Getting Back on Track

As you may have noticed, I haven’t posted here in a while. I have been depressed for the past few weeks culminating in not wanting to get out of bed yesterday morning. I literally laid in bed and even pulled the covers over my head and wished I could just stay in bed forever. It’s been a long time since I actually felt depression like that. I thought about the source, and it came back to the fact that I’ve been unable to exercise and I’ve been gaining weight due to the holiday season and eating and drinking more than usual.

The Renaissance Festival: so much tasty food and drink.

I could have laid in bed. I could have allowed myself to continue to wallow in that depression, as comfortable as it can be. The thing I never have seen mentioned about depression about the strange comfort the feeling has. However, I knew that I needed to snap out of it, yet I found myself frozen under my covers. I tried and tried, until finally, my legs moved, and I was able to get them out from under the covers and onto the floor. Step one was complete. The rest came much more easily, and with each successive step, it got easier.

Of course, seeing myself in the mirror only made me second-guess the decision to get up: I looked bloated. A weekend of bad food decisions left me literally bloating with water retention, and I could see it in my gut and in my face. It made me angry. And sad. And I felt the initial pangs of defeat. But I shook it off and continued with my day, determined to do some form of exercise. Something.

I worked all day thinking about it. I decided that even though my shoulder is still sore (but healing, finally), and the doctor told me no running or weightlifting, I’d ride the stationary bike in my gym. After a dentist appointment, I got home, changed into my workout clothes, and hit the bike. For 40 minutes, I pedaled and sweated while watching YouTube videos of vehicle maintenance. My legs were sore, but not as sore as I thought they’d be. I sweat a lot; more than I had in weeks. Maybe even months.

It was glorious.

After my shower, I sat in my home office at my computer, and it felt great. A huge burden was lifted off my shoulders: I was finally back in the game. I had eaten all home-made meals, and Sherry told me that everything we ate that day was even Whole30 compliant. Although I’m not on an official Whole30 right now, I’m sticking to the Whole30 principles for the foreseeable future. Sure, there will be the occasional holiday meal here and there, but otherwise, it’s 100% W30 food for me.

I need to get back to my “Fighting weight.” I need to get back into great physical condition to get through some Army schools next year. I need to recover from these stupid injuries and remember to be more careful during activities in the future. But I got through the worst of it yesterday, and I feel like I have momentum now, even if it’s just a day’s worth.

To me, the hardest part of doing anything involving delayed gratification or great effort is the first step. Yesterday morning, it was literally the very first step of the day that was the hardest for me. It took a lot of effort, but once I got through that first step, the second step came more easily. And then the third, and so on. I know how difficult it can be emotionally when you don’t look or feel the way you want to. I know it all too well. And I know how comfortable it is to not do anything while also hating the fact you’re not doing anything. But trust this: you will feel so much better when you become an active participant in your health and fitness. The sense of accomplishment for every little victory will fuel your further successes. Just remember to look for those victories all over and not just on a scale.

Never Surrender

Last night after work, I was able to get my second cardio workout in, and I feel pretty good this morning. My first stationary cycle workout was on Tuesday, and I kept things very light. I did the easiest setting not because I didn’t think I was strong enough, but because I was testing my Achille’s heel. Since that went well for 30 minutes, I figured I’d give a real workout a try last night, and it went great!

As for difficulty, I started about half-way up, at a setting of 9 on my Life Cycle. I did the 2 minute warm-up followed by a 30 minute fast and steady ride. I was able to keep my heart rate at around 150 bpm, which is pretty good. I then did a 5 minute post-workout cool down.

Were my legs all wobbly? Surprisingly, no. They actually felt good, albeit tired. I definitely worked my legs, but most importantly, I got a good sweat going for the first time in a long time. I longingly looked at my free weights, though, as I horribly miss being able to lift right now due to the shoulder injury that seems to be lingering far longer than I’d expected. I’m getting concerned that a doctor’s visit is in my near future.

As for running, I will be hitting the road on Monday. Well, either the road or the treadmill depending on the weather. Although my heel still aches every now and then, I’m beginning to think that it’s due to a lack of stretching and exercising. I think once I get back into running (slowly at first, of course!), that it will actually help heal the heel. (lol) I’ve been doing a lot of reading about the Achille’s heel, and it’s complicated to say the least, but one constant I’m finding is that stretching it post-injury is important, and I wasn’t doing a good job of that while it was healing. Now it’s stiff, and that stiffness is what’s causing the aching. I’ve been stretching it for the past week and a half, and I feel like it’s helping a lot. I’ve had to fastest dissipation of pain in that time as compared to the entire healing time thus far.

So, I guess the good news is that I’m close to getting back on the road with running! The also good news is that the stationary cycle is a viable way to burn some calories and to get the heart beating. As for lifting: not so much good news there, but I’m hopeful that I can get back to lifting within a week or two so I don’t lose too much progress.

The most important thing in all this is that regardless of the injury I’m dealing with, I keep finding ways to exercise. Couldn’t run? I lifted weights. Couldn’t lift weights? I rode the stationary cycle. Fitness is a priority in my life now, and it means more to me now than it ever has. The benefits, both psychological and physical, are too great in my life now to overlook. As I get closer to my expiration date, I need to make sure I do whatever I can to ensure that my quality of life remains as high for as long as possible. I don’t want to be over 60 and tied to a chair because I’m physically unfit. I don’t want to miss out on playing with grandchildren because I’m physically unable. I want to be able to pester and annoy my wife by chasing her around the kitchen as long as I can, and I believe that it’s through a good diet and exercise that I can give that my best shot.

Don’t ever give up. Things may seem difficult, and it may appear that your avenues of approach are blocked, but that’s when you need to think outside the box and come up with a solution and a plan to execute. As a Marine, we are taught adapt, improvise, and overcome. When applied to my fitness, it’s led me to being able to stay in shape despite multiple injuries. Don’t let anything stop you. Excuses are easy. Solutions are hard. That’s why we admire heroes who never gave up and accomplished their goals.

You Only Die Once

But you live every day. I hate hearing, “You only live once.” I have lived many adventures in my 52 years, and I feel that I have as many more left in me. I try to take on as many challenges as I can, and while I sometimes bite off more than I can chew (and fall on my shoulder playing kick ball at work!), more often than not, the experience is rewarding and reminded me that I was alive and living my best life.

Sherry and I at an outdoor lunch this past weekend.

You hear that all the time: “Live your best life.” But what does that mean? Yesterday, Sherry and I were talking about how much I have changed since we met. She said she likes the new version of me better, although she did love the old me. I thought about it a lot after we were done talking about it, and how much not only I have changed physically, but how much I have changed mentally.

I am a happier person overall, now. Sherry told me I used to beat myself up a lot, mostly due to my poor health and lack of fitness. I used to be sad and depressed a lot because of my rapidly declining health. Now, I get sad when I can’t workout, or if I have to skip a session either in the gym or a run. I feel more able to take on any challenge, even if it’s not physical.

I have a better outlook on things in general. I don’t complain as much, I’m more patient, and I find myself actually looking forward to doing things like biking, hiking, and going on little adventures with my wife. We both are happy with eating healthy foods, and actually have trouble with eating non-Paleo foods. Just last night, she got a little mad at me for offering her some onion rings that were served with my steak

Living my best life is taking care of my body through the food I eat and by getting exercise. Living my best life is being open to new experiences, new places, and new activities. Living my best life is sharing those experiences with the people I love, and who mean a lot to me. I feel that I am now, finally, able to live my best life after being a back-seat driver. I’m now in control, and the rewards have been amazing.

Stationary Cycle Win

Yesterday after work, I finally got a chance to get on the stationary bicycle in my gym. I’ve been apprehensive to try anything that would work my ankle due to the Achilles heel injury, but since I had no pain yesterday on it, I figured I’d give it a shot. I’m glad I did.

I was able to cycle for 34 minutes, and although it was at the easiest setting, I had no pain at all. This morning, I feel great, and my legs aren’t nearly as sore as I expected them to be. Also, the cycling wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected. I will likely cycle again tonight after work, although I will raise the difficulty a bit.

I tried to lift the empty bar, and as soon as I put it on my shoulders, I had some pretty bad pain in my right shoulder, so I stopped immediately. The pain doesn’t seem to be getting any better. In fact, I think it may be getting worse. If there’s no improvement by Thursday, I will go see a doctor about it.

I am thinking that I might be able to start running next week. If all goes well with my Achilles heel for the rest of the week cycling, I’ll take the next step and do some light running and take it from there.

I feel much better this morning because I got to exercise. I don’t know if it’s all just psychological, or if its a psychological effect from the physical exertion. I don’t know which it is, but honestly, it doesn’t matter. I feel better, and that’s what matters most.

Reducing My Serving Sizes and Getting Enough Sleep

Part of rededicating myself to getting back to a better weight is reviewing every aspect of my diet. One area I already knew I was deficient in was portion size. Back when I was running every other day, I could eat a little more because I was burning those calories and needed the extra food to help build the muscles. However, now that I’m unable to run, I need to reduce my serving sizes.

WordPress isn’t playing nice with my images right now. I have no idea why it put this image here, but oh well. It is what it is.

I started by asking Sherry to pack the same size meals for me as she eats. That’s about 30% less than my normal serving sizes, but when I think back to the time I had great success in losing 10-12 lbs per month, I was eating the same sized portions as her without feeling hungry. So, I’ve gone back to that.

I’m not on a Whole30 right now, but I’m eating Whole30 compliant meals every chance I have (outside of the holiday and special event meals).

That also means eating 5 wings at lunch instead of 10 when I go out with my co-workers. I’ve never strayed from my two-egg/two bacon slice breakfasts, but I’ve had lunches and dinners that were a bit on the larger size. No more.

How has it gone this week? Exceptionally well. I thought it would be harder to get accustomed to, but honestly, I haven’t really noticed other than meals getting done quicker. As far as hunger or appetite is concerned, I haven’t had any other than normal hunger at meal times.

As for sleep, I’ve been ensuring I get 7+ hours a night, and once again, that’s proven to be a large component in my weight loss. I have observed a direct correlation between the amount of sleep I get and the amount of weight I lose. If I ensure I get to sleep on time and get some solid sleep, not only do I feel better the next day, but I lose a lot of weight quickly. As I’ve repeatedly stated on my blog, sleep is the secret weapon to weight loss that I think everyone forgets or outright ignores.

As an aside, the Achilles heel isn’t hurting at all today! That’s great news, although my shoulder is still sore. One thing at a time. I can probably start running again next week, and hopefully I can get back to lifting shortly thereafter.

Baby steps.

Injuries and Weight Loss

One of the most difficult things for me to deal with is physical injuries that limit my ability to get fit. Not only does the injury itself limit my ability to get stronger and fitter, but psychologically, it hampers my strength and resolve in resisting temptation, controlling my serving sizes, and ultimately, my ability to lose or maintain a weight I’m happy with.

Look at the little weights behind me. That was two months ago. I’ve doubled that weight already!

Case in point: my Achilles heel injury. I was running 3-4 times a week up until the first week of August when I injured my Achilles heel during an assessment and selection for the SFAB unit I am now a member of. During that assessment and selection, I lifted two Jerry cans full of water and strained my left Achilles heel enough for me to feel a pop and have pain shoot up my leg. Three months later, it still hurts, although some days the pain is almost imperceptible while today, it is pretty sore. Since that time, I’ve been unable to run.

Physically, that keeps me from burning more calories and keeping my cardio health up. My muscles are getting weaker, and I can feel myself getting softer. Mentally, the beneficial effects of running such as stress relief and the satisfaction of a good run completed are absent. I can feel myself being more easily aggravated, and I can’t think as clearly.

Then there is my diet. I have allowed myself to eat larger portions, and I’ve allowed alcohol and non-Paleo foods to creep into meals more often than I have in the past four years. While some may find it difficult to connect my lack of running to my discipline and motivation, I can see a direct correlation between my not running and my bad eating habits.

When I’m running, I feel every pound. After a run, when it’s time to eat, I am careful to eat slowly and to control my serving sizes because I don’t want to add any more weight to an already heavy body. The less I weigh, the easier it is to run.

For the past three months, I’ve been weightlifting. I truly enjoy it, and I’ve been making some great progress. Yesterday, however, while practicing for a kickball game at work, I fell onto my right shoulder, and I am now possibly limited from weightlifting for a while. I can’t believe it. I’m so mad at myself, and quite frankly, it has me a little depressed.

It’s like I can’t catch a break right now physically. No matter how much I try, or how strong my desire is to stay physically fit, I’ve been thwarted at every attempt. What’s worse is that I can’t just let this go. I am in the Guard, and on top of that, in the SFAB, and our physical requirements are more stringent than standard Army standards. In other words, being up to standard isn’t enough. I need to be beyond the standard.

I am hoping to be able to run again within the next week. Tonight, I will hit the stationary bike after trying to do some weightlifting. Oddly enough, I have zero pain most of the time unless I bend my arm backward. Since none of my weightlifting positions require my arm to be in that position, there’s a good chance I can just do my lifting as normal. I won’t know until tonight, though, when I get to my gym. If I can’t lift an empty bar (45 lbs), then I’ll default to the bike.

It is possible to lose weight without exercise. I did it. I lost 130 lbs without a single trip to the gym or a single step of exercise. However, my body reached a limit of how much weight I could lose, and for me to get past the 130 lbs mark, I had to incorporate walking, jogging, and then running. Now that I’ve been unable to run, my weight has climbed about 15 lbs and stayed there.

I’ve heard it said that weight loss is 90% diet and 10% exercise. In my experience, those numbers are eerily close. I look forward to being able to do get that 10% done while running and weightlifting again soon. My body needs it, but so does my mind. I just feel better when I’m able to run and workout.

Progress and Perspective

Everyone has days when they’re down for some reason, whether they’re down on themselves, or just down in general. Sometimes, I get down on myself for not making more progress, faster progress, or sometimes not making any kind of progress that I can see at all. That’s why it’s important to keep track of things so you can look back and see for a fact that you’re making progress. Just because the scale hates you doesn’t mean you’re not doing the right things. It just means you have to keep doing them. Case in point: my weightlifting.

I was down on myself for having to deload a little bit after not being able to lift for 10 days. Then, yesterday, I got back to (and in some areas, past) the levels I was at before I had to take the break. This morning, I looked at actual numbers and was pretty blown away by my progress:

Starting: 45lbs
Current: 150lbs

Bench Press
Starting 45 lbs
Current: 90 lbs

Starting: 95 lbs
Current: 185 lbs

Overhead Press
Starting: 45 lbs
Current: 90 lbs

Barbell Row
Starting: 65 lbs
Current: 105 lbs

I’m pretty proud of the progress, and in many ways, surprised. I had the best of intentions with this program, but I didn’t think I could actually continue to make the progress I keep making. Every time I feel like I’m about to hit a wall, I get past it.

Seeing the numbers gives me new resolve and reenergized my motivation. Any self-doubt I had about doing the right thing melted away. I just can’t wait to get back to running as well. THEN, I will be complete.

244 Years Old

This weekend, my wife and I attended the Houston Marine Corps Coordinating Council’s 244th Marine Corps Birthday Ball. This was our third time attending in four years (I had to miss last year due to drill at Fort Hood), and we had a great time.

Sherry and I at the 244th Marine Corps Birthday Ball.

My uniform was slightly tighter than in past years, and I attribute that to my not being able to run since early August when I injured my Achilles heel. I’ve been doing stretches and some light physical therapy for it, and it’s helping, and soon I think I will be able to run. In the meantime, I’m lifting weights, and after taking 10 days off from lifting while on vacation in New England and Canada, I’m finally back to lifting the weights I was lifting prior to going on vacation.

It’s good for me to attend the Birthday Ball every year. It’s good to be reminded of the things we were taught as Marines, and the tenets we live by. Leaving active duty or the reserve doesn’t relieve us of our duty to our fellow Marines, our country, and ourselves. I am currently a Soldier in the Army National Guard, and I feel fortunate to be able to continue to serve at my age. Being among fellow Marines who were close to my age (some younger, many older), I was the only one who was still active in the military in some way.

I used to be one of the many people online who used to say they’d love a chance to go back, to serve again. It’s not always easy, and it’s not always fun, but when it is fun, it’s incredibly fun. Most of all, it satisfies the desire to serve; to answer the calling. Before I took control of my weight, my health, and my fitness, I thought there was no way I could ever return to the service. I lamented my situation, my poor health, my lack of fitness as I climbed a single flight of stairs only to find myself winded for minutes.

I finally got sick of being down on myself and was reminded of a conversation with my brother-in-law, Robert. He helped me at a time when I was really down on myself, and he walked into the room where I was laying in bed, under the covers, and he didn’t yell. He didn’t insult me. He stood there and said, “Look, Marine. I know things might not be what you wanted or expected. But you’ve got this. You’ve tackled tougher. You’ve handled worse. You just need to reach down, grab a hold of that courage you have inside you, and use it to get past this. You’re a Marine. You can do anything you set your mind to. Don’t let the Marines of the past down. Don’t let me down. Most of all, don’t let yourself down. Get up, get to it, and attack whatever problems you have with everything you’ve got. You can do this.”

It took a lot for me to finally get my mind in the place where I needed to be to get healthy, so I started doing research. Then, my cousin Sarah talked to me about weight loss and Whole30. After a successful first round of Whole30, my wife Sherry and I transitioned into Paleo, and fast-forward four years, I’m still 130 lighter than I was when I started, although I will admit that I have 15 to 20 lbs to lose until I’m at a weight I am comfortable at. Not being able to run has really taken a toll on me.

It was after I lost 130 lbs that I began thinking about the service. I wondered if they would take me back. I called the Marine Reserve, and they said they would allow me to join, but due to my rank and MOS, I would have to join a unit in Minnesota. Being that I live in Texas, I took a pass on that offer and called the Army National Guard who accepted me and allowed me to train into a new MOS as a Fire Direction Control NCO. I was able to enlist in February of 2017, and I recently extended my current enlistment for another three year period.

We can all sit back and accept our fate and watch life go by. Or we can decide that watching and doing nothing is unacceptable, and we can reach down and grab a hold of our strength and courage, and we cam make the changes necessary to avoid slipping away into poor health and being unfit. If you want to lose weight and get fit, you can! It’s not easy (it never is), but it is possible. It will take a long time, but results can be seen typically within a month. For me, it took about three months before I could see it in the mirror, but the scale was rewarding me almost daily.

Change is possible. Change is within your grasp. You just have to reach for it and accept the workload it will take to make it happen.