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

The Failure Cycle

This started out as a very different post.

Initially, I was exercising my self-flagellation skills. I had a lousy week last week and wanted everyone to know it.

Then, about 250 words in, I realized something: No one wants to read this.

So I started over.

The Life Reset Button

You must understand, starting over represents a moral victory, for me.

My usual reaction to failure is not a healthy one: I get frustrated, decide that I can’t succeed, and quit.

I am not a good forward thinker. I am forever second-guessing my past decisions instead of planning new approaches. Lor refers to this phenomenon as “getting stuck.” I mentally chase my tail, trying to figure out what I did wrong, afraid to act again for fear of a second failure. So I end up not doing anything.

Well, that isn’t really the whole story. Actually, I used to think about my failure while over-eating comfort food and drinking beer. But, that isn’t really an option anymore, is it? Due to the whole “6-ounce stomach pouch” thing.

The hardest thing I am having to learn post-surgery is to let failures go.

If I have already blown it, I am no longer in a position to retrieve my failure. I have to accept it, try to learn from it, and do better next time. Just mash down that “reset” button, and head back the way I came, trying to figure out just where I went off the rails.

C.S Lewis said it best: “We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road.”

Moving Forward

So, what can I do in response to a week where I didn’t write, barely went to the gym, and made some pretty shaky dietary choices?

Nothing. Nada. Not a darn thing.

But, today is Monday. And today I can write my blog post, cook a healthy set of meals, and head back to the gym. And then I can set my sights on Tuesday.

It seems simplistic, but analyzing failure will only take you so far. At some point, you actually have to put yourself back in traffic and start doing again.

So, that is what I am going to do. No clever observations, no folksy words of wisdom today. Just get back on that horse and wait until the next time it throws me off. All I can hope for is that I go a little further before the next time I come crashing to the ground.

Our nutritionist, Patti, said it like this: “You are going to have good days and bad days. Just make sure that your good days outnumber the bad ones.”

Guess I need to start stringing together some good days, then. I am in a bit of a bad day deficit.

At Least I Lost A Pound Last Week,

Jeremy

 

 

To Carb, or Not To Carb?

Into every post-surgery life, a little rain must fall. Apparently, it is my turn again, as my latest weigh-in has me up by 1.2 pounds. This would not be terribly significant if it were not for the fact that I am within spitting distance of my goal weight of 185. It seems a cruel joke by my metabolism, setting me back when I am under 5 pounds away.

What Do The Numbers Really Mean?

Now, first things first: gaining a pound when you weigh 188 (189, now) pounds is no reason to sound the alarms. So many different things can contribute to weight fluctuation. There is no way to determine if this is water weight, or “OMG I ate a cheesecake” weight gain.

For the record, I did not eat a cheesecake.

What I did do, though, is change a couple things in my workout habits. I have been hitting the workouts really hard. At the advice of our shared personal trainer, I have reversed my normal exercise routine. I am now doing weights first, then cardio-vascular exercise. This meant instant increases in all my weight levels for resistance exercise. It also means I am leaving the gym a heck of a lot more blown out than I was previously.

My trainer, Ian, also suggested that I look into HIIT exercise. High-Intensity Interval Training involves blasting out reps as hard as you can for a short time period (usually 30 or 60 seconds), then resting for a minute or two. It sounded interesting until I mentioned how low my current carb load is.

“Carbs are what your body uses for fuel,” Ian told me. “At your carb level, you are going to have nothing in the tank.”

Torn Between Two Experts

So, we have my Certified Personal Trainer, Ian, suggesting that my exercise level needs to be supported by increasing the carbs in my diet.

And we have my Certified Nutritionist, Patti, who insists that, for bariatric patients, carbs are the devil.

So, umm…yeah. Confused much?

Last week I made the judicious decision to increase my carb content by about 50% (to 90 grams a day.) I slept better, had more energy,  and got all the way through all my workouts.

And I gained 1.2 pounds.

Now, other factors have to be taken into consideration. Development of lean muscle mass means that, initially, weight will go up. This, in turn, will raise the Base Metabolic Rate, meaning that the body will burn more energy while resting. Which should, in theory, lead to overall weight loss.

Now, do I really think I added 1.2 pounds of muscle in a week?

Kinda doubt it.

Peering Into The Future

So, I am going to have to settle for looking down the road and deciding what my focus will be.

The fact of the matter is, I am not training for weight loss per se. I am training for functional muscle and endurance. Starting this weekend, I have some energy-burning activities on the radar.

On Sunday we will be participating in our first 5K.

Later this month we will be hauling ourselves up a 45-foot wall at Stone Age Climbing Gym.

We’ll be heading out every week on a different day hike into the Sandias.

And this will all culminate in the assault on the La Luz Trail, probably in August.

The theme here seems to be “energy-burning activities.” I am going to have to plan (and train) accordingly. This is going to mean enhanced carbohydrate intake. So I am going to have to be careful. Complex carbs, ancient grains, and regular food logging will be the order of the day. And, once the increased workout load stops, I will need to drop the carbs back to 60 grams or less a day.

Every time I start to panic, I can just reach into my closet and try on my beloved 501s. As long as the 36-inch waistline is comfortable, I won’t panic too much.

As of this morning, they are actually a little loose.

Now there’s some food for thought.

Are 34s On The Horizon?

Jeremy

 

The Big, Scary Gym

We’ve been at our gym for 6 months now. It has been an excellent place for us to take our first, faltering steps into fitness. It is a friendly environment and, most importantly, is within walking distance of our house.

However, the relaxed environment comes with a cost. It is very limited. Lor has been wanting to take some yoga classes. Not available at our facility. I have wanted to start incorporating a little more free weights into my workout routine. If it isn’t a dumbell weighing 50 pounds or less, it isn’t available at out gym. We have both wanted a pool to work out in.

Say it with me: not available.

(Silver) Sneaking In

The real problem for us, though, has been cost. Big gyms are expensive. Initiation fees, monthly costs, yearly contract renewals…it can work out to anywhere from 60 to several hundred dollars a month.

Right now we are paying 20 bucks a month. Tough to expect a whole lot of extras from your facility for that amount of scratch.

A call last week from my insurance company opened a potential door for us. Turns out that, being disabled, I am eligible for something called the Silver Sneakers program. Silver Sneakers is a program for, ahem, chronologically gifted folks. Turns out it also is available to those of us who are younger and disabled.

Silver Sneakers allows me to sign up with one of our flagship gym facilities here in the Q for free. Meaning we would just be on the hook for Lor’s dues and monthly fees. Suddenly, it looks just about doable, if we are willing to cut a couple other small items out of the budget and replace them with a gym membership.

Also, though not within easy walking distance, the new gym is only 15 minutes away by bike. Admittedly, our current bikes will leave us huffing and puffing like the Little Train That Could. But it is theoretically possible.

Stepping Across The Line

Armed with this knowledge, we took a drive up to the gym in question. We made sure to do this as soon as we left our current gym, so we would be appropriately attired and hopefully not stand out.

Why? Because last time I went into a big gym, I got totally dismissed and demeaned by the person working the front desk. I admit, years later I am still smarting from the embarrassment of that encounter. No matter how fit I ever become, in the back of my mind, I will always be the guy who was too fat to join that particular gym.

This memory may motivate me forever. I almost felt like a hypocrite interacting with the staff members like a normal human being. I wanted to grab someone by the shoulders and ask “Would you be treating me like this a year ago?”

Thank goodness for the other Silver Sneakers members.

This gym was overwhelmed by silver-haired ladies and gentlemen, all acting like (and being treated like) they belonged there. At least half of the members I saw there were over 60, not common for most gyms. Traditionally, older folks have been another marginalized population at gyms, made to feel unwelcome because they are not young and fit. Not where we were yesterday. The place was humming with the energy of older folks unwilling to stay home on the couch.

If this gym was taking care of these people with respect and great customer service, Lor and I would probably be OK as well.

Looking Before We Leap

I admit it: the new gym is awesome.

Lor found over 20 different yoga classes she could take. I spotted classes in pilates and extreme sports training. The pool was fabulous. If there were plenty of lycra-clad hardbodies, there were an equal number of octogenarians wearing sweats from K-Mart.

Today, when we return to our little gym around the corner, I am going to be asking myself some serious questions. Like, do we stay where I am comfortable, both financially and emotionally, and accept those limitations?

Or, do we push ourselves out beyond my financial and emotional comfort zone and become really small fish in a really big pond?

Lor is ready to make that leap. Me, I still have some reservations.

We’ll Keep You Posted,

Jeremy