Where is my pull-up bar?

I had my best run in months last night in the 97 degree heat, and after my run and my cool-down dog walk, I jumped into the pool. It was very refreshing, and as I cooled off, I decided to do some water-assisted pull ups on the side of the pool. There is a portion of our pool that sits higher than the rest for a hot tub, so it requires a person to be almost completely out of the water if doing a pull up. It was hard, and I held myself up a few times until my arms shook against my weight. I’m glad I did it, because I finally was able to get some pull up work in, but it kept me from installing the actual pull up bar in our gym.

Since last night’s run took a lot out of me (the Garmin Felix 3 HR that I wear advised me to have a recovery period of 72 hours!), I will install the pull up bar tonight and hopefully be motivated enough to do some work on it. I will also do some leg lifts and maybe pull the kettle bells out for some work.

I have three weeks until my assessment for the SFAB. I am confident that I can easily complete the APFT and rucking portions, but the pull-ups and obstacle course will be a challenge (mostly due to my lack of good upper-body strength). I wish I had more time to work up to this assessment, but it is what it is. It’s a good thing that I enjoy a challenge.

Slowly Building

Losing weight isn’t a quick process (well, unless you go under the knife, but I don’t recommend that for anyone so…). Neither is getting fit. I had to be patient and persevere to achieve the weight loss goals I had set for myself, and the same is holding true for my fitness goals. I know I won’t reach my ultimate fitness goals by the first weekend in August, but I am doing what I can to be as far along in the process as possible.

I had to take four weeks off from running. The first two were taken off while I was fighting a bad head cold and taking Sudafed. My cousin, a PA, advised against any strenuous cardio exercise while taking the medicine. Then, I had two weeks of annual training (AT) in the National Guard. Those days were long and hard, but nowhere near the level of physical activity I usually engage in on my regular cardio days. So, the net result was no running for a solid month.

Ugh.

Getting back into it last week was tough. I could only do 2 miles before burning out. As for my run times? Atrocious. Let’s not even go there. But, by the third run, I was able to go 2.25 miles and at a decent pace. Last night I went 2.5 miles, and while the pace was very slow, the temperature was 97 degrees, so the workout was actually very hard and good. I knew I was going past 2 miles, so I didn’t run my 2-mile APFT pace. I was satisfied that with over three weeks left to go, I’m making the progress I want to see. I’m not fast enough yet, but I’m laying the foundation to get there.

Taking my time and being careful goes against everything I was trained for as a Marine. In the Corps, it’s all, “GO-GO-GO; GIVE 110%!” Well, if I were to do that at this point in my training, I would exercise to failure and be unable to continue for days. I had to think back to boot camp and realize that even then, at MCRD San Diego, the process was a slow but steady increase in distance and pace. We didn’t start Phase 1 at a 6 minute/mile pace. We started slow. Painfully slow. Even for me, at the time, the runs were very easy. And they stayed easy until the very last PFT we took. That slow and steady progress allowed me to continue to function normally and without pain in my muscles or joints because we were building reasonably.

Lots of people returning to fitness after long absences try to re-enter the process at the point they left off. If you take a week-long break, this will be possible, albeit a little difficult for the first few workouts. The longer your absence, the lower your entry level needs to be. My wife had admonished me numerous times leading up to my re-entry into my fitness regimen to be careful, to be slow, and to be methodical about how I plan my training. I heard her, and I am following her advice.

Today, my shins feel good. My shoulders and arms feel a bit worked from my push ups, but they are not spaghetti arms. Tonight, I will begin work on my pull ups (FINALLY!) and I will work my core. I will adhere to the same principles as I have been for my runs: slow and steady with regular increases and no workouts to failure.

So, right now I’m slow, but I won’t stay that way. I continue to push myself, but not to failure or absolute exhaustion. Making progress, good solid progress, doesn’t require that. All it requires is time, repetition, and effort.

Unintended Day of Rest

Yesterday, I had plans to install my pull up bar and to do some exercises, but I had soreness in my shins from the run on Sunday and I generally felt somewhat exhausted, so I skipped it. It’s not the end of the world: I will get to my run again tonight, and I will also install my pull up bar and get some work in on it.

Life comes at you pretty fast sometimes, and it’s important to prioritize what’s right. Your body will give you feedback, and it’s important for you to listen to it. I could have pushed things last night, and maybe I would have been alright. But in my experience, running or working out when I either have shin pain or I’m exhausted is asking for injuries. An injury is something I cannot afford right now.

So, I played it safe. And I’m glad I did.

I do feel much better today, and my shins are 99% back to being pain-free. I am actually looking forward to tonight’s run, and some time in the gym working on pull ups. I might even do some heavy core work. Oh, and I get to buy some free weights, so that’ll be fun, too!

52

This past Friday, I turned 52 years old. Four years ago, I weighed over 320 lbs and had just embarked on a journey that would lead me to losing over 150 lbs and being able to join the Army National Guard after leaving active duty in the Marine Corps 20 years prior. I never imagined four years ago that I’d be as successful as I was (though I had hoped!), and I never thought for a moment, even after deciding to lose the weight, that I’d be exercising daily. Never in my wildest dreams, even a month ago, did I think I’d be working toward a goal of passing an assessment for the SFAB.

Yet, here I am. An old guy working his butt off to make it into the Security Force Advisory Brigade, to be able to prove to the officers and to his peers, that he’s worthy of being there, not only in mind, but in body.

My weight held well after a weekend of celebrations: the weight I did gain is the water retention from alcohol and sugar consumption that will go away by Tuesday or Wednesday, the latest. Tonight after work, I will be installing the pull up bar that arrived late last week so that I can begin my 3x day routine that will hopefully get me close to 10 pull ups by the first weekend in August. I’ve seen some solid gains in my run times, while my push ups are already where they need to be (so I’ll continue to work at them to get well beyond what’s required of me). Sit ups? I haven’t yet begun the work on those. That is my weak area, and I worry about working hard at them due to the back pain I always sustain whenever I try to do them. I have decided to work on my core through leg lifts and other exercises involving planks, but at some point, I need to start doing sit ups; sooner, rather than later. They may begin tonight.

As for yesterday’s run, it was good enough to get me 70 points on the APFT had I taken it yesterday. I could have pushed it harder, but since it was just a conditioning run, I’m happy with the results. I feel my shins this morning, and they’re a little sore, but that’s okay. It’s a day off from running today, and they should be ready for a comfortable run tomorrow.

Do I feel older? Oddly, no. I still feel better today than I did at 32. Honestly. A lot of it has to do with the flexibility that comes with being thinner, but a lot of it also comes from the exercise I’ve been doing. I’m not fitness expert, and I’m not a gym rat. While I’m starting a 6x a week regimen today (well, technically, it started yesterday), thus far in my health journey, I’ve been a 3x a week exercise person (and that’s being generous for the past year). Even with very moderate exercise and a good diet, I feel younger than I have in 20 years, and that’s no exaggeration or hyperbole. It’s the truth.

When I was 48, I thought that my health was in decline and that life was only going to get harder and harder physically due to failing health. I felt tired and sluggish, and I thought things were only going to get worse. What I didn’t realize at the time that what I was feeling wasn’t age, but a lack of exercise and a horrible diet. Once I reversed those two things, it reversed my feeling tired, weak, and sore. Life improved dramatically in ways I never imaged could be impacted by a diet and some exercise. My life has transformed completely into the best version of me that’s ever been.

At 52, life is still exciting for me. I feel up to the challenge, and up to the tasks ahead of me. It’s not outstanding genetics or luck that got me here. It was discipline, perseverance, and motivation. It was a desire to improve my health, and my life. It was a rejection of surrendering to a life sentence through over-eating and a sedentary lifestyle. If you’re on the fence about eating better or getting some exercise, I implore you to give it a shot. No, it’s not easy. Nothing worthwhile ever is. But the results you will get within the first month will be amazing, and will change your life like it did mine. Just give it an honest shot and put all your effort into it. You have to want good health like you want air when you’ve been under water for 30 seconds. You have to want it so badly that nothing can get between you and your goal. You can do this. If I can, anyone can.

Why can’t I take this weight off?!

I rarely reblog posts, but this one is spot-on. It summarizes very eloquently everything I’ve been saying for the past four years. This is all GREAT advice!

Life...Take 2

I hear this a lot.  “I am working out. I am eating healthier. I think I am doing all the right things but I just can’t seem to lose the weight”.  I hear this from people who are new to their fitness journey and equally from people who have lost a significant amount of weight but are struggling to lose those last ten or so pounds.  My very first “client” aka. friend of mine who has joined me in doing the same workout programs I do as well as drinking the daily superfood shakes has to date lost 26 pounds!  Pretty amazing right?? He still, however, would like to lose another 10 but has been struggling to do so.  This is not an unusual problem or something unique to him by any means.  This happens quite a bit to people even despite having the best of intentions!  And in his…

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Getting Extra Fit

Yesterday, I started a new plan for me to get extra-fit in five weeks. Why? Because I’ve been selected to join the Security Forces Advisor Brigade, also known as SFAB. It’s a special unit in the Army that advises and trains the militaries of allied nations, and I will be specializing in fire direction control for field artillery. Even though I’ve been selected to join this organization, I have to attend two assessments, both of which not only test my knowledge, but my physical ability to perform the duties of an advisor.

To that end, I’ve begun daily workouts that will have me exercising six days a week, sometimes twice a day. I’m taking it easy in the beginning: I started with push ups in the morning and in the afternoon, I did more push ups and a two-mile run. It was my first run in a month due to my severe head cold followed by two weeks in the field during my annual training for the National Guard, and it showed. While my first mile was an okay time, the second mile was abysmal. I felt nearly spent, so I concluded the run at the 2-mile mark, a first for me in three years. However, I know I’m in this for the long-haul, so I decided to not push it. I am glad I did. I feel okay afterward with a slight muscle burn but nothing hurt. I will continue with some more exercise today after work (I did more push ups this morning prior to my morning routine), likely some weights and crunches/leg lifts.

As for my weight, I hit my first goal of 176 lbs yesterday. This morning, the scale rewarded me with the same reading, and I’m now onto my final goal of 165 lbs. I should be there within two months, but with all this extra exercise, there’s a chance I’ll get there sooner. I already have noticed my waist getting smaller much quicker than I expected, and I’m fitting into my size small shirts again.

I’ll be 52 this week, and going to the SFAB will be no small feat. It will require a level of physical fitness I haven’t had to attain since being an active duty U.S. Marine. It’s going to be hard at my age, but I’m determined to not only see it through, but to maintain it and continue to be the example to the younger guys (which practically means just about everyone I work around or with in the military). I never want them to think I am not pulling my weight, or that I’m using my age as a crutch to get out of anything.

I promised myself before I joined the National Guard that if I were unable to physically perform my duties that I would hang it up and leave. I’m not quite there yet; frankly, I’m not even close. I will fight tooth and nail to stay fit and to continue to lead and inspire my soldiers. Yesterday just started the latest chapter. I can’t wait to see how much more fit I am at the end of this five-week period.

Back from Annual Training and the End of my 4th Whole30!

Yesterday was the end of my two-weeks of annual training in the National Guard, and I finished my fourth Whole30 last Tuesday. That’s right; I was actually doing Whole30 while in a field environment while serving as a Field Artillery Fire Direction Control section chief. It was actually much easier than I thought it would be thanks to Epic bars, RXBars, nuts, jerky, and meat sticks. I also had help from bacon and eggs in the morning that were provided by our cooks as well as the occasional Whole30-compliant dinner (steak, roast beef).

The end result was a loss of over an inch and a half from my waist as well as 14 lbs lost. I am super-excited about that, and I can feel the results in my body and in the mental clarity it has given me. Another thing I didn’t expect was how well I was able to function while sleep-deprived. My wife told me she was amazed I was able to do so well considering how little sleep I had; I hadn’t even considered that. I was just operating normally, but looking back, I had anywhere between 3-6 hours a night for the duration of the training. That’s really not a lot.

The weather was very hot (some record highs were recorded while we were out there) and we weathered two severe storms in our little tents, but we survived, and beyond that, my section did admirably. I can’t be any more proud of my section; they not only did their jobs well, but excelled at every task they were given and did things that no-one had done in this battalion in over a decade. That’s amazing!

I am happy to be back and eating Paleo food, although I’m still being very careful with the sugar/carb allowances. I did have alcohol a few times already since returning from the field on Thursday afternoon, but fortunately, it’s been small amounts, and there haven’t been any effects on my weight (which I monitor daily).

One big piece of news: I’ve been accepted to a special unit in the National Guard which requires me to do a whole lot of exercise, and I’ll be starting that today. More running, much more upper-body strength training, and a lot of endurance training, but the end result will be a much more fit PaleoMarine (me!). It’s going to be a lot fo work, but I’m looking forward to having a goal and working toward it. I also look forward to the results and gains.