Another Stark Realization and Information Overload

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From left to right: Jan. 9, Jan. 24, Feb. 15, Feb. 21 and Feb 28. Definitely slimmer through the middle and starting to lean out.

When I started this three years ago, the one simple truth I knew and understood was that when you get stuck, switch things up. Work harder. Change the routine. All the experts say to change the workout every four to six weeks. So, when the holidays were over, I took a hard look at what I was doing and what I looked like.

Contrary to popular belief, I am not obsessed with the number on the scale anymore. Yes, I weigh myself a few times a week, and yes, I’ve put a few pounds back on. I’ve been hovering around 185 for months after getting to a stable 180 and staying there for quite awhile. I have no doubt that my muscles are retaining water because I’ve been pretty religious about exercising four to six days a week. I am more concerned with burning fat, building muscle and looking and feeling better.

One of the problems with this is the amount of information available. Once upon a time, it seemed like only gym teachers and sports coaches had the information necessary to train young people for sports. In my high school, good old-fashioned calisthenics were how we got in shape. From jumping jacks to sit ups, pushups and everything else in-between, paired with suicide sprints on the basketball court – this is how we got in shape as kids. I didn’t play football or wrestle so I don’t know how much strength training there was going on.

To get in shape for cross-country, guess what we did? We ran. We ran 30 miles a week. We ran quarter-mile sprints on the track for passing practice and finishing kicks, but for the most part we just ran. I played baseball and basketball as well. Okay, I rode the bench, but I was on the team.

I have been bookmarking tips, tricks, workout videos and more from Men’s Health and Men’s Fitness like crazy lately. When I got down to my goal weight the question became, “what now?” I decided then I wanted to carve the marshmallow. At 46, and still carrying around about 45 pounds of fat, I want to shred and get lean.

I want to be proud to wear a bathing suit this summer. Don’t worry folks, my Speedo days are long gone, not that there were ever Speedo days. I want to have the best 40-something body in the neighborhood. Hell, I want the 30-somethings to notice.

I already look better in my clothes. I wear men’s medium again (sorry to rehash). But my stomach isn’t flat. It is getting there as I am getting to my point.

More than person has suggested HIIT (high intensity interval training) to me and I have read in many places that this is a great way to burn fat and boost metabolism. After trying one HIIT workout that involved a lot of twisting movements, I almost gave up on incorporating this type of exercise into my routine. This caused me to take another look at www.bodybuilding.com’s Shortcut to Shred program. Six weeks, six days a week with HIIT concepts built in. The creator, Jim Stoppani, calls in “cardio acceleration” but the high intensity interval stuff is built in as between set interstitial intervals. Even though this is the program I was doing when I blew out this disc in my back (I’ll never do another deadlift as long as I live), I decided to give it another try. I have completed the program all the way through exactly once. I was in week three when I got hurt and I started it with the cardio acceleration one other time but only made it a few days. I’ve done the lifts without the cardio acceleration as well.

I am now two weeks in. I start week three tomorrow. Don’t worry, no deadlifts. The pictures don’t lie. Between running more than 65 miles since the first of the year, making adjustments to my eating habits and starting Shortcut to Shred, I am definitely slimming down.

I was asked recently if I am keeping up with my workouts and I had to laugh. My response mentioned weight lifting four to six days a week and running at least three days a week.

Running could be the key to my back pain however. I haven’t been running much lately for a variety of reasons and I have had more decent days than bad days. A stupid head cold came roaring back so I had to skip two nights this past week. I found a HIIT workout that didn’t have any twisting movements in it and I did it as a second session yesterday. My hip is a little sore after 20 minutes of kettlebell swings, goblet squats and shoulder presses. I’d like to trade my distance running for sprint workouts. Some information I found this past week says distance running presents the same issues as indoor machine steady-rate cardio. I run because I like to be outside and I hate machines.

The funny thing about all of this is what the different communities have to say. The weight loss people say eat less and cardio, cardio, cardio. The weight lifting folks say muscle, muscle, muscle, protein, protein, protein. The cross-fit people say, well, the cross-fit people are just plain nuts. I was taught to eat five to six small meals per day. Now I’m reading that three squares a day and a protein recovery shake after the daily workout is sufficient.

All I have managed to figure out is there is way too much information at our fingertips and that everyone is different. Once of the reasons I got out of shape in the first place was I no longer had a sport to train for. I was no longer on a team. As adults, we are left to our own devices and whatever habits we develop along the way. I was blessed with a super fast metabolism for much of my life. I never knew when it was going to slow down and I sure as hell didn’t plan for it. So, my advice to you is never get out shape, learn good eating habits and adjust your caloric intake based on your age and height and weight as you go. I recently learned that I only need about 1,800 calories a day if I don’t exercise. I can get to that by lunch if I’m not careful.

I think I am on a productive path. And if I feel like that perspective has changed, I’ll switch up again. The one thing I can’t seem to shake is that I’m running out of time. Maybe that’s because I keep watching these shows where people lose 100 pounds in a year, train six hours a day and seem to have boundless energy. The bottom line is most of the before and after photos are lies, you’re not going to look like Joe Weider and this shit is hard work. But it’s worth it. And one day, not today, not tomorrow, but one day I’ll like what I see in the mirror.

Jerry vs. The Bee

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No worse for wear after a bee sting in the lip in the middle of a 6-mile run.

Just as I got past the mental block that was preventing me from attempting and completing a six-mile run, life got in the way again. Dental problems and a nasty head cold knocked me back down to three miles at a clip. After managing 44.6 miles in January, I had only logged nine so far in February prior to this morning.

After a couple slow (by my pedestrian standards) three-mile runs earlier this week, the plan was to run six today. I put on the running outfit and got out the door just after 9:30 a.m. I got to the spot and found it to be very breezy. So, I thought what I was very appropriate. I was rethinking my choice of clothing a half a mile in. I was sweating profusely and I was contemplating a pit stop to shed clothing.

I got into a pretty good groove and blew past two miles. My pace was pretty good but could feel myself starting to slow. I have never gone past about two and a half in this direction so I wasn’t sure where the halfway point was.

IMG_9030Just as the Nike+ Running app told me I was at the three-mile point I felt something smack me in the lip. I didn’t see what it was but the pain told me it was probably a bee. Damn that hurt. It didn’t particularly taste good either. I tried to shake it off as I kept waiting for my face to swell up. I’m not allergic to anything and I don’t think I’ve ever been stung by a bee before. I don’t know where the stinger went. It wasn’t stuck in my lip or my face.

I turned around just past three miles and I was looking at the ground instead of ahead and I saw the bastard on the ground. He wasn’t long for this world. Bastard. Screw him. Damn bee. I had a nice, cool breeze in my face on the way back. As much as I needed the cool, wind always knocks me down a bit.

I couldn’t maintain my 10-minute mile pace anyway and this bee sting wasn’t helping. I finished the run and I took time off from the last six-mile run on Jan. 26 – 1:06:38 down to 1:04:36. Two minutes, not too bad. I really want to get my three-mile or 5K pace back down to about 9:30.

I escaped with a little bit of a fat lip and I was very happy to finish my six miles. Not sure I’ll run that route again any time soon. Flying, stinging insects and I do not get along. I guess there is inherent risk to running outside, especially out in the weeds somewhere. Maybe it’s time to find a new place to run.

There was no way that bee or six miles was going to defeat me either together or separately. The plan is to make the six-miler my long run of the week. So, the next hurdle to get past is to make sure I do it next week.

It Started with a Whisper

As my blog cover/header photo would suggest, I am a fan of all things H.P. Lovecraft and the Cthulhu mythos in particular. So, after recently reading Lovecraft’s iconic short story for the first time in 30 years or so, I had a thought…

It started as a whisper.

I don’t know when it started. I don’t know why. What I do know is something snaps me awake in the middle of the night. Something in my head. Something deep in my mind. In my subconscious.

At first I would just open my eyes for what seemed to be no apparent reason. I’d get up to go pee and go back to bed. I’d eventually fall back to sleep after tossing and turning a bit.

Each time I awakened I searched the recesses of my brain for a reason. I was tired, exhausted even. Caffeine wasn’t the cause of my insomnia. I wasn’t overtired. Sure my lower back was sore, it was always sore.

Night after night the same thing. Countless nights. Waking for no reason, peeing, trying to get back to sleep. Over and over. I lost track of how many nights I stared at the LED readout on the clock radio as the minutes ticked off until I drifted back to fitful sleep.

Then I noticed it.

The whisper.

Gentle. I wouldn’t even call it breezy. Just barely there. What’s it saying? I can’t make it out? Blessed sleep please take me.

More interrupted nights…the whisper starts to coalesce into something discernible, recognizable almost. I cover my head with a pillow and the bed clothes and desperately try to sleep.

Another night. I sit bolt upright. I heard it this time. Crystal clear. My name. Softly, gently. But plain as day. But not spoken…more like…on the wind gently blowing through my mind.

How many more nights can this go on? I need sleep. I’m going to have a psychotic episode. Booze doesn’t help. Pills don’t help. Change the thermostat. Nope. Open the window. Nope, that really makes me think I am hearing things on the fucking wind. Nothing helps.

Now the whisper has accompaniment – a soft gentle squishing sound like wet suction cups tracking across a pane of glass or a mirror. A wet sucking sound. I shiver at the thought as I go back to sleep yet again. ‘Keep getting up to pee in the middle of the night, no wonder why you hear squishing noises,’ I mumble to myself as I drift off.

The whispering gets more urgent each night. The wet sucking sounds get louder. This is not a pleasant auditory experience. They come to me in the in-between. I don’t know if I am awake, asleep, dreaming or somewhere in the ether.

I look like hell. Every morning I look in the mirror and I hear Bugs Bunny calling out to the Tasmanian Devil, ‘oh, BAGGY EYES!’ My eyes are bloodshot, the dark circles under them look like a drunken attempt at Goth make-up. God, I need sleep. Maybe tonight.

I snap awake.

What the hell did I hear this time? Was it my name? Yeah, but… Was it the sucker noises? Yeah, but… something else this time. Something new. Was I dreaming? No, I don’t dream. Well, yes, I do, but I never remember them. No, this is something else. Fuck. Am I going nuts? No, I’m already…I don’t know what the hell I am. No, it wasn’t the ‘puck, puck, puck’ sound of the suckers. It was the sliding of the suckers, or whatever they hell they are. The thought of something slithering through my head gave me the chills. There’s fluid in my ears. What the fuck?

Q-tips do the job. The liquid is clear but has an odor to it I can’t quite place. Something old, dead maybe. Fishy? No. Ocean? Yeah. Beach. That’s what it reminds me of anyway. Weird. Back to fitful sleep I guess.

Goddammit. Not again. Not another night. Why is my neck wet? Fluid streams from my ears. That smell again. It’s stronger this time. It reminds me of ‘Bay Smells Like Ass Day’ in San Francisco. Maybe a shower. Yeah, that’s what I need more sloshing noises. After a warm shower and peeing down the drain, ‘take that, fucker,’ I go back to sleep.

Come to me…..now…………

You belong with us………..

Okay, now this is getting ridiculous. It’s not just my name I hear, or think I hear. Again, it’s on the wind, it’s a breeze, it’s in my head. The sloshing sound, the wet sucker sound, the sliding wet sucker sound, give way to…no…it can’t be! The sloppy sounds fall away and I hear the gentle beat of giant, leathery wings. I’ve never done drugs in my natural born life, never abused alcohol, what has snapped in my head to cause this? I always thought when the psychotic break came there would be an audible snap.

The next night I’m awake again. At least I think I am. I’m staring at the sea. I have no idea how I got here but I’m standing on a beach. The cold water lapping at my bare feet, the cool breeze nipping at my naked body. My name is on that breeze. I hear the slithering suckers and the waves feel like tentacles encircling my legs as I shuffle into deeper water with my gaze fixed on the sky above.

The leathery wings, the smell of the old, dead, ocean. A language I’ve never heard…a name? Cthulhu.

This can’t be real. I don’t know if I am asleep, awake or somewhere in the ether.

There’s fluid in my ears again.

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