Category Archives: Workout

Feeling Sassy and Full of Joy

The week after Thanksgiving when I stepped on the scale to see where I needed to go for the new year, and to see why my blood pressure was so high—I’m trained, like you are, to blame it on my weight, not stress or anything else it might be—I was shocked to find myself sitting firmly at 260 pounds. I’m 5’3″ tall, so 260 pounds is quite a little load to bear for someone of my stature.

I also looked in the mirror and saw someone who had recently come through a really bad depression, and when I say really bad, I don’t say that lightly. The details of that depression are fodder for a different essay, somewhere else, in another time when I am further away from that period in my life. I saw someone who was really stressed at work and who didn’t believe in herself the way I had always believed in myself.

I looked in my exercise journal and saw that I had been faking it at running, always having an excuse: my foot hurts, I’m too tired, or I was standing at work all day. I looked more deeply and saw that I was faking it at trying to play soccer. I played on Monday nights, minimally. I loved it, but I wasn’t pursuing it. I wasn’t swimming, biking, strength training, doing yoga, or anything that I wanted and needed to be doing. I wasn’t doing a lot of what I love.

I was simply existing. Unhealthily existing.

I’ve noticed lots of patterns in my life where I realize I’m drowning inside myself, so I throw out every life preserver I can think of. I change my diet, I exercise like a fool, I quit this that and the other all at once, and then I fail. The failure then makes me feel like I am drowning all over again.

I gave myself a couple of weeks to wallow.

The week before Christmas, I decided to cut out caffeine as a first step toward healing. I chose caffeine first, because I realized I was having difficulty sleeping, even if I quit drinking coffee before 11AM. I also realized that a lot of the caffeine I was drinking was in the form of really sugary coffee drinks, so I figured that would help with my January plan of cutting a lot of sugar out of my diet.

In January, along with caffeine, I cut out most added sugar. I say most, because I do indulge in one sugary snack each day, to allow myself some pleasure. I know me. If I don’t have some pleasure, I will fail. I’ve tried moderation before, and even failed at that, so I get one treat each day. Usually I choose a small hot chocolate with dark chocolate, no whip, and almond milk, but it’s getting too sweet for me, so I’ve switched to a Ghirardelli dark chocolate square with blueberry in it. Yes, I know chocolate can have caffeine, but less than half the caffeine in a double espresso or cup of coffee.

In January, I also joined with my brother to commit to 30 minutes of exercise each day. During the first couple of weeks, even 30 minutes of exercise seemed like hard work, but in February, I added another 30 minutes of exercise each day for a total of an hour each day. I am being very intentional and careful about what exercises I do each day, so that my muscles get a chance to relax and recover between days.

For March, I am adding in strength trainings. See? I’m trying to progress incrementally. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I bike and swim. One Tuesdays and Thursdays, I strength train and walk, and on Saturdays and Sundays, I walk with my wife.

There are four main changes, aside from the above mentioned diet and exercise changes, I’ve made that have made a difference in my mental health, my physical health, and my spiritual health. I quit drinking alcohol. I meditate more frequently. I eat lots of good food. I am learning to be present, to be joyful, and to give myself grace.

I quit drinking. I didn’t think it was a problem in my life, but it was, and I wanted to be perfectly sober for the next four years if you know what I mean. I met with my priest—I say my priest, but I rarely attend church anymore—just to chat about my depression. We met in late July or early August. When I told him about what was going on, he said, “Well, have you tried not drinking? Alcohol is a depressant, you know.” Since he is “only” a priest and not a mental health practitioner, I didn’t heed his advice until January 19, and I haven’t had a drop to drink since then, unless you count the minimal alcohol in kombucha.

For me, alcohol was a huge stumbling block to joy. Did I have a hard day at work? Have a rewarding beer! Did someone piss me off? Have a Scotch to right things! Instead of dealing with the situation that upset me, I’d just drink until it felt better. I’m not sure that makes me an alcoholic, but it sure made me dependent upon a substance for healing when there are so many other things that are better for me.

I meditate more frequently. Whenever I swim, I treat my time in the pool as meditation. I focus on my breath and my form. Since I have my handy Watch to count my laps, I am free to simply focus on the silence of the water, the breath that comes in and goes out, the way body moves in the water, and the way the water feels against my skin.

I also meditate when I am not swimming, using an app called Insight Timer. If you’re reluctant to try meditation, you should check it out. There are guided meditations preprogrammed, and you can set your own program. I sometimes spend time in prayer after meditation or before, and I have to say that people notice a difference in me. A coworker asked me if I was okay the other day. I said yes, why. He said, you just look so calm and centered.

I eat lots of good food. I watched a video courtesy of our wellness group at work, and the nutritionist talked extensively about fixing a broken metabolism by eating enough good fuel. She said that many of us have broken metabolisms from low-calorie diets, from over exercising and under eating, or simply from not eating food that provides sustainable energy for our bodies.

Whenever I have wanted to lose weight before, I have always cut calories and exercised harder. This time I used the Mifflin-St. Jeor calorie calculator, which she suggested in the video, to figure out how many calories I actually need. I was surprised to find out that with my level of activity, I need about 1900 calories per day to promote fat loss. I’d been cutting to less than 1000 to try to lose weight, but according to the nutritionist, that is a level where most people’s bodies think they are starving, so adding calories is way to jump start our bodies into thinking we’re well fueled and can sustain our levels of activity.

I’m seeing my body change, and I am eating food to fuel that change. I’m eating food as fuel and for pleasure. This is a whole new way for me to relate to food. And I like it.

Finally, I am learning to be present, to be joyful, and to give myself grace. There are days when I mess up, when I treat people poorly, when I don’t exercise, when I eat things that aren’t particularly good for me, when I don’t meditate, when I wish I could be anywhere else besides where I am, where things are all joy and puppy feet and rainbows.

More often than not, I am in the moment. I am present. With myself. With others. With my pets. With nature. With [Them]. I. Am. Present. There’s a line in The Alchemist that says, “The secret is here in the present. If you pay attention to the present, you can improve upon it. And, if you improve on the present, what comes later will also be better. Forget about the future, and live each day according to the teachings, confident that God loves his children. Each day, in itself, brings with it an eternity.” I have found this to be true. Instead of looking for what will be, I’m learning that relaxing into what is and improving on what is, brings an eternity in and of itself.

Most days I am filled with joy, because why not be? If a small bit of joy can be found in front of me, why not revel in it? Why not try to use my joy to make others joyful as well?

And finally, I am giving myself grace. One thing about living in the present is recognizing that when I am not present, or when I do not have joy, or when I behave in a way that doesn’t recognize and honor the divine spark in those around me, I can be vulnerable, honest, gracious, and refocus. I can come back to being present. and I can improve on that present.

I’m learning a lot of new things about myself on this new journey.

September (FALL/AUTUMN) is Here, and I Couldn’t Be More Excited

Pushups for Veterans

I was challenged by friend Shon Byrum, the Mayor of Winchester, Indiana, to a Facebook challenge. I don’t typically partake in Facebook challenges, because I fail to see how they do any good, since they focus on some effort that neither raises money for, nor provides a solution to, whatever problem the challenge is supposedly addressing. This challenge, though, raises awareness about a problem that I think is particularly important.

Why is it that so many of our honorable veterans come home, only to end their lives shortly thereafter?

For the particular challenge Shon invited me to do, the acceptor of the challenge is required to do 22 pushups for 22 days in honor, or memory, of the approximately 22 veterans per day who commit suicide because of PTSD or another mental illness. I’ve done two days worth of pushups, and I’ve challenged two other people to the same challenge, which is a part of it. They are then requires to pass the challenge on, so awareness is spread via the viral nature of social media.

Starting tomorrow, I’m raising the bar on this challenge for myself. I’m putting 50¢ in a fund toward a veteran’s charity that helps with mental health care services for members of the military who are returning from war. By the end of the challenge, if my math is right, which it may not be, I’ll be donating a total of $220 to help our veterans who’ve been damaged by the effects of war. I haven’t yet decided which charity I will chose, but I’m doing research. I’m leaning toward The Soldier’s Project; my only hesitation is that their help is only available in limited parts of the country.

Starting tomorrow, I’m also going to include a different link to a different charity each day in my post. I’d love it my friends and family would also make small donations to those charities in honor of this challenge. Then, I think, I’d feel like I’m doing more than just raising awareness of a problem, but I’d also be helping to provide a solution to the problem as well.

Goals

Running: I’m doing it, and I’m enjoying it more, so I guess that’s progress. I’ve also started swimming again. Merideth and I started with a four day a week pact, but four days is a bit daunting along with running, too, so I am shooting for three days a week from here until the end of October.

Compassion: I’m struggling right now to articulate my spiritual beliefs. On the one hand, I do so love the Jesus, but on the other hand, the things I love about Jesus feel more Buddhist to me than anything, so I am reading a lot about people who have a similar struggle that I do. And there are many of us.

I’ve slipped bit on the vegan front, and I even ate a bit of meat when I was in Texas for training for work. I regretted it immediately. I wanted to breathe the life back into the cow, but I couldn’t, so I just cried instead. Into my hotel pillow. How sad.

Looking back, I’ve lumped a bunch of things into this category of compassion and the one that doesn’t seem to fit is meditation. But it does. I mentioned the other day that meditation has helped me more in my adult life than prayer has, that isn’t really true, I suppose, except that meditation is helping me become friends with myself in a new way. By focusing on my very existence—my breath—  I’m able to recognize my absolute physical impermanence, and through prayer while running, I’m able to contemplate how to use my newfound settledness, inner-peace, or contentment to love in a new way. (I’m sorry if this seems a bit scattered or not really well articulated, but I’m trying to find a way to describe some feelings that are utterly foreign to me.)

To focus my meditation, I’ve been using a mala that I made from a bunch of beads I’ve had since college, but today I ordered a new mala made of jade. Because I use beads when I pray, I find to be especially helpful—but in very different ways—to use beads when I meditate. Meditating each day for nearly a month now has helped me to empathize with people more easily, to pause and give space in conversation, to not have to talk as much, to be able to listen more, and to be able to have unbridled compassion and love.

It’s really beautiful.

Social Media and Creativity: I came back onto Facebook, because I missed some of my friends. I’m learning to balance it and my other activities, so that I am not consumed with comparison (Facebook envy), anger, and an irrational need for feedback and approval. I haven’t done any art, and I’ve done little writing. I have done quite a bit of listening to Podcasts, which are feeding my imagination and making me think differently about the world in which we live. And I’m still reading quite a bit, so I’ll call this successful for now.

Finances: I’m paying things down. Slowly but surely. Not as fast as I wanted, but it’s happening.

Pay It Forward: I’ll be in Canada during the classes for the sexual assault advocacy, and now that I really think about it, there are probably other volunteer opportunities that will suit me better, ones that won’t cause me personal distress. I’m open to suggestions of things people might see me doing, so if you think of anything, I’d be happy to hear about it.

Fall and Autumny Things

Most people know that fall is my favorite season of the four. The air is crisp, the trees are filled with color, and everything looks and feels like it might just curl up and take a nap. Fall is filled with apple cider, hot chocolate, bonfires, and pumpkins; all of which make me extremely happy. I get to have impromptu coffee and writing time with fine people like Ico, and the drive to work doesn’t feel so bad with bright red and yellow trees guiding the way. Essentially, everything is more amazing in the fall.

The two most exciting things for me this fall are that my friends Julie and Alan are coming to visit this weekend and we’re going to an apple orchard/pumpkin farm, and then a couple of weeks later, I get to vacation in Canada with my beautiful wife and my amazing little brother. What’s most awesome about our vacation is that we’ll also get to spend time with Merideth, Josh, and T-Bean in New York.

The end. 

Basically, my life feels like it is on an upswing. I’m working hard to help this be a new way of life for me,

  • one in which I have a balance between setting goals and achieving them, or not.
  • one in which I have personal health, and a healthy way of interacting with other.
  • one in which I am serious, and also feel free.
  • one in which I respect those around me, but I also respect myself.

Peace. Grace.

43 years = 43 kilometers and some goals

My 42nd birthday is coming up shortly, in about 12 days and 6ish hours. I was born at 2:26 AM on July 22, 1974 with fat cheeks, squinty eyes, and a full head of very dark hair. Given my disposition, it is very likely that I was crying, or at the very least, making noise. Lots of it.

I’m excited to turn 42, so, naturally I decided to set some goals for myself, things to accomplish between now and the age of 43. For some reason, probably The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, 42 feels like some kind of magical year. Forty-two certainly can’t be worse than 41, or at least the last few weeks of 41 have been, and I’m banking on 43 being even better.

As I was thinking about what types of goals I could set for myself, I asked what was important to me. I came up with a few answers: running and fitness, compassion and leaning into my spirituality, making the world a better place, getting away from social media, reading, writing, and arting more, and moving toward a more healthy financial situation.

GOALS FOR THE 365 DAYS BETWEEN MY 42ND AND 43RD BIRTHDAYS

  1. RUNNING: I thought I’d be clever and set a goal for myself to be able to run a certain distance by my birthday next year, and I thought I’d be clever and make it however many kilometers I’ll be turning. I decided to commit to running 43 kilometers, which also happens to be roughly 26 miles, which also happens to be a marathon distance. And, as luck would have it, there just happens to be a trail marathon around Grand Island on Lake Superior in Michigan on my 43rd birthday. And that trail marathon just happens to have an early start for slow-ass runners like myself.If that isn’t Providence guiding my goal, I don’t know what is.
  2. COMPASSION: Compassion is an idea that comes easily to me, but a practice that comes much less easily. I talk a lot about being compassionate, and I practice it as well, but I could use a lot more practice, if you know what I mean. I especially find it difficult to feel compassion for people who I don’t think deserve it, which is entirely not what compassion is about.
    In order to work on the practice of compassion, I am committing to attending church as often as possible, to meditating each morning after I run and on my way home from work, and to using my time running to pray for those who need prayer.

    In addition, I plan to maintain a strictly vegan diet for the year. How can I practice compassion without thinking of the animals I love so much and consciously avoiding eating them?

    Finally, I am going to practice some self-compassion by working on my mental health.

  3. PAY IT FORWARD: In October, I plan to attend a series of training to become a sexual assault advocate. I am not entirely sure what this entails, but from what I can tell, I will help to intervene in situations where people have been assaulted and act as their advocate as they navigate the reporting of, medical care during, and figuring our the aftermath of being assaulted. My goal of making the world a better place starts here.I am learning that my worth does not lie in my job, but I can use my job as a means to make the world better. My vocation, grace, can be practiced anywhere with anyone.
  4. SOCIAL MEDIA and CREATIVITY: I am finished with Facebook. I’m hoping to use that time reading, writing, or doing some kind of art. My goal is to write something I am proud of, to read one book, and to complete one piece of art each month this year.That’s twelve chapters of memoir, along with twelve illustrations, and twelve new literary adventures in the 377 days. I think that’s doable.
  5. FINANCES: I need to work on paying off some credit card debt. My goal is to pay $4300 off of my credit card debt by the age of 43. That’s paying an extra $350 each month and not charging anything new, which I can do if I am really frugal, which will be really hard for me.This may be the most difficult of all these goals.

As part of this goal-setting for the year, I plan to check in on these goals every 22nd of each month until July 22, 2017. Hopefully, that last check-in will come after I’ve taken a dip in Lake Superior after completing a 26.2-mile run around an island.

Here’s to birthdays and the ways in which they require us to rethink our priorities. Cheers and peace.

The Bad Waitress; Wellness Update

This morning my friend Stevi and I went to the Bad Waitress, here in Minneapolis, for breakfast. We both had the Heavy Pedal, which is a tofu scramble with whatever added ingredients the consumer desires. Stevi got some vegan sausage as a side, and I have to admit that it looked amazing. She said when she first tasted it, she thought they gave her the wrong sausage. If I can forego being humble for a moment, I am sure it tasted almost as amazing as the vegan sausage links I make. I haven’t made them for a while, but I should probably make it a point now that I’m vegan again.

I loved my meal, because it was full of good stuff like broccoli, mushrooms, curry powder, and turmeric. I also got gluten-free toast as a side and a delicious Americano to drink. Sadly, the gluten-free toast wasn’t vegan, but I ate it anyway, because it was already toasted, and I hate to waste food. Once I started eating the toast, I was pretty excited because it was the best gluten-free bread I’ve ever tasted. Now I’m on a quest to find delicious gluten-free and vegan bread so I can eat toast at home sometimes. I just love toast. I mean, I really, really love toast. TOAST!

After we ate, we walked down a couple of doors to Glam Doll Donuts, where Stevi bought some vegan donuts to take home to share with her fiancé. They seriously have a dozen different vegan donuts there, and surprisingly, the guy who helped us wasn’t pretentious. I prefer Mojo Monkey Donuts, because the women who work there are all kind and helpful, it’s closer to my house since it’s in St. Paul, and I’ve never had good luck with the folks who work at Glam Doll. However, this visit really bolstered my desire to return there to get some vegan donuts, because the guy was kind, funny, and helpful. Basically, he may have saved my faith in Minneapolis donuteries. Mojo Monkey is still my favorite, though.

On our way back to our meeting point, we stopped at Mississippi Market Co-op, where Bec and I are members, to get some Shea butter and turmeric. I ended up buying organic, fair-trade bananas and a container of organic, fair-trade Shea butter for my super-dry skin. I looked at some apples, but they were all $8-14 per bag, so I decided to buy those at our regular grocery store where I can get organic apples for $6 a bag, and I decided not to get the turmeric right now, because it was also very expensive. I get paid on Friday, so I’ll go this weekend to pick some up.

I have read and been told that turmeric can help to manage inflammation, but I am not a huge fan of the taste of it, unless it’s mixed with curry powder like in my tofu scramble this morning. I thought I would buy some turmeric capsules to help keep my joints from aching and my skin from itching so much. I have to admit, that short of some dry skin, my itching “from the inside” (as I like to think about and explain how my allergic itching feels) is all but gone. I have had one hive in the past two weeks, and I haven’t been taking my allergy medicine at all.

I don’t feel tired, and I don’t have pain when I go for a long hike. I’ve hiked as far as six miles on hilly terrain with no soreness in my joints. I’m at a point where I want to start running again, and I thought I would start again once May got here,  but I’ve decided to hold off until I get back from Indiana and start running again on June 1. I’ve lost 13 pounds since March 28, which wasn’t a real goal, but I’m pleased that it has happened, since being less fat will certainly make running success come easier.

I’m feeling content with my dietary decisions, and will continue them through May 25th when I visit Indiana. I am trying to decide how to manage life with being vegan full time, and will likely compromise with vegetarianism sometimes. As for sugar, well, I am hoping to be done with it, since sugar is neither good for me, nor does it help with my mood stability, and I’m just addicted to it. Once I start eaten M&Ms, I can’t stop until the entire bag is gone. I’m also planning to remain mostly gluten-free, but I have no desire to be insistent about it. Since food is an excellent way to bring people together, the last thing I want to do is cause people to be anxious about preparing meals in which I will partake. I am, however, planning to ask for a food allergy screening at my physical this summer, just to see what things may have actually caused me to feel so yuck all winter long.

Lastly, I got a great shirt in the mail last night. It says, “Eating animals is weird.” The more I think about it, the weirder is to me, and the sadder I am that I ever went back to it. Today, while Stevi and I were talking about speciesism and Danna Hardaway’s book When Species Meet, I was thinking about when I’ve shared the 50-wing platter at the Anchor Bar with Adam or Josh. That’s 25 chickens right there. The thing about veganism, or even vegetarianism for me, is that I feel so much more at peace. More kind. More compassionate. More loving. I’m not ingesting violence. And I feel it. Call me hippie-dippy, but I seriously feel more at ease in this world when I don’t have another animals blood coursing through my veins. And, I don’t have dreams of cows, pigs, and chickens chasing me at night.

25 chickens, dead for one meal.

25 chickens.

25.

Eating animals is weird.

Jump Start This Thing, Will Ya?

When I was little there was an exercise place in my hometown that was run by two of my friends’ moms. The name of the place was the “New You.” What I loved about it was that more than being a collection of strange 1970s exercise equipment—yes, they had the fat-jiggler belts—New You was a place where women like my mom could go to feel better about themselves and to be inspired by other women from the same small town. They could all find their New You together.

Once the “New You” closed down, there were a few years where the HC had no exercise facility, and then Tom and Kay opened “Main Street Gym.” Again, the endearing quality of Main Street Gym was the camaraderie of people who went there to make themselves healthier, to challenge and support each other in life’s  new journey toward health. My dad still has weightlifting trophies he won while he was lifting weights there, and the rest of my family still has the memory of going there for aerobics classes or weightlifting after school.

My point in sharing all of this is that health and the desire to be fit isn’t new in my life. I’ve ridden this horse before, which is what makes it a bit annoying to admit that I can’t just stay in the land of the fit. Instead I find myself where I was nearly 10 years ago when I started this blog, at around 250 pounds and unwell. More than I have been in the past ten years of goofing around with fitness and wellness, I am looking for a New Me and a community that will hold me accountable and support and challenge me. I want to learn to rock climb with my friends Travis and Angie, and I want to be part of the Mill City weekly runs when I can, and I want to be able to finish some bucket list races, and I can’t if I am fat, itchy, and inflamed.

After I wrote the entry last night, I was up for another several hours watching Ken Burns’ Civil War and pondering why it is I thought I needed to wait until April 1 to start this (renewed too many times) quest. I also thought about how many times I’ve failed at this before, and then I decided with exercise, I need to take it slowly, so no matter how badly I want to start running before May 1, I am forcing myself to walk. Why? I need to ease back into this, so I don’t injure myself and so I don’t burn myself out. Here’s to long walks and dietary abstinence.

Because I couldn’t wait to get started, I got up this morning at 8AM, walked the dogs, and then went for a 70-minute walk along one of my favorite non-state-park routes past the cemetery and the oil refinery. When I got home I made myself some breakfast (beans, rice, onion, garlic, garam masala, spinach, and mushrooms), and drank a big glass of water. Needless to say, I am feeling pretty good about how this day has started off, and I feel like the next 30 days couldn’t be more splendid. Of course, now I have to leave the house and face the real world.