Flashback. April 1, 2015 – I ran more than six miles for the first time. Within a week I herniated a disc at L4L5 that required microdiscectomy surgery.
I have been afraid of this distance ever since.
I have run three miles, I have run four miles, and I have run five miles. I have participated in an organized 5K. But, I haven’t wanted to attempt the course or the distance that I associate with the accident that necessitated back surgery. Now, I may be a lot of things but I am not stupid. Bad form on a dead lift had nothing to do with running six miles. However, since the last vertebrae slippage that caused my lumbar spasms happened six weeks before this and I had a helluva time fighting my way back to running and I ended up on an operating table five weeks after this – I just couldn’t wrap my mind around this course and this distance.
It seems like every time I start pushing the distance and pushing myself something happens. Whether it be minor aches and pains or a major injury, something always happens. I’m not superstitious, I sure as hell don’t have writer’s block, I’m not a fan of psychotherapy, but something has kept me from doing this.
I know it sounds stupid. It actually sounds like so much excuse making. As much as I try to live my life by a #NoExcuses philosophy, I kept coming up with them when it came to this.
Well party people, I did it. I finally set the excuses aside and I conquered the fear. I ran six miles two days ago and I did it in less than and hour and seven minutes. I ran the same course and I survived. And I haven’t skipped any workouts. Now, the night after the run was supposed to be legs night but that wasn’t happening. I managed that last night.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I will never, ever do another deadlift as long as I live. But I have done arms, legs and chest since that run two days ago. I ran again today – 10 miles in three days. I’ve run 44 miles so far in January and I’m not done for the month.
Yes, my back still hurts. I probably should quit running. But I’ll tell you what I told my surgeon. That ain’t happening. However, my back pain is tolerable and I rarely take any pain medication – prescription or otherwise. Yeah, I still wake up at 3:30 a.m. every night. I won’t be happy if this level of pain persists in perpetuity but at the moment it’s the new normal. My car and my commute are killing me as much as anything.
Things That Are Pissing Me Off
Okay, first of all Facebook might possibly be the devil. Now that I have that out of the way, I have some Facebook connections who use a particular term of endearment that drives me nuts. I finally had the wherewithal to look it up and divine the source. Even though I now know that it is the title of a popular children’s book, I still would like it stricken from the lexicon. For the love of all that is holy or unholy, stop telling people, “I love you to the moon and back.” It makes no sense. It’s not a quantifiable unit of measure and I frankly think it’s one of the dumbest things you could ever tell someone. Astronomically speaking, it’s not really that far to the moon.
At the risk of sound like a crotchety old man (I have already established myself as the grumpy ‘get off my lawn guy’), there is a reality known as history. I think for folks 21 and under, nothing happened before 1995. Some recent news items have garnered some of the most inane reactions and no historical perspective whatsoever. We hide knowledge in books. Get off Facebook (says the hypocrite) and crack one open.
It’s not the first time. We all remember our first time. You never forget. But according to many young folks on the Internet, including many journalists and content creators who have no common knowledgebase or frame of reference, think that when something happens, it’s the first time that thing has ever happened in the history of the world. With this recent east coast blizzard, some folks would have you believe that snow has never fallen from the sky. Yes, Odell Beckham Jr., made a spectacular catch, but you know, there was this guy named Biletnikoff…long time ago…named an award after him.
It’s called history. You should pay attention to it lest you repeat it or somesuch. Sorry for the quote butchery.
The gratuitous use of certain adjectives has been driving me nuts lately. Is it really “awesome?” Is it really “spectacular?” Is it really the “[insert superlative here] thing ever?” I’ll admit babies are a wonder to behold, but the royals didn’t have the cutest baby in the history of ever. These click-bait photo galleries on the Internet are some of the biggest offenders. “Seventeen celebrities you didn’t know were dead and No. 12 is SHOCKING!” So and so’s engagement pictures are the most romantic [insert teenage girl squeal here]. No, it’s not. Unfortunate maybe, but I’m pretty sure we all know that guy from Glee or that Paul Walker is dead. Use the appropriate words to describe the event people.
Spelling and grammar mistakes in Internet memes are driving me crazy. If you share a meme that has a spelling or grammar mistake, you not only ruin the joke or the message, but you make yourself look like an idiot in the process. Just stop.
Something I saw right around Christmas struck a chord. I can almost understand the “so and so is in the hospital, send prayers” or the “this kid was born with no arms or with cancer” posts on social media. And for the religious folks out there, professing love for God or Jesus I kind of get. But would you greedy Christians quit begging for money?!? “Type Amen and God will bestow thousands of dollars on you by Christmas Eve.” Really? Well, it all depends on when you get your W-2 and how fast you can file you taxes. If you believe this, there’s a Nigerian prnce who needs to transfer some money I’d like to introduce you to. Just pass me your email address and I’ll hook you up.
I’m not really angry about these things. They’re just fun to write about. Okay, I am pissed about the meme thing.
Thank you for reading and indulging me, now, get off my lawn!
As you can imagine, as a man, I am very visual, even when it comes to how I look. Photographs have been a great way for me to chart my progress as I have lost weight and tried to get in some kind of shape other than round. I recently lamented that I looked much better last August than I did two weeks ago. I have been going at it pretty hard since just after Christmas and I have visual evidence of some progress. I never intended to put the before or after photos out there. But, you folks seem to read if I do, so…
I have been trying to change up my workouts. I have been finding some great things from Men’s Fitness (I subscribe) and Men’s Health (I follow on Facebook) all designed to burn fat and build muscle – two things I need to focus on.
You’d wonder what the goal is after losing 60 pounds (and gaining 10 back), fitting into men’s medium shirts again, dropping my cholesterol and triglycerides and just generally being in better shape. I still have the Daniel Craig physique dream. I’m trying to be a bit more realistic, however, as my body resists and life keeps getting in the way.
If I can just get my diet straight, I might be dangerous.
All the “experts” say to switch up your workouts every four to six weeks or so. Lately I have trying to do this within the week. I try to lift weights six days and run three days per week. So, I have been doing what I know three days, and then switching to an unknown the other three days. Men’s Fitness recently published actor Matt Bomer’s (American Horror Story: Hotel) chest workout and I tried it for the first time this past Monday. Holy muscle fatigue, Batman!
I’ve had a pretty good month running so far. I should be able to hit 40 miles for January before it’s all said and done. I have been trying to gradually increase my mileage again. If I get off track just for a week or so my cardiovascular stamina just goes to shit. I guess I’m still trying to undo 18 years of smoking a pack of cigarettes a day and 16 years of relative inactivity. A five-mile run yesterday was a win and I have a six-miler planned for this week. I really would like to run a half Marathon at some point. A full Marathon doesn’t appeal to me in the slightest, but I think a half would be a nice accomplishment for someone who not so long ago hated running.
If I can lose the belly fat, which I realize is quite the challenge for someone like me, and develop a chest I might actually be satisfied with what I see in the mirror. My quadriceps have been developing a nice shape and my calves are starting to look good. Everything seems to be leaning out and hardening a bit, and if I am not seeing things, my stomach is starting to respond.
My diet has been and continues to be an issue. I say issue but although I am eating better and less, I still manage to put things in my face that I know I shouldn’t. Bread, candy, baked goods, pastry, and chips are all weaknesses I continue to battle. Of course I don’t consume entire packages in a sitting like I used to, my indulgences are much smaller, but I indulge nonetheless.
I have read conflicting information about protein lately. Many of the things I have read over the past year say that if you want to pack on the muscle you should consume 1g of protein per pound of body weight per day. Men’s Health says .73g of protein per pound of body weight. I have found getting over 100g per day is a challenge. However, Isopure has great low carb powder that’s 50g per serving, and they have a Gatorade style drink that packs 40g of protein per serving. If I can stick to a protein-rich regimen on a daily basis (130-180g per day), and keep up the workouts and running, I think I can really make some progress in the next several weeks. I have to avoid injury and I can’t make excuses.
Some of my frustration at the first of the year was due to the fact that visually I didn’t like what I saw in the mirror. I had to remind myself that the food and alcohol during the holiday season may have had some sort of cumulative effect. I got soft and squishy. I maintained a level of exercise that kept me from gaining any real weight, but I didn’t make any progress toward any fitness or physique goals.
I have needed positive reinforcement throughout this journey. I use it as fuel as much as I use self-loathing. I have to keep challenging myself and powering past obstacles, real and imaginary. If I can do that, I’ll like what I see in the mirror and you’ll see it in the pictures.
A view of part of my running path in Pittsburgh.
I don’t know how or why but I have come to enjoy running. I used to say the only way I’d run is if I was being chased – and you can imagine how often that happened. Since I started eating better and taking care of myself, running has become one of my chosen forms of exercise.
There is something about being outdoors in the elements. I don’t like machines…treadmills, ellipticals, stairmasters, stationary bikes…endless stepping or pedaling to nowhere watching inaccurate heart rate and calorie burn monitors all the while serving some sort of sadistic 30- or 45-minute prison sentence with a view of nothing. Oh sure, there are spinning classes and the machines all have programmable workouts that vary the conditions of the prison term.
You’ll find me outside. Yes, I am a creature of habit and I tend to run the same paths over and over. I have three favorites. Since I travel for work and had 10 “weekend” trips from August – January on tap, I decided to try to run in every city on the schedule. I missed one. Nine of 10 isn’t bad if you ask me. I missed Detroit. I had the flu, a nasty cold, Ebola…something. It was snowing and I actually was disappointed I didn’t get out in it. Had I tried, I think I would have contracted pneumonia.
“My job ain’t a job, it’s a damn good time, city to city I’m running my rhyme” – Beastie Boys
Aug. 22 – Minneapolis
Late August in Minneapolis was a great time to run. It was a comfortable 75 degrees and the path from my downtown hotel to the Stone Arch Bridge over the Mississippi was easy enough to follow. I turned in 3.47 miles in 37:47 for a 10:52 per mile pace. Traffic lights forced some unplanned breaks.
Sept. 3 – Seattle
I was very much looking forward to this one. Seattle is one of my most favorite places on Earth, however, unless you are in phenomenal shape, the Emerald City is difficult to run unless you really plot out some flat ground. Pioneer Square probably would have been better but I wasn’t staying near there so down the 18-degree grade to Elliott Bay and back up the 18-degree grade. We managed 2.21 miles in 22:10 for a flat 10-minute mile pace. Not bad considering the hills. There was way too much construction in and around Elliott Bay, so maybe next time I’m there I’ll try to find a better locale.
Sept. 26 – Beachwood, Ohio
A suburb of Cleveland (sort of), there wasn’t much to speak of in Beachwood by way of scenery. But my B-Boy brother from another mother Jean-Paul came down from Rochester, N.Y., for the weekend. We turned in 3.12 miles fairly parallel to I-271 in 30:36, a pace of 9:52 per mile. We enjoyed other adventures in Cleveland proper where we probably should have went running instead.
Oct. 3 – Chicago
This is one I was very much looking forward to. I have been to Chicago a few times and I enjoy it immensely. After crushing some Lou Malnati’s Chicago-style deep dish pizza the night before, I needed to burn off some calories. An early chill came in off Lake Michigan and the weather wasn’t quite what I was hoping for. Running along the Chicago River to Lake Michigan was brisk to say the least. But I turned in 4 miles in 40:54 for a pace of 10:13 per mile. The riverwalk was fun to run with its community of shops and vendors. I have never seen anything quite like it. My research tells me I have only scratched the surface of good Chicago runs.
Oct. 24 – San Diego
Another one of my favorite places, this was another run I was very much looking forward to. The weather was great although I did have to run a little later in the day than I wanted to. It was great to run along the ocean near the USS Midway. I normally engage in other libations in San Diego, with which I capped the day, but running there was more than enjoyable. I turned in 4 miles in 40:59 for a pace of 10:15 per mile.
Nov. 7 – Pittsburgh
Here is another excursion I eagerly anticipated. I was able to get out and run along two of the famed three rivers in the Steel City. I am a rust belt kind of guy and as Cleveland is quintessential rust belt, I didn’t run in downtown Cleveland. Pittsburgh gave me a better experience. Sometimes I don’t run as far or as fast when I am unfamiliar with my locale. I logged 3.5 miles in 34:34 for a pace of 9:53 per mile.
Nov. 19-22 – Detroit
I came down with a fever as I got off the plane. I wasn’t feeling that great to begin with. The fever broke at approximately 4 a.m. but I suffered the miserable after effects of a nasty head cold for weeks.
Nov. 28 – Nashville
This is a run that really suffered because I was not familiar with the neighborhood. I avoided the major yee-haw thoroughfares and ended up running a loop around Nissan Stadium. The two bridges over the river were arched and they were brutal. I know I need more hills in my life but I still don’t like them. This was not fun and there wasn’t much scenery. Rain was in the forecast and it came Sunday, but I I ran Saturday and missed it. Still, I managed 3.06 miles in 32:03 for a pace of 10:27 per mile.
Dec. 13 – Denver
I knew this one was going to be cold. I got in late Saturday. I don’t like running in the dark, I won’t wear a miner’s helmet, so I had to wait until Sunday morning. I got up fairly early, put on the cold weather gear and hit the 16th Street Mall. There were a few folks out but traffic was minimal and I got a good run done in 27-degree weather. Not much to look at on this run but I managed 3.04 miles in 31:29 for a 10:20 per mile pace.
Jan. 2 – Kansas City
I think I may have mentioned that I don’t like hills. Kansas City is rife with them. This was another run where I had no idea where I was going. The National World War I Museum and Memorial was practically next door to my hotel. I set out to run the grounds and had a hard time negotiating the rises and falls of the paths. Plus, I had to run through snow, ice, mud, wet leaves, and puddles. I saw parts of Kansas City I would’ve never noticed otherwise. My first run of the new year clocked in at 3:02 miles in 33:04 with a pace of 10:56 per mile.
In all, I ran 29.42 miles in nine cities. Gee, had I known that I would have run the extra half a mile to get to 30. Oh well. This equals approximately 4.98 hours out on the trails, paths and sidewalks of some of the great cities of America. This is pretty much the only way I was ever going to do a Marathon.
I had a lot of fun doing this and I look forward to more runs in cities I visit. It’s a great way to see things off the beaten path or things you may have missed along the beaten ones.
I am at an impasse. The dear departed Yogi Berra is noted for saying, “If you come to a fork in the road, take it.” My 46-year-old body and I are not getting along. I believe I should be able to lift weights six days a week and run 10-15 miles a week and eat whatever I want and drink whatever I want and look like Chris Pratt. Well, if the last three years are any indication, my mind is delusional and my body would quote Oliver Hardy of Laurel and Hardy fame, “This is another fine mess you’ve gotten me in to,” or somesuch. Kids, ask your parents or grandparents who the hell Laurel and Hardy were.
If all I wanted to do was lose weight I probably would be happy by now. I lost 60 pounds at best, and I sit here in much better health than I have been in a long time. Could I spend the rest of my life at this weight with this body and be okay with it? Oh, I suppose. However, I thought I would take the opportunity, if I was going to do all this work anyway, to finally work for and achieve the body I wanted all along. Fat chance.
I don’t know what the deal is, I really don’t. Maybe I am just impatient. Maybe I overindulged the last couple of months during the holiday season. Maybe I am genetically predisposed to the dreaded “dad bod.” I realize I have only been back on the stick religiously for two weeks. This week was a really good week as far as diet and exercise is concerned. I lifted weights Monday-Saturday (twice Monday). I ran 14 miles in eight days. I’ve backed off the booze, at least on weekdays this week. I guess I thought I would see or feel some sort of results in a week or two like when I did when I started three years ago. It’s not like I took six months off. I have been exercising very regularly since the end of July and really only backed off in recent weeks when my back told me to.
Which brings me to my next issue and us back to the issue at hand. Yes, I admit that thanks to health insurance “snag” for lack of a better term, my physical therapy is on hold. So, rather than do my rehab exercises this past week, I lifted weights and ran. Of course, my back doesn’t feel particularly good right now. I did do a round of rehab exercises after today’s run. My last two runs have been earmarked by right foot and leg numbness. When I finish, my right leg feels swollen. I can still stand for long periods of time so I don’t think there is a sciatica thing going on. There is a new pain or issue with my right hip that wasn’t there before. If it’s not one thing it’s the other.
I am starting to come to the conclusion that I am getting no further without chemistry and I have no idea where to begin. I did some startling mat the other day…math that makes perfect sense but no one ever thinks to do. We are all familiar with body fat calculations. When we learn the number we’re either alarmed, happy with ourselves or something between. However, when you learn the number and do the math, it can be downright disturbing. I am approximately 26 percent body fat. You think, ‘that’s not good, but it’s not terrible either.’ Hell, I’ve been damn near 40 percent body fat. So, what’s so disturbing about it? Take your weight, factor the percentage and figure out how much fat you’re carrying around and you will absolutely be mortified. I weigh roughly 186 pounds, multiply by .26 and what do you get? Forty-eight pounds, 48 freaking pounds of fat. You can get a 50-pound bag of sugar. You can get a six-pound tub of Crisco shortening (four of those equates). As far as I have come, as much as I have accomplished, I am still carrying around 48 pounds of lard. Now, I know we all need some measure of fat to keep us warm and such but 48 pounds is a bit ridiculous.
I read a very interesting article in Men’s Health magazine this week and I learned a lot of things about Omega-6s and Omega-3s. The article suggested that pretty much anything with soy in it is the devil when it comes to try to build muscle and lose weight. That soy’s properties, which are supposed to be healthier compared to, you know, meat, are actually counter-intuitive to getting in shape. Considering I make my Whey protein shakes with Silk, that was pretty unnerving to me.
What’s the point to tonight’s rant or ramble or whatever this has turned into? I have no freaking idea which is where I am with this whole fitness journey. I have forgotten how to lose weight. I need to lose weight still. I don’t know what to eat. I don’t know what exercises I should be doing. For all that I have learned in the past three years, I feel like I know nothing. I am more confused than ever. I have achieved much and I have accomplished a great deal. I am not finished but I don’t know where to do next or where to turn. I am under no illusion that I’ll be the next Mr. Olympia.
I’m fed up. I am frustrated. I’m angry.
But I still have the desire and the dream to like what I see in the mirror. And for now, the mirror is still crack’d.
Okay, maybe “fanatics” is a bit strong. I wouldn’t exactly say that I am a fitness fanatic. However, I am addicted to exercise and I have been for the past three years. Yesterday marked the three-year anniversary of the launch of this blog and a polar shift in my lifestyle. I adopted better nutrition and exercise as a way of life. At the most I dropped 60 pounds in just over two years. I have put some back on due to a miscalculation and of course, the dreaded winter or holiday weight.
Where to begin? I have spent the past couple of months writing about some adventures and a couple of obsessions – Halloween and Christmas. Loyal readers know that I had back surgery in May and it has been a long road to feeling better.
I opted against physical therapy after surgery thinking I could do what I learned in physical therapy the first time it was prescribed on my own. I worked hard after I was cleared for activity; two-a-day workouts; interval running training. I may have done too much too soon. My body eventually screamed at me. My surgeon doesn’t like my running and believes a facet joint and nerve damage are causing chronic pain. Six months to a year is the prognosis now. It’s been eight months.
I decided to try physical therapy after all and I gotta tell ya, I have been experiencing some improvement. More on that later.
I started this blog for a few of reasons.
- Track my progress. This blog is a written and visual record of all that I have done to lose weight, eat right and get in shape.
- Keep myself honest. If I ever get down or forget where I came from all I have to do is go back and look. It also keeps me motivated to move forward.
- A creative outlet. I write for a living but my writing is industry-specific so I use this forum to vent, discuss things I enjoy, tell stories of my adventures, etc.
- Inspire others. That’s a lie. I never set out to inspire anyone. I know that I have, and that’s great. If you are one of those people, I hope you find similar success.
What I find interesting is what happens to the blog traffic based on the topic of any particular entry. Maybe it’s the tags I chose, but when I write about fitness my numbers skyrocket. I write about life, readership dwindles. It’s not a complaint, just an observation.
So, my back was bothering me to the point I needed help. Prescription painkillers, over the counter pain relievers, bourbon, scotch all helped but were only treating the symptoms and not the cause. My surgeon is convinced it’s not a disc problem or herniation or anything of the sort. The physical therapists believe it’s a muscle and core strength issue. I have been making some measure of progress with physical therapy. I have been making it through the day without painkillers of any kind and I feel good enough to go back to my full exercise regimen.
Now, many people who live where there is inclement weather use meteorology (and the holiday season) as an excuse to back off exercise and overindulge. I am not exception. Well, the weather isn’t that big of a factor for me but El Niño is admittedly becoming a pain in the ass. The biggest problem with the holiday season is the overabundance of treats at the ready. Throughout my workplace, little caches of candy, cookies and other confections were everywhere. My sweet tooth had a hard time saying no this past holiday season. Couple that with back pain and I took a little time off. Not completely, but I backed it way down.
I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions. I think they’re stupid. I set goals. The only reason I started this journey three years ago when I did had nothing to do with the start of the new year rather a break in my work schedule. I now have a similar break and I am ratcheting up my efforts. I always find the Facebook posts and memes from my pals who go to the gym on a regular basis hilarious this time of year. All the folks who make New Year’s Resolutions to get in shape crowd the gym in January and vanish like the lost colony of Roanoke, Va., overnight by February. I would have started my process in September or November had my work schedule allowed it or if my dull wits would have wrapped my head around making it fit in my schedule sooner.
Hey, if you need a resolution to try to get in shape, more power to you. If you just want to wait until the holidays are over to try and shed your winter weight, that’s fine too. Just stick to it. Make it your lifestyle. Don’t go in for the fads or lose weight quick scams. And you sure as hell better not listen to quacks like Dr. Oz. If cardio is your thing, then cardio yourself silly. You like weights? Then lift. Find a program, make an effort to eat healthier, count calories (you don’t need as many as you think you do), and make it happen.
Man, if every day could be like today, I’d be in killer shape in no time. Thanks to three Isopure low carb whey protein shakes and what I have eaten today, I am well over 150g of protein for the day. I did Day 8 of Jim Stoppani’s Shortcut to Shred (chest, triceps and abs) sans cardio acceleration, ran three miles, did the Daniel Craig “Tuesday” chest and shoulders lift and finished with 30 minutes on the recumbent bike. I do like two-a-days, I just don’t have time or energy for it most of the time.
I do feel like I have some weight to lose. Now this is funny.
This is from Calculator.net:
Based on the Robinson formula (1983), your ideal weight is 156.5 lbs
Based on the Miller formula (1983), your ideal weight is 155.0 lbs
Based on the Devine formula (1974), your ideal weight is 160.9 lbs
Based on the Hamwi formula (1964), your ideal weight is 165.3 lbs
Based on the healthy BMI recommendation, your recommended weight is 128.9 lbs – 174.2 lbs
The last time I was under 170 pounds I looked emaciated. Maybe not Christian Bale in The Machinist thin, but you get the idea. I do think my new target should be about 175. That means I need to lose about 10-12. I got to 176.6 but couldn’t stay there. I was at 180 for months before miscalculating my daily caloric intake led to gaining about five pounds. I have been fluctuating between 180 and 189 the last several months. I still have what I consider a lot of belly fat I’d like to get rid of.
The New Year has doubled my resolve, renewed my commitment and given me a new starting point.
Since I travel for work from August – December I set a goal to run in every city I visited in 2015. I missed one. Detroit. Not because I forgot to pack my Kevlar body armor, but because I was sick as a dog. I made 10 trips and ran in nine cities. Not to shabby if you ask me. The shortest run was 2 ¼ miles in Seattle. The 18-degree grade was a bitch. Minneapolis, Chicago and Pittsburgh were the most scenic of the places I visited. Denver was freezing, as was Kansas City (although not quite as bad). I did run in snow, ice, mud and wet leaves in KC. It was kind of fun but slow.
I ran and walked quite a bit last year despite back surgery, 319.1 miles. I have been trying to increase my mileage or go faster. Going faster got derailed thanks to my back injury but I am getting there. My body can’t handle running every day and can only deal with every other day in spurts.
My body has become hypersensitive to what I put in it. My weight fluctuates up and down depending on what I eat, how many calories I take in, how much sugar I indulge on, how much water I drink and how much I exercise. The past few months I haven’t been able to get the protein or water I need into this 1969.
I guess the new goal isn’t really new. But I am determined to finally start to look how I want to look, shred the fat and build muscle. I’ll be looking at an trying new workouts, further refining my nutrition (somebody help me please) and continuing to try to eliminate by back pain.
It’s going to be a fun ride and I’ll post new photos soon as I chart my progress. I hope you follow along and get something out of it.