Friday, April 22, 2016

F@#k (or Eff) Fifty!

It's a matter of record that I was born in July in the year of our lord nineteen hundred and sixty six. While math is hardly my strong suit by my quick calculations that means this July I'll be......50 years young!! Oh, the humanity! 50!! Woe is me, what shall I do?? 50?!?! OK, honestly, who gives a rats ass? The very overused expression of "age is only a number" is exactly right. Is turning 50 really different in the overall scheme of things then turning 49 last year or 51 next year? Nope. I've heard 50 referred to as a "milestone" birthday. Um, ok, sure. What milestone? That for 50 years you did one of the most basic bodily functions other then breathing- you woke up?? Really if anything it's your parents milestone since they did all the work of making your actual "birth day" a reality. I have absolutely no anxiety over turning 50 and have no plans on doing anything special (well, see the end of this blog) although if me turning 50 is a good excuse to get together with friends and family then bring it on!!

A couple years ago I wrote a blog about 40-something me versus 20-something me so I won't bore you with that again (tho you can read it here but needless to say in my opinion, with a few exceptions, most aspects of my life are better at 50 then at 40 or even 30. Physically, mentally, financially, and emotionally. Oh sure, I wake up with a few more aches and pains and I am starting to notice a few lines in my face but other then that I'm right as rain. I feel like as my whole life has been leading up to who I am presently, which in this case is the cusp of 50. I feel that right now, at this very moment, this is the best version of me ever. I have very few hang ups about who I am, what I do or who I do it with. I don't stress over what I do for work or how much more or less I make then my peers. I'm at ease with my relationship status or lack thereof. I'm perfectly happy being balls to the walls busy or in moments of complete solitude. I rarely feel the need to "pump my own tires" anymore because of creeping lack of self-confidence. I love where I live. I try and live life "in the black" and do without then to live in debt and have "more". I'll likely never take a yearly lavish vacation, own a "weekend" vehicle or a second home but I hope to retire without a mortgage and in decent financial standing. I have many flaws and while I try and improve on them I accept them as part of who I am and hope my positive qualities outweigh these negatives. Generally I still do and enjoy the things I have my whole life and haven't mellowed with age (no crackling fires or fern bars for this guy). Since 2013 I've gotten into some healthy, constructive routines which I hope will extend not only my life in general but also my quality of life for as long as I'm around. Plainly put, I'm good

So am I doing anything special for 50? I have 2 physical goals to accomplish by the end of 2016 (tho technically if I complete these by July 4th 2017 I would have accomplished them)- 1) To bench press 300 lbs while maintaining a weight of no more then 190 lbs (a feat which was easy for me from 20-40 years old at weights from 220-290 lbs) and to take 50,000 steps in a day (about 24-25 miles). There has been talk of a long weekend trip with some of my best fellow 50 friends and yeah, I plan to have a non-surprise get together with friends and family some time before or after my actual birthday (July 4th Weekend is a tough time for a get together). Other then that it's life as usual.

If I have any regrets at (almost) 50 it's missing those who aren't around since my last "milestone" most especially my dad. The loss of those we love is part of getting older but that doesn't make it any less painful. The lesson to take from it is when opportunity to spend time with family and friends presents itself seize the opportunity as there may not be another

So F@#K 50! Bring it on. And 51. And 55. And 60. Own your age, don't let it own you!!

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Power Outage

I admit that over the last 3 years I’ve gotten used to my more streamlined, leaner, “ropy”, more vascular physique. I’ve gotten used to my better condition and more practical, real world strength. What I haven’t gotten used to is the loss of the raw power I once possessed. I know to many this may seem a silly thing to miss but it was a huge part of my life for over 25 years. It was a sacrifice that was necessary at the time but one I’m starting to rethink

As a skinny, physically weak kid, when I first discovered weight training it was just something I took to and excelled with. Within a few years I got stronger and stronger. I continued to get stronger right up through my mid-30’s. And I was strong. How strong? Well at 36 I could benchpress sets of 315, 365 and 405 lbs and a one time max of 485 lbs. This was all without special shirts, braces, trusses or use of PED’s. Yea, I was that strong. And as I didn’t have the kind of physique that screamed strong I used to draw disbelieving looks at the gym. It was empowering. It stoked my ego and raised my self-esteem. But there was a downside...

The first problem was a lifetime of powerlifting took its toll on my joints having surgeries to repair both shoulders and one knee. Worse yet is there was always a link to my power and my weight. This is pretty much true in all cases. When I was at peak strength I was around 260 lbs at 5’9” which is way, way too heavy. As I crept into my 40’s my body was hurting and my workouts slowing down but I was still stronger then nearly anyone else I know. Then the shit hit the fan

Most of you know the story by now but in a nutshell after the physical from hell I made the decision to get healthier to help control diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. In the course of losing 50 lbs one of the sacrifices I made was to give up powerlifting in favor of more cardio and bodyweight exercises. This was both because I was physically beat up and because of my propensity for gaining weight with strength. I was and am happy with the gains (and losses) I’ve made and that should have been enough…but it’s not

I’ve been fairly heathy outside some minor elbow tendonitis and have maintained 185 lbs for almost 3 years now so I decided for my 50th year on earth I will slowly start amping up my strength again…but with a couple of caveats. 1) that I maintain a weight of no more then 195 lbs and 2) if the toll it takes on my joints prevents me from getting in my cardio I stop. I don’t have an immediate goal but the benchmark will be in benchpress which was always my defining lift. 3 years ago I could still bench 315 lbs several times at 245 lbs bodyweight. I’m nowhere close to that currently so I think that’ll be my mark. Or not

I don’t expect 99% of you to understand why this is important to me. It simply is. I should be more proud that I can do 15 pull-ups and 50 plus pushups and free squats, but I’m not. I always knew that the day I was no longer the strongest guy at the gym was coming and I was ready for that. But I know there is a compromise out there somewhere. I just hope I’m mature enough at this point to know where the tipping point is and don’t go past it.

Anyway I’m not sure this is the kind of thing I’ll be updating but more something I really just wanted to talk about “out loud”. Thanks for listening

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Uncommon Courtesy

If you’re friends with me on Facebook you know one of the things I’m always harping on is the disappearance of common courtesy in this…I dunno…milennial era. People are so caught up in what’s going on everywhere but where they are at that they’ve become oblivious. Things like holding the door for someone or thanking someone for doing the same, bumping into a people and not even thinking of apologizing or neither acknowledging nor reciprocating on the “courtesy wave” when driving are becoming distant memories. The question is why. I have a few theories

The obvious elephant in the room is cell phones/smart phones. We’re all guilty to a point of “multitasking” in everyday life. Whether we’re chatting away on the phone itself, texting, status updating, reply reading, game playing or music listening we’re just so wrapped up in things that less then 15 years ago either didn’t exist or were not a major part of our lives (the fact that we sometimes do this while driving is even scarier). We’re so immersed in this mobile world we sometimes forget about the real life world with real life people

It could also just be societal. My parents were very, very strict with us as far as making sure we were courteous and polite to a fault. BUT they weren’t as strict as their parents were and I’m guessing many parents today aren’t as strict as their parents. It’s the law of diminishing returns (although this is conjecture as the large percentage of my friends and family have imparted the virtues of courtesy on their children). Of course this theory goes up in smoke when many of the oblivious ones are in fact my age or older and should know better

The last thought is one I’m kind of tiptoeing around as I don’t want to come off as xenophobic. Our great American melting pot has become even more and more diverse over the past 20 years. Maybe what we’ve come to expect as everyday normal polite and courteous is not as much a focus in other points of origin. I know after a lifetime of hearing that people in other countries think of Americans as rude and boorish I’ve been all but plowed over in the busy supermarket many times by folks I suspect were not born here (and by those I suspect were born here as well). Again, no hate here, just pointing out a maybe

Is there a solution? I don’t think so. I think it will get worse sadly. But we can try. And by “we” I mean those of us who know better. Those of use who grew up before mobile phones and Beats headphones. We need to set the example and end our phone conversations when someone is trying to communicate with or help you. We need to get our noses out of our phone and pay more attention to what going on around us. We need to mute our omnipresent music and listen to…everything else. We need pay more attention to those with us and less to those who aren’t. And for the love of God we need to concentrate on driving when we’re driving!!!

Take a minute and hold a door, let someone pull out in front of you, say please and thank you even when it seems unnecessary. I promise, these little details can make a big difference

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Read This Blog To Learn How You Can Lose All The Weight You Want Without Diet, Exercise, Pills Or Surgery And Keep It Off For Life!!!!

OK, the title was total bullshit based on what you see and hear on TV and the radio. "Drink 3 of these a day" or "lose 20 pounds without dieting or exercising". And it's all bullshit designed to make money for someone. Now, I don't have a problem with someone making a buck, never have, never will. BUT you just need to know it's the weight loss equivalent of snake oil. There is still only one (short of surgery) tried and true method to lose weight and keep it off-diet and exercise. Trust me, I know, I've tried everything and only diet and exercise works. So why do we fall for these sales pitches all the time? Well, because we WANT them to be true, that's why

If you're ever up really early or really late you've probably been assailed with an infomercial produced by BeachBody which distributes everything from PX90 and Insanity to the ubiquitous 21 Day Fix and Shakeology. It is also home to BeachBody coaches which is one part life coach to 3 parts Amway sales person. Honestly, there is a kernel of truth in every workout, supplement and diet they's just not as straight forward as they present it. Take the 21 Day Fix. Great idea in that it retrains your metabolism and teaches you good habits like portion control. But taking control of your weight and health shouldn't be measured in 3 week periods but over the long haul. Or Shakeology. I actually use and believe in supplements to, well, supplement my diet. That means in addition to meals, not instead of meals. Meal replacement is a short term solution and not a life change most people can stick with. As to coaches, well, I have no problem with encouragement and support be it voluntary or compensated but in the long run you will need self discipline and drive to get the job done

What works is the 4 D's- Diet, Discipline, Dedication and Desire
Diet- knowing what to eat and what not to eat along with proportions of each is fundamental
Discipline- your ability to so "no" to certain things and "I gotta do this even tho I don't want to" to others
Dedication- to live the lifestyle. To stay the course. To get back up when you've fallen down
Desire- you have to want it and be ready to work for it. Not hope for it, not wish for it, not pray for it but to WANT it and to MAKE it happen

You can do it because, well, I did it. I'm at 2 3/4 years of living the life and have no plans to stop. Below is a video I took chronicling my typical work day routine from the time I get up till the time I got to bed. It's about 10 minutes long (I couldn't truncate 15 hours any more then that) and not real exciting but it will give some insight into my routines and what it takes for me to stay on track. I recorded this on November 3, 2015 at the ending stages of a pretty severe cold so please excuse the sniffling and throat clearing

So yeah, the title of this blog was bullshit but so aren't most popular advertised methods of weight loss. If you really, really want to lose weight and, more importantly, keep it off think of the 4 D's

Thursday, August 27, 2015

I Remember When...

So it's been a while since I posted one of my famous stream of consciousness, quick hit kinda blogs (OK, the blogs have been fairly infrequent period). With that said, and by popular demand (**crickets**), lets proceed with guarded anticipation-

-I remember when pets were pets and not a cottage industry unto themselves

-I remember when half the thrill of doing something you weren't supposed to do was the fear of getting caught and what the punishment might be

-I remember watching TV shows that featured actual fake families, not "real" fake families (or fake real families)

-I remember when going to college was still considered a privilege for those willing to work hard or those that could afford it and not just those who didn't know what to do after high school (my dad reminded me of this every time I got my grades)

-I remember when the (incorrect) perception of civil service jobs were for the "non-college types" or as a fall back job and not the highly sought out jobs by those of all backgrounds that they are now (and should be)

-I remember when things like soda and fast food were an occasional treat, not a way of life

-I remember when we didn't fret nearly as much about what we ate yet obesity, type II diabetes, celiac, and allergies were far less a factor then they are today

-I remember when we communicated less but said a lot more

-I remember when quality time with friends and family didn't require mobile devices and wifi connections

-I remember when this # was a pound sign

-I remember when e-mail was new and fresh and exciting. It's now all but obsolete outside of business purposes

-I remember when "graphic novels" were still called comic books and the only adults who read them and watched tv shows and movies based on them were closeted nerds like myself

-I remember when bar beer menu's consisted of "domestic" and "foreign" with the foreign beers being macro  brewed Canadian and German beers and hence more expensive.

-I remember when I had lots more time to write more pointless yet amusing to me dreck like this

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Walk Of Life!

So about 2 years ago when I made the decision to lose weight and get in better shape I weighed my options as to which form of cardio exercise would be most effective to get the job done. I considered running as I truly loved running back in the day. Unfortunately a life of doing heavy squats at the gym (be wary all you Cross Fitters) and walking around at too high a weight combined with my particular physiology left my knees and calves in too much pain to run regularly. Next I considered the machines at the gym (elliptical, treadmill, etc) but honestly I just got bored too easily on those. After talking to my diabetic nurse and reading up on the benefits of daily steps I settled on walking. I started in earnest on a path of at least 10,000 steps a day on March 17th 2013 and haven't stopped since. While it takes a little more time then running or cycling, walking is very low impact, good for the circulation and will certainly burn calories. It's an activity you can do every day as there is not the wear and tear and recovery period of more high impact exercise. All that said there are some tricks of the trade to a successful walking regime. I'll try and summarize as briefly as possible what I've done for the past 2 years and hope this helps you

Get Good Footwear- This is essential. Get a good pair of walking or (as in my case) running shoes. Go to a legit store and ask questions. You want something that works with your particular gait and with the amount of motion control and cushioning you need. These shoes should be uni-taskers used solely for your walking routine and not every day shoes. The better the footwear the less the chances of pain or injury. I would also recommend a good set of insoles (I use SuperFeet) and a waterproof alternative for wet conditions (see next section). I prefer hiking boots for this. Lastly, especially if you're walking on asphalt or concrete, change your shoes frequently. I probably spent on the upside of $400 from 2014 to today on good Asics running shoes as I get a weird wear pattern and when my shoes are done my body tells me and I just replace them. It's money well spent. This is really all you need to get started to for continued success, read on

Dress For Success- Dress practically and for the weather for your daily walks. I start every morning by checking the weather app on my phone and dress accordingly. I have accumulated a bunch of athletic clothing for every weather condition. This way I have no excuses. Some essentials for me are-

  • Under Armour Storm Gear hoodie- Warm without being too heavy and water resistant
  • Compression shorts/leggings for under shorts/pants- helps prevent chaffing, wicks moisture
  • Waterproof shoes and Goretex raincoat.- Rain is not an excuse not to walk
  • Hats, gloves, long underwear- Cold is not an excuse for not walking. Layers is the secret to braving the coldest mornings/days
  • Reflective vest/L.E.D.- For those times you find yourself walking in the dark 
I always prepare myself for whatever condition and often carry a backpack with extra clothing or to stow unneeded clothing as I go

Walk With A Purpose- (OK I stole this term from Mr McMahon of WWE fame) So just getting out there and moving is a great start. However if walking is going to be your choice for cardio you're going to have to do a bit more then meander. This means setting a pace that can raise your heart rate to at least  the "fat burning" zone for a sustained period of time. So how do you know what this pace is to sustain this? Well you can buy a heart rate monitor like I did and you'll know. Or you can use the GPS function on any number of apps to estimate. I've found for my age, weight, etc I try and achieve about 17 minute miles or less. I find the easiest way to achieve the calorie burn you're looking for is have a set distance for exercise and get that in with as few stops or slow downs as possible. If you want to extend the walk and stop along the way of coffee or shopping etc that's all good as it's all gravy after that. I don't have the fastest walking pace nor the slowest but it's consistent for the length of my walk. Anything other then walking at a decent pace you want to do from there like the whole pumping the arms thing or wearing wrist or ankle weights (been there, done that) is all up to you

One Is The Loneliest Number- At the end of the day walking for cardio exercise is a solo endeavor. It just is. If partnering up is the only way you'll do it then fine but otherwise you're better off alone. Think about it- if you are walking to get yourself in better physical shape then you need to go at YOUR pace, not be slowing down or hurrying up to be at another persons pace. This goes double for walking with the dog. From an exercise standpoint the dog ends up walking you more then you the dog. Sorry, running with the dog, maybe, walking with the dog, nope. Now you CAN have your cake and eat it too if you set aside time for your exercise THEN supplement it with a walk with a friend or a canine companion. As I said above, that's all gravy

Find Your Groove- Walking tends to take twice as long as equivalent running or 3 times as long as equivalent biking so find what makes the time most enjoyable. If you prefer the sounds of your environs more power to you. If putting on your headphones and cranking the tunes works, go for it. I've done both of those but I finally settled on audio books. It keeps my mind occupied and while not technically "reading" it allowed me to regain some of the reading time I lost  when I changed the way I ran my life. But really you need to find what works for you

Location, location, location- Living in Cambridge I've learned to love and prefer city walking. I love the sights, the sounds, the scents of an active city. It also allows me to just step out the door and get started. I have 2, 3 and 4 mile loops and in the case of cutting short I can simply turn around or take 3 right hand turns and be back home. I also have a few hikes and a few more scenic walks I enjoy but as they require driving to walk I reserve these for my days off. I also have the huge option of walking to and from work when time allows (4.1 miles each way). Again, find what works for you but also the most excuse free option which in most cases are the ones close to home

OK, so there you have it, my guide to a successful walking routine. I didn't mention hydration at all as you need to know your own body and it's needs. I own hydration packs, hydration belts, reusable bottles etc but I personally only use them if I'm going out in the most extreme temperatures at the height of the day or going somewhere where finding water is not an option. I usually start drinking water as soon as I wake up and start most mornings with a homemade juice so I don't worry much about hydration on an hour and ten minute walk but that's up to you. I think walking is the perfect cardio exercise and no matter what else I get into fitness-wise it will remain my constant until for some reason I'm physically incapable of doing it any longer

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Two Years Later

Sept 2012
This March 2015 marks 2 years since I made the decision to get healthier. There are several blogs herein that gives the whole long, long story so if you need the long version please go back and read. I'll wait...The Reader's Digest version is at 46 years old my blood sugar was out of control despite medication and my cholesterol and blood pressure were also skyrocketing. I was at least 40 lbs overweight at 235 lbs at 5' 9" tall (and having been as heavy as 297 in my life). After serious soul searching I made the decision to lose weight and take better care of myself. I wanted to lose 20 lbs and ended up losing more then 50 lbs getting down as low as 179 lbs in about a year. After the year I switched it up and became less about losing weight and more about maintaining weight and getting back to the level of muscularity I was used to sans the excess weight. All the while the
March 2015
health being the most important factor (blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol). My primary tools to accomplish this were getting at least 10,000 steps a day tracking with my Fitbit and netting below 2000 calories a day logging food on MyFitnessPal. After one year I had cut my glucose A1C (the measuring stick for blood sugar over an extended period as opposed to daily readings) and my blood pressure and cholesterol were normal although the doctor thought it wise to keep me on meds for the time being as I had no adverse effects from them. At this point I declared Rich O 2.0 (the lame nickname I had given the "new" me) dead as that phase had gone as far as it could and I entered phase Rich O 2.1 (also lame) (AS of this writing my glucose A1C is "normal" (below 5.6) for the first time in 13 years!!)

So what changed? Well I was certainly happy with my vitals and my new streamlined look but I've been used to a certain level of muscularity my entire adult life much of which I'd lost as during the bulk of my weight crashing I had developed elbow tendinitis (tennis elbow, go figure) so I hadn't been strength training much. As soon as I was healthy I went back to weights 3 times a week at the gym. Sadly the weight loss and having beat my joints for so long meant that a lot of the power was gone. But I didn't care. Lean, functional muscle was what I was looking for. I also continued my daily calisthenics and body weight exercises switching off from  pull ups, push ups and squats to TRX
 exercises to dips and back again. Always changing it up. And I noticed a big difference. I also worked my core. Hard! At
least 6 days a week a put in exercise for my core and abs. Knee raises, yoga ball crunches, ab wheel, etc etc. And it's made a huge difference. My whole middle of my body feels so much stronger and looks much different. If you strain your eyes you can see visible abs below the lingering layer of flab, something I didn't have even in my 20's. When I look in the mirror I see the thick bulk of my power lifting days replaced by definition, my upper body more of a "V" shape and my legs from think tree trunks to ripped up looking. Now problem areas still exist like my lower belly and lower pecs. I'm not sure that without cutting more fat out of my diet if these will ever go away and I  am not sure I care. I kind of feel like this is how I always wanted to look in my minds eye (probably a little more mass then this but whatever) and am generally happy. While I'll never be "beach body" ready I feel now more like an athlete going soft as opposed to an out of shape guy trying to get into shape. I can live with that

As far as cardio goes I just kept on my path striving for 10,000 steps a day minimum and averaging about 16,000-17,000. Walking is still my primary means but this past winter forced me to change things up as the snow made walking all but impossible and at the least very unpleasant all to often. I used my exercise bike a lot but as I was still focused on steps first and all around cardio second I
 came up with new things. Like walking/marching/jogging in place. And going up and down the stairs in my building. And old school step aerobic inspired exercises. I also added heavy bag training as more a cardio burn then for steps. I don't really know what I'm doing but it certainly gets the heart pounding. Believe it or not I even started using the Kinect games on my Xbox like Boxing and Your Fitness Evolved on days I was trapped inside. Of course there's always the elliptical and treadmill at the gym. I tried running for a bit but it was just too much on my knees and calves so I went back to walking. I credit the constant, low impact cardio as the most important part of my fitness regime and am most proud to have hit my goal of at least 10,000 steps a day every single day for more then 2 years now! My pocket carried Fitbit One is showing signs of wear and tear and may need replacing but it's all money wells spent

Food wise I've made changes both on the plus and the minus side. On the plus side I continued with the big, protein filled breakfasts, medium protein filled lunch and small protein filled dinner. My meals are better balanced with every meals featuring carbs, proteins, dairy and fruits/veggies. I've consumed more broccoli, asparagus, egg whites/egg substitute and romaine lettuce then I thought possible. I've worked a lot of whole grains and "super foods into my diet like chia, cacao nib, and quinoa. While breads and potatoes are still a part of my life rice and pasta are a rare treat. I've also worked juicing more into my morning routine alternating with smoothies. I like the smoothies but as I use them as supplemental and not meal replacement the calorie count can get pretty high. Overall I think my "normal" eating habits are very sensible and I probably kept under my calorie goal (2 years straight of logging in to MyFitnessPal) 340-350 days last year. On the minus end I let the foot off the gas a bit as I decided to "live life". No more skipping pizza and beer night with friends or whatever. On days where I know I'm going to be "bad" I try my best to adjust my other meals and put more work in. It doesn't always work out but I always try to make it work. And if it doesn't, oh well. I simply won't let myself fall back into old bad habits and I'm secure enough in how things are that one or two bad days will not undo all the good I've done the past 2 years

So, 2 years later, has my life changed? Well, yes. And No. I feel better for sure. And I feel better about myself. I haven't really been sick since I started this new regime (keep in mind colds are not sick in my world). I haven't really changed much in how I act or how I dress (tho I will admit an affinity for compression fit Under Armour shirts at the gym which I would have never worn before). Sadly unlike in the movies and TV our protagonist losing weight does not suddenly make him/her irresistible to the opposite sex (dammit) but other then that I definitely feel less self-conscious about my appearance then at any point since my 20's. I feel accomplished as I feel like (for now) I dodged a huge bullet and did something about it. The downside? Well there's a lot of sacrifice. Exercising when you don't feel like it. Or you're tired. Or sick. Or hungover. Or on vacation. Skipping dessert and making smarter choices. Giving up some of your favorite foods. And there's the cost involved. Eating better in my experience costs more (cutting out processed food for fresh is a big part). And the time to prep your meals. I don't sit down after work until almost 9:30 by the time I'm done working out, making dinner and prepping  the next days breakfast and lunch. And clothes.Dear lord I've gone through clothes. In my jeans drawer alone I have 36", 34", 33" and 32" as I'm struggling to find the balance tween fit and comfort (ok, the 36" were from last year I just can't get rid of them yet as a veteran of the weight loss wars. And the compliments. I'm not one comfortable with compliments and usually deflect them with self-deprecating humor. And the disbelief. I've gone through everything from people thinking I'm sick or worse to people not believing I've weighed almost 300 lbs and most recently 240 lbs. But those are all minor quibbles in the overall scheme of things

I'm not "proud" of what I've done as if I had pride to start with I wouldn't have let myself fall so far. I do feel accomplished and somewhat satisfied. And I'm always willing to give what advice I can give. I'll end this with what of said all along- find what works for you but make a choice you can stick with, not a quick fix. End of the day it's all about diet and exercise and that will never change