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.