Saturday, October 28, 2017

Concussion Recovery: Part 1

I've had a considerable amount of this post written for some time; months in-fact.  But what I've found is that traumatic brain injuries/concussions don't work on our timetable, they progress at their own speed.  In-fact, the more one fights against it and attempts to push through the longer the symptoms linger.  These are just a couple of the many lessons I've learned in what's now approaching a year and a half since my accident and injury.  Another is that in order to write this properly, it has to be raw.  Perhaps that was one of the issues prior.  Back when I began I was a school coach and as such, tended to scale back my language and how I wrote things.  I no longer have that concern thanks in part to some of the side effects that have come along with my now and finally diagnosed,
"Moderate Post-Concussion Syndrome"  I put that in quotes because that was what the neurologist diagnosed me with and clearly for this post, it's important to insure that it's given its proper reference.   

The helmet I was wearing sitting atop pieces of the tree involved.
If you're a sports fan it's next to impossible not to know about the advances and acknowledgements surrounding concussions.  It's been all over the internet and stations like ESPN and Fox Sports due to the high amount of professional football players who've been diagnosed postmortem with CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) as well as the controversy surrounding medical implications that were not acknowledged/possibly covered up.  This has now transitioned to a vast discussion not only about what concussions are, but also how to prevent, diagnose, and treat. As a former coach, I paid attention because I wanted those whom I worked with to be healthy and to limit the chances for injury to the highest degree possible.  For me, understanding concussions is as important as understanding how the goal line defense compares to a 5-2 or 4-4 in short yardage situations.  (If you're not a football fan, I apologize if my analogy doesn't make much sense). Unfortunately or perhaps fortunately, beginning last summer I became much more an expert on the subject than I ever could have foreseen.

The rest of the tree.  This was the base so no directly involved
but when the issues no doubt began on my end.
On July 20th of last year I made my way behind the house to do some wood cutting and land clearing. I had my chainsaw, some wedges, and on that particular day, a forestry helmet.  I knew walking in it would be necessary for a dead cherry tree to come down because it was both in the way and presented a clear safety hazard.  I checked the immediate area in search of another tree I could fell in that direction, allowing me to take it down while lessening the danger but unfortunately none were present.  I directed Caden where to safely stand and instructed him to wait for my signal before moving in for cleanup. Helmet on, I looked over the tree, decided where I wanted it to fall and began cutting.  It was pretty well surrounded by other trees so I made the decision to have it fall in a way that it would graze the limbs on a nearby pine and slide down. Unfortunately, dead trees don't always do what you expect and on this day, it made a valiant effort to live up to the "widowmaker" moniker. Rather than hitting the pine branches and sliding off, it hit the branches and came straight back at me. Whether I felled it exactly where I wanted I have no idea but it's safe to assume, not exactly.  (Caden would later tell me it was going exactly where I'd planned but hit another branch that I apparently didn't see) I cannot remember seeing where it hit but I do remember seeing it coming back at me.  I waited as long as possible before moving in what I thought was to be the safe direction but I was again wrong.  My guess is it again hit something else that changed it's direction but I don't know for sure.

 I remember turning enough so when it hit me it was on the back left side of my head and knew immediately I'd been dinged pretty hard but I've been hit in the head hard a lot so the idea of being genuinely hurt didn't enter my initial thoughts.  Funny enough, after a moment or two and letting Caden know I was OK, I picked up my saw again to get back to work when it become apparent I should have Shawna (a former Army medic) check me out.  I walked back to the house, entered, and since she was sleeping, I was forced to wake her (which I actually remember feeling badly about.  HA!)  Startled because I don't generally ask for medical help (there are other stories there), she was awake instantly and running me through some basic concussion testing.  Most were OK but not great and I honestly thought that I'd probably panicked her for nothing when my speech began to slur.  That continued to get worse until we made the decision that seeking medical advice was a good idea.  We made a call and got a ride from family so the Dr could do basically nothing except charge me a fee. Limited cognitive testing, no MRI/cat scan, no advice except to rest. Looking back, I'm pretty pissed by the medical treatment I (didn't) received because I made decisions based on their reactions and advice.  This is not to say that I would have listened to everything but I should have had those options much earlier than I did.  And yes, I should have listened to my wife but when you're in the state I was, you put a certain amount of trust into the hands of your doctors and frankly, I'll never fucking do it again.

From here, some (many according to Shawna) details are fuzzy.  I thought I'd be up and on my feet in a day or two but that turned definitely wasn't the case.  I tried to go outside and work a few days later but that only magnified my symptoms.  I tried and did work as an assistant football coach at the local high school, but I definitely wasn't myself.  I would not come to realize how bad I was until I was sent to see an Occupational Therapist who helped me understand the shape was actually in by running a battery of simple tests that left me feeling fucked up not just following the appointment, for for a day or two after .   However, even then, I honestly didn't take the whole thing nearly as serious as I should have.  I continued to do things against her, my wife's, and pretty much everyone around me's recommendations because I thought for sure I could simply out-tough my injury.

Eventually, a couple months later, I finally began to feel like myself.  I got to watched the Cubs finally win the World Series (I'm a Red Sox fan first, Cubs fan because of so many years of shared and understood misery)  made it through the holidays, enjoyed watching the Pats pull of their epic Super Bowl comeback for the ages, was writing weekly blog posts while working on and beginning to lose some weight, and was even an assistant coach for the local high school baseball team in the spring.  It was also during that time that I found a new job and began working an overnight security gig at a local specialized school.  Everything seemed to be back to normal and going well...Right up until it began not to  And that's when the fucking relapse happened.     


Monday, July 17, 2017

Quick Update

It's been about 6 weeks since my last published post.  I haven't given up on this but physically and mentally I simply haven't been able to sit and work.  I have a new multi-part post that I'll hopefully be posting part one of next week regarding concussions, mine specifically, and it's coming along nicely; albeit very slowly.  My fast ins't showing great benefits but I've also not been overly strict either, though I'm still progressing with my training so I'm not even mad.  I have moved it up to 14/10 and sometimes 16/8 (first number indicates number of fasting hours, second eating hours) with my fasts and have not found difficulty generally with adherence to the hours.  My current issues have revolved around the what I'm eating not when but we're making efforts in the house to change that currently. I'll certainly have more to come on the subject down the road but for the next couple posts at least, I'll be going a different, yet equally important direction.

If you're a follower please bare with me for a bit longer because I'm hoping to have some more and even better work produced in the coming weeks.  Thanks again for following along with the Simple Things.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Intermittent Fasting Update: "Momma Said They'red Be Days Like This"

Props to, The Shirelles and their legendary song for aiding me in not only finding a title for today's post, but basically the entire premise.  It was earlier today that I mentioned to my wife while having a discussion (bitch session) about the way our previous few weeks have gone, these lyrics, and in that moment we both seemed to relax a little.  Because that's often what happens; we become so focused on single aspects of life that until someone or something comes along to break that concentration we get lost in our own misery.  And I'm hoping that's what today was for us; the end of a long couple weeks where we simply haven't been able to get anything to go exactly as desired', including the damn weather.

While I'm not going to get into everything because of relevancy, anyone who reads this regularly (and given my views, that's not a lot so please share if you're into what I'm writing..Hint, hint!) I haven't written in a couple weeks.  While that certainly wasn't the plan, it quickly became apparent that producing anything worth a damn simply wasn't feasible due to some medical issues (already in the process of being written about).  And that wasn't the end of it getting off track either.  My fast has been derailed, though not entirely.  My training also hasn't gone as expected, though that's not gone completely off kilter either.  It's not that anything has gone completely wrong, OK, one thing has been pretty wrong; it's just that it's nothing's gone exactly right and in all likelihood I haven't done a great job at making necessary adjustments either.  Thankfully I had a good portion of this pre-written so I can finally drop my end of month fasting update, albeit at the 6 week mark.

First off, I'll be upfront that I plan to continue working and re-working (as necessary) intermittent fasting for the foreseeable future.  While I haven't been perfect in either adherence or tracking, I've hit more days than I've missed adherence wise and I have a new phone that will allow me to track easier. I may or may not use My Fitness Pal to keep track of my daily intake in the immediate but I am planning to try an app called, MyFast to help with consumption/fasting hours.  I'll also be combining this with either a hand written notebook or creating a spreadsheet. I'm still new to the spreadsheet idea but feel that'll be worth exploring eventually because of the unmistakable value tracking holds.  This process didn't go as well as I was hoping but it didn't go completely terrible either.  I did gain some valuable information, the biggest being that my intolerance for lactose is much bigger than I'd realized.  At this point I've eliminated everything, including butter and am even paying much closer attention to labels because who the hell knew lactose was an ingredient in so many damn products?! Until it was mentioned by a Facebook friend, the idea my protein powders contained it had never dawned on me. So now I've not just been left without milk, butter, and ice cream, but my regular protein powders as well, which is a huge pain in the ass.  But as unfortunate as losing those dietary staples has been, what a difference it's made.  For a couple years I thought my issues were gluten related but I now know definitively that it's all related to dairy.  While, as I said, it's a pain, it's also been a tremendous relief.  I'm having far less intestinal issues, which is great on it's own but I also simply feel better.

While the above information is probably interesting to some, I'm sure what people really want to know is, 1.) Have I seen any results, and 2.) Do I feel any different.  To answer the first question, I'm below 290 pounds, which means I'm under my surgery weight for the first time since I went under the knife/laser.  So that's a weight loss of roughly 7 lbs or, a littler over a lb per week.  I think I can do a little better but given I wasn't on point with many of the goals I set out with, (which you can read/review here) I'm not upset in the least.  Not to mention, if I'd lost 30 lbs or something incredible I'd feel nervous and anticipate that I'd done it in an unsustainable manner.  I'd like to up it to roughly 1.5-2 lbs per week but given the outside battles I had this month, I find my results acceptable.  To answer how I feel, pretty good for the most part.  My current health issue is completely unrelated to anything diet/fasting/fitness related so removing that from the equation, I'm pretty happy health wise. My resting heart rate was down 5 bpm (beats per minute) from two months ago, my blood pressure was back to 118 over 78, and in general, I feel healthier.  As I mentioned previously, my stomach doesn't hurt all the time, I have more energy, and until a short time ago, I felt as though my brain was running much more efficiently. All in all, I believe I have the evidence and reasons to continue down this path for awhile longer.

* I apologize that this post seems a bit disjointed.  As I sit here finishing it up, I must acknowledge that a concussion I suffered nearly a year ago during my woods accident has been and is presenting some issues.  As I mentioned above, I've already begun a post to discuss it further; not just for my own benefit but because as a youth sports coach I feel some responsibility to due so.  But for now, I again apologize for the lackluster writing within.  I did not want to get to week three with nothing published and as such, it was time to push through knowing full well it would not be my best work. I'll compare it to hitting the gym on days you don't feel great.  A bad day at the gym feels better than a good day on the couch and today the same goes for my writing.      



Thursday, May 18, 2017

Quick Update of the Fast and Addition of a Challenge

Quick update on the fast:  It's been pretty challenging the past week and a half due to illness and the constant rotation of waking hours my job requires and things have gone a little haywire.  I have not gotten into the 14 hour fasts yet and am simply attempting to maintain 12 hours consistently; which I've done OK with.  I've completely lost focus in regards to maintaining my journaling, I just acquired a new cell today actually but haven't had time to set up the necessary tracking features, and I've missed some other consumption goals such as daily kimchi and my daily veggie quota.  But, all is not lost.  I'm still dropping weight consistently, post meal consumption issues have lessened considerably, and I've decided to extend this for at least a couple more weeks as I try and decide if this is just trial or whether it could and should become my daily life.  There will be more updates forthcoming in the coming days and weeks so stay tuned!

Overall, the experience I've had and am having with fasting, has been positive.  I'll get into much greater detail in the next week or two when I write another post dedicated to the subject but I really believe that what I've been doing the past few weeks and how I've been feeling contributed greatly in my decision to take another step forward on my path to health improvement:  I signed up for my first running race over the weekend!  Now, it's not a marathon but rather a 5.5  mile (mile, not kilometer) trial race  that I scheduled for months out so that I've have an opportunity to build into training while reducing the risk of overuse injury.  My spot is paid for and booked, it's in the calendar and in-fact I've already begun training and dropped some dough on new footwear.  In reality I have no idea how this process will actually go but I'm in it now so many of the questions are of no concern.

So why did I chose to take on such an endeavor?  The answer is really two fold.  The first is that for the past months I've been watching some personalities I follow on social media discuss and post pictures from the various areas they trail run.  Alex Viada of Complete Human Performance is a crazy all around athlete who takes on and promotes a variety of athletic pursuits with trail running among them.  The other is Bow Hunter, Ultra Marathon, and Under Armour sponsored athlete, Cameron Hanes.  The other night I finally hit the point where I could deny their inspiration no-longer and made the decision to just go for it.

All Good Things Must Come To An End
The second reason is pretty straight forward.  I wanted to give myself a reason to do cardio that would be hard to bitch out of.  Weight training is fun, I enjoy doing it, so, in-general, it's not that hard to talk myself into getting after it even on the days I'm not feeling great.  Provided I can force myself through the warm up, I can get it done and and even relatively enjoy myself. When it comes to doing cardio, however, convincing myself that it's OK to skip is far to easy.  I don't like to run for the most part and yet, walking takes too long.  I don't mind throwing some sprints in now and again but lately they just remind me how out of shape I am so that wasn't happening either.  However, now I'm signed up for a race and while I have no illusions of winning I do have some goals with this process; the biggest being to not embarrass myself by showing up wholly unprepared.

Why did I pick this particular type of race?  For starters I work on Friday and Saturday nights so I needed something on a Sunday, which knocked 80% of the races from contention.  Second, trail running has intrigued me for awhile so I was looking to go that route over the tradition road race. Running trails or on dirt is much easier on my joints than hitting the road.  Not to mention, the roads around here are all crowned and the unevenness kicks the hell out of me and causes some awful imbalances which lead to serious discomfort.  Finally, I actually enjoy hiking and walking through the woods so I genuinely hope this will be an experience that I'll enjoy.  Trail running is more technically challenging I know but it sure beats staring at the same things while working out at the track and the aforementioned discomfort that comes from use of the local roads.

Concerning the training, currently I'm writing my own plans, though that might change in the future. During this phase I'm really just getting myself up and moving again and will be taking a very slow approach for the next month.  Now, when I say slow approach that doesn't mean that I'm only doing a day or two per week.  I've already planned out the entire first month and will be using a combination of ruck marching, walking, light jogging, and sprinting to lay a base.  Whether or not I'm doing it 100% ideal can certainly be questioned but, and this is a huge but, part of the enjoyment for me is in the learning and experimentation.  (I'm planning to discuss this in greater depth in an upcoming post so stay tuned for that).  I know I need to start putting some miles on and building both strength and stamina and want to do that while minimizing impact on my joints, especially given the excessive body weight I'm carrying (291 lbs as of this writing), that's where the rucking will have the greatest impact..  Running is going to play havoc with my body and beat my joints as I mentioned but if I build into it slowly, I'm hoping to avoid overuse issues.  Plain walking is a given and I'm hoping a lot of that will actually be hiking to keep it interesting as well.  Finally, I need to sprint because getting the heart rate up is important to building cardiovascular health and stamina.  My plan and hope it that approaching the training this way will set me up down the road to combine everything on my way to becoming a legitimate trail runner.  In addition to race training, my strength training is going forward, though it'll be undergoing some needed changes soon I think, and I'll maybe, possibly be taking on another endeavor in the next few months but time and money are a consideration for that one so no definitive announcement for now.

Cam Hanes pursues wild game and dreams though not necessarily in that order.
So there you have it.  Fasting is going pretty well given circumstances and I'm taking on some new challenges.  Whether trail running is something I'll stick with is impossible to say for now but I could definitely see it becoming a staple in my training regime given it combines my loves of woods, hiking, and physical exertion with clear cardiovascular benefits.  Not to mention, it clearly helps Cam Hanes with his hunting and outdoorsmanship and this coming year I'm looking to reinvest myself into my own hunting pursuits so we have higher quality meat in our freezer come cold weather; because who doesn't like clean, lean, naturally organic meat?!  Stay tuned because things are just getting started.


Thursday, May 11, 2017

I Fail

I fail.  I fail often in-fact.  Some of my failures are bigger than others.  Some affect only myself while others may have a lasting impact on those around me.  Sometimes past failures keep me up at night and potential future failures keep me from doing my best work in the present.  Failure can be all and it can be nothing.  It can keep us from reaching our potential or it can propel us towards it.  It has the ability to tear us down or help us to be great.  Like so many other aspects of life, the nuances of failure are often lost. They've been lost to me numerous times throughout life and it was only until the past few years that I really began to appreciate the teacher that failure can be.  None of this is to say that failure can't suck.  That it doesn't hurt. That it doesn't leave an indelible mark on one physically, emotionally, spiritually, psychologically.  We know better than that.  But it's a shame that the positive aspects of failure are often lost because within can lie unfounded greatness waiting to be revealed.

The other evening I mentioned to my wife that I'm awful at living in the moment and she agreed.  It was a revelation to me because I hadn't thought of it in that manner before but now that I have, it's maintained a considerable presence within my thoughts.  I have trouble enjoying things because I'm often thinking about what's to come after.  How is the house, the dog, her health, Caden's upcoming practice and game schedule, the travel to and from events and appointments, the future, the this, the that, the "how the hell does one actually live in the God damn moment and forget all the other shit for fucking 5 minutes."  Yes, thinking about not thinking, as evidenced by this post, is even an issue.  I absolutely, 100%, fail at enjoying almost everything because I can't focus and I can't settle my brain. And this is one of those failures that really hurts because it affects the time I spend with my loved ones.  It's not their fault and it truly bothers me that I can't seem to settle myself enough to be fully locked into those moments.  Lifting, working in the woods, and coaching seem to be the three more prominent times when I can shut everything out but given that not being fully aware for two of those could lead to serious injury or death, it would clearly be beneficial to find other, less stress inducing, times when I can remain in the present because clearly I'm making myself a candidate for a damn heart attack.

It's a bummer to think I couldn't relax here..
All that said, as I mentioned in the beginning, failure does present opportunities.  Being aware of what's happening allows me to take steps to try and combat it.  And if I'm successful I can look to build upon the successes, which in turn will both make life better and give me more to write about! That's certainly a win-win.  And it's not just with this example either.  With my current fasting experiment there has been some and will likely be more, failures that I'll have the opportunity to learn from. Shawna and I are working on a family budget (using actual technology this time!) and I have no doubt there will be some failures as we begin instituting it.  Hell, we've done this before and here we are beginning again so clearly failure has been part of the process already.  Whether or not we succeed in the manner we're pursuing cannot be known but as we begin the process, I feel confident the previous pitfalls can be avoided because we know what to look for.  And that's an area where prior failure can really shine; knowledge.

So, what's a person to do with all this failure?  My best advice is to first acknowledge and then utilize its lessons as we push forward.  I know that some of my failures are what have led me to success in the same way that some of them have simply led me to failure and no further.  Failing still scares me more often than I feel it should and at times I use avoidance to keep myself from positions where it's possible. Honestly, those times are more frustrating than if I'd just made an unsuccessful attempt but you only learn that through experience.  That's the shoulda, coulda, woulda feeling we all have at one time or another; the regret that comes from not even trying.  Is that feeling worse than failing?  I guess that's up to the individual but for me, the answer is a resounding yes.  I'm far more haunted by the regrets from not attempting experiences than I've ever been from trying and failing.  And yet, I still find myself from time to time falling into that habit.  Frustrating to say the least.

The reality is is that failure happens to us all.  No one is immune.  But it seems the ability to handle failure is a key component in what separates the successful from the unsuccessful.  The successful see opportunities within the attempts even if the task objectives are not met. They succeed because they learn and impart the wisdom from each effort not only onto that specific task but onto other tasks that may present similar challenges.  They both acknowledge and understand that failure isn't just a possibility but is at times, a necessary part of the process.  Sure, there are definite failures you'd prefer to avoid (See: Exxon Valdez, 08' Economic Collapse, Prohibition, ect) but it's hoped that even from those unmitigated disasters something good can arise (in the case of prohibition, not so much clearly).  And I guess that's what I'm trying to leave you with today.  The feeling that failure itself isn't required to define us.  Our response to it may but how many people talk about the shots that Michael Jordan missed at the end of games?  Or how many times Derek Jeter didn't come through in the clutch?  Or how many publishers turned down J.K Rowling before she achieved success?  Except for discussing them in the context of perseverance, not many.  Each of them not only used their failures as motivation, they used them as learning experiences because they knew they'd be faced with similar circumstances again eventually.  And that's something we can all strive for.  I fail, and because I do, I will also succeed.



Friday, May 5, 2017

Teaching Finance to the Teenager

I'm going to discuss a non-fitness related topic this week but before I do I need to do some housekeeping.  First off, I want to throw out a huge shout out to both my God-Mother and her son (whom I affectionately refer to as my God-Brother) who are currently undergoing huge transformations that deserve some recognition.  Thus far, she's lost over 100 lbs and as of this writing he's approaching and may have already surpassed 50 lbs lost.  It's fantastic watching them discuss and post about their continued progress and I have no doubt they're inspiring others to look in the mirror and ask the questions that can lead to their own changes. Congrats you two and keep up the awesome work!

Second, a quick update on my fasting.  The first week actually went really great.  I learned a lot about the process and also realized I still have much information to gather.  I've begun documenting the changes I've made, have tried some things that worked and others that didn't and am actually looking forward to the coming week because I feel as though the further I delve into this, the more streamlined the process will become.  I'll be getting more in-depth on the subject later but prefer to do so after another week or two of information gathering.  That said, on to something a little different this week.

The past couple months Caden has been saving up for an IPod and last week he finally accumulated the necessary funds to purchase it; or so he thought.  Experienced Amazon shoppers understand that, 1.) If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. And 2.) Before purchase it's important to always to check the rating of the seller.  When it came time to buy Caden's new music player he learned the two lessons and unfortunately in doing so, found that he was actually $15 short.  He was bummed but it dawned on Shawna and I that we were being presented with an amazing opportunity to teach a financial life lesson and it was one that we absolutely could not pass up.  So, rather than simply send him away to save up the rest of his money we instead made him an offer; one that would allow him to purchase the IPod that night but would cost him more than sales price.  In one fell swoop the subjects of credit, interest, collateral, and financial planning were ours to teach.

Once the plan was formulated, we presented it to Caden as follows:  He could save up the rest of the money and purchase what he desired when he'd saved enough.  Or, we could loan him the remainder of the money so it could be purchased that evening with a couple conditions.  The first was that he needed to put up his X-Box controllers as collateral and would not get them back until repayment was completed.  The second was that he'd be paying interest on the borrowed sum.  So, his $15 dollar loan would become a $20 dollar repayment.  Unsurprisingly he initially balked at the $5 finance charge, which is understandable, until we informed him that once he qualifies for credit in real life, a 25+% interest rate would not only not be out of the question but likely.  We could have put a time limit on it as well but decided it best to keep the initial lesson as simple as possible.  Here's the best part though. He's already paid it off.  I don't know if it was not wishing to owe money or the fact there would be no XBox until he'd paid (I highly suspect it had more to do with the latter) but regardless, not only did he learn lessons, it's lead to conversations regarding money that many, if not most, kids don't have in 2017.

In all honesty I haven't been the greatest with money over the years, which is a big reason I want Caden to learn some of these lesson's early.  I don't want him to fall into the, "student loan with thousands in credit and loan debt" trying to start a life in his early 20's with no hope of actually pursuing not only dreams, but just a regular life that doesn't include crushing debt.  The reality is not only are kids not going to get the financial education they need within the school system, they're probably going to hear information that's been past down for years but no one will admit is wrong. We cannot rely public education to teach our kids the realities of money and finance, we must bear that responsibility ourselves.  And though others may disagree, when kids hit a certain age I think doing it in no bullshit way is preferred.

When you really look at it, it's easy to draw a parallel between losing weight and saving money/working out of debt.  With each people tend to start off motivation and positively about how much they're going to lose or how much they'll save and how life with change without all the debt. But then little invitations begin to arise.  Perhaps you go out to eat and the cake at the end is simply irresistible so you indulge.  That one piece of cake could simply be an outlier and you're back to eating right by the evening.  Or, and what seems to generally happen, that one piece of cake is like dynamite hitting a a damn and the floodgates to old habits opens up.  The same thing happens with money.  You'll be doing well and then you see something you just, "have to have!" and after that you're quickly back into your old ways.  I'd say it's all self control but I think it goes much deeper than that.  Perhaps I'll expand on this further at a later date but given I'm over tired and not a mental health expert, I'm going to stop that discussion here.  But, again, the parallel's between physical and financial freedom and independence are hard to ignore.

When I changed the premise of this blog, I did so with the intent to make it more than a place to read about fitness.  That's what today was because I think not only do I fall into a large segment of society that has issues with the physical weight they carry, I think I also share traits with millions who carry a large financial burden as well.  But with both, there is hope.  Just like losing weight, losing financial requirements can be done with perseverance, attitude, and education.  While not exactly where we'd like to be, Shawna and I are working very hard to pay down debts; many of which we've accumulated through poor decision making.  Obviously not all were done in that manner but enough so that things we desire to pay off quickly take longer because we can't focus solely on them.  It's frustrating but if we've learned one thing during this process, it's that being patient can pay dividends.. And yes, I managed to drop some dad jokey financial humor into this.. But for real, talk to your kids about money.  Do it often, use examples, create and take advantage of situations to help them learn and if you're saving for something special, close the Amazon tab because chances are you don't need whatever's on it right this moment (unless of course it's the item you've been saving for and then, by all means, have at it.)  Don't just use today to become physically better, use it to take one step closer to reaching your financial goals as well.  And while you're add it, share the lessons you learn for both to the next generation for no other reason than eventually... those people...they'll be the ones in-charge.


Monday, April 24, 2017

30 Day's of Intermittent Fasting: Beginning

In the previous two posts I discussed some health issues and information that I'd been working through and within those writings, I discussed the idea of trying intermittent fasting.  The idea was not just to lose weight, though I won't lie that would certainly be nice, but to build upon and push into further it because I'd already noticed it seemed to make me feel better.  Writing this, I'm about 11 hours into my first day,  I'm unsure if I've planned this exactly correctly since I'm admittedly not doing this with no supervision but I did discuss is briefly with my Dr who didn't see an issues with trying it...though to be frank, I didn't have the impression that she knows all that much about the subject either so if you follow me on this journey or this leads you to further research and try yourself, please, please, please do yourself a favor and speak to a professional before beginning. For many people, not eating regularly can cause issues and the last thing I want is for someone to do anything unhealthy because of what they read here.  That would, you know, be 100% the opposite of my intent when I switched the premise of The Simple Things.

I think the obvious question from some will be, why would I choose to try this?  If you haven't read the previous posts, I generally feel good when I fast whether it's been done intentionally or unintentionally.  That's not to say there are not times when it didn't suck because there have been.  There have been occasions when I've fasted and then eaten half the food in the house when it was over.  Clearly, that's not the best idea (those were generally fasts in the 20 plus hour range.)  I tried the, Master Cleanse once.  I made it three days on little food and the nasty "lemonade" you're supposed to drink and frankly, I think it'd be easier just to avoid food all together rather than do it their way again.  Oh, and if you can't tell I don't recommend trying it.  I'm sure there are others elsewhere who'll stand by it but my ass isn't one of them.  A second reason I want to try this is because for me, fasting generally isn't that difficult.  Will there be days when I'll be itching to eat before my window opens?  No doubt but for me missing meals isn't the hard part.  Where I have problems much of the time is stopping after I begin eating.  That's when things get dangerous for me.  I'll binge if I'm not careful, and that's not necessarily because I'm post fast.  I have an admitted unhealthy relationship with food and yes, fasting could possibly be a coping mechanism for dealing with it though I don't know for sure. That's best left up to someone with more knowledge on the subject than I.

I'm also not doing this on a whim.  This has been something I've been thinking about for over a month and during that time I've played with it a little day to day.  It's already shown some clear benefits weight wise and I've also felt better overall, other than days I've eaten things I shouldn't (coming back to this shortly).  As such I've laid out some parameters to follow:

  1. Keep a Food Journal :  I've tried this more than once with limited success, mostly because I'll miss a day or two and then it all falls apart.  However, when I've tried it previously it was by using an app on my phone, which I'm currently unable to do because I don't have the available storage.  So it's currently back to pen and paper, which I honestly don't mind because I'm weird like that. Additionally, I'm planning this initial fast for 30 days.  By planning a beginning and an end, I believe that mentally I wont fall into that "constant diet" mentality that becomes so emotionally wearing over time and thus will have a much easier time maintaining consistency.
  2. Plan Workouts for Eating Hours:  Last week I did a training session at the end of a 20 hour fast as research.  It sucked, and I'm not just talking about doing it while hungry.  The session itself sucked.  My numbers were down, I was in a constant fight to continue, the further in the more I yawned (which I'm coming to believe is a sign of nutrient deficiency for me), and simply put, I felt heavy all over.  I suspected that it wouldn't be a good workout but it was one of those things I wanted to experience for myself and I did.  While I can't say it'll never happen again, going forward I'm hoping planning ahead will help me avoid it.
  3. Daily Plan:  It would be much easier if I could just say today that from 9pm to 9am I'm going to fast daily for the next 30 days.  Unfortunately, that's not going to work because I work a couple overnight shifts per week and that must be taken into account.  And it's not just those days, it's the day prior and the day after because unfortunately, at least for the time being, I'm struggling to move to a consistent night schedule and my days and nights are in a constant rotational flux.  Common for night shifter's from my understanding and something that must be considered.  In order to do this, there are days when my fasts will be extended or my eating hours will be cut to adjust but I'm not too concerned honestly.  Some hunger pangs may arise here and there but that's to be expected regardless.
  4. Two Weeks of 12, Two of 14:  That's fasting time.  From some research it seems that many people, at least once they're into it for a bit, have an 8-10 hour daily window for eating.  To begin, I decided to extend it a couple hours to increase the likely hood of continuing.  Basically I want to set the stage for some mental and moral victories before moving on so that's what I'm going to do.  The first two weeks's I'll have a daily 12 hour window in which to eat (9 am to 9 pm today for example).  The last two weeks, I'm going to cut it to 10 eating, 14 fasting.  Who knows, I may find it unbearable and move back to 12 and 12 but I won't know until I try it.  For now though, this is the plan and as I'll be updating periodically, I'll let you know how it works out.
  5. Food Experimentation:  I'm going to be playing with and trying some different foods throughout. This kind of goes with tracking but some things I'll be consuming expressly to find out how my body reacts. I've been dealing with some, what I believe to be, gut issues, for awhile and because I'll already be tracking, this is the perfect opportunity for me try and find what my body is processing well and what it isn't.  I already know things like milk, mayo, and creamy dressings are a no go and believe that white pasta is as well but how is my body processing bread?  How's it working with crackers? Are there certain veggies I feel better eating over others?  This are a few of the questions I'm hoping to answer.  30 days may not be enough time to answer everything but my hope is that it puts me on the right track.
  6. Food Tracking: While I'm planning to track my food and keep accounts of the physical feelings, I have no plans to limit what I eat nor get deep into tracking specific nutrients like micro and macro's at this time. My current focus is on the fasting potion as well as doing the food experimentation.  Getting deeper into the nutritional portion may happen at a later date but that's not my intent here.  It may and likely happen some because hammering down Cheezits and Snickers is clearly unhealthy but I won't be getting to the end of any days and worrying about whether I hit protein or carb goals.  While definitely valuable I'm afraid attempting to do to much at once will increase the likelihood of failure. I'm going to eat during my hours, see what happens, and adjust accordingly. If nothing else, this will give me a good baseline for further adjustments later.    
  7. Imperatives:  Imperatives are the things I believe must be done daily in order to get the most out of this process; physical, mentally, and research wise.  I could be missing a few and reserve the right to add: 
      • Accurate Daily Journaling
      • Drink 1/2 body weight (150 oz est) in ounces of water daily
      • 3 cups of vegetables.  Recommend daily is 2 1/2 but I'm a big guy and it can't hurt.
      • Eat kimchi daily.  Recommended for gut health and it's delicious to boot.
      • Fish oil.  Easiest way other than eating to get omega 3's is to simply take it in oil form.
      • Daily vitamins.  Multi, Vitamin D, Garlic.  May add more eventually.
So this is where I'm at thus far.  I feel like my plan is fairly solid but I could be wrong and thus it's subject to change.  I'll try and document as best I can, both successes and failures.  By the end I'm hoping to have an accurate account of my experience.  I weighed in at 296.8 lbs this morning which is actually down from a high at one point of 317 lb and I took some mediocre before and after pictures to insure I had some kind of visual account. Weight will, of course, only be a single measure of how successful this is but it's a tangible one that people understand.  Wish me luck and feel free to ask questions!        

Monday, April 17, 2017

Rough Week Part 2

The previous post covered my getting sick and how I related that to both the need to take the next step in training and nutrition as well as discussing the potential means and processes I'm looking at undertaking to advance my physical well-being.  I also mentioned that it wasn't just the illness that had begun my thinking, it was a rough visit to the doctor's office.  The news was not unexpected but just the same, when preventable medical issues are discussed as a result of your physical (un)well being, there are only two real roads to take; acceptance or change.

Before I go any further, nothing I'm going to discuss pertains to an immediate death or anything along those lines.  Of course, I can't say that it's impossible because medical problems arise from nowhere all the time, but nothing the doctor and I covered concerned the presentation of immediate issues for me.  However, at 34 years old the standards of my visits are also changing.  I remember 20 years ago when the most pressing question was whether it was an appointment that required dropping trough and turning my head to cough. Now I'm only a few years away from bending over the table on a semi regular basis so the doctor can use his digits to check my colon health.  While I'm not quite at that level yet, there are certainly more conversations revolving around my diet and exercise patterns.  There have been more discussions regarding regular blood work and physical testing.  There are potential neurological exams in my future (result of repeated head trauma, not age necessarily).  Gone are the days when, "it's OK now but if you don't make changes it won't be" because that future has arrived and according to the awesome lady I met with the other day, not changing now means I'll be starting the medication train soon, likely within a year.

Funny until it's not.
As I mentioned, my appointment the other day was not very good. I'd originally gone in for what I believed to be an inner ear infection that I hadn't been able to get rid of.  It was having side effects that were annoying as hell and I both wanted and needed it gone.  That part of the appointment was relatively quick but as it was a new provider, she wanted to cover some information in my chart.  That was when she revealed I'm borderline diabetic.  I knew I was close but the previous doctor told me I was still within the normal range and not to be too concerned.  (Not long following the initial testing I had my accident last summer so even though I wanted to jump into making immediate corrections, it was not possible)  While technically true, this nice lady actually gave me the damn truth and informed me about how close I really am. It wasn't wholly surprising but for some reason it clicked much louder to hear it from someone who makes their life's work to study such things.  She was no bullshit in our discussion and I appreciated it.  She also checked my legs and while it was not definitive, she also mentioned there's a good possibility that I'm on the verge of developing gout as well, which Google defines as,"a disease in which defective metabolism of uric acid causes arthritis, especially in the smaller bones of the feet, deposition of chalkstones, and episodes of acute pain."  A further breakdown is available here but basically it's a whole lot of preventable pain.  Sounds like a good time doesn't it?

Fortunately, there is good news.  Nothing thus far is irreversible.  My blood pressure is generally good, coming in at 120/80 90% of the time.  (It was off the other day but as I mentioned, I was on the verge of this illness hitting full bore).  I'm active and getting more so as my head and the weather have improved.  My knowledge of things fitness and nutrition is advancing daily.  I've fully acknowledged that I can't continue to walk around at 300 plus pounds without repercussions for much longer (more to come on THIS topic later) and I'm going to have to make serious changes if I want to be around for the long haul. I've also acknowledged that I do NOT have a good relationship with food and perhaps never will and it's going to be necessary for me to find ways to insure that I'm eating more for health than pleasure.  Following the 80/20 rule is probably a good place to start for me.  What's the 80/20 rule?  It's the idea if one eats healthy 80% of the time while allowing for some indulgences 20% of the time, weight will not only be lost but maintained once the desired loss results are achieved.  Of course, I'm planning to be stricter than that but having some leeway if you go out to dinner or a birthday party, things along those lines, will mentally provide me with the necessary mindset to continue working towards my goals without building frustrations.  Essentially, I'm trying to set myself up for as much success as possible while reducing the chance of mental fatigue.  As mentioned in the previous post I'm also planning to continue studying and incorporating more fasting into daily life because it makes me feel good.  There are also a lot of foods I'll be looking at eliminating because it's become apparent how they affect not just my health, but my daily energy and mind function.  

I got really hungry searching for this picture..
There are many things to learn and many things to try.  Sorting the wheat from the chaff can be a little difficult but there is much information available to help if you know where to look.  I'm currently putting together another entry that will give some names and sites I frequent for questions and education that I'm hoping will be posted in the next month.  However, I think a good place to begin for many people is to simply question ones self about whether they believe the choices they're making are good ones.  Some are easy; should I have the piece of cake or the fruit salad.  Others are more difficult; should I have the baked chicken or the steamed fish.  (Seriously, if you're a beginner and not working with a dietitian or other nutrition professional, just pat yourself on the back for making those your two choices.)  When you get to the point of counting nutrients those decisions will become much more clear but if you're reading this post, my assumption is you're not there yet and frankly, neither am I.  Making large changes is a process and you're not going to figure everything out in a day, not matter what the 3 AM infomercials tell you.  Check in with your Dr, sign up with a nutrition professional, find a plan you think will work for you, or even create your own if you think you can, and work to follow it.  Admit to yourself when you fail and then continue moving forward.  The journey will be long and arduous but you, and me too, will be better for it in the long run.  
One meal, One day, One month, One year at a time, we improve.

Please feel free to comment with your weight or health journey, no matter where you are on it.  I'm hoping to revisit this post a year from now to see where myself, and perhaps others are in the process.          


Thursday, April 6, 2017

Rough Week Part 1

For a host of reasons, the past couple weeks have been a bit rough.  While I'm not going to get into everything that's taken place, there were two events worth mentioning here.  The first is a less than stellar appointment at the Dr's office a week ago.  The second is the reason that appointment was necessary in the first place; the beginning stages of the worst cold I've had in years.  The Dr visit and following may be a little more in-depth so I'll come back to that; plus at the moment the cold is front of mind seeing as how I'm still fighting it.

Boy, I miss dairy..
There are a variety of reasons one can get sick.  Sure, it generally comes down to some bug that's in the air or spread though direct contact but many are preventable if we work at keeping our immune system strong. One way to do that is through diet, exercise, and recovery (see how I brought that around?)  I managed to get two good lift days and a light cardio day in last week but the reality is my diet hasn't been as quality or as strict as it should be and adding in more weekly training days is past due.  It's true that I've taken steps to change; the addition of regular servings of greens and avocado as well as monitoring my evening snacks, but the reality is those were simply OK first steps and it's time to take the next.  What exactly that's going to be I'm unsure.  Clearly, insuring that I'm not consuming more calories than I'm expending is most important but I'm also at the point where my desire to understand not just how certain foods react when ingested, but how they react to MY specific body when ingested.  As an example; I can no longer consume much in the way of dairy without side effects so I've basically cut out milk and cheese all together.  I still have small amounts of butter but when it comes to other dairy I either don't touch it or on special occasions I do so with the acknowledgement there will be consequences (Sweet Frog can be sooo worth is, no lie).  What I'm thinking about doing now is trying to figure out and understand if there are other foods that affect me, positively or negatively, as clearly as dairy, that I've either never noticed or ignored.  How do I feel after eating red meat? How do I feel after eating chicken or fish?  Sweet potatoes vs regular potatoes?  Kale vs spinach? There may be no discernible difference between some or any of these without further testing but I'm not going to know until I try.  It will also have the added benefit of keeping the subject of nutrition interesting for me, something that's never happened.

Another addition I'm contemplating is intermittent fasting.  Now, it seems as though there is a lot of debate surrounding this particular subject (as there seems to be with most things nutrition and training) and I honestly do not know enough about the science to debate or even discuss the truths and falsehoods.  My consideration of the idea has absolutely nothing to do with fast weight loss or joining a fad. Instead, it comes from personal experience.  I have a tendency to skip meals throughout the day and then eat too much in the evening; unfortunately a not uncommon trait, especially among the overweight.  It's a trait I'm much more aware of now and as such, a situation I try to avoid.  However, I've also found that if I can fast for anything over 15 hours, I feel great.  I mean, I feel really, really great!  I've mentioned to my wife on numerous occasions how aware and full of energy I feel when I get into the late hours of fasting, whether done intentionally or not.  It's an idea that I plan to further research because clearly I don't wish to kill my training sessions before I even put my shoes on but it;s also something I believe could have benefits not just in the weight loss department but on other health factors as well.

Maine Sunshine feels wonderful but doesn't provide everything needed.

Together with monitoring and fasting, I'm also looking at specific foods I need to consume nutrient wise as well as additional supplementation.  Now, when it comes to supplements consideration of their name should be a good indicator that they're not made to sustain (though I don't think everyone understands that) but to, "supplement" ones diet.  Currently I take a multi because I don't consume all the vitamins and minerals I should in my diet and I take Vitamin D because I'm on the low side, which I was informed is not abnormal for people who live this far north due to the limited sun and sun strength.  I'm looking to add some additional supplements such as garlic for my immune system (I generally take it during cough and cold season and was NOT on it when I caught the current nastiness) and a probiotic because I'm pretty sure my gut bacteria is off. However, I have no plans to take anything without some indicator that there are benefits for doing so. Marketing hocus pocus, "testimonials" and branding are NOT going to work in this house because there's more than enough information available to make informed decisions.

So here are some examples of where and how I'm planning to further my diet and nutrition plans.  They may not be perfect but what's kind of exciting for me is the idea that I'm not just following a plan because I'm being told to but that I actually feel as though I'm gaining some understanding of what and how my body is reacting to and processing the food I feed it with.  For me that's an important part of not just being on a diet but of creating life changes.  And they're going to be needed sooner rather than later because after my visit with the doctor a week ago, it was made clear that consequences for not altering my life style are fast approaching.            

Monday, March 27, 2017

Back to Social Media

After a nearly five week break, last night I signed back on to social media.  I've been hesitant to do so because frankly, I feel as though my life was improved without it but continued consideration led me to a place where I think the benefits can and will outweigh any potential negatives so long as I approach its use in a healthy manner.  And that's where things get interesting.  Defining what's healthy social media use can vary from individual to individual.  I think some cases of unhealthy use are pretty clear but I'm not even sure where the median would be anymore either.  I know now that my use prior to unplugging was unhealthy because it was affecting daily life.  No, I wasn't using it in a manner that would lead to infidelity or anything of that manner but it had become a time suck that was taking moments away from my family and other aspects of life.  Additionally, the arguments and discussions were and still are, getting increasingly out of hand. When I was involved I didn't see the impact but after removing myself for awhile it's pretty clear.  As such, it's time to take the lesson's I've learned and apply them because the reality is my long term goals pretty much require the use of social media whether I like it or not.

Plugging in may be necessary but we control what we give.
One of the biggest issues I noticed upon deactivating was the amount of mindless time I was spent looking at my phone.  It had become such a habit I honestly didn't even realize I was doing it most of the time.  I'd be watching a show and look at my phone.  I'd be out and about, and look at my phone.  I'd be working outside and when I stopped I'd look at my phone.  And when I say look, I mean I'd bring up my account, not just a quick check of the home screen for messages.  Then I'd mindlessly scroll and if I found nothing, I might refresh to find more nothing.  This cycle could and would continue and by the end, I was doing it constantly.  I don't know exactly what I was looking for but I do know that I was wasting a lot of time.  I tried to place when the habit really began in earnest and if I had to guess I'd say when we were living up north and our ability to interact with others was limited to social media. I believe I became much more reliant on it for information and it carried over to when we moved down here. My accident certainly didn't help either since it limited my ability to be active or even leave the house.  I had no idea the way I was using it had become an actual problem but now that I've been able to recognize it, going forward I should be able to avoid those same pitfalls.

Interestingly enough, none of that was on my radar when I made the decision to take a break.  That decision actually stemmed from the overwhelming and overbearing amount of negativity that's overtaken the news and social media in recent years.  I needed a mental break from it all because that negativity was actually leeching into my life outside of the net.  Finding out that I was displaying addiction characteristics was an unanticipated bonus.  I say bonus because it has and will offer an absolute prime opportunity to make some adjustments and gain some education regarding the subject that I'll be able to use going forward, plus it's providing me with an opportunity to write about my experience and lessons learned so that others may benefit.  In the long run I gained some valuable lessons without anyone really getting hurt.   That's certainly not always the case.

So now that I'm back on, what lessons will I bring with me?  First, I'm going to limit my social media time. Currently, I have no plans to reinstall the app on my phone and will do most of my work at my computer. Keeping access limited builds in constraints that will insure I don't fall into the same habits.  I'm not saying I'll be doing this forever because there may (and hopefully will) come a time when I'm required to have more access but for the time being, this will help me continue developing good habits. Second, I'm going to continue working to reduce the amount of negativity that shows on my news feed.  Many of the pages I follow are coaches of varying professions, scientists, philosophers, athletes, artists, musicians, educators, and the like.  Many of the political pundits, spokespersons, news agencies, and rabblerousers I formerly found enjoyment in following are gone.  I'm still willing to have genuine discussions with people regarding a wide range of topics including the ones you're not suppose to talk about, (religion, politics, ect), but the days of getting caught up or sucked into pissing matches with people who have no ability to talk without attacking or who will not even consider evidence contrary to their opinion, are over.  Positivitey, problem solvers, people who make me think and reconsider my thoughts and opinions, and those who force me to strengthen my own arguments because of the way they debate, are of much more value to me at this point in my life.

Lastly, I want to use social media as a tool for improvement rather than simply a way to follow others. There are a vast amount of opportunities and ways to gain education and I want to streamline my usage to more align with those abilities.  I want to use it to grow this blog and other writings I'm working on and once I've completed the necessary work, some other ventures I'm planning in the future as well.  I want to use my small voice to try and help others improve and grow their own businesses because there are millions of people out there with fantastic ideas who may only be a share or two away from reaching someone who can bring those ideas to life on a macro scale.  I want my social media pages and presence to help bring solutions, ideas, improvements, and education to others to whatever degree possible.  My time away was valuable and now it's time to show why.                  

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Just Do It

I've been sitting here for the past 25 minutes trying to come up with something to write about to no avail. I've been dealing with what I believe to be an inner ear infection that's been clouding my brain and combined with the fatigue from a week of travel, I feel extremely slow on the uptick.  I tried to check in on some in-progress posts but nothing I was writing fit the flows I'd already begun so to the scrap heap the ideas were relegated. I had two paragraphs of a new post that after re-reading I decided sucks and would never see the light of day. It was then that I realized, I may actually be on my way to be becoming a writer.

I'm under no disillusionment that my writing isn't fantastic and I have a long way to go before I could ever be considered professional. That's fine, everyone starts somewhere.  But I realized tonight even though I didn't necessarily want to write and nothing profound was coming to me, here I was, sitting at this computer, trying time after time to put out something worthy of being seen.  Sure, nothing thus far has worked but that's not the point.  The point is, not matter how good or bad the writing, I'm still doing it.  And that's a big step. Steven Pressfield, in his book, "The War of Art", calls it overcoming your resistance. Resistance will always do things to try and insure you don't follow your dreams and callings.  By sitting in front of my laptop and working, today I'm overcoming that resistance.  Sure, I'll have to face it again tomorrow but that's no matter because today I've achieved a victory.  Tomorrow I'll also be back in the gym and will get some more studying in because I have pursuits in those two fields as well.  Because I'm putting work in, I'm setting the foundation for achievements.  Sure, there is generally nothing fancy about setting foundations but without them nothing else matters.  You can design the most beautiful building ever imagined but if you don't insure the foundation is built properly you'll end up with nothing but a pile of rubble and probably a lifetime of court fees and lawsuit payouts.  No matter how good tonight's post is or isn't, another brick has been laid in my foundation.

I'm often faced with a similar decision when it comes to training and admittedly, I've often bitched out when given the chance.  But as with today's writing, sometimes all it takes is getting started.  I'm now on my third paragraph because I forced myself to sit and write until I was making some sense.  Training is the same way. I can't count the number of times I've forced myself to start my warm up and once I did, the rest took care of itself.  Now, that's not to say the workout will be a great but getting through rough ones can be accomplishments and confidence builders themselves.  It's the same with my post tonight.  I'm battling through and though this certainly won't be my best or favorite post I've written, it will be completed and published and therefore, a victory. 

Though most would prefer that everything they do to be top notch, that's not always going to happen. Acknowledging that allows us to keep pushing through the frustrations that life can present. If you want to write, try and sit once or twice a week to start and just put some words on paper or the computer.  If you want to paint, get the materials, and set some time aside this week.  If you want to begin getting into better physical shape, don't start off a million miles an hour and burn yourself out, start slow with some small changes that you don't just feel you can build on, but you believe you can complete when life tries to get in the way.  And when it does try to get in the way, and it will, remember those are the times when it's most necessary to try and get your work in because if you can create accomplishments on those days you can create them everyday.             

Monday, March 13, 2017

Entering the Fitness World

I'm not yet anywhere near approaching personal trainer status so I'm writing this from the perspective of someone who has a little knowledge about specific topics within the world of fitness, but not nearly enough to be called expert by any stretch of the imagination.  I guess I'm like any other hobbyist in that I don't know much but it's probably more than the general public.  I tell you this so you understand the perspective from which I'm gathering my ideas regarding today's topic; entering the fitness world (as a practitioner, not a trainer, just to be clear).  What do I mean by the, "fitness world"?  It can be anything from wanting to simply begin walking regularly, entering (or reentering) a gym, hiring a personal trainer/coach or anything outside or in between those examples.  The amount of questions most people have when beginning their journey is considerable and the answers can be confusing.  Hell, when you see some of the discussion/arguments between acknowledged experts (the real ones, not the self proclaimed InstaSnapFace bro-science "experts") you realize that science still doesn't have all the answers.  Perhaps you're now asking yourself, what chance do I have of achieving success if even experts don't have all the answers?  A great one.  Why? Because A.) Many of those questions are so deep within topics that anyone who's not literally an expert in that field is unlikely to ever concern themselves to that level, and B.)  Because those experts ARE out there working, discovering, creating, and finding new information all the time and sharing it with the world because many, if not most, have a strong desire to help others.        

Here are a few of the questions I asked myself when I started the first time and some which I asked in subsequent restarts thereafter.
1.) How and where do I even begin?  2.)  What are my actual goals 3.) How do I tell fact from fiction?

1.)  How and Where Do I Even Begin

Answer:  You've read this far, feel free to use it as your jumping off point. Now you have to think, potentially discuss, and make some decisions. What are your reasons for beginning? What health issues do you have?  How much time and money do you want to invest in your pursuit?  What do you like and not like? What kind of training are you interested in?  Do you need or want a trainer?  What obstacles can you see needing to overcome?  Are you going this alone or will you have a partner?  Do you have, want, or need a support system? (You may think, No, but I'll say having support is immensely positive. )  As you can see, there are a lot of questions to be asked when beginning, especially since this isn't even all of them.  Often, I think people just get a hair across their ass when they read, hear, or see something motivational and they begin like their hair's on fire and no plan.  In the beginning it's easy to rely on that fresh motivation to get you going but as times get tough and life happens, they fall off the rails never to return.  Much of that could have been avoided if they'd discussed, ironed out, and answered questions like the ones listed so they'd be prepared when the beginning momentum wears off and the real work and mental fortitude begins.  (And for those that don't know, if you think you feel good completing a workout that you were motivated to begin, wait until you complete a workout you didn't want to even start.  The mental and emotional lift from overcoming your own mind is AH-MAZING!)  

2.)  What Are My Actual Goals

Answer:  Clearly this one is personal and different for everyone.  Even partners and couples who begin their journey's together may have different ideas about what they want, and that's perfectly reasonable.  Team fitness journeys aren't necessarily about achieving the same goals as others, though they can be, but are instead about working with people who have the same drive to achieve their personal goals you do.  My wife and I have vastly different professional goals but we still lean on, support, and try to help one another when possible because we're on this journey together.  Write your goals down.  Track them.  Review them.  Discuss them.  Change them if need be but identify them clearly at all times.  Once they're created and you feel confident they're what you want, begin pursuing them with smaller goals.  Why do it that way?  Because psychologically you're more likely to continue when you have some success.  For example.  You begin weight training with a little cardio and decide all you need to track progress is your scale.  After a month, not only have you not lost any weight, you've gained four pounds.  Distress enters and you'll likely quit.  Now, same scenario but together with a scale you also have body fat and measurement goals.  The scale add's those four pounds but..BUT, your body fat % drops 1 percentage point, and you've lost 1" off your chest, and 3 inches off your waist.  Now you know your pants didn't just feel like they fit differently, they actually do.  These small victories give you the confidence and drive to keep on your journey.  The importance of that cannot be understated  .  Most people, myself included, don't quit things because they're actually too hard.  We do so because we perceive them to be.  By increasing the ability to achieve goals, we can change perceptions from negative to positive and that could potentially be the difference between stopping or continuing.  Between failure and achievement.  

3.)  How Do I Tell Fact From Fiction

Answer:  This is a hard one, one I've struggled with for years, and one that will continue to catch people within its net because a lot of people are assholes and have made marketing and sales pitches sound like reasonable science.  Not only that, they market by deception so you buy their products.  Plus, some of them have credentials that make it seem like they're someone to be listened to when in reality they're nothing more than snake oil salesmen.  Honestly, I still struggle mightily here, no bullshit, because I A.) have trust issues in life to begin with and, B.) because I've researched the topic enough to know how bad the industry really is. And I'm not even talking about the fitness industry specifically here because I don't have enough education to formulate a concise opinion there.  I'm talking the food and drug industries as a whole.  The people that you hear, read, and see information from daily.  Supplements are certainly a large industry and perhaps something I'll discuss at a later date when and if I feel educated enough to do so, but what I'm referring to here is trying to learn the basics of what to eat and drink.  Seems like it should be easy but when we're bombarded by no fat, low fat, medium fat, high fat, super high fat, eat this but not this, this is OK even though it has this but this isn't because it has this is a different form, ect, you're God damn right it gets confusing.  I'm lucky in that I have people to bounce questions and ideas off who have some understanding.  Most people don't and end up relying on information they get from the, "news" or "Dr's" they see on TV or some reality show.  A search on the internet may not lead you to the proper advice but instead to someone who was willing to pay a little more to Google ad space to have their site appear at the top of a search.

As you can tell I get it.  I know that struggle and I empathize.  So what can you do?  Honestly, set aside some time to do real research.  My above example only touched on the consumption side because as a beginner, you likely understand more about that than the techniques and training programs available but you'll need to look into that too.  My best advice here would be to look up reviews pertaining to trainers and nutrition experts and find one you think will fit (like any service, be sure you're comfortable with the person you hire) that can help you navigate many of these questions.  But if you can't for whatever reason, utilize your access to technology and educate yourself to get started.  Spend some time asking and answering questions.  Use your own common sense and if something doesn't sound right, review it because it may not be.  I have a post in progress where I'll share some pages and sites that I follow that I find value in but for now, if you're ready to start, fire up that technology and get to work.

These were my questions.  Yours could and likely will formulate others but whatever they are, try like hell to answer them before you begin if possible.  I say if possible, because maybe you really are stumped on something non-vital.  My advice would be to not delay your start if a question remains unanswered because that could grow into a huge stress that begins as no big deal and ends up holding you back from progressing. Similar to the grain of sand shutting down the large mechanical device example.  Understand that like lifts, you're unlikely to always be perfect but by laying out details out ahead of time you'll make it easier to navigate when times get tough or unexpected life events occur.  Entering the fitness world for me has absolutely been an enriching experience but I also understand that it isn't and hasn't been that way for everyone for a variety of reasons.  Here's hoping that your next experience is fantastic and you're presented the opportunity and benefits I have.    


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Confidence Conundrum

Confidence is an amazing thing.  One minute it's flowing like a mountain snow melt river and the next it's dried up like a scorched earth scene from a dystopian novel.  Your confidence can be high regarding one subject and low to non-existent for another.  You could be an all around confident person or perhaps the type who's confidence is only raised when feeling secure in knowledge of specific topics.  You can be over confident, which often leads to problems and failure or you can be under confident and unwilling to even try something foreign. Yes, confidence has time and time again proven itself difficult to understand and near impossible to master.  And nowhere was that more evident for myself than the previous week.

I'm going back to work outside the home.  It's exhilarating, exciting, nerve racking, and a whole host of other adjectives.  It's been roughly four years since I've worked a job outside the walls which I reside and I'm finding getting back on the horse more difficult than I'd imagined for a variety of reasons.  The need for a somewhat flexible schedule due to both my caregiver responsibilities as well as my desire to continue coaching are clearly obstacles to take into consideration and to be worked around.  That eliminates some potential opportunities off the top.  The fact that I haven't worked traditional employment for the past few years will clearly play a roll because there's no history of what I've learned and done recently.  And lest we forget, the way many things are done today are not the same as they were even a couple years ago.  While they likely existed when I was seeking employment prior, computer programs today search resume's and cover letter's for key words while it and other technology has limited the initial interactions potential employers and employees have with one another.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not condoning the practice because I have no doubt it's been magnificent for companies and particularly recruiters and HR people because it saves a lot of time and resources, but it can make applying for jobs with those firms harder for good candidates who may not be as educated or versed in the, "art of applying for employment".

So why do I mention all this?  I do so because in the past week I've have a couple different experiences while attempting to gain employment and a vast swing in confidence was on display.  The first job I applied for a week ago was a coaching position I wasn't sure I'd get but I still felt good walking in.  I had a rough idea of what I wanted to say and even the couple curve balls fell within parameters I felt prepared to discuss. While I didn't end up getting that particular job, I think it had more to do with my lack of experience and I was actually extended the opportunity to apply for another position that will allow me to gain that knowledge in the future.  My limited experience, practice, and preparedness built my confidence to a point where I was able to present myself as who I am and that's absolutely important.  Unfortunately, that's not close to what happened yesterday.

Yesterday I put on nice clothes, nice shoes, and printed resume's and cover letters before heading to a local job fair.  Leaving the house, I felt pretty decent and ready to discuss with some of the 45 potential employers the opportunities they had available.  I felt good right up until the time I entered the parking lot when suddenly and without warning, my confidence decided keep going up the main rd instead of turning with me. My confidence dropped immensely while driving around in search of an empty parking spot.  Walking in, what little remained was looking for a way to exit and by the time I actually entered the room with all the employers, I'd basically relegated myself to feeling overwhelmed, unprepared, and basically incapable of displaying my best self.  The few employers I did speak to, there's no way I left a good impression. Frankly, if I left no impression at all it would make me feel better than what I'm thinking I left them with.  Leaving the floor half an hour later, I felt completely deflated and exhausted.  My confidence was shaken and I knew reevaluating, regrouping, and refocusing was going to be necessary.

And that's where today's post comes from.  This is a necessary part of the reevaluate, regroup, and refocus process for me.  Writing it down allows me to think deeply into the subject and make corrections as they arise.  In this case, sharing it is really the easy part because I'm pretty positive others have had their confidence shaken before as well.  I know what happened yesterday and going forward, acknowledging problems, will allow me to hopefully avoid the same pitfalls in the future.

Yesterday I lost my confidence but by acknowledging that my confidence was reduced it's allowing my confidence to increase so in the future I'll have more confidence and will be confident that my confidence will be there when I need it, confidently.  And thus, we have the confidence conundrum.

The Confidence Conundrum