Fitness Quest: November 2016

I know that it’s technically December, but I thought if I’m going to keep track of my “Fitness Quest” I should try to update at least monthly. So here’s last month’s progress report (or lack thereof).

Workouts: workouts have been going okay. Nothing spectacular to report in terms of strength or size gains, but also nothing spectacular to report in terms of going back wards either. I’m injury free and getting in some form of exercise everyday.

As my facebook friends know, I’ve been doing a different type of “challenge” for the past three or four months. It started with the “22 Push Ups for 22 Days” challenge that a friend invited me to join to raise awareness for the problem of veteran suicide, then morphed to a 100 push up challenge that I created where a few friends and I worked our way up from the 22 push-ups to being able to do 100 push ups in one session, then it was working up to a four minute plank. Now I’m doing “wall squats” (aka “wall sitting”) and working up to being able to do that for four minutes. This one is pretty tough as it increases by 10 seconds each day. However, it was time to do something for the legs.

I continue my twice a week weight training sessions with my brother-in-law. Though we’re pretty good about doing them, they are feeling a little too routine for me. I’ll be talking to him about upping the weight or varying the reps some to keep it interesting. The good news is that I’m at the very least maintaining strength and think that I’ve gaining based on workouts and measurements (waist is still down, arms and chest are getting larger again).

Nutrition: After it was suggested to me by a new friend, I experimented some with a low-carb, high protein diet last month and unfortunately, moved away from it somewhere around Thanksgiving. Though I liked adding carbs back in (I missed bread of all things) I paid a significant price and my weight jumped back up in pretty short order. So, essentially in terms of overall weight and bodyfat I’m about where I was a year ago. I’m going to double down on this style of diet again – yes, I know it’s the Holiday season – and see if I can make some improvements before the start of the New Year. I’d rather not have to make some drastic unkeepable resolutions like the rest of the world on January 1!

Crohn’s: The good news is that there isn’t any major change in terms of my Crohn’s disease. The Humira seems to still be doing it’s job. I have noticed that as I get within a couple days of my next injection that I start to feel queasy inside again. Not sure if this is a real thing though or a psychosomatic response to knowing that I’m due for an injection. Weather changes seem to be playing a role again this year. We’ve had some dramatic swings in temps (going from 70 degrees to 30 degrees overnight) and such as winter comes on and I felt it inside.

Once again this year I did go to an annual IBD update to learn about the latest research in the area of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (of which Crohn’s is one). As usual, it was very interesting and informative. The main take away is still hang in there. Better treatments are coming soon (as in about 5 years).

Mental Health: Overall, I think I’m still doing pretty well here. I’ve been having some odd “stress dreams” for some reason but not sure why so I’ve given some thought to this. But things are going well with work, I don’t feel over burdened and despite the usual malaise of not being quite where I want to be career-wise I’m employed, have friends and family and overall am in doing pretty well. Heck, I even have a new car that so far is running like a dream so no more “when will it break down” thoughts which were part of my daily life for the last, oh, 3 years or so!

The only real disappointment I had recently were the results of the US election. But, I can rest easy in knowing that whatever happens it’s not my fault! I just keep hoping for the best and expect the worst like a lot of other people and at least the darn commercials have stopped.

Summary: Life is good and the only way to move, as always, is forward.

Onward!

Fitness Quest: October 2016

The past three months seem to have been a blur of activity. Which is probably a good thing since it is an indication that I’ve had energy to do things, and given my normal state of anemia (in part due to the Crohn’s) that’s a good thing. One concern I haven’t had is my Crohn’s as that continues to be under control by most accounts. The Humira appears to be doing its job and that’s a very good thing.

Exercise: Since my last update I did complete my personal “100 Push-Up” challenge. A few friends joined me which helped as we kept each other honest. At the end I was able to do 100 Push-Ups in less than three minutes which by most standards is a sign of excellent physical fitness and strength. I noticed huge benefits in a short time just by being consistent with the push-ups. Triceps are larger, arms are “harder” overall and I have definition and size in my chest and delts that I don’t think I’ve ever had (I can now “roll” my pecs which is pretty cool actually). However, in some ways they did take a toll and the last couple days were as much an exercise in mental toughness as physical strength. I took a break this past week and will be putting a lower number of push-ups into my regular routine going forward.

Another thing I discovered with these last two push-up challenges is the support I’d get from friends and family by going “public” (I posted daily on Facebook my progress). I learned that I actually inspired a few others to try and improve their own fitness, and I never thought I’d be a fitness role model, and I didn’t mind the comments about my weight loss and increase in overall “buffness” (the occasional “hey, you’ve got some tricep action going on there” while wearing a long sleeve shirt and “wow, you can tell Dave’s been working out” while wearing a short sleeve shirt and “you lost a lot of weight” from people who haven’t seen me in a while).

The next challenge is going to focus on core strength and tightening up the middle. I may never have a true six-pack but by golly I can have a flat midsection. I’ve also got a side challenge already in the works with another friend who works out but has been lax lately. He was lamenting that his shirt sleeves were getting too loose. So we’re going to see who can put the most size back on his arms by the end of January. Sadly, I’ve got a long way to go to fill out my sleeves again, too!

Weight workouts are going well. We, my brother-in-law and I, got back up to a 250 pound bench press and now backed down to about 180 to focus on increasing reps. I want to start getting some weight training with the legs going again. I just need to figure out how to get this back into my schedule.

Cardio could be better. I haven’t been running but for the most part I’ve been walking and at least getting 10,000 steps in each day. I did participate in a 5K Fun Run/Walk during the annual NACAS Conference and was only a couple minutes off my best time earlier this summer. Not bad considering I hadn’t planned on running at all during it!

Nutrition: Despite my research and trying new things I still struggle with getting the proper nutrition and keeping fat off. Most of this is discipline – I need to stay away from the drive-through – some is lack of planning. I find myself too often not packing lunch or having a dinner plan. I’m starting today to fix this. You can’t control your weight (i.e. bodyfat) without complete control of your diet. Only I can change this.

I had an interesting conversation with a fit young man at the annual NACAS Conference and he suggested I try a “keto” or low-carb diet. This is something I’ve been sort of trying on my own to a small degree anyway, lower carbs and upping the protein, but I also reduced fats which he suggested may be the wrong way to go. I’m doing some research and will be giving a more hard core low carb diet a try this week. Giving up carbs will be difficult – but I’m tired of looking at this belly.

Mental Health: Overall, attitude is good. Like everyone else I do have those moments of doubt and worry. However, in general, life is fairly good. A lot of people have it a lot worse than I do and I do remind myself of that every day. I do need to make time for some regular prayer/meditation however to clear my head at the end of the day (or maybe the beginning).

So, in keeping with accountability, I’ll be posting more often here on my Fitness Quest and hopefully other things as well. Until next time…

Onward!

 

Fitness Quest: Weight Loss, Running, Weights, and Crohn’s

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a new blog so I figured at the very least I should update everyone on my continuing quest for greater fitness as I move through middle age (better than the alternative, right?).

The good news is that there is no news. My Crohn’s has been pretty calm since I’ve started taking Humira several months ago. Sure, I have a grumble here a little constipation and/or diarrhea there but no days long bouts of intense pain and lack of energy and overall “pushing” just to get started for and through the day. I have a CT Scan on Monday and hopefully it will show that there has been no significant progress of the disease putting off the day I’ll need surgery for a little longer.

On a tangent – I attended an IBD Patient Update hosted by the University of Michigan IBD team and the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America with participants from Henry Ford Hospitals and Baylor University. A lot of good information from this session. I finally learned that my medicine may costs about $40,000 a year for those who don’t have insurance (yikes!). No cure is on the horizon but several potentially game changing treatments are in clinical trials. It also reaffirmed that given what could have been that I’ve been very, very fortunate with my Crohn’s. It turns out that 44% of patients with Crohn’s have required surgery by 9 years after diagnoses. Me, I’ve gone about 30 so far. Surgery, if it goes well, often does provide relief. But too often it is temporary and then there are a host of potential complications. Most that I don’t even want to think about but may discuss later.

I haven’t been running lately, trying to rest my shins and recondition them before running again. The pain was getting pretty bad. However, I am keeping up with my walking and watching my diet. I need to move from just counting calories to better tracking my “macros” though. I think if I up my nutrition that I’ll make better gains in the weight room and with fat loss.

Speaking of the weight room, it’s been a couple weeks since I’ve started lifting again regularly. I was pretty sore after the first couple workouts but I’m doing better and my lifts are getting heavier. I’m also working out about once a week with my brother-in-law again and he helps to push me simply by staying ahead of me in his bench press. Though this should not stop you from trying. Friendly competition never hurts as long as you don’t get hung up on the fact that some people will always be better than you at something. In fact, I’m still “competing” with a couple friends to see who can do better over the course of time in terms of fitness goals. Celebrate other peoples success and you’ll be happier in the long run (trust me).

So, overall, I’m down in weight about 15 pounds since this time last year. I’m stronger, faster, and feeling pretty good overall. Not where I want to be, who is after all, but getting a little closer each day.

Onward!

Fitness Quest: The Road Less Traveled

It should not come as a shock to anyone who’s ever known or paid attention to me (or has read this blog) that I’ve had a long time interest in health, fitness, bodybuilding, etc. This interest goes back quite a ways to my first flirtations with the gym and working out in high school, through a more serious attempt during college, up to the current day. Yet, during all this time, even when I was at my strongest and curling more than 100 pounds and benching almost 1.5 times my body weight (when I weighed close to 240) I don’t think there was ever a time you would have called me muscular. Sure, I had big arms and a big chest but I also had (have?) a big butt and big gut to go along with them. In my quest for size and strength I only gave lip service to fat loss. So even though I could bench more than 300 pounds (which is why I’m glad I write down my workouts – it’s hard to believe that I was once capable of this) I couldn’t run around the block without the risk of heart attack. Though my arms taped at just over 17.5 inches in circumference when flexed (4.5 inches more than the “average” man’s) my biceps lacked peak – though my tris were pretty well defined – in short, I was big but not built. I wanted to look like a bodybuilder but I looked more like a Bluto (from the Popeye comic strip).

Over the years I’ve tried a variety of workouts with varying consistency. I always blamed my lack of consistency, genetics and even my Crohn’s for my lack of progress. Well, people with Crohn’s much worse than mine have made better progress (see my earlier blogs on Peter K. Vaughn and Peter Nielsen for examples) and I know men who have made dramatic changes in their physiques in the course of a few months.

Well, today in the grocery store I finally had a revelation. My problem has been in front of my for all these years. Why do I not look the way I want? Because I eat the way I want!

I’ve been told this over the decades by at least two personal trainers (maybe three), a nutritionist, friends, family and God only knows how many books on exercise, weightlifting, diet, and nutrition.

So, what am I going to do about this? Well, I’ve already started.

Now that I have my caloric intake under control I need to improve the quality of what goes into my mouth. I loaded up on fresh (or as fresh as we get now days) veggies and fruits. I avoided the sugary treats, and I have enough to last the week. I chose Greek yogurt over regular because it has fewer calories and more protein (need some dairy after all). Tomorrow I plan my meals out so that I’m not caught in a situation where I “have” to go through the drive-thru and I’m taking another look at my supplement plan. Currently, I’m not taking anything except iron and calcium that my doctor prescribed. I’m thinking of adding back in a multi-vitamin and fish oil. Possibly some glucosamine as well for joint health.

I currently feel  better than I have in years so I’m determined not to squander this feeling. I may never lift 350 pounds again (or maybe I will, who knows) but I bet I still have time to see my abs. At least two of them…

Onward!