They’re Coming to Take Me Away

The squirrels know I’m injured. They line my walking path staring at me with those cold, black eyes…doll’s eyes.

I feel something at my feet, I trip, I’m falling. My head is spinning as I’m dragged into the burrow…

It’s dark, my head is pounding, I hear the sounds of gna
Oh dear God.

Call Carl Spackler.

Sorry, was channeling my inner Robert Shaw. Borrowed a line from Jaws. Damn squirrels were everywhere during my three-mile walk today.

Angry Man Blogging

PAIN, n.

An uncomfortable frame of mind that may have a physical basis in something that is being done to the body, or may be purely mental, caused by the good fortune of another. – Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary

I am very angry.

I’d say I’m hopping mad but I’d probably hurt myself if I hopped. My body is rebelling against me and I don’t know what to do about it.

I have not walked for exercise without severe pain in my lower left leg since Monday. Last Sunday morning’s three-mile walk was marred by this pain but whatever it is subsided for me to walk another three miles in the afternoon.

I’m no doctor, I’m no athlete and I don’t know what is causing this pain. I have looked it up, I have read several things. I know I am not the only person on the planet who has ever had this issue. It could be shin splints, it could be muscle strain, it could be tendonitis, it could be that I’m old and fat. I’ve even read that this could be related to lack of core strength.

I get about a quarter of a mile into a walk and the tightness comes. Half a mile in the debilitating pain comes. It starts about eight inches below my left knee on the outside of the shin. If I press on the area electricity shoots into my toes. I’ve had tendonitis before in my right foot…spent two weeks in a walking boot.

I struggled to get three-mile walks accomplished Tuesday and Wednesday. I limped 1.89 miles Thursday and 1.03 miles yesterday. The more I limp, the more the right leg starts to hurt.

I have regained a couple of pounds. I had found a balance between calorie consumption and burning that has enabled me to maintain the weight loss I have already achieved. Aborted walks have created an imbalance. I realize that weight can fluctuate and I am still not at a point where anything I am doing is stable.

I have been down to 226.8 and now back up to 230. The elliptical is out of stock and won’t be here until next week. My doctor says to walk. It hurts to walk. I was enjoying my walks. I rediscovered some of my favorite music, the weather has been amazing and I am starting to sleep better.  I enjoy the solitude. I enjoy being alone with my thoughts. I’ve figured out why my hip hurts during my walks and I corrected that issue. I wear quality athletic shoes and my gait is not a candidate for submission to the Ministry of Silly Walks.

It just seems like every time I start something I have a setback. I needed to see immediate results and I have. I am so angry right now. Is this the penance I have to pay for letting myself go?

When I was a kid we played outside all day. We just ran outside and kept running until it got dark. We played everything – basketball, baseball, football, whiffle ball, wall ball, Frisbee, cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians (not politically correct, but that’s what we called it), freeze tag, we rode our bikes everywhere – you name it, we played it. Sure there were bumps and bruises and the occasional emergency room visit. We played organized sports in the local neighborhood leagues, we played high school and Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) sports. I ran cross-country and played basketball and baseball.

In my late teens and early 20s, I played intramural everything in the Navy. Yeah, I was a pack a day smoker and I still played everything – softball, basketball, flag football, volleyball, bowling. We had physical fitness training and we had to pass physical fitness tests. Even at my worst, I didn’t struggle to pass these tests. The worst thing I ever did to myself was a severely sprained ankle suffered during a game of pick-up basketball.

From age 30-38 I didn’t exercise much. I didn’t really start again in earnest until I was about 40. I exercised four days a week minimum. I did at least 30 minutes a day on the elliptical and a weight lifting program designed for pro football players. I was getting stronger, my shape changed for the better, my flexibility came back and I didn’t throw my back out for two years.

I don’t know what my starting weight was at the time, but I got down to 200 pounds. I started to creep back up and then due to unforeseen circumstances my opportunity to continue that exercise program ended. Then, seemingly overnight, I hit 236.6.

In two short years I ballooned up to 236 pounds. My Wednesday weigh-in had me at 228. But, I can’t stay off the scale and it read 230 today.

I have radically altered my diet and I am consuming well under 2,000 calories per day of much healthier food. If I cannot exercise I will balloon right back up again. I lost six pounds doing nothing but changing my diet after surgery.

I exercised for three days before I blew out hemorrhoids, which required that surgery. Since January 31 I have engaged in 15 walks of three miles or more. Two of those walks were completed in excruciating pain. I have walked 50 miles in the month of February. Yesterday I struggled to walk a mile because of this pain in my leg.

If my body continues to rebel against me I will quit. I am inherently lazy. I would just as soon become one with the couch. I don’t think I’ll go back to unhealthy food, I’ve learned my lesson there. But I’m used to carrying 230 pounds around.

I get frustrated easily. I am quick to anger. And frankly I am pissed off. I don’t expect exercise to be easy. I have done this before. This isn’t just a little ache I can power through, it is debilitating.

I’m not stupid enough to think that anything other than diet and exercise is going to melt these pounds away. There is no magic pill or food additive that is going to do this for me. I am not so far gone that radical surgery is needed.

I know the difference between pain and injury and this feels like injury.

If you are reading this and you have had experience with this kind of leg pain, maybe you can drop me a suggestion on how to deal with it. I have read heat, ice, stretching, rest, and every combination of those things.

I need to ask my doctor when I can ratchet up my exercise and do more than walk. I keep forgetting to call her.

I know this isn’t going to happen overnight. I didn’t expect it to. But I also didn’t realize just getting started was going to be so damn difficult.

Bottom line folks – don’t get out of shape. Don’t be like me and let yourself go. Yes, I know life gets in the way. But, if you are in your 20s or 30s and in fairly decent shape – stay that way. A pack a day cigarette habit kept my weight down for years. Getting out of shape is so easy, getting back in shape is HARD.

Until next time…

The Search Continues

A gang of ground squirrels line my walking path.
A gang of ground squirrels line my walking path.

Okay, someone explain to me who the hell I have become. Today’s breakfast consisted of apple cinnamon oatmeal and Trader Joe’s pomegranate flavored Greek yogurt. Really? Yesterday I ate some egg substitute (I forgot the name of the brand) and real bacon. I read somewhere that if you absolutely have to have bacon, eat the real thing. I have found turkey bacon to be akin to shoe leather.

I was bad yesterday. The cheeseburger, fries and beer were too tempting to pass up. The gelato called to me. I haven’t had gelato in years. I did chase it all with some great English black tea, Earl Grey, good stuff.

This morning’s oatmeal was the first time oatmeal has ever passed my lips. I am not a fan. I’ll eat it because it’s good for me and I will not waste food. My father would laugh. I was the ultimate food waster as a kid. Things change when you become the breadwinner.

I am, however, becoming a fan of Greek yogurt. I had a bad experience with yogurt as a child. “Fruit on the bottom” was lost on me and I didn’t mix the contents of the cup. I vowed never to touch it again. I tried Chobani blueberry Greek Yogurt. Once I got past the smell, I found it tolerable. The black cherry is excellent and I enjoyed the pomegranate.

The challenge is finding filling meals and snacks that have the nutrition I need, less and less of what I shouldn’t eat, and not be hungry all the time. So, I thought I’d try oatmeal. I still prefer eggs (egg beater style), bacon and toast. There is so much information out there, what to eat, what not to eat, what to eat if you’re trying to lose weight, what to eat to build muscle, what to eat if you want to burn fat. It’s enough to make your head spin and your stomach churn.

As I struggle with food, I have gotten consistent with walking. Counting last Sunday, I walked five out of seven days last week. I have walked 31.4 miles so far in February compared to 12.8 miles in January. We all know why I didn’t walk as much as I would have liked in January. My goal is three miles per day. My average pace per mile for the month is 17:55 compared to 19:23 for January. I am completing a three-mile walk in about 50-55 minutes.

If I am ever stranded somewhere I now know exactly how long it would take me to walk somewhere.  So, I got that going for me.

Carl Spackler
Bill Murray as Bushwood Country Club assistant groundskeeper Carl Spackler in Caddyshack.

An elliptical may find its way into my house soon. I am excited to start getting a sweat going and shed these pounds even faster. I might even have to start playing Dance Central on the XBOX360 Kinect again as well. Don’t get your hopes up, there will be NO PHOTOS (or video) of me playing this game posted to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, SpaceBook, MyFace or any other social media sites.

I think I figured out why my hip starts to hurt two miles into my walks when I walk near my office. Damn slanted sidewalk. My workday walking path is lined with a population of ground squirrels who act more like prairie dogs. I think they’re a gang. They just sit there staring at me as I walk by. I hear the faint sound of fingers snapping in rhythm. I think they’re planning something. If I disappear, please call someone, Carl Spackler, the assistant groundskeeper at Bushwood maybe. Damn squirrels.

Until next time, I will continue to search for healthy foods that I actually enjoy eating and increase the intensity of my exercise. Keep your fingers crossed that the scale tips in my favor once again this Wednesday.

Go Home Weather Channel, You’re Drunk

My weekday walking path.
My weekday walking path.

I am a fan of the English language. I am always learning new words and how to use them. A friend of mine recently reinforced what a hodgepodge of words makes up our language. English is filled with powerful words. However, for some inexplicable reason, people don’t find those words powerful enough. Qualifiers are added to make something sound more substantial. The late George Carlin once went on a rant about weak words like “nice.” Conversely, words such as awesome, spectacular, incredible are now used to describe the routine and the mundane.

My point? Ever since hurricane Sandy, there is now a movement to name every major storm that materializes. The term “super storm” was coined and The Weather Channel is now naming blizzards.

According to the National Weather Service’s National Hurricane Center website, “The use of easily remembered names greatly reduces confusion when two or more tropical storms occur at the same time. For example, one hurricane can be moving slowly westward in the Gulf of Mexico, while at exactly the same time another hurricane can be moving rapidly northward along the Atlantic coast. In the past, confusion and false rumors have arisen when storm advisories broadcast from radio stations were mistaken for warnings concerning an entirely different storm located hundreds of miles away.”

There is much more about the history of naming tropical storms here:

A quick Google search for “naming winter storms” returns results that indicate that this practice is appalling to folks across the country, especially meteorologists.

Blizzard, nor’easter, perfect storm are all words we’ve used for decades to describe storms. These are strong powerful words. Storms are common occurrences that creatures around the globe have had to learn to live with since the dawn of time. The word “storm” is powerful and stands alone. Here in California, that word is overused and sensationalized. Forecasted winds stronger than 10 mph and some sort of precipitation in the offing call for panic-inducing calls to go to “Storm Tracker 7” on the local news. “Let’s go to the ‘Storm Desk.’” Vomit-inducing if you ask me.

The ground shakes here. We don’t name our earthquakes. The big ones are commemorated with the year they occurred. Someone will get punched in the face if they call a quake “Earthquake Steve.”

I grew up in the snow. I spent three years in Iceland. I have survived every blizzard, nor’easter and North Atlantic whatever I have encountered. I live four hours from Lake Tahoe. I can send the snow a postcard and I can visit it when I want. I just don’t have to live in it. We get wind and rain and the world is coming to an end according to local meteorologists.

What was wrong with the name “Hurricane Sandy?” Was “Super Storm” coined because it happened to New York? Look, I grew up in western New York. I love New York City. There is no disrespect intended for the people killed, injured or otherwise affected by Sandy. However, would we be naming blizzards and coining new terms if Sandy happened somewhere other than New York? No New Yorker would have come up with an idiotic term to name a storm.

Me during my Friday, February 8, 2013, walk. Looking a little slimmer I might add.
Me during my Friday, February 8, 2013, walk. Looking a little slimmer I might add.

Are they upset the Mayan calendar was wrong? Why are they always looking for ways to sensationalize everything? Is The Weather Channel irrelevant and they are trying to justify their own existence? This is just another example of “infotainment” masquerading as news and Chicken Little is in charge.

I understand that language must change and evolve over time. Words are added and words are retired. Living in California means I have to put up with stupid, manufactured words (hella, hyphy). We already have words for what’s going on with the weather. Here’s a strong word that’s used on signs all over the world. Stop.

Okay – that’s the end of the rant.

Here’s what’s going on with me. Eight-pound weight loss is holding steady although I have not managed to drop any more. I’m still trying to get a grip on my dietary restrictions since I have to manage both my gastrointestinal and cardiovascular health.

I have been walking much more lately. I missed a few days this past week because of work commitments. I have been hitting three miles per walk regularly. I’d be feeling pretty good if my chronic back problem wouldn’t act up two miles in.

My weight loss is pretty evident in my face and it appears that my belly is shrinking. I am results-oriented. I have to see some sort of progress or I tend to get frustrated and develop a strong desire to quit. I am determined to make this work and seeing early results is a big help.

My back problem is caused by lack of core strength. Funny because the issue that I had corrected with surgery is where the core begins and both my doctor and my surgeon have warned against heavy lifting. What to do…what to do. I’m enjoying my walks but I am at the point where I need to increase the intensity in order to lose weight.

I am not 100 percent. I am close. No real pain, just some occasional discomfort. I know that having surgery was the right thing to do. There is improvement in many regards. The older you get, the longer it takes to heal. I am not a patient man, I just don’t move as fast.

As far as the diet goes, more fruit is great. I love fruit. It’s just that cookies, candy and chips taste great too. I do miss potatoes. The egg substitute is pretty good. The Jimmy Dean Delights breakfast sandwiches are very good. The high-fiber pasta isn’t bad. Brown rice is the only substitute that doesn’t trip my trigger. Tried some Greek yogurt the other day, it wasn’t bad. Atkins breakfast and snack bars have become part of my daily intake.

I haven’t wrapped my head around lunch yet. Once I figure that out I’ll be on my way. I do know that microwave meals are not the best things to eat. Even if it says Lean Cuisine, it’s all processed and I am learning that processed=bad.  I do miss my deli meats – pastrami, bologna, salami, ham and the like.

I haven’t been sleeping well the past several weeks so that will be the next thing I address. I’ll be having blood work done again soon so hopefully my cholesterol has come down to a reasonable level.

For all of the folks affected adversely by this latest storm, I wish you well. Stay warm and dry.