Fitness Quest: July 2021 Update

Since we are now about half-way through the year and I haven’t done a proper fitness update in a while here you go!

Internal Health

The big news is that my Crohn’s disease continues to be under control. The bigger news is that my heart is working better, too. There was a concern in March that my heart function had decreased somewhat so my cardiologist put me on Entresto (you’ve seen the ads if you live in the United States) and it appears to be working. My ejection fraction has gone from 35% to 43% in the first three months. Since I tolerate the drug and am responding to it we are now talking about increasing the dosage a little to see if we can do a little better. From what I understand a normal ejection fraction is somewhere between 70 and 50%. So I’m almost back to the “normal” range. An unexpected side effect is that I could tell it was working because I didn’t have so many dark thoughts about death and dying as I’ve been having since this whole thing began. I’m thinking about the future again. The mind and the body are linked. If your body works better, your mind responds accordingly. At least that seems to hold true in my case.

External Health

I’m still staying active as possible and, according to my trainer at least, I’m doing things that men 20 years younger than me can’t do. Such as bench press more than my bodyweight. My weight is down since the beginning of the year and I see veins where I haven’t seen veins before (if you don’t know why this is cool, talk to your nearest gym rat). I’ve given up on ever having six pack abs for the simple reason that two abdominal surgeries have kind of mooshed things around. I’m still working on losing the layers of fat on my mid-section but between the scars and other issues I don’t know what I’ll find when that happens. Still a long way to go but my bodyfat is moving downwards with my weight.

Current Workout and Activities

Cardio will be a bit of a challenge as usual. My tap dancing is paused for the summer (we’ll start up again in September) and I need to get back to putting in my steps each day. I’ve been falling short of my 10,000 for quite a while now.

Like men 30 years my junior I’m still obsessed with arm size. So I’m in a little competition with another friend who lifts to see who can gain the most size on his arms in six weeks. In addition to this I am working chest twice per week and am currently going with a high repetition/low weight scheme on bench press. I’m working up to 100 reps over 4 sets at 135 lbs. (61kg) with my brother-in-law. I’m about 10 shy of the goal right now. Not sure what we’ll do next. Maybe back to 225 lbs (102kg) to see how we fare at that weight. I also workout with my trainer once per week.

I’ll be running – and I use the term loosely – in the annual Rose Run on July 10th which is a fund raiser for cancer research. I’m also doing a 25 push up per day challenge for the American Cancer Society. So it’s a busy month!

Summary

If I can keep up this pace I expect to end the year in a much healthier place than I began it. And with a more positive mindset, too. I don’t expect to win any marathons or bodybuilding competitions, but I sure as heck expect to be wearing smaller pants and lifting more weight! I might even be a better tap dancer too. A long shot I know.

I hope that you are all doing well in overcoming your fitness challenges and reaching your goals, too! Let me know about them in the comment section below.

Featured image by Photo by Victor Freitas from Pexels

All photos by David P. Wahr unless otherwise noted.
Photos and words @copyright David P. Wahr

Giving Thanks

Last year on Thanksgiving I hit my head while playing kick ball with my cousins (yeah, we’re not exactly the Kennedys). This led to me having an EKG and the discovery that sometime in the past that I had a heart attack, which led to changing my Crohn’s medication for fear it was effecting my heart function, which led to a bowel perforation and my current ostomy.

So what am I thankful this year? Just being alive and able to celebrate another Thanksgiving with loved ones!

Which may be as much as any of us should be thankful for.

Onward!

Fitness Quest: The Consequence of Measuring Muscle Mass

So, in my constant quest for greater fitness I thought it might be fun to engage a couple friends in a challenge to see who could lose the most body fat in the next few months (by the start of spring).  I decided that I should switch out my trusty Tanita scale that I’ve been using for some years with a Taylor scale that I’ve also been using on and off (to paraphrase that old saying: a man with one scale knows how much he weighs, a man with two is never sure). The reason being because though both scales measure body fat percentage – and are pretty close in their measurement – the Taylor scale has a few more

Scales
The Tanita and Taylor scales – both good

features including a calculation of hydration and muscle mass, all of which are uploadable into an app for easy tracking. For the challenge we have decided to use waist/hip ratio as our measurement tool, but I thought I’d follow my progress on the scales, too. Since I do weigh myself everyday anyway.

The “new” scale works nicely and as I said the body fat percentage corroborates with the other scale. But, today I took note of the other measurements. Fat mass was where I expected at about 25% (needs to be under 20), body water at 59% – a little dehydrated which isn’t surprising since my colon isn’t there absorbing water anymore since my ileostomy – and my muscle mass was at just over 30%. Now, you’ll notice that these percentages added together total more than 100%. I haven’t found it in the documentation yet, but I suspect that the body water figure is independent of the other two and is calculated off the remaining body mass (organs and skeleton). So, based on these readings my body is a little over half fat and muscle. So far so good right?

Well, I then wondered how my muscle mass compared with the average guy – you know, because we guys are all about measurements and comparisons with other men (to prove we’re better). Since I’ve been working out I’ve always assumed that I had more muscle

buff dave
Me during my “glory” days

mass than most men. I know that my arms are larger, even now in their “depleted” state (a little over 15″ in circumference compared to the average untrained American male who is around 11″) they do flex and do not jiggle when I move them. I once benched 350 pounds and still am capable (I think) of a one time max of more than my bodyweight. Good for anyone, great for a man of my “advanced” years. Plus, you know, I have done squats in the past, too keeping my lower body pretty fit – even with too much fat around the hips (you should see the definition in my “marching band” calves).

So off to Google I go and search for “how much muscle does the average man have” and imagine my surprise to find out that according to my scale I not only have less muscle than the average man (about 60 pounds compared to livestrong.com’s average of 72 pounds).  I thought, “okay, but surely my percentage is higher.” Nope…

muscle-mass-percentage-chart

Not only am I low for the average man, I’m low for a man my age and older! How is this possible? I was only in the hospital for a week and recovery for six weeks. Can muscle mass be lost that quickly?

Now, I did come out of the hospital 20 pounds lighter than I went in. This would equate to a loss of about 2 pounds a day for my 10 day stay, but most of the weight loss was early. I never figured out why it was so much, as I doubt that a meter of intestine (the full length of my ileum) weighs that much since it’s essentially a hollow tube of muscle and skin. Maybe it was because of all the stuff that was leaking into my abdomen was no longer there, a lot probably water weight, and maybe an incidental “liposuction” when they cut through the fat and muscle to get to my innards. I just didn’t know. However, I felt that when I cam out that my chest and shoulders had disappeared on me. Could I

Me in hospital
Me shortly after surgery in August 2018

really have lost that much muscle that quickly? Or is my scale wrong. Did one operation undo 30 years of weightlifting and bodybuilding?

I think it will be interesting to see what happens over the course of the next few weeks and months as I continue into my workout routine. I will admit that I wasn’t doing a lot prior to the operation but I was lifting twice a week and getting in some cardio. Plus, there was the cardio rehab I had just finished earlier in the late spring. Muscle memory is a wonderful thing, but we all know that as we get older we don’t bounce back as quickly as we did before.

In fact, most studies indicate that as we age we lose a significant amount of muscle with some, if I recall correctly, suggesting men lose as much as 10% of their muscle mass for each decade after 40 (or earlier). Most studies also suggest that this loss is as much due to inactivity as anything as we tend to move less as we get older and that working out becomes less of a priority when family and career get involved (thus the rise of the so-called “Dad Bod” someone with some muscle on them but it’s covered in a layer of fat).

However, there are also studies that suggest that this muscle loss can be slowed if not completely reversed. That, contrary to popular belief, even people in their eighties and nineties can gain muscle. Maybe not as fast as in our youth, but gains can be made. In fact, I feel that I was at my strongest in my mid to late forties. Not necessarily my fittest, just my strongest.

Which bring ups an interesting tangent. I had a conversation recently with a young man who I’ve befriended at work. He’s a bodybuilder (though I don’t think he would consider himself one since he lifts primarily for “fun,” but I’ve seen his before pictures and he’s clearly a bodybuilder) and he asked me an interesting question: “do you know how men keep getting stronger as they get older?” I replied that I had noticed the same thing myself, stating that many bodybuilders seem to hit their prime in their thirties and how I felt I gained strength well into my forties. But he then said, “no, do you know HOW men keep getting stronger?” and I indicated that I wasn’t sure, perhaps the body doesn’t actually fully mature until a man is in his twenties or later.

Now, I think I can answer that question a little better. Men who keep getting stronger as they age also don’t give up. They stay focused on being a little better each day, at lifting a little more, running a litter farther.

Basically, men get stronger as they age because they think they can.

I think that I can, too. The best is yet to come.

Onward.

Fitness Quest: Spring and Summer 2018

Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve posted (April) so there’s a lot to catch up on. Mostly good…

Crohn’s: we, my gastroenterologist and I, have decided to change my medication and I’m no longer on Humira and have switched to Entyvio (vendolizumab). She, my gastroenterologist, strongly suspected that the Humira wasn’t keeping me as well controlled as I thought and after consultation with my cardiologist – who now gets consulted by every doctor I have – recommended that I try something else. I’m all for anything that can better control my symptoms, of course, and so I now get infusions instead of taking a weekly injection. I’ve had some flares since starting the new treatment, including one that sent me to the emergency room while traveling out of town.

The issue wasn’t the Crohn’s directly, as the pain wasn’t that bad, but dehydration

ambulance architecture building business
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

brought on by the Crohn’s. I just wasn’t going to take a chance since we think that a Crohn’s attack brought on my heart attack and my symptoms (severe chills) were just too unusual for me. I was so cold, inside my hotel room under my blankets, that if I were outside camping I would have thought I had hypothermia.

Long story short, one ambulance ride and two IVs of fluid later, I was back at my hotel feeling a whole lot better.

I’ve had one or two other minor flares since starting the treatment, but I’m still within what they call the “ramp up” phase of the infusions so the drug hasn’t reached it’s full efficacy (full effectiveness) yet. My next infusion is August 9th so we should know by then.

In addition to the Entyvio, we are also being more aggressive in treating my anemia – presumably caused by the Crohn’s – and have started getting iron infusions as well. Interestingly enough, if these work I’ll only need two and the benefits will last months and possibly years! The first infusion was this week and so far no side effects so we know I didn’t get too much iron. The second is next week and it will then be a few weeks after that before we know if it works. If all goes well I’ll have more energy and actually be breathing easier as well. Which means, you guessed it, less strain on the heart (concern #1).

Cardiac Health: I finished my cardio rehab with flying colors. My exercise therapist said I was a star pupil and an example for others and sent me off with instructions to

black and white blood pressure kit
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

continue my work and a hope that he never sees me again – at least in rehab. If anyone out there has a heart issue and is offered the opportunity to take rehab DO IT! I left knowing my body better and more importantly my limits. I can judge when I might be pushing too hard and, just as importantly, when I’m not pushing hard enough.

Thanks to rehab I had the confidence to run in the Rose Run again this year.  This is the annual 5K to support breast cancer research held in Petersburg, Michigan in July and Burbank, California in October. If there are two more disparate communities to host the same event out there I couldn’t tell you where they are! Anyway, I didn’t beat my time from last year (sob), but I finished feeling good and, here’s the important part, without a cardiac event!

Massage:

board brown daylight destination
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I got my first deep tissue massage. I’ve been having some intermittent muscle pains, especially in my chest, and my primary care physician suggested massages as a regular treatment. Well, while traveling on business I was a spa in Saratoga Springs, NY and some free time so I treated myself to a mineral bath and a deep tissue massage. Wow! I had no idea how tight I was until my masseuse started her work. I was never in pain, but came close. She also confirmed that I had a couple substantial “knots” in my chest that one massage wasn’t going to get rid of. So she gave me a couple stretches to do on my own and suggested fascial stretch therapy. I’ve been looking into this and will likely give it a try within the next couple weeks. I’ll blog more on this later.

Yoga: 

man wearing white pants under blue sky
Photo by antas singh on Pexels.com

I did start yoga, but have fallen off the wagon. I need to get back on it as this does help with stress, breathing, flexibility, and a lot of other benefits. I been using routines on youtube led by Adriene. Her videos were suggested by a friend and I find her teaching method to be easy to follow and a good introduction to yoga. Plus, you can do it from your home. I’m sure most would say that a video can’t replace a good in person instructor, but honestly, I’m not reading to show my downward dog in public yet – let alone a warrior three!

Nutrition: Um, yeah, about that. Did I mention that I was traveling a lot? I have a lot of “adjustments” to make.  Moving on…

beef blur bread bun
Photo by Foodie Factor on Pexels.com

Overall Fitness: I’m still lifting weights a couple times a week. Not seeing much progress in this area and I haven’t been pushing. It’s time to make a few changes and a few gains. I can’t go heavy on lifts like the bench press anymore (see cardiac health) but as long as I don’t raise my blood pressure I can do pretty much everything I used to. Weight lifting was part of cardio rehab so I see no reason not to continue. Too many people don’t realize that strength training is especially important as we get older.

man in grey shirt and black bottom lifting barbell
Photo by Frame Kings on Pexels.com

I’ve read that the average man without training loses about 10 pounds of muscle each decade after the age of 30 (yes, 30). Regular resistance training (i.e. weights) can slow down and even reverse that loss. In fact, I would say in my case, I was actually at my strongest in my late forties. I may never bench 350 again but I can be stronger than I am now and less likely to fall and break something! I suggest you do the same.

Onward!

Mediterranean Diet