The Week That Got Away

The Week That Got Away

A few of you sent tentative questions wanting to know what happened last Friday. Was I on vacation? Had Misdirected switched to a weekly publication schedule when you weren’t looking? Had some other mysterious event befallen me?

In truth, it was a series of events…strap in and I will bring you up to speed.

Puppy Gymnastics

First, meet our new exercise program:

The ghosts of Samson and Frankie watching over her little doggie bed…

Her name is Delilah. She is a 6-month old Chi-Weenie, and no I didn’t come up with that breed name. On the 9th through the 11th of June, our local Albuquerque Humane Society ran an event where they were attempting to “empty the city shelters” by adopting pets for only $5. We visited, and Delilah was the result.

At six months old, she came to us very confused about life in general, and about house rules like potty-training in particular. So she has completely destroyed our daily schedules, including gym attendance.

However, she herself is a profound exercise generator. A few weeks ago I was speculating about how to get over 10,000 steps a day consistently. We have found the answer. Socializing and playing with a new puppy has kept us above our daily step goal every day, with one marathon of a day putting us at nearly 14,000 steps. She hasn’t been great for our weight-lifting routines, but boy is she good for the heart. In more ways than one.

The Inheritance Marathon

Inheritance Book Cover

Speaking of long-term exercise, my longest-ever writing exercise is over. I finished writing Inheritance last week. It has now been handed off to my editorial review team. Who will undoubtedly find so many issues with it that I will effectively have to re-write it. I couldn’t care less.

This is a big one for me, folks. When I started writing Misdirected all those years ago, it was a daily journal of my gaming activities. I had no idea that it would begin a chain of events that would lead to me completing an entire novel. But, it has done just that, and I couldn’t be happier. Even if I never sell more than two copies (I have two parents, remember), I will be able to go through the rest of my life knowing that I actually sat down and wrote an entire novel. This is huge for someone who couldn’t put a sentence together ten years ago.

Once again, if you too are suffering from a disability, keep pushing those boundaries. You never know how far you will get until you try.

The ACE Fitness Iron-Man

I also finished my course of study for the ACE Fitness Personal Trainer course last week. I got myself revved up, sat down for the practice exam…

And flunked it.

I even got a consolation note from the ACE Fitness on-line study system: “That’s why we call it a practice exam!”

So, yeah. I now have just over 30 days to get my real exam scheduled and to take another practice exam, this time (hopefully) passing.

Needless to say, I am glad I already finished Inheritance. I won’t be doing any fiction writing of any kind in the next month. I am going to be busy.

Studying for this certification may be the hardest thing I have ever done. I have never been an athlete. I have never had any aptitude for biology. I always watched bodyworkers like Lor with a certain mixture of awe and jealousy.

Becoming professionally certified as a personal trainer could not be further out of my comfort zone.

But, if Misdirected has taught me anything, it is that there are a bunch of people out there looking for support and advice. And the ACE PT certification is my first step toward feeling comfortable providing advice from a professional background, rather than just shooting from the hip. Personal experience and internet research can only take you so far.

So, yeah. Here we are. Wish me luck as I study constantly for the next month. I have a feeling I am going to need all the luck I can get.

Hitting The Books Like I Used To Hit The Girl Scout Cookies,

Jeremy

The Weight Train Starts Rolling Again

My weigh-in this weekend presented an unexpected surprise. I have been very consistently maintaining somewhere between 182 and 184 pounds for weeks now. So imagine my surprise when I stepped on the scale yesterday and saw “180.0” blinking at me. This represents a 3-pound loss since my last weeks weigh in. I had sorta thought my extreme weight loss days were behind me now. Maybe not.

The Fitbit Badge Experience

Along with me being surprised came my Fitbit’s excitement about the whole situation. Apparently, when I began using the Fitbit back in November I was at 211 pounds. Now that I suddenly reached 180 I have earned a 30-pound weight loss “badge”. These virtual pats on the back seem to exist mainly to have something to share with friends on Twitter and Facebook, rather than having any real use in the Fitbit app.

 

Earning this badge didn’t really strike me as important initially. I had already earned my “Weight Loss Goal” badge a few weeks back when I hit 185 pounds, after all. When one has lost over 120 pounds, 30 of that total doesn’t seem like a whole lot.

 

But, on the further reflection, 30 pounds is actually quite a bit. For a “normal” person, 30 pounds might represent their entire weight loss goal! After all, 30 pounds might represent a decade and a half of creeping weight gain. Gain two pounds a year for 15 years, and suddenly you are 30 pounds overweight. 30 pounds lost, to that person, might represent returning to their previously healthy weight.

 

For a different example, another 30 pounds of weight loss would move me from “overweight” to “normal” in the eyes of the evil overlord of weight loss: the BMI chart.

The Terrible Tyranny of BMI

 

Now, let me be clear: I have no real interest in dropping another 30 pounds at this point.

 

I am already down to size Medium tops and a 36-inch waistline. For someone who started at XXLs and a 50-inch circumference, this seems like a pretty good place to be.

 

Also, in one of the more annoying side effects of bariatric surgery, the more I lose, the worse I look. I am already swimming in a sack of empty skin. Dropping another 30 pounds would only make that situation worse. Every day I look in the mirror and contemplate the possibility of another round of surgery. It would take four different surgical procedures just to remove all this flopping skin hanging off my body everywhere.

 

But, still, the temptation remains. The fact that I hate the BMI chart does not change the fact that, deep down, I want to defeat it. It has denigrated me my entire adult life. Why wouldn’t I want to strike back against it?

Watchful Weight-ing

 

So, what am I going to do about weight loss moving forward?

 

Nothing much that I am not doing already.

 

I am already exercising 6 days a week, especially since I have renewed my love/hate relationship with the Fitbit. I did fail to log activity last week on Friday and Saturday, but that is due to my involvement with our new puppy. The steps are accumulating, let me tell you.

 

I am already eating 1,000 – 1,200 calories a day on a low-carb diet. I have no intention of trying to reduce that amount any more. That way lies madness. Not to mention potential malnutrition.

 

And, the simple fact is that I am about as healthy as I have ever been at this point. I can do things today, at almost 47 years old, that I couldn’t do at 17. Run two miles, for instance. I will probably never be a power-lifter again, but I am much more interested in functional muscle development at this point anyway. I would rather be able to hike for 4 – 6 hours, rather than bench press 250 pounds.

 

So, if more weight loss comes, it comes. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. I intend to just keep doing what I am doing and see what comes of it.

 

I am tired of constantly replacing clothing anyway.

 

Chasing Puppies Is High-Intensity Aerobic Exercise,

Jeremy

(Almost) Hawk Watch Trail

First, thanks for all the support and encouragement from last Friday’s post! There has been quite a bit of positive feedback, for which I thank you all. On Friday itself, I literally had to walk a bit around the neighborhood before bed in order to drag myself across the 8,000 step line for the day. I silently committed to myself that I would do better on Saturday as I fell asleep that night.

Except, I didn’t. Saturday, as it turns out, was full of stuff. The kind of stuff that totally ruins exercise planning. I spent hours visiting with my family across town. Then, even more hours hanging out in a marathon online gaming session with my brother. By the time bedtime rolled around I had managed only 5,000 steps for the day, with no reasonable way to recover.

Well, I thought, there’s always tomorrow…

Sunday Morning Coming Down

Sunday is supposed to be our “free day” for the week. You know, we relax our dietary restrictions a bit, don’t hit the gym, give ourselves time to recover from the previous week.

Well, my recovery had been performed the previous day, so Sunday was going to have to be spent picking up the slack. I began to plan our assault on the wilderness as soon as I woke up Sunday morning.

I have probably failed to mention, but we’ve begun to amass a collection of “day hiking” gear since our last foray. In a previous post I mentioned the items that I thought we needed for future day hikes. Since then, we have been getting buried in donated gear. Not one but two hydration packs. A GPS unit. An emergency locator for when I get lost in the woods. Even a pack size first-aid kit. Other than shoes, we now have just about everything we need for day hiking trips.

But we hadn’t had a chance to try out all this nifty new gear yet. I woke up Sunday morning and began prepping all our cool new stuff. When Lor got up a few hours later, she was also ready to head out the door and into the woods. We gathered up our stuff, patted Vixen on the head, and locked the door behind us, then drove over to the Tijeras Canyon.

What Is Your Definition Of “Moderate?”

Again, I used the Sandia Mountain Hiking Guide to pick our destination. I selected “Hawk Watch Trail” for our day’s excursion. Hawk Watch Trail is an offshoot of Three Guns Trail, which winds through the Southern end of the Sandias from the Tijeras Canyon until it meets the  Embudo Trail in the foothills above central Albuquerque. Hawk Watch sounded interesting, terminating at a point where researchers studied raptors in the area. It was listed at 4 miles in length and “Moderate” in difficulty.

Someday, I need to meet the person that writes the Hiking Guide. As it turns out, their definition of “moderate” involves steep switchbacks ascending 1,500 feet from the base of the canyon to a plateau 7,400 feet in elevation, overlooking the Tijeras Canyon and the plains South of Albuquequrque. Visibility was pretty awesome, though – we were able to see all the way to the Polvadera Mountain near Socorro:

“Moderate” difficulty notwithstanding, we were not up to the task of making it all the way to the top. We should have started our hike much earlier in the day. Two miles up the trail we were sun-blasted, drenched, and wobbling. We were finally forced to admit that one of us was going to wind up plunging downhill into a cactus if we kept this up. Being stubborn, we didn’t return back down the trail. Instead, we followed an unmarked trail that sort-of looked like it would wind up back at the trailhead.

Two hours later we finally made it back to the car.

The After-Action Report

The bad news, of course, is that we didn’t finish the trail. The whole canyon area is very dry, with almost no cover, and by mid-day it gets totally sun-blasted. We may need to consider moving our hikes further up into the Sandias, past the tree line.

That or hike indoors, which sort of defeats the purpose.

The good news was that, by the time we had hit the bottom of the trail,  I had already dinged over my 8,000 step goal for the day.  The GPS unit worked great, the hydration packs were a life-saver, and I didn’t have to use the emergency beacon or the first aid kit. So, overall, a win for our little expedition.

But I have some serious doubts now about tackling any of the Sandia Hiking Guide trails that are listed as “Difficult”.

My Quads Are Feeling It Today,

Jeremy

15,000 (And Counting)

A couple of days ago I mentioned to someone that I sort of missed my Fitbit Flex. You may remember that, back in March, it stopped recharging, needing to be slapped onto the charger every hour or so. The person I was chatting with recommended that I contact Fitbit support. I was hesitant, given that the unit is three years old and I am the third owner. However, I took the plunge, figuring that all I had to lose was time.

Two hours later, my Fitbit was back up and running, thanks to a patient tech, a system reboot, and an alcohol swab. I was delighted.

That is, until I checked out my numbers for the last few days.

Not Exactly What I Expected

The numbers were…discouraging, to say the least. At no point since the Fitbit sprang back to life have I hit my step goal for the day.

I thought I was actually maintaining a high level of activity. We haven’t managed regular gym attendance for two weeks now, thanks to scheduling conflicts and Real Life. But I was under the impression that I was getting my activity in via daily activities like walking the dog, working around the house, etc. That impression has now gone the way of all fantasies – vanished in a puff of rainbow-colored smoke.

Instead, I have been managing a mere 6,000 or so steps a day.  Before the Fitbit died I would hit my step goal of 8,000 regularly. Now, I am coming in 25% short every single day.

For the sake of reference, a 5K race like the one we completed a month ago is a little over 4,000 steps. We did that in less than an hour. And now, I suddenly can’t make 8,000 steps in an entire day.

That was discouraging enough. Then I received my most recent copy of Men’s Health and got a real eye-opener.

15K or Bust

Turns out the magic number for improving health in men is not a mere 8,000 steps a day.

No, the International Journal of Obesity (referenced by Men’s Health) states that the number of daily steps taken by men with zero reported metabolic issues is…15,000.

The number I should be aiming for is almost twice my current step goal for the day (8,000 steps.)

Which, as I mentioned, I am no longer hitting. The 3-month absence of the coach on my wrist has brought my daily activity down by 25%.

So, now what?

Eyes on The Prize

It isn’t as though I have retired to a life of indolent luxury. I am not lying around the house in a toga, power-eating carbohydrates.

The things I have been doing are important. Working on my novel. Dealing with issues from my other disability. Communicating with Senators and Representatives about potential changes to SSDI. Studying for my Personal Trainer certification test (now only 45 days away.)

But, none of that is really going to matter if I backslide into bad eating habits and low activity. The fact that we got through the 5K has created a certain lassitude in me. My current physical goals are not as pressing as the 5K was.

Apparently, I need to address that.

First things first: I need to get back over my minimum required activity level for the day.

So, here is what I am going to do:

For 6 out of the next 7 days, I will post on Facebook when I get over my 8,000 steps for the day. (Sunday will not count, as I give myself one day off a week.)

Feel free to call me out if I do not post for the day. Facebook messages, Tweets, emails, whatever.

Once I get back on track…well, then we will start talking about that 15K number.

Inviting You To Hold My Feet To The Fire,

Jeremy

Seasons

Last week, we suffered the loss of yet another great artist to suicide. Chris Cornell, of Soundgarden and Audioslave, killed himself in his Detroit hotel room at the age of 52.

Chris was one of the great vocalists of the Grunge age. While I was not a big fan of Grunge, I was a fan of Chris Cornell. His voice was a true artist’s instrument, able to communicate effortlessly and emote flawlessly. As a performer, there are two vocalists I have always secretly wished I could sound like. Chris Cornell was one of the two. (Full disclosure: Johnny Cash was the other.)

Which always made it very frustrating that, during my time as a musician, I never worked in a band that could cover a single song by one of Chris’ bands. I had the vocal power, but never the vocal range I needed. The other vocalist I worked with primarily, Brandon, had the vocal range, but at that time was just coming into his own as a singer and didn’t have the power yet. It saddens me to think that Chris is gone, and I never sang one of his songs in front of an audience. It’s a musician thing. You might not understand.

That said, I didn’t know Chris Cornell. I never met him. I never got to see him perform live. But a song he performed on the Singles soundtrack, “Seasons”, remains on my personal “favorite songs ever” list. My only relationship with him is my relationship with the music he created.

Nevertheless, Chris and I share a certain kind of kinship: a pharmacological one.

Ativan is the drug that I get shot full of every time I am admitted to the hospital for a seizure that won’t stop. (Status Epilepticus, the condition is called.) It is apparently also used for the treatment of long-term depression. And it is the drug that Chris Cornell apparently took extra doses of right before hanging himself.

I can tell you from personal experience that Ativan effectively shuts down the ability to reason clearly. The folks wearing lab coats call this “disinhibited and dangerous behavior.” And I can perfectly understand that, under the effects of Ativan, I might make the same decision that Chris did. There is a reason I am never left alone and unsupervised after an Ativan injection.

 

Depression strikes the successful and the despondent alike. Chris apparently had everything going for him. He had seemingly kicked his drug habit. He was widely known as an artist and a philanthropist. He seemed to enjoy a healthy relationship with his wife and kids. His band had entered a renaissance and was headlining a successful tour.

And all it took was one bad night and a handful of pills that are designed to shut down the ability to reason clearly. All I can think, sitting here writing this morning, is “There but for the grace of God, go I.”

 

We never know what lies beneath the surface.

So, good night, sweet prince. I would ask for flights of angels to sing you to your rest. But none could ever sing as sweetly as you did.

With A Heavy Heart,

Jeremy