d given up on the transition exercises early in the 2nd round. And by the time I got the push up station both times, I could barely do push ups from my knees in sets of 5. The abuse to my arms was brutal. You can’t get a better workout than this at my fitness level.

After the workout, we headed across the street to Orie’s house. Orie is an amazing cook. He has collected together some great old recipes that happen to be very zone friendly. We had grilled salmon, tilapia and pork tenderloins (absolutely perfect) along with a thai cabbage slaw, a wonderful indian curried mock mashed potatoes (cauliflower), which I will be adding as a staple of my diet because it was so good, and grilled chicories (endive & radiccio).

The workout was intense. The food was superb. The company was friendly, healthy and happy. Really, I don’t think you can have a better BBQ than this.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Another Training 5K

I just set a new personal record, 5k in 35:48. This was on the road near my house. I’m surprised I managed to set a PR when I had to walk for 6-8 minutes around mile 2. I ran this today because it was yesterday’s workout of the day (WOD) for CrossFit .

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Great Trainer

I have to say my personal trainer is awesome. I asked her to look at CrossFit and she embraced it wholeheartedly. Today’s workout, 4 rounds of 20 overhead squats, then 35 seconds of max reps jumping pull ups. This was so intense. The overhead squats were with 12, 15, then 18 lbs for the last 2 sets.

I also discussed my concerns with moving too fast trying to learn the clean. It is a scary, highly technical skill and I want to make sure I have great fundamentals before I start adding a lot of weight.

I’ve been working with my trainer since April. She has literally changed my life. I’m healthier now than I was a decade ago and I have the foundation for a lifetime of fitness.

If you live in the St. Louis area and you are considering changing your life, let me know and I will put you in contact with my trainer. I really can’t stress enough how much she has helped me.

Tour the Facility, or Do You Hate Your Arms?

I met with Dan, Brandon and Orie at CrossFit Des Peres today. They have a lot of open space above Core Fitness. 6 sets of adjustable rings, 2 lifting platforms, a huge tire, just to name a few things I noticed right off, not to mention the giant kettlebells. We did various warm ups. They checked my form on some basic movements, air squat, front squat, thrusters. I tried a ring pull up, some ring push ups and a couple ring dips with legs on the ground.

We finished with a sick WOD (workout of the day). 21-15-9-3 reps of (my scaled versions) 20 lbs dumbell thrusters, jumping ring pull ups, dumbell push ups. (I’m still wary of doing normal push ups on the ground since my nerve problems in my left arm.) I figured out pretty quickly I could break this down into 3 mini sets, so 7-7-7, 5-5-5, 3-3-3, 1-1-1. This made a huge difference for the last set because it was just like 1 more set of 3 from the 9s with a little rest. I had a total of 5 push ups that I didn’t count because I couldn’t finish the rep. To be that close to, or at failure so often in such a short time was a new experience. Anyway, I finished in 16:22. I read somewhere that the first time you do something is always a personal record so I guess that was 16:22 PR.

Before I left, I jumped on the incline trainer. 20-25 seconds or so of 4 mph at a 50 incline. That thing is just sick. I totally want to do more. Of course it made my legs match my arms for the spaghetti lactic acid burn. Stretching felt so good as toxins flushed into my system from pumped muscles.

I’m going to love CrossFit. This is like the first month or so when I started working out, only, as far as I can tell, the feeling should just keep going. I can’t wait for the next sick workout.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Sunday Workout - Shirley, It's Cold Outside

I met Dan, Orie and Elizabeth today at the Kirkwood High School track. It turns out Orie lives across the street. We set up 4 stations around the track. Do a station, sprint to the next station, go around twice. Elizabeth suggested 36 reps as the magic number because it was 36 degrees outside. I think she needs to see a shrink.

We each started at different stations. I started at the one arm dumbell snatches (KB for most but I did 25 lb dumbells because I was unfamiliar with the motion.). 18 with each arm, then sprint to the 24” box for box jumps. 9 box jumps and my bursting heart forced me to lower the power requirement by doing step ups instead. From that point on, the sprint was more like a recovery walk and I just hoped to be able to breath by the time I got to the next station. 36 ball slams with the 20 lb medicine ball. Umm, no problem? Sort of…. An actual semi-run to the 4th station, sand bag. I don’t know how heavy the duffel bag of sand was but carrying it 100 yards and back was a great challenge. I kept going for all 8 stations. After my last sandbag carry, I gave everything that was left for a final 100 yd sprint then spent 5 minutes gasping for air hoping not to revisit breakfast. All told, one of my best workouts ever. After only 9 hours I’m already feeling muscle rebuilding.

I’m meeting Dan at CrossFit Des Peres on Tuesday to see the facility. If their workouts all get this much out of me, the returns are going to be awesome.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


I asked my personal trainer if we could incorporate CrossFit into my program. Last night, she listened. We spent 5 – 10 minutes with her trying to teach me the clean (olympic lift). Then, I did 20 kettlebell swings (I don’t know the weight.), 20 dumbell thrusters, 20 burpees (without the push up), another 20 KB swings, partner stretches and then I did 50 prone knees to elbows for homework. This may have been my best workout since I started working out in April. My quads are destroyed. Every time I stand up, walk, or climb stairs, I just start laughing from the wonderful pain.

CrossFit was new for me. CrossFit was fulfilling. I’m looking forward to more CrossFit.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Parkour and Open Gym

Last night, I went to an open gym session at a local gymnastics gym. Team TRICKset gets together there to practice parkour, tumbling and to generally have a good time. I started to learn monkey jumps, kongs and cashes. I also learned to do a passable palm spin. This was probably the coolest thing I learned last night. When I see it executed in videos, it looks great and it turns out that it is mostly a mental move. It isn’t that hard to execute as long as you commit to it but a moment’s hesitation and it is all over but the fall.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Five Long Miles

Warm up, walked .5 miles on the treadmill.
Quick stretch.
5 miles in 63:57.
Cool down, walked .5+ miles.
Longer stretch.

Several observations occur to me. First, my brand new running shoes are laced too tight and now my feet ache. Second, I had the same minor problems with the first two miles, but miles three and four were pretty good. Mile five was bad. And by bad, I mean really bad. It got a lot harder after four miles. At four and a half miles, it got really hard. The last quarter mile was serious death march. I was down to 4.3 miles per hour by then and almost half stumbling a lot. Every tenth of a mile was pure struggle. Back around mile three I was enjoying conquering those mental demons, imagining myself as some kind of dragon slayer or something. Well every single one of those demons and dragons was waiting for me in that last quarter mile. And finally, one last observation, I’m a lot more flexible after five miles of running. I hope I can avoid every muscle in my body cinching up like leather straps drying on wood.

If I can run five miles, the frostbite series should be fairly easy. I don’t know how soon I’m likely to try anything longer than five miles though. Right now, I can’t imagine how marathoners do it, much less those super endurance runners doing 100+ mile races.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Why I recommend "Knights of Dark Renown"

by David Gemmell

More than any other writer, David Gemmell excels at showing how heroes are created when real people are forced into extraordinary circumstances. He shows that the flaws which make us human can be overcome and he regularly demonstrates how people are harder on themselves than anyone else would ever be.

In Knights of Dark Renown, David has nearly outdone himself. Almost every character displays growth and unexpected depth. If you value the heroic human condition, do yourself a favor and check this out.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Spain and Italy

I lived in Italy when I was 2 years old. I have memories from it but they seem almost surreal. I remember our dog Prince jumping out the second story apartment window. I remember eating most of a bottle of Flinstones’ vitamins. I barely remember the earthquake of ‘74 and living in a tent immediately after it. I have an image of the canals of Venice and another of a large wine bottle I got into. I don’t know how many of my memories are real and how many were fabricated in my mind to match events or stories I heard my parents tell.

I lived in Spain for 3 years in the early ‘90s. I was in the US Navy and stationed at Rota in Andalucia, across the bay from Cadiz. What little Spanish I know is marred by the lisping Andalucian accent (making it Cadeeth, not Cadeeze).

Training Going Great

I set another personal distance record today. After lifting weights with my trainer for 30 minutes, I ran 4 miles in 49:15. I may not set any world records but there is no way I won’t finish the runs on the Frostbite series. The 5K is in the bag.

I feel so good when I finish a run. The first 1.5 miles today were really hard. It seemed like I was checking the clock every minute. My mind was wearing down and my willpower struggled to fight back. I refused to quit. Nothing could make me stop. After each glance at the clock I told myself I’m not stopping now. Finally, in the second half of the second mile, I started to ease into my stride. Things smoothed out and the minutes just rolled by. It is incredible to realize I just don’t have to stop.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Running or Cheating?

I was invited to “enjoy Fall 2007 by having one new and fulfilling experience in October, November, and December.” Since I wasn’t invited until October was half over, I’m going to count running 5K for the first time ever, even though it was in the gym on a treadmill. Is it cheating if I count my first organized race (Frostbite Series 3K, Dec 15) for December?

Monday, October 15, 2007

First 5K

I ran 5K on a treadmill in 37:57. It wasn’t a glorious time but I did finish without once slowing to a walk. Imagine that, I can actually run a 5K. Now, if I can just learn how to set a pace, I might be OK when I run those Frostbite races.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Frostbite Series

The St. Louis Track Club hosts the Frostbite Series over the winter. I am going to participate in the short distances of this 5 race series. Dec 15, 3 kilometer. Dec 29, 2 mile. Jan 12, 5 kilometer. Jan 26, 4 mile. Feb 9, 3 mile. I’ve never done anything like this and I will be happy to finish, forget placing.

If you live in or near St. Louis, why don’t you join me for a bit of winter fun in Forest Park?

Without Limits

I just finished a run. If you’ve been with me, you might know that my furthest run before today was ~2.1 miles. Knowing that, and knowing it was probably less than 2 weeks ago that I did it, you might find my accomplishments today a little surprising.

I just finished running 3 miles on the treadmill and finished it in 35:18. I think I’m still in shock. Looking back at it, the key seems to have been not setting any limits. Before I started, I decided I’d go 3 miles even if it took me 45 minutes. I made myself not watch the time and not watch my heart rate. I just ran. I did start adding .1 mph at each tenth of a mile. At the 2 mile mark, I was running at 6 mph. I dropped down to 3.5 mph for a couple minutes when I hit the 2 mile mental barrier but shortly I asked myself why I wasn’t pushing and before you know it I was back up to 5 mph, then 5.5, then 6. For the last minute, I finished at 7 mph. The whole time I focused on having fun and trying to make my stride smooth, with less bounce. Still, 3 miles at an average pace above 5 mph. If it sinks in, I might pass out.

Now, I need to stretch. In 6 months, I seem to have regained most if not all of my youthful flexibility and I might be surpassing it in some areas. I deserve a good rest tonight and I need it because spin class is tomorrow morning at 9:15 AM.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Amateur Cook

I can cook edible food most days although it rarely turns out like I want it too. I still can’t make the ideas in my head appear on a plate. Maybe I won’t ever be able to do that but I really want to. Perhaps some time at a cooking school is in my future. Who knows.

Play Volleyball?!

I need to replace this goal with something a bit more concrete. I’ve been playing volleyball for years. Maybe something like play volleyball this year, or play on a team.

Stalled Writing - St. John's College Admissions Essays

I can’t even remember the last time I worked on these. I don’t have a sense of urgency here as we probably can’t afford for me to go to school next year but I still want to get these done. I don’t think there is anything more important for me to be working on but somehow writing my soul on paper for a review board doesn’t sound exciting.

Capoeira Blues

At one point I was going to capoeira a couple times a week and loving it. Unfortunately, capoeira, physical therapy and a personal trainer combined to be too much for me and I stopped going to capoeira. Well, I’m not doing my physical therapy now so I need to go back. Thanks to Akaijoy for reminding me.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

From Metal to Meat

Last year, I wanted to ride my bike to work, a 12 mile ride one way. I created a route near my house to start training on and dubbed it the Loop of Death. When I started, I could barely finish it on my bike in 15 minutes. I was in really sad shape. Eventually, I conquered the Loop of Death on my bike and moved on to riding to work. That went great for a while but after 2 major incidents in a week, my bike ended up disassembled on the porch, sad and forgotten.

A little under 6 months ago, I started working out with a trainer. I’ve been lifting weights with her a few times a week and doing cardiovascular exercise 3-6 days a week. One thing I have not had any success with is running. At 290 lbs, running hurt. It hurt on the road. It hurt on a treadmill. I wanted to run but I couldn’t seem to hack it.

For the last few weeks, I’ve been running on the treadmill for about 12 minutes during my cardio work. I’ve improved a bit but not nearly as much as I wanted. Right now, I run 4.3 mph for 12 minutes and I’m OK.

Enter yesterday. I didn’t do any cardio Monday or Tuesday and my trainer told me to do SOMETHING on Wednesday, even if it was really light. Well, I was meeting friends for dinner so I couldn’t get to the gym. I decided to run/walk the old loop of death after dinner. I figured I’d run until I got really tired then walk the rest and that should be about 30-35 minutes.

I set of running and the next thing I knew, I was running back up the driveway in just 26m42s. I ran 2.2 miles without stopping and without thinking I would die. I could have sprinted at the end or run a while more. I’m still in shock.

Maybe I will be able to run a 5K soon. Maybe I’ll even be able to work on improving my time, instead of just trying to finish.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Guilt (and the things we do to avoid it)

I'm sitting here reading the blogs of friends and realizing it has been a long while since I've posted anything. I haven't been doing much with 43 Things for a while and most of my posts actually come from there. Anyway, I'm feeling guilty for 'spying' on friends (both acutal and in progress) and I thought I'd say a little bit here, just in case someone is listening.

I'm about 3 weeks from 6 months of working out. My weight has stalled at a net loss of about 35 lbs. Still, it looks like I've lost about 5 inches off my waistline and I can't even describe how much fmore fit I am. Running is still a huge challenge for me. I really want to improve there so I can run with friends but right now it is hard. I still push myself really hard when I exercise and it usually takes my training telling me to take days off before I realize I'm not getting enough rest days. And I still can't understand why some days I feel like I'm barely working with a heart rate of 180+ and other days I feel like I'm at death's door by 150.

Neil interviewed me for a class the other day. I must have talked his ear off for at least two hours. I'll have to work on my counter interview technique in the future. It is an easy trap to get into but I hate one sided conversations, especially when I'm the only side. Despite how much I enjoy telling stories about my life, and it is a colorful life, I much prefer a more even back and forth in a conversation.

I've been reading a lot. This year, I'm trying to record everything I read on All Consuming. I wish All Consuming had a plugin for Facebook. Since I read so much, it would be nice to let friends know what I am reading. Actually, if you read my blog from the actual site, the books I am currently reading are listed but it isn't as useful as it seems. I frequently forget to record a book until I am done with it. Also, the books that I read a little at a time show up for a long time when the books that I read straight through show up for a few days at most.

Well, I do tend to go on so I'm going to cut this little info blurb short. I hope I've given you a brief insight into what is happening in my life. And if you are reading, there is a strong chance I'm interested in what is happening in yours so why don't you post a comment with a link to your blog?

Saturday, September 22, 2007

A story about "Engaging the Enemy"

by Elizabeth Moon

Engaging the Enemy is an excellent addition to Vatta’s War (the series) but unfortunately would have made a better addition to another larger book. I would recommend reading the earlier books in the series first as much of the context of the book is not provided. There is not nearly as much space combat as other Elizabeth Moon novels but the scene is nicely set for some great combat in Command Decision which comes next.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

A story about "Adiamante"

by L. E. Modesitt Jr.

In Adiamante, L.E. Modesitt Jr. has once again created a framework for introspection about society. How long will it take us to pay for our sins? Why do societies collapse? Will we ever learn from our mistakes? These questions and more painted against the backdrop of a post collapse earth. Almost no one creates worlds this complex, this rich, and this much fun, all while shining the harsh light of truth on our ugliest secrets.

A story about "Night Watch"

by Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchet takes on time, paradox and quantum physics in Night Watch. Sam Vimes has a whole new take on self-defense. If you enjoy the Morporkian watch even a little bit then this is a must read.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Three and a Half Months

I can hardly believe how much has happened in the last few months. I started training on April 12, 2007. I was 288 lbs and 41.5% body fat. I couldn’t walk up stairs without labored breathing. I never slept well. I ate poorly. I never had any energy to do the things I wanted to do. Most of the time, I didn’t even feel well enough to enjoy going out with my wife.

I am now slowly moving from 265 lbs to 260 lbs and my body fat is around 24%. Michele comments regularly on my disappearing belly. Muscles are appearing in strange places around my body. I’m more energetic and I’m eating much better. I drink between 2 and 5 liters of water a day. I work out 3-6 days a week, doing everything from personal training to capoeira. I may be in better shape than I have been at any time in the last 10 years. I still weigh more than I did 10 years ago but I can’t recall the last time I could run this far or this fast.

The first month of training was very hard. I started out with an hour twice a week. I had to stop between almost every set and pant until I could breath again. Usually, I had to stop mid-set to catch my breath. Once I hit that wall of cardio endurance, usually about 20 minutes in, I was wiped out for the rest of the hour.

Three to four weeks in, I started training for an hour, three times a week. I was fanatic about pushing myself. I was coming in to do cardio most days when I wasn’t training and even some days that I was. On off days, I sometimes did cardio twice a day. Being alive was great and feeling my body function and function reasonably well was a new and invigorating experience.

Towards the end of the second month, my left hand started feeling numb. Some exercises, like push-ups on the ground, actually hurt. Then, my hand started to get worse and my wrist and elbow started aching. I saw my doctor and he told me to do three things, get tests, see a neurosurgeon and stop lifting weights completely.

The next few weeks were miserable for me. I felt like a carpet had been pulled out from under me. Finally, I start doing something right and my doctor tells me to stop. I had many tests. I saw the neurosurgeon. They wanted to cut my elbow open.

I got a second opinion. I saw a physiatrist and his answers made a lot more sense than those I’d had so far. He could explain what was happening and could answer questions the other doctors didn’t even come close to. And above all, he prescribed physical therapy not surgery.

For the last month, I’ve been going to physical therapy a couple times a week. They’ve done ultrasound (for deep muscle heating), trigger point massage, hot packs, and talked to me about the root causes of my problem. I’ve been doing daily targeted stretches and more recently started a series of rotator cuff exercises. I’m slowly correcting my posture which we hope will stop the symptoms as I no longer need to compensate for weak muscles in my back. And above all, I can exercise again.

A month ago I started capoeira and also starting training again. My training sessions are targeted now to avoid making my arm worse and to help speed my recovery. I do a lot more legs. Capoeira is very intense for my legs as well. I’ve also started doing a lot of high intensity interval training in my cardio. The all out bursts, several times a work out cause a post work out increase in metabolism that really burns calories.

The point is, four months is enough to change your life. Are you in shape? Can you do the things you want to do without worrying about passing out along the way? Do you have the energy to love the people around you or even yourself? If you don’t, there aren’t any valid excuses. Get up. Do something about it right now. There is no better time to start.

A Month of Capoeira

I’ve completed my first month. Really, I did just a little over 3 weeks and then took a week off. I think I went 10-12 classes in 3 weeks. Unfortunately, the ligaments and tendons in my legs have been aching and I don’t want to over train myself into another injury. During the week off, I’ve been doing ice baths to help with the swelling and aching and hopefully I’ll be good to go again on Wednesday.

Capoeira is awesome. The work out is tremendous and the agility is off the charts. I have so much fun with the movements and I still can’t believe I’m getting compliments. Apparently I move very well for someone with less than a month of training. I hope I can keep up the pace of progress.

I will be continuing capoeira as part of my regular conditioning routine. With 4 classes a week to attend, I’m hoping to make 2 or 3 every week, barring breaks for healing. Maybe I’ll post some pictures or video of me making a fool of myself.

If there is a martial art you are interested in, and you have not tried it yet, get up now, find a class and try it. It will be one of your best and most rewarding decisions.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

How Mount Rainier changed my life

I remember several trips to Mount Rainier as a very young child. I remember hiking out trails before the snow melted off and being forced to turn back when a cliff side trail dissappeared beneath a massive drift. I remember a morning by a mountain lake followed by torrential downpours that chased us off the mountain. I think my sister and I were even carried by a ranger for part of that trip. I remember sledding on a slope of Mount Rainier. I remember trying to swim in glacier fed, crystal clear rivers, barely above freezing. I remember drives with plummeting mountain sides made even steeper to my young mind by the trunks of evergreens barely steeper than they.

All of my memories of this great mountain are fond, even the ones that maybe shouldn’t be. Mount Rainier inspires my soul. I’m glad for Mount Rainier.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Quality Soldering Iron

I bought a really good soldering iron station a few weekends ago. With a good iron, it was easy to learn to solder. I put together an LED pumpkin for Michele and a lame FM radio for me. Both projects worked just fine and I have a few hundred solder points under my belt now. Since soldering was one of the barriers to entry on a lot of the MAKE projects I wanted to try, maybe now I can actually complete some more projects.

MAKEing Ice Cream

So, I finally made something from MAKE magazine. Consider how most projects are electronic or hardware related, it seems like a silly start but I made ice cream from volume 6. It was released as a sample for kids to make over the summer but it was an actual project from the published magazine so I think it counts. I used vanilla bean and a raw sugar cane extract for sugar so the final flavor was a strong almost molasses taste. It was pretty good but the burst ziplock bag and salt water everywhere were enough to convince me an ice cream churn is money well spent.

Sustaining Capoeira

I’m two weeks into my first month of capoeira. I’ve missed 2 classes because I had something else going on, one for a good reason and one for a bad reason. I missed one class because there was no class on the 4th of July. That puts me at 5 classes in 2 weeks. I think I get a little extra credit because I’ve been practicing au normal (cartwheels, slow and controlled), bananeira (handstands, hold for long times, with wall for support for now), ginga (basic footwork) and cocorinha (squats, many at once, 50 – 100 at a time for now). I’m still holding off on push-ups in class because of my arm but at least I hold the starting push-up position while they do them and that isn’t exactly easy.

My cartwheels are already improving. I can slow them down a lot and I am gaining control over my body and legs as I finish them. Before too long, I hope to be able to move straight into a ginga the way everyone else does without losing a couple beats. Right now, the pause when I finish an au normal leaves me trying to catch up in the ginga.

I’m still trying to figure out how capoeira is going to affect my overall workout regimen. It is a strange mix of high cardio and strength. Also, as my body adapts to the new uses, I think the feel of a class will change. Already, I don’t feel quite so wiped out / winded during class. I sweat like crazy though. It is too bad classes aren’t outside on a lawn because I could water a lot of grass. Regardless, I’ve yet to see an out of shape capoeirista who wasn’t just starting out. This is a great start on that gymnast’s body I’ve always wanted.

The real trick for me will be keeping it up. Michele’s interest is already waning, if not completely gone. I have to learn to sustain my own interest and to force myself to go when lazy saps my strength and leaves me wanting to sleep in bed instead of going to humiliate myself in class. It would have been great if Michele wanted to do it with me but I’ve got to learn to take more responsibility for my life and my lifestyle.

I will try to make at least 2 classes a week for the rest of the first month. Maybe even 3 or 4 some weeks. That means going to the mixed level class tomorrow night so I have to go. There are no excuses.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Starting Over

I’ve started training again. I’m going to try 2×1/2 hour sessions of lower body work until I can resolve my nerve problems in my arm. Things feel like they are getting better but I’m trying hard to avoid over doing it.

Sunday I did a half hour. Body weight squats, step backs from a stool and an ab exercise (lay down, arms above head, legs flat, bring up arms and one leg to touch directly over waist, reaching high, go back down, repeat with other leg) were the first rotation. The second rotation was stool cross overs (start with left leg on stool and right leg on floor, stand up on stool, hop from left foot to right foot and step down with the left leg to the floor, reverse, repeat) and the sideways crouch walk, down and back. The first rotation seemed easy but my concentration and balance were way down. The second rotation sent my pulse into the stratosphere. I hope we incorporate some weights on Thursday. I’m not doing cardio work outs right now as I think capoeira will more than make up that particular need and it is much more fun. I might try some capoeira conditioning if I can’t make it to class some nights.

Capoeira, Make Me Strong!

Last night was my third class. It was my first “beginner” class. My first two classes were mixed with advanced student and beginning students intermingled. At my conditioning level, the beginner class was harder than the mixed class. This seems counter-intuitive but let me explain.

In the mixed class, when I feel overwhelmed, I stop and I don’t feel too bad. I think to myself, this is the hard stuff so it is ok for me to stop. This reduced mental block on stopping makes it easier for me to give up mentally, before I’m forced to give up physically.

In the beginner class, I feel much worse about stopping. I think to myself that I should be able to at least do it, even if not well. If I stop in this class, I feel I am letting myself down. This gives me the motivation to push through pain that would otherwise shut me down. Even when I do stop, I start again as soon as I feel I might be able to, sometimes only seconds after I give out.

In last night’s beginning class, my legs were totally destroyed. At least twice I collapsed on the floor because my leg gave out. Even when I collapsed, I was back up and moving, trying to keep up, in probably under 30 seconds. I pushed so hard to keep the pace. By the end, my ginga was horrible but I was determined to just keep moving. In the brief pauses, I tried to stay standing and when I stood I had to focus on keeping my lower body slightly tense to keep the blood from pooling in my legs and leaving me light headed. I swallowed bile and used mind over body when I thought I might puke. I had very little awareness of the rest of the class and my vision went partially black several times. The only exercise I was asked to do that I completely skipped was push-ups. Until I resolve my nerve issues in my left arm, push-ups are completely off limits. Sometime during class, I left a piece of myself on the floor. I ignored the pain in my feet through class and cleaning the open blister on my right foot wasn’t much fun when I got home.

Today is the eye in the storm. My muscles in my calves, front and back thighs, lower, mid and upper back, shoulders, abs and sides, and in between my ribs all feel weak and like something I can’t quite name, almost jittery or rubbery. My whole body is screaming that while I don’t hurt yet, just wait for tomorrow. Tomorrow will be a long day but another class awaits and I won’t let my body conquer me. Capoeira will make me strong. Capoeira, make me strong!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Poncho Safe

My mother's brother's wife's brother Poncho was kidnapped from his vehicle in Mexico a couple weeks ago. I asked several of my friends to pray for him and his family. I just received news that Poncho is alive and on his way to rejoin his family. Thank you so much for your care and support.


I love when my interests dovetail into each other. I want to learn to play hand drums. I even have a doumbek that I am almost capable of a few rhythms on. Now, I am trying capoeira and one of the musical instruments they use is a hand drum. Time to learn a little capoeira drumming. I translated the rhythm they were playing tonight into something I can understand (te-ka doum tek rest, repeat). A little practice and I’m sure I can play the base rhythm while someone else embellishes and that is the first step.

Running Optional

It is hard for me to stay motivated to run. On a good day, running is great, energizing and satisfying. On a bad day, just getting out the door is torture. I’m going to replace running with capoeira where I’m much more motivated to push myself and where I’m intrinsicly having fun instead of occasionally exalting in the feeling of my body functioning.

First Class

I went to my first capoeira class tonight. It was tremendously challenging, far beyond my expectations. I spent most of the night sitting on the sidelines trying not to pass out. I also enjoyed it more than any other martial art I’ve ever studied. The culture and music associated with capoeira is motivating and the controlled acrobatic movements are so exciting. I might not be able to climb out of bed tomorrow morning but I can’t wait for my next class. In the mean time, I’m going to read a bit and try to get a handle on a smooth, balanced ginga (pronounced jinga). Oh, and I’ll probably try to learn to count to 10 in Brazillian Portuguese.

Positive Progress

The slump has been very hard. Doctors recommending surgery on my elbow and forbidding me from continuing to lift weights was a lot more difficult to respond to in a healthy way than I would have expected. I think I’ve been in mental hibernation for a couple weeks, through several tests and constantly worsening symptoms. I stopped doing nearly all cardio and of course I wasn’t doing any lifting. My weight stablized but it has been hard to resist bad habits without the recurring reminder of a training session to focus me on my goals. I’ve been moody and hard to get along with.

Tuesday, I took the day off to wait for the dishwasher installer. I took the morning off to mope and learn how to tie monkey fists. My obsessive personality of course suggested that I take the rope in to work and I’ve tied quite a few of these decorative knots over the last couple days. I don’t know if it is related but for the first time since my symptoms started, they have gotten a bit better instead of only getting worse. Maybe working my hands is helping. For a couple days, my hand has been mildly numb, there is almost no tingling and the pains have dropped almost to the point that I can’t feel them.

To top everything off, I had an amazing lunch today with my wife. I really wish you could have been there. Morels are still in season and Cafe Balabans makes them into the most amazing pasta I’ve had in ages.

Oh, and I think I might start studying another martial art tonight. Have you heard of capoeira? It is a Brazilian style, looks a lot like dancing and looks like a lot of fun. I think we will be going to class tonight. Maybe I’ll get a post up about how it goes.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Bad Times

For over a month, the ring finger and pinky finger of my left hand have been numb. After about 4 weeks, I saw my doctor about it. He seemed concerned and scheduled me for a couple tests. The X-ray of my neck was normal but then last Wednesday, I had a nerve conductance and EMG test. The nerve conductance part was interesting. They taped or hooked electrodes to different parts of my hand and wrist and then administered shocks of various strengths to different places.

The EMG part of the test was not fun. For that, they stuck needles in different parts of my hand and arm, apparently to measure the strength of the electrical signals my nerves are producing. The needles were very small but a couple of the placements were quite uncomfortable. Also, after getting a baseline (by twitching the needle she just stuck in my arm, I mean WTF?!) the doctor would ask me to tense a muscle in a particular way. One time, I did so much too quickly and too hard and believe me, it wasn’t a mistake I repeated twice. It really didn’t feel good when that happened. And finally, the needle she put into my tricep felt like being stung continuously by an angry bee. It also left a visible bruise. I suppose that needle was more painful because of the extra fat it had to go through to get to the muscle.

The whole test changed what was a mild day for my numbness to a bad day and my hand felt worse the rest of that day and the next. It also left aches, similar to arthritis, I think, in my wrist and elbow for the rest of the day. The result of the test, the testing doctor told me there is a problem with my ulnar nerve (duh) and it is causing damage (did she just say damage? I’d like to know what that means.) to the muscles it feeds. She also said we should take it seriously and my doctor would tell me more about what that means.

So now, I am waiting. My doctor didn’t call me on Thursday or Friday. The not knowing is gnawing at me inside. Fortunately, my wife is a saint because she has had to put up with a miserable spouse for a week and a half now. I don’t know how she does it.

When I saw my doctor about it the first time, he told me to stop lifting weights until he finds out what is wrong. As much as I’ve been looking forward to, and enjoying my lifting sessions, not lifting has been very hard on me. My mood is way, way, way down. I started the Couch to 5K running plan with my wife but it hasn’t felt like much exercise yet. Maybe if we do it on treadmills we can set our own pace.

The days when Michele meets with her trainer are the worst. I barely want to get out of bed. Today, I did cardio while Michele met with her trainer. Facing the gym, knowing I wouldn’t be lifting felt like my spirit was being buried alive. I think it might have been the first time I went in since I talked to my doctor and I can’t believe how hard it has been.

Anger and frustration do make good fuel for working out though. I managed an average heart rate of 159 for an hour. My peak heart rate was 184. I spent 20 minutes doing speed intervals on a step mill and I was apparently working hard enough to impress one of the trainers. I spent another 20 minutes on the treadmill trying some silly program (forest walk I think) but at the end I cranked the speed up until I spent the last 3-4 minutes running at 6mph. Despite that being when I hit my peak heart rate, I could have kept going. I only stopped because Michele was done.

At the tail end of my workout, I found a theme song for my last couple of weeks. It got through to me strongly enough that I listened to it twice. Stabbing Westward, Crushing Me. “I’m feeling the weight of the world and it’s crushing me. I’m feeling the weight of everyday life and it’s crushing me. How much more will it take? How much more until it breaks me?” Today would be a great day to take up a fighting sport, well, great for me, not so much for my partner.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Campus Visit

As far as intelligently planned excursions go, my first visit to St. John’s College in Santa Fe was a bit of a flop. I arrived the first week of break between the spring and summer sessions so nearly everything was closed. Most students were gone. The book store, cafeteria, public rooms, and several other areas were all unavailable and/or locked.

Despite the lack of planning, I consider the trip a complete success. The campus is amazing. There are three decent hills that can be hiked directly from the campus. The views are wonderful. the buildings fit in well with the Santa Fe architecture on the exterior and the interiors are quirky, colorful and imaginitive, exactly the kind of atmosphere that inspires intelligent conversation and a fun loving attitude.

Tristan (I think), the student who showed us around has just completed her junior year and was a font of information, answering nearly every question I had. She was great fun to talk to and neither Michele nor Mandy seemed bored with the tour. I really appreciate her sharing her time with us, even if the alternative was making copies.

At the end we talked to Randall. (Again, I think, at least I have his card but it is down in the car and I don’t feel like leaving the hotel room just yet.) His insight into selection criteria and the essays was both helpful and encouraging. Approximately 70% of COMPLETED applications are accepted. He said the application process, for the most part, self selects good candidates as most people who will not make a good fit will not complete the essays. In fact, he specifically warned me against one pitfall that will prevent the most interested applications, that being an inability to finish, or bring the essays to a final conclusion. He also suggested that 6 – 10 pages is what is expected and that if I were to exceed 10 pages, they had better be very good. And finally, he suggested that I should only complete the optional 4th essay if I have something very interested to talk about. Choosing to answer this question is not a pitfall in itself, but answering without something good to offer is a bad idea.

The trip was a success based on just what has happened so far and the wonderful campus visit more than made up for the 16 hours of driving over night that it took to bring us into Santa Fe when there were still people around. Now, I am off to sleep in a real bed, and not curled up in the back seat of the car like some sorry aborted fetus. Food, shower, sleep, in that order are certainly the name of the game and I’ve already completed the first 2.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Be It Ever So Humble

Here is my handwriting in its current incarnation. I mostly write in small caps these days though the occasional break into traditional printing has been known to occur. I barely remember cursive anymore. I hope you cannot tell too much about a person from their handwriting as this is not much of a statement in my favor.

Most of my notebooks are this kind of graph paper. If I write without lines, my text wanders up and down the page with little rhyme or reason. Also, I like to draw graphs and work math problems so the graph paper can be useful. It even helps when I do Japanese puzzles like sudoku or kakuro. So, consider it a useful affectation and you won’t be too far off the mark.

What a Difference a Day Makes

Or in this case, six days. The old me (see earlier thug picture) was carying a lot of baggage and that baggage was getting heavy. At the end of last week, I snapped. I couldn’t stand to see that person in the mirror anymore as he hadn’t made any of the changes I’ve been working so hard on. The changing, vibrant, active, even happy, me was screaming to get out.

Looking for a little extra psychological edge, I decided to bleach my hair. My next door neighbor’s daughter is a hair stylist and she helped me out. The result is here and it is staring me in the face every time I look in the mirror. This face is happy. This face has energy. This face doesn’t care what you think because you can’t bring it down.

Welcome to the world, may you enjoy your stay.

Change the World?

I’m on 43 Things because I want to motivate myself for the better. Part of that is setting concrete, measurable goals. Yes, I want to change the world, but having this as a goal doesn’t give me any clue what steps to take. I need to consider this and turn it into a more useful goal for myself.

No Mastery

I took a fencing class. It was a lot of fun and great exercise. Unfortunately, my physical condition was such that it frequently hurt and left me very sore. Also, I couldn’t get to the end of a class without sitting out of something. I haven’t been back since the class ended. Maybe after my 4 months of personal training I could try this again.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Assaulting the Wall (and Other Small Defeats)

I think too much. I cast my mind’s eye inward and constantly sift and weigh. I magnify my faults and insist I could always have done better. I make small of my achievements and belittle my spirit. Humility is a virtue but so is honesty especially with yourself.

I’ve been working out. Part of me believes I am working very hard. The narcissistic critic in my insists I give in too easily, that I take little things and magnify them as excuses and that I could always have given a little bit more.

Sunday, as I lay on the ground with the dry heaves, my inner voice wondered where the water I’d been drinking was and what had happened to the meal consumed only 110 minutes before. Surely, if I were really that taxed, they would be there on the ground before me.

Monday, as I contemplated another 3.5 minutes of pure torture on the stepmill at level 5, as my heart beat blood fit to burst my veins, as my legs screamed they could no longer support me, my inner critic assured me that I could do more if only I were just a little stronger of spirit. And as I collapsed at the base of the machine, without the will to continue and managed only to stand for that last 3.5 minutes of shame, my critic raged, ranted and railed.

Slowly, as I work to quiet this voice who belongs in the pantheon of inner speakers and who exists to spur me on to greater heights, but only when he is one of many speakers and not the one, holding sway in some endless filibuster of the soul, as I work to give strength to other voices inside myself, my inner champion, my herald, and all the other facets that combine to make me whole, as I work to combine all of these into a healthier whole, I find myself attempting this compromise: if I can set myself a target before I start, then it is ok to stop there, but if I set my target too high, I must kill myself to attain it. I know this is not healthy. I know it cannot be sustained. I do not know how to give in gracefully, before I go to far, before I tap reserves best left untapped and before I deplete the very resources that I am trying to increase.

Is it possible, like the bull in the ring, to run myself until my heart bursts? I’ll never know because I don’t have the mental stamina for it. I but wish I could stop for reason when instead I stop in shame. I am not Atlas to carry the world, nor Thor to drink the sea. I hope only to be myself and as strong as I can be.

If I look at my larger progress, it seem clear I should not be ashamed but when I look at my smaller failures they seem to be all I see. If you know how to look past the small barriers to see the heights that you have achieved, please, share your secret with me for while climbing the mountain, I feel blind to the vistas and see only the ridges behind and before me.

Ruined by Reading

“Reading is good for you.” It sounds like a truism, yet, like so many things, reading can also be bad for you.

As long as I can remember reading, there has been a recurring theme in what I have read. “You cannot be a hero and also know you are a hero.” (1) In my mind, this boils down to, you cannot be good and also think you are good. If you think it, it is not completely so. This is a curse to the introspective. If you have a strong desire to be good, then is it possible to be good and not just self serving?

I find myself questioning every action. I am a good and moral person by nature but my awareness of this, combined with an insidious belief from my youth (see 1), make me doubt myself. It is only recently that I have come to acknowledge the problem with this early belief. Actions in line with your heart can both be good and be known to be good. It is only those actions where we attempt to deceive – ourselves, the world, that pretty girl – where the act and the motivation can be in conflict and where the knowing can cast a shadow on the doing.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Progress on the Uncompletable

I help people all the time. I helped a friend move this weekend, even though I practically had to bend his arm behind his back to let me. I helped his dad build a fence last fall. I helped my sister buy a car by co-signing her loan. I regularly give a lot more money than I can afford to pan handlers. I hold doors open for others. The list really goes on and on.

I added the goal “to help people” to my list on 43 Things because it is a lifelong desire. It is also a goal that will never be truly complete. As such, I am marking it off my list, not because I’ve filled my quota but because I’m trying to make my goals more practical and measurable. I still want to help people and I believe I always will. But I don’t need 43 Things’ help to track my progress here. Having this goal has never motivated me to do something different.

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow?

A woman stopped me on the sidewalk as Jesse and I walked to his car after lunch. She asked if we had any change. I gave her the 36 cents from my pocket. I probably should have given her more but I’m pretty sure I’ve seen her before near the office.

Anyway, she said she wanted to ask me in particular because of my hair. Having recently bleached it, it appears yellow if you see the strands from the side but appears orange if you see them from the ends. This means my hair seems to change color as I move.

I’m not sure how that makes me a more likely mark for helping people but I guess it does. I help whenever I can but sometimes I just can’t follow people’s logic.

No Excuses

I’ve wanted to go to a St. Louis Juggling Club ( meeting for a really long time. They meet every Wednesday evening between 6:00 PM and 10:00 PM at the Town Hall at New Town St. Charles. With a meeting every week, I have no excuse for not going, except maybe, now that I am working out with my trainer from 6:00 PM to 7:00 PM. I guess I can catch at least the last hour of a meeting.

No TV, Done

I can’t imagine turning on the television when I am alone. Even when Michele is watching something I used to enjoy, usually I’d rather read. Surprisingly, I can even read while it is on sometimes. It is like television has lost its power. I’m comfortable calling this complete.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Dry Heaves

It was bound to happen eventually. Today, after the 3rd set of shuffles down and back (sprint sideways with your entire body in a very low squat) followed by tossing a 7kg medicine ball 10-12 feet in the air sideways from a kneeling position, I got the dry heaves. Sad to say, Laura had challenged me during the shuffles with “if you throw up I’ll be proud of you for pushing yourself so hard.” I didn’t have the energy to ask if dry heaves counted as I nearly lay with my face in the dirt wondering where the food I ate an hour and a half ago and where the water I’d been drinking for the last 50 minutes had gone. Nothing came up but my stomach sure thought it should be. Oh well.


Something happened. A switch flipped in my head. Suddenly simple decisions that used to go one way now go another with absolute clarity.

Case 1. Television

One week of TV Turn Off Week and I realized, I don’t have any reason I want to watch television. I don’t miss it and I can’t think of a single way it has improved me, with the possible exception of some cooking shows I suppose. But the decision to stop entirely was very easy to make when it was something I struggled with for years before.

Case 2. Gaming

One day it clicked and I can’t understand why I even spent hundreds of hours playing pointless game. WoW, EQ, XBox, N64, Wii, where did the time go? What did I get for it? How could I have paid that much cost and have so little to show for it.
Case 3. Working Out

I started working with a personal trainer. I do cardio all the time. I want to do these things that before I struggled with doing even once a week. I schedule around my training sessions and I plan cardio sessions because I look forward to them. If you had told me 2 months ago I could still be like this, I’m not sure I would have believed you.

Case 4. Eating

It has become so much easier to make healthy choices at restaurants. I don’t feel obliged to eat everything on my plate. I avoid most sauces, sweet sauces especially. I eat lots more vegetables. It has become hard to pick the bad choices and I am unhappy when that is all the choice I have. I will go out of my way to get something better for me because I know I value it and it is important to me.

Case 5. Going Dry

Yesterday, it crystallized for me that I no longer value smoking and drinking. The idiosyncrasies I cherished in smoking strange things – clove cigarettes, hookah, imports, pipe – just don’t matter enough to pay the physical cost. In fact, what I valued before was just a superficial trait that isn’t important to me now.

It is the same with alcohol. I loved the variety. I loved learning to enjoy the many varied traits of a drink. I even loved connecting with people by sharing their ethnic drinks. The only one of those I might miss is connecting with people and if I can’t find other ways to connect, I can’t be trying very hard.

The point is, suddenly, scales that were broken inside me, scales I used to judge where to put my time, my energy, my health, my love, those scales are working again and working full time. They don’t stop. Everything I do is judged. Things found wanting are thrown out. It is frightening because I barely recognize the me that I feel I am becoming. It is hard to tell if I am becoming more me or becoming someone new.

As my life simplifies under the weight of these scales, I know that something remarkable is happening. I don’t understand it but it IS getting easier to decide what to do now based on my values. Everything is much clearer and the fog that confused me is rapidly burning away. I’m overjoyed that at least some things I valued are still tremendously important to me. Going to St. John’s College. Loving my wife. Helping people. I never completely lost my way but it is suddenly like I’ve moved into the express lanes of my live and most of the distractions are dropping away.

Change is frightening, even terrifying, but I think I’m in for a wild ride.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Contract Negotiations

Yesterday, I felt miserable. Faint, poor concentration – even when I was trying really hard, dizziness, nausea, the shakes; it really sucked. Not to mention the numbness in my left pinky and ring finger that I seem to have traced to a nerve in my funny bone and that has been like this since Tuesday.

I think this was all a message from my body’s enforcers. The message was, “if you continue to expect certain things from your body, yeah, then your body expects certain things from you.” Certain things, things like 1) Don’t skip cardio 4 days in a row, no excuse is good enough, 2) Get more sleep, 4 or 5 hours and we are going to start breaking knees, 3) When you only have 35 hours to recover between one lifting session with your trainer and the next (6:00 PM – 7:00 PM Wednesday to 6:00 AM – 7:00 AM Friday), don’t even think about smoking a hookah and drinking half a bottle of mead plus a glass of port, you stupid, stupid, careless man!

Yeah, I got the message. Time can only tell if I am smart enough to listen or if the enforcers will be back for another round.

And like any frightened enforcee, I did exactly what they wanted this morning, and I didn’t let anything get in the way. When the gym wasn’t open at 6:30 AM, I did walking lunges and body weight squats for 10 minutes getting my heart rate up over 155 and then did a medium to high intensity walk for 20 minutes followed by 7 minutes of speed intervals on the step mill because by then the gym was open.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Really Bad Week

This week has been very hard. I have not done a single cardio session since Monday. My mood has gone steadily downhill. To top it off, I smoked a hookah yesterday and polished off half a bottle of mead and a bit of port. If it weren’t for scheduled sessions with my trainer, I think this would be enough of a crisis to crush my will to continue and would be the point where I usually fall off of any exercise I start.

Trying to see changes in my body is like watching a glacier melt. Global warming is happening and the rate they melt is faster almost every day but the changes are still so slow that the changes you do see seem almost illusory. My body is changing though, just as the glaciers are melting. And global warming is an apt description of the pace of change as I don’t think changes could happen any faster. I’m eating every 3 hours, keeping my metabolism high. Usually, I am doing cardio at medium to high intensity 4-6 times a week for 40-60 minutes. I’m strength training 3 times a week with a trainer. My portion sizes when I eat are way down. I am not getting any simple carbs like high fructose corn syrup, white rice and non-whole grain flours. And I appear to be losing about 3 lbs a week which seems insanely fast but the slowly appearing definition of muscle suggests it is all being lost in the right places. But still, the tire rolls on and I’m not completely happy when I look in the mirror.

Without my trainer Laura’s help and support, I don’t think I could keep this up. Still, it seems every session I push harder, ignore a little bit more pain and hard breathing and accelerate my pace. And I am getting stronger and more fit. It took 15 years to get in this miserable condition, but maybe it will only take 1/10th of that to get out.

As a mental aid to keep up my will for the drastic changes I have made, I’m going to bleach my hair blond. It is the most drastic appearance change I can think of to shake me up and I’ve really wanted to do it for years. I will try to get before and after pictures posted so those few of you who are curious can see what it looks like.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Ah, Pad Thai

My first dish of Thai, some 9 years ago. Wonderful noodles and sweet nuttiness. I’ve since started eating much spicier Thai fare and at the moment, I think Thai frog leg dishes are my favorite.

Sweetness Unrestrained

Bubble tea was fun. I love trying things that are new to me. Unfortunately, there is far too much sugar in this product, at least as served here in St. Louis, and I doubt I will have it again.

I’ve heard of microlending before and have been fascinated by the subject. Now, I’ve heard of a place that funds microloans from multiple sources. I’ve not investigated it as much as I would like but it is very interesting. Whether I use or something else, I want to start microlending now.

Where to Rave?

I’m not your traditional raver and I don’t think I know anyone who is. I don’t know how to find a rave in St. Louis where I currently live. I’ve wanted to go to a rave for a long time but I really don’t know how to take the first step.

Petite Absinthe

You can find a drink that is supposed to be nearly the same taste as absinthe in the United States. It is called ‘petite absinthe’ and if you aren’t paying attention (I wasn’t), you might even think you have the real thing. Real absinthe is illegal in the US because of the compounds in the wormwood it is made with. I really want to try this the next time I am someplace I can get it.

Painting with Dinner

I don’t follow recipes well. To be honest, I can’t stand recipes. I want to be able to walk in the kitchen and throw something together with whatever we have on hand. Michele is so much better about planning meals than I am. For me, cooking is an act of creation. Cooking to a recipe is like paint by numbers.

Unfortunately, cooking to a recipe is really more like taking a good painting class. You have to learn how to combine color if you want to turn out well crafted paintings. Still, I insist on handicapping myself by cooking without guidelines. Sometimes, it works. Sometimes, it bombs. Most of the time, it is OK.

Tonights meal, rotisserie rabbit with fig balsamic glaze and dark chocolate fettuccine. There is this riot of taste in my head. If I ever learn to make it real, I may have to start a restaurant.

Simple Isn't Simple

I’ve almost stopped watching television. I’ve completely stopped choosing television. At home alone, no alternative is less attractive than turning on the television.

I’ve mostly stopped playing big ticket games. Every console is disconnected (Wii, XBox 360, Playstation II, etc) and hooking them up is not appealing. I’ve canceled all my MMORPGs and the thought of playing them is slightly sickening. Even more astonishing, I’m not jonesing after any upcoming games that I will play for a couple of hours and then forget forever.

Consumerism haunts me like my shadow as I struggle to quash its last vestigial clutches on my habits. It seems that every turn leads to another reason to spend but for now, will rules. I know that spending will not increase happiness but the habits of a lifetime grip strong.

Rediscovered love of the farmers markets seems to be the key to decreasing our spending on food without a loss of quality or variety. Fresher, tastier, local foods for a lower price. If only my cooking lived up to the ingredients.

Simple is a life goal. Conscious living is not easy living but it is rewarding living.

One Month Update

The recent switch from 2 days a week to 3 days a week combined with the switch to higher weights, lower reps is hitting me hard. I wish I could lift every third day for a while but the scheduling of that seems complicated.

I seem to be getting stronger. I might even be losing weight. Unfortunately, watching the fat go is even less exciting than watching ice sculpture melt. The glacial erosion of excess padding isn’t exactly obvious, even if my wife does think she notices a difference. I can say that my legs seem firmer and stronger but I’ve always had decent legs. It is the tire around my abs and the pillows atop my pecs that really upset me and of course that will show the least progress from simply bulking muscles. They require substantial fat loss before I expect they will show much.

Eating every 3 hours is harder than it should be. Keeping portion sizes down to reasonable after a lifetime of 3 meals a day is tough. Also, my schedule is too irregular to allow conveniently timed meals. I’m working on it and from what I’ve read, nothing else burns more fat than the cranking metabolism that eating every 3 hours provides. One strange side effect of this is higher core temperature. I’m more likely to feel hot because my body is a furnace cranking out BTUs. For some, this might be a plus but for me, it is not so great. I already feel too much heat all the time. shrug

Missing Posts

I've realized the posts I thought I was making via 43 Things were not making it here. Thus the gap of over a year when I thought I had content at least every couple of months. Ah, well.

Check out my 43 Things page if you are really curious to know what I've been writing about.