Friday, March 30, 2012

Kick it up a notch with at-home medball workouts

The time has come to go hard core with my medicine ball workout once again - The Tar Heels Workout, which Men's Health calls their Ultimate Medicine Ball Workout.

The workout is basically 200 repititions, 20 each of 10 different exercises using a medicine ball. I am going to start by using an 8-pound ball, since I haven't been working out this intensely for a while. But within two weeks I plan to move up to a 12-pound ball. I was using an 18-pound ball before, but I'm going to give myself at least a month to six weeks to work up to that again. I want to avoid injury at all costs.

Here are the basic 10 exercises that are part of the Tar Heels Workout with a brief description of each. These ten exercises together are considered one complete set. The goal is to do all 10 exercises with no break between them for a continuous 200 repititions, but start off slow and take short breaks as necessary until you can do more. Then, work up to three sets of these exercises, resting no more than three minutes between each set. (Go to the Men's Health site for better descriptions and pictures of each exercise, as this is a description of my personal exercise routine, and I am not a certified personal trainer.):
  1. Big Circles - Start with the ball in both hands, outstretched above your head. Feet shoulder-width apart. Then make big circles in front of your body, with your arms acting like the hands of a clock, twisting your core to the side at the 3 o'clock and 9 o'clock positions. Do ten circles in each direction.
  2. Wood Chopper - Start in the same position as Big Circles but with legs slightly more spread. Make a chopping motion with the ball, thrusting it through your legs and returning to the erect position, ball stretached above your head. (Last summer I posted a video of me doing this exercise on YouTube.)
  3. Russian Twist - Start with the ball in both hands stretched out in front of you at shoulder height. Then, twist and stretch fully to the right, pivoting on your left toe, and then to the left, pivoting on your right toe. Once you are back to the center this is one repetition.  
  4. Squat to Press - Start again with the ball raised above your head. Then, as you squat, bring the ball down to your chest. Once in the squat position, burst up again to original position. This is one repetition.
  5. Medicine Ball Sit-Up - Lie on the floor with your legs bent comfortably and with the medicine ball at your chest. Hold the medicine ball to your chest as you do your sit-ups. Be careful to hold the ball in a stable position to avoid injury.
  6. Rocky Solo - Start in a seated position, holding the ball in front of you. Then, twist to place the ball around behind your back and leave it there as you twist around to the other side to pick it up. When in the original position, this is one set.
  7. Toe Touch - Starting flat on your back with your legs straight and on the floor, place the medicine ball in both hands and stretch your arms along the floor above your head. Then, at the same time, life your legs and your arms to touch the ball to your toes. Return to the original position for one repetition.
  8. 45-Degree Twist - Seated, with legs slightly bent and your back at a slight angle, take the ball in both hands straight in front of you. Then twist to the left side with arms outstretched and touch the ball to floor. Twist back to the right side, touch the floor with the ball, and return to the original position. This is one repetition.
  9. Suitcase Crunch - Start with your back flat on the floor, similar to the Toe Touch, and bring up one leg toward your chest separately while bringing the ball forward at the same time, over the knee, crunching, to touch the toe. Repeat with the other leg. This is one repetition.
  10. Diagonal Crunch - Start this exercise lying on the floor as in previous exercises, but this time with your torso twisted to one side and with your legs spread wide apart. It is like doing a twisted sit-up, where you come up from the twisted position to sitting straight up on the floor. Tap the ball to the floor and go back to the lying position, this time twisting to the the other side. Sit up, tap the ball and return to the original position for one repetition.

I did this routine for nearly six months straight, about three to four days per week, but I stopped doing this it in its entirety after moving to Boston last July. After quitting my favorite gym - Island City Health and Fitness in Wilton Manors, FL - I just couldn't find another place to get into the routine. I loved that gym because there was a quiet, mirror-clad room where I could do the full workout and see myself from every angle and during every exercise. That kept me motivated because I could watch my form and measure my progress at every moment of the workout.

Now that I am in a new place and have plenty of room to workout at home, I'm setting things up so I can do this workout four days per week without having to worry about gym dues. I will supplement this exercise, as always, by walking and/or hiking at least 20 miles per week.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Going all the way: Setting a new healthy weight goal

I am inspired right now to reconsider my healthy weight goal. When I originally started this project, I weighed more than 420 pounds and set a goal to halve my weight. I settled in on a number - 227 lbs. - because it was just under the mark for Class I Obesity for my height. But the more I consider that goal, I feel it doesn't go far enough. It's a good goal. Hell, it may be a great goal. But it is not reflective of my desire to live in a way that leads me to optimal health.

I want to reduce my risk of chronic disease. That's the point. It's not about how I will look. It's about how I feel. And more, it's about what I can do.

Realizing this will take a new level of focus for me, I am exploring ideas. I've considered prescribed exercise plans like P90X, the Insanity 60 Day Workout and CrossFit, and I haven't ruled them out, because exercise is a huge part of what will make me successful at reaching my new goal (just as it has been to the point where I am today).

More important though, I want to take my food intake more seriously and begin cooking seriously healthy foods on a daily basis. I need to stop eating out on a regular basis, because even if I select healthy options while I'm out, I want to have more control over the ingredients, and how the ingredients are prepared.

I'm watching the new video called Hungry for Change, which talks about addictive chemicals in processed foods, which is stuff I already heard about in Food, Inc. But it also talks about juicing and a raw diet and other things I haven't given much thought to as of yet. There's also a recipe book that you can order from them as well (I think this is related to Tony Robbins), so I plan on buying that since it's in line with my desire to prepare healthier foods at home.

Meanwhile, I'm very much considering taking up a hard core workout routine. If something has worked for you, let me know and tell me why. I'm looking for all the information I can before deciding which path to take on the next step in my fit life journey.

So, you may be wondering, "Where's the part about your new goal?" Here it is. I'm almost hesitating to say it, probably because I still harbor fear and doubt over my ability to achieve it. But it is do-able, I know it. And I have developed a strong system of support, so I know where to go for help and am not afraid to ask for it.

So here goes: I will work to achieve a goal weight of 190 pounds. That's nearly 80 more pounds to go, and 30 more pounds than my original goal of 220. And I will strive to lose this weight by the end of the year. That gives me nine months. I will remain with the goal of weighing 227 pounds as an interim goal to be met by my birthday in August.

Now I just need to come up with the new plan...

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Save money (and calories) on snacks by planning ahead

Planning ahead can make a big impact on your bottom line
Packing a lunch is sometimes impossible. With so many cheap, convenient options on the road, who needs it anyway, right? I mean, if you're anything like me, it's tough enough to simply get up, get showered and dressed and get out the door with a cup of coffee most mornings. Besides, I have found a select few ever-present fast food joints that I can rely on to eat healthy in a pinch.

But snacking, ironically perhaps, is a bigger problem for me. Even if I do make the time to have some oatmeal or a fried egg sandwich before heading to work, that mid-morning pang in my belly will have me thinking of food long before the dreaded 10 a.m. meeting that's bound to stretch into lunchtime. And where I work, there just aren't any healthy options that I can grab during that always busy rush that seems to consume some mornings.

So if I don't want to have to rely on casing that nasty vending machine for my mid-morning snack, I know that I better think ahead. In the past, I have stocked up on my favorite snack ahead of time - 2% Greek yogurt with a bit of honey. But my brand costs about $1.70 for a single serving, and sticky fingers sometimes walk away with one or two of my stash, so it's just not feasible on my current budget to count on that five days a week at work.

Beware the evil vending machine!

Plus, I run into the same problem in the late afternoon as I do in the morning. Around 3 p.m., I wonder how I often lack the energy to finish the work day, let alone fight traffic for 30 minutes, greet two yipping dogs waiting at the door to be walked and get set to prepare a healthy dinner. So what's a guy to do?

The answer: plan ahead. If there's one thing I learned in Boy Scouts, it's be prepared. If you're interested in fit living, which I'd imagine you are since you're reading this blog, being prepared can help you stay healthy while at the same time being economical and being kind to the environment by promoting recycling and reusing, etc.,

So for healthy, pre-planned snacking, I buy the four-serving container of yogurt for around $6, which brings the per-serving cost of the stuff down by twenty cents. Not a bad start!

Then, I shave even more cents off the per-serving cost by adjusting my own personal serving size. I have always found that the serving size listed on the container is more than I need to eat as a snack. By cutting the serving size in half I not only save money - when one serving makes two I spend only seventy-five cents per serving - but I also save 85 calories, 2.25 grams of fat, while still getting 11.5 grams of protein.

To put this into perspective, by saving just one dollar per day on snacking, I'm saving $365 per year. That's a round-trip ticket to Miami. And because I'm snacking healthy, I'll look good in a bathing suit once I get there!

So at the beginning of the week I pre-portion all of my yogurt. One container makes enough yogurt cups for the first four days of the week. Then on Thursday I crack open another container and make enough portions to last through the weekend.

There are other benefits of pre-portioning my own yogurt cups, too. For one, sticky fingers stay away from my homemade yogurt cups. Plus, I find that adding my favorite local honey tastes way better than any of the pre-packaged yogurt and honey recipes I've tried. And, at the end of the day, I feel better about reusing containers so I'm doing my part to keep unnecessary trash out of landfills.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Exercise Log: Keeping things up to date

I've been exercising quite a bit lately, though I haven't been able to blog about it since I've moved to a new apartment and don't have internet service there yet. So here I will provide a summary of what's going on with me lately.


During the week, I make it to the trails in the Sandia Foothills at least two times and hike for at least two hours, or about three to four miles depending on the intensity of the route I choose. Each weekend I have been doing one strenuous hike of at least three hours, or about five miles. In addition, I have begun walking my dogs between two to three miles daily around my new neighborhood.

Strength Training

I have been doing my medicine ball exercises about two times per week lately. I plan on upping this to three times per week doing the full workout described in a previous post. As I modify this workout to add more sets of varied excercises I will post that here.

So while I may not be posting daily about my fitness routine, I will try to keep this blog up to date as I make changes, adding or deleting activities to my exercise routine. I am also going to begin posting more exercise videos to YouTube in coming weeks.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Exercise Log: Thursday, 3-15-12

Atop the U-mound in the Sandia Mountain Foothills
Today after work I headed to the Copper Trail Head in the Sandia Mountain Foothills for a three-mile hike. I hiked at a vigorous pace, even on the hills, and I could feel my heart pounding. In all, I hiked for about 100 minutes, minus about 10 minutes for a break atop the U-Mound to take some pictures (including the one posted here).

According to the Self Magazine Exercise Calculator, which calculates calories burned using a scientific matrix that takes into account the activity, intensity and individual's weight. I burned about 1,000 calories. Not bad! Tomorrow, I plan on getting up early to get in a short medicine ball workout before work. Then, I think I'll try to get in a six-mile hike around the volcanoes on the west mesa in the evening. It feels good to be back on track!

Learning to love myself - I don't want to miss a thing!

At my first meeting with my new life coach, I told Mary Beth about the question that triggered the change in attitude and direction that led to such a significant transformation in me over the past few years. I went from lathargic non-chelance to intense focus and commitment with regard to my health, and it was all because of the blunt, powerful question from a stranger: "Do you respect yourself?"

The answer to that question now is yes. At that time, however, I had never considered the question of respect as being relevant to one's self. I had always had trouble respecting my elders. I didn't respect my things - my step-father made sure to remind me of that every time I broke something of mine or of his. But still, I had applied my understanding of respect to the point of being aware that, no, I didn't respect my elders andm, no, I didn't respect things. My problem all along, it would turn out, was that I couldn't respect anyone or anything outwardly until I had turned the question of respect squarely onto Brian.

The interesting thing about life coaching is that every answer leads to another question. So quickly she shifted the point of this history of mine into a question about where I am now. Through a questionnaire I had filled out prior to our first meeting, she knew that I was grappling with the question of love in my life. So just as I was feeling proud of the accomplishment of having dealt with self respect in a real enough way to make significant change in my life, she targeted the one thing I had inadvertantly revealed to her was perhaps my biggest saboteur - my murky understanding of love.

What is love? How could I not have an answer for this? I'm the first one to belt out any emotional love song that comes on the radio. In fact, my favorite artists during my childhood were the likes of Air Supply, Barry Manilow, REO Speedwagon and all the other soft rock gods of the late 70s. Still, despite my inclination for all things romantic, I have never had a relationship last more than a year or two - and upon honest reflection, even though I had felt that I was in love with someone no less than six times in my adult life I still feel that true love is now and will ever remain an elusive desire for me.

I revealed to my coach my honest belief that true love lasts forever. And looking back on the men I thought I once loved, I realized that one or two of those loves were really nothing more than lust. A couple of others could have bordered somewhere on love, I thought, but upon reflection I realized I was never, in fact, "in" love with them. And one, with whom I feel I came the closest to realizing true love, has left me to thinking that perhaps even our love was not real either.

Just as I was close to dwelling on this question to the point of nostalgia, my coach redirected me once again, challenging me to analyze love in a different way - not as a reflection of some relationship that may or may not have been based in something I considered to be "true love" but rather as something that exists and can be understood fully by looking within my own heart.

So she gave me homework: write a blog post about what it means to love yourself.

Wow. Now that's a tough one. Funny enough, a post from earlier this week (see Overcoming fear and learning to walk/run in truth) had me citing a quote from one of my all time favorite entertainers, Ru Paul. In fact, each week at the conclusion of the hit Logo Network show, Ru Paul's Drag Race, Ru states it plainly: "If you don't love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else!?!"

Truer words have never been spoken. But where does that leave me? Sure, I have developed self respect, but what is self love? My coach suggested I listen to some of my favorite love songs on the radio and imagine the lyrics directed from me, to me. So on my commute from Albuquerque to Rio Rancho yesterday, I did just that.

I wasn't being intentional about which song I would consider for myself. Instead, the first song that reminded me of my homework is the one that I chose to see how it applied to the way I feel about myself. The song was Aerosmith's "I don't want to miss a thing".

The first stanze really hit me:
I could stay awake just to hear you breathing
Watch you smile while you are sleeping
While you're far away and dreaming
I could spend my life in this sweet surrender
I could stay lost in this moment forever
Where every moment spent with you is a moment I treasure
At first, it was a funny thought, me lying next to myself in bed, watching myself sleeping. But then the part about dreaming really struck me. I dream a lot, and my dreams are very vivid. I often dream of interacting with other people, usually in disjointed but fulfilling ways. Sometimes the dreams are an extension of what's happening in my daily life. But more often, they reflect the things that I want to be true. And lately, they have been about expressing my love to someone who no longer wants to be the object of my love.
After those dreams, I wake up feeling lonely, empty. But if I were there watching me sleep, treasuring that time with myself, then perhaps I wouldn't feel so bad. Maybe I would wake from that bad dream and find myself smiling, knowing what had just gone on inside my head and reaching out to embrace me to take away all of those feelings of inadequacy.
Then, as the song moved on, I was struck by this:
I don't want to miss one smile
I don't want to miss one kiss
I just want to be with you
Right here with you, just like this
I just want to hold you close
Feel your heart so close to mine
And just stay here in this moment
For all the rest of time Yeah yeah yeah
I felt silly at first for the images that went through my mind. You know how you always want to be close to someone, so close that you can feel their heartbeat, feel their breath on your neck? It makes you feel whole, and okay with whatever junk might be going on outside of that embrace. Well, I actually pictured myself melting into myself, the way I'd always wanted to with another human being.
But this melting into myself didn't seem as implausable and metaphorical as two humans melting into one. In fact, I realized that it was a union that didn't need to be forced. My heart is here, always with me, always close, always in this moment with me. And it will be this way for the rest of time. Now that's something that can't be said even of the strongest love between two humans.

Even true love can be broken, by time, by distance, by fear, and even by other forces beyond the immediate control of those who are in love. But my heart can never be severed from me, though sometimes I may wish to, especially during times of great sorrow and loss, like when I lost my grandparents to death at old age, or when I lost my "true love" to the rigors of life.
So there it is. I suppose the answer to the question of what it means to love yourself is this: Self love is knowing that you are the one and only being on this planet that will remain with you and be only yours for the rest of time. It is recognizing that your heartbeat is to be treasured and that your mind is to be trusted. True love is being true to you. It is caring for yourself in all the choices you make. In short, it is being lost in every moment - and making every moment a moment to treasure.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Exercise Log: Wednesday, 3-14-12

For a while now, I haven't had a gym membership, so I've been focusing primarily on my outdoor activities like hiking (and more recently running) for fitness. But now it's time to get back to it. To keep myself accountable I will be logging my exercise here on my blog. My goal is to exercise every day, which should include at least four days a week of the following routine, which is what I did tonight. It only took about 30 minutes, including breaks. I've logged it here in the order in which I completed each set:

Time: 7 p.m.
Place: Bedroom
Equipment: 8-pound medicine ball, full length mirror and a soft surface (in this case, a rug)


Medball Big Circles - 12 in each direction
Medball Woodchopper - 20 (click the link for sample video)
Medball Squat to Press - 20
Medball Standing Russian Twist - 20
Push ups - 10
Plank - 2 sets/20 seconds each

5-minute break

Medball Big Circles - 12 in each direction
Medball Woodchopper - 20
Medball Squat to Press - 20
Medball Standing Russian Twist - 20
Push ups - 10
Plank - 2 sets/20 seconds each

5-minute break

Medball Big Circles - 12 in each direction
Medball Woodchopper - 20
Medball Squat to Press - 20
Medball Standing Russian Twist - 20
Push ups - 10
Plank - 2 sets/20 seconds each

5-minute break

Medball Big Circles - 12 in each direction
Medball Woodchopper - 20
Medball Squat to Press - 20
Medball Standing Russian Twist - 20
Push ups - 10
Plank - 2 sets/20 seconds each

*For instructions on the medicine ball exercises, check out the Men's Health Ultimate Medicine Ball Workout (a.k.a. The Tar Heels Workout). I only do four of the 10 exercises listed as part of this workout on a regular basis, but my goal is to work up to doing more. When I first started working out a year and a half ago I was doing the first six on a regular basis.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Coming clean about my current relationship with food

It is my decisions, not cookies
that will determine my destiny!
For some time now my blog has been focused on my successes while downplaying my struggles. I've been hiking up a storm, have recently taken up running in organized 5K events, and I generally have an upbeat, positive outlook on my progress. Still, my weight has been stuck around 270 for nearly a year now, and there's one very simple reason why: I tend to reward my good behavior, and recently, I have been soothing a broken heart with sweets.

Ice cream, candy, chocolate and cookies all call to me in both times of celebration and times of loss. Today, I have been feeling great about all the exercise I've been getting, and my diet has been fairly good lately, but I've also been feeling a bit sorry for myself for various reasons. This made me doubly vulnerable to those cute little Girl Scouts who were outside the Walgreen's just now, where I went to buy some UV protection I'll need for the killer hike I'll be setting out on sometime in the next few minutes.

It's literally a quarter mile from the Walgreen's to the house, and in the less than five minutes it took me to drive up the the hill I'd finished off an entire sleeve of Thin Mints. I remember opening the box in the car thinking to myself, I'll just have two. That's 80 calories and a perfectly fine snack. But two turned into four, and four quickly morphed into eight. Before I knew it I convinced myself that the entire sleeve wouldn't hurt; After all, I'm about to burn like a million calories this afternoon, right?

Oh well, so there you have it. That's where I am right now, and to tell you the truth, it couldn't be any farther away from where I want to be than when I was at 420 pounds just a couple of years ago. I have a goal: to lose at least 42 pounds by the end of the year. And there's no way I'll even make a dent in that goal if I don't get my eating under control.

This is obviously emotional eating, a problem I've dealt with in the past. I think it's time to re-visit a book that helped me curb my emotional eating back then. It's called Breaking Free from Emotional Eating, by Geneen Roth. I'm sure I can break free again. The first step is admitting that I have a problem. The next step is acting to overcome it. And if anyone can do this, I sure as hell can. And I will!!!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Two finish lines crossed - now it's time to train!

Running in the Bosque during my second 5K
I ran my second 5K this morning - the Run for the Children of Albuquerque, for the UNM Children's Psychiatric Hospital. My gun time, at 38:50, was 12 seconds off from last week. But considering that I still haven't started officially training I wasn't expecting to improve on my time. Again, I just wanted to finish the race.

Last week after running my first race I decided I would commit to completing a total of five 5K races this spring, all the while training for a 10K race in May. Now, with two 5Ks down, I realize that I actually do like running, so I'm going to begin my official 10K training this week.

Daylight savings time begins in the morning, and the weather will be warming steadily from here on out, so needless to say I'm psyched! This will give me an extra hour of sunlight and create an opportunity for me to get out and enjoy outdoors fitness during the week. I'll keep hiking on the weekends, but during the week I'll plan on running between 20 minutes and 45 minutes each evening as soon as I get home from work.

I'll write more about my training plan later. I just wanted to post to my blog quickly while I'm still elated from crossing the finish line! Also, I should note here that I'm considering organizing my own 5K, to raise money for a charity dedicated to fighting childhood obesity. I'll have more on that later, too. (If you have any suggestions for a charity to align with, please let me know!)

In any case, I want to thank everyone who inspires me to continue on with my fitness journey. You know who you are...and if you're not sure, well, if you're reading this blog then it definitely is you! *hugs*

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Plan to keep on running, training for a 10K

The 5K I ran on Saturday was so liberating and uplifting to my spirit that I have already decided to continue running to see what further health and wellness benefits will come from it. Then, on May 6, I plan to run a 10K in memory of my grandmother, who passed away May 7, 2009.

Working up to that event - the 10K Run for the Zoo - I want to train and participate in at least five other 5K events. Here is what I have planned for the next two months:

SAT, MARCH 4 @ 9 AM: EWB-UNM 5K River Run (DONE)

SAT, MARCH 10 @ 9 AM: 5K Run for the Children of Albuquerque

SUN, MARCH 18, @ 8:30 AM: NM Shamrock Shuffle 5K, Rio Rancho Aquatic Center

SUN, APRIL 1 @ 8 AM: 8th Annual Los Lunas Police Department Cops for Kids 5K

SAT, APRIL 14 @ 9 AM: Ellen Reavis Race for Autism 5K

SUN, MAY 6 @ 8:30 AM: Run for the Zoo 10K

During this time I also plan to continue with resistance training a few days per week and hiking at least one day each weekend. I know this is a pretty rigorous schedule, but I think it's the best way for me to maintain balance in my life at the moment while also moving forward with my weight loss and fitness journey.

I realize my body may not be ready for this ambitious schedule, so I'm going to be cautious not to overdo it. But I know that without this plan, my 10K goal could never be realized. Also, with that said, I don't have a specific weight loss goal for the May 6 run, but I'm hoping to shed at least five pounds per month for the next two months. Running the 10K at 260 pounds instead of my current 270 pounds will definitely be good for my joints!

Wish me luck! Well, luck will really have nothing to do with it. Instead, wish me energy, dedication and continued passion for life! (And I'll wish the same for you!)

Monday, March 5, 2012

Overcoming fear and willing to walk/run in truth

Alone in the Rio Grande Bosque during my first 5K
Photo: Katherine Belvin, EWB-UNM
I did it! On Saturday, March 3, I completed my first 5K race with a respectable time! Well, I think it's respectable. And if it isn't to anyone else, it sure as hell is to me!

In a field of 64 competitors, I placed 60th with a gun time of 38 minutes and 38 seconds in the Engineers Without Borders-University of New Mexico 5K River Run. I thought that was pretty cool, considering I was 38 years old when I first got serious with my fitness journey. The pace of 12 minutes and 26 seconds per mile is alright by me, too. I don't really know, though, since I don't have any prior running experience to compare it to.

Happiness is knowing you're not alone even when you are!
Photo: Katherine Belvin, EWB-UNM
Running this 5K has shifted my mindset about running. Before, I was afraid to run, even if no one was looking. I think primarily I was afraid that "true runners" would look at me and laugh, judge me for my size or the way my belly jiggled as I jogged. But even more, I was afraid my knees or ankles would just give out under me. I was afraid I'd run out of breath and collapse right there mid-trail.

But as I said in my previous post, I buy into the Green Lantern mantra that fear is the enemy of will. And if we banish fear, will prevails. So following the advice of a wise younger runner, I started off slowly and finished strong. And I was chanting "I will, I will, I will, I will, I will", as I jogged the final third of the race and crossed the finish line in style.

I've been inspired a lot lately by Green Lantern and my other Justice League heroes. But besides these fictional characters, I am also inspired by someone very real. In fact, it is the living example of someone who I respect and love deeply that made me believe that completing this fast-fleshed-out goal was possible. This person is a dedicated runner who has supported my fitness journey in ways I would need much more room than a simple blog entry to highlight.

This person taught me how to cook and prepare healthy meals in advance, so I wouldn't have to rely on prepackaged junk. He taught me to be kind to myself and others I meet along the way. Through him I am learning the importance of being true to myself, and to not fear unexpected consequences but rather deal with them as they come. And I am learning through our relationship that not even his love for me is more crucial to my success than my own love for myself. Because, as our pal Ru Paul says, "If you can't love yourself, how the hell are you gonna love somebody else? Can I get an amen!" Amen!

Mostly, though, he has taught me that I should learn to look up from my feet from time to time, to notice others traveling alongside me and the path that they are on. Because if I don't, I could lose footing and end up hurting those I'm traveling with, and miss out on walking with their love.

Anyway, I'm still working on unconditionally loving myself. Part of my process is overcoming fears and learning to walk in truth at all times. This process is a long road that will take some seriously reflective time to  fully travel. And while I hope I will not find myself alone at road's end, if I do, I will still be content. Because I know that what really matters is how I traveled the road and that I got better at walking every step of the way.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Breaking out of my box to run a 5K!

In the words of the Fresh Prince, my life recently got flipped, turned upside down. I won't go into it here, but let's just say something very unexpected and unfortunate happened that threw me off my axis, and I haven't been able to focus on personal fitness for a while now. In fact, for the entire month of February, I haven't done any hiking, and I've only been to the gym a handful of times. But tomorrow all that changes. I'm doing something drastic to get my fitness psyche back in alignment with my goals - I'm challenging myself to complete a 5K race.

This is so far out of my comfort zone that it almost seems implausible. But in fact, I'm doing it. I'm going to finish all 3.1 miles of the Engineers Without Borders UNM River Run tomorrow even if I have to crawl over the finish line.

You may be thinking to yourself, "What's the big deal? It's not a marathon or anything". True enough. But consider this. Throughout my entire weight loss journey, which has seen me lose more than 150 pounds and get into the best shape of my life, I have not run more than maybe a mile or two at any given time. I've walked tons. In fact I was hiking 20 miles per week throughout the Fall 2011 and into the first month of January 2012. But I've avoided running like the plague.

First of all, I was a bit of a gym nut for the first major fitness phase of my program, and I absolutely got bored out of my mind whenever I'd step foot on a treadmill. A rat in a cage is what I felt like. I could handle an hour or so of resistance training or medball exercises, but that was because it involved frequent breaks to people watch and think. But being on a treadmill was like medicine, and not the tasty grape kind my mom would give me whenever I was faking sick. (I wasn't a sickly child, so I had to get my days off where I could!)

Anyway, tomorrow I'm starting cold turkey (if that makes sense). I know I could walk this thing easily, but I'm challenging myself to at least do intervals, a minute or so of running followed by a minute or so of walking, and so on.

I'm fully aware the rest of the crowd will likely be dressed in full running drag, but I'm going as I am. I'm wearing my old Asics cross trainers, a pair of army shorts, one of the moisture-wicking long sleeve shirts I use for hiking, and the 5K sponsors t-shirt. Yep, I'll stick out as the obese underdog in a field of true runners.

I respect the true runners for their dedication, and I had thought about trying to dress like them to fit in. But for one thing, I'm broke and could barely afford the race's entrance fee. And for another thing, it just wouldn't be right. Then I'd be a poser. And I'm really just a guy looking to compete with himself, not others, to do something different and achieve something new.

I know that even if this is the only run I ever participate in it will be a box-breaking accomplishment that will change my perspective on training and have a positive impact on me forever. Still, I'm aware that my optimism and enthusiasm may belie just a bit of anxiety and fear. But as Green Lantern says, "Fear is the enemy of will. Will is what makes you take action. Fear is what stops you and makes you weak. You must ignore your fear. When you’re afraid, you can’t act."