Another Whole30…

It’s that time again. Every now and then, after a serious examination of my eating habits and health, I find it necessary to do a reboot of the ol’ diet. After the amazing vacation Sherry and I just completed, we found it was time for another Whole30. While we didn’t go as far off the reservation as we did when we were in Scotland a few years ago, we did drink wine every night and allowed ourselves to go off-plan a few times. That’s to be expected on a vacation, but I have something coming up soon that I MUST be at my healthiest for: I’m going to be attending Warrant Officer Candidate School in a little over a month.

My weight is higher than it should be, and with nearly a month without exercise due to injury followed immedately by vacation, I find myself in the precarious situation of being overweight and not in top shape. I’m taking the next five weeks to rectify that situation.

It’s not easy. Exercise on Whole30 is possible, but it can feel harder since I won’t be having nearly as many carbs as I do on Paleo. Add to that the fact that the first week of Whole30 is hellish on it’s own, and that makes for a really unpleasant experience. Fortunately, I’ve done Whole30 a time or nine, so it’s nothing new. I know not only what to expect, but I know that once I get through this week, I’ll feel so much better, and my body will be so much healthier.

How do we get into the situations where we NEED a Whole30 for a reset? I think it’s due to human nature, old habits, and our culture.

Human nature is to eat, eat, eat. It’s a survival mechanism. We love food, and that’s an instinct that drives us to consume when we can to guard against the lean times. Our ancestors needed these instincts. Today in our world of abundance? It leads to obesity and overeating.

Old habits die hard. I used to eat for the pleasure of eating. I still love to eat, and I still enjoy food, but I need to actively remember that eating is for fueling our body and not for entertainment.

Our culture, as every culture around the world, is focused on food. Think of every social gathering you have ever been to. It either had food or alcohol at it’s core. Snacks, full-on meals, drinks, etc: they all count as food-centered activities. Even going to a little league game has snacks like nachos, chips, and sugar-filled drinks like sodas readily available.

I’m in the thick of it today, and will be for another three or four days, but I see light at the end of the tunnel. I know what to expect, and I know it’s going to be great. I just keep reminding myself that this is temporary, and soon I will be on the other side of hell week. I just need to not kill anyone before I get there.

The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday

You hear this a lot in the military, but it holds true when it comes to health and fitness. Every day, we face new challenges, and most are not easy.

It’s hard to stay healthy and fit. Some people will say it’s so easy, and it takes no effort (heck, I may have said in the past that it’s easy), but it requires discipline and motivation.

It’s very easy to fall off the horse, so to speak. It’s very easy to start allowing larger portions or non-compliant foods back in little by little and then before you know it, you’re completely off-plan, gaining weight, and skipping workouts.

I recently had (and still have, to some degree) a shoulder injury that kept me from weightlifting and running for almost two weeks. I decided yesterday to suck it up and just get into the gym at to get out and run. Did it hurt? Yes, but I am pretty sure that the pain in my shoulder is because I keep sleeping on my shoulder wrong, not because it’s hurt.

It’s easy to find excuses to skip workouts, but what defines our success is when we push through adversity, when we push past the pain, and when we push through cravings and temptations. What makes us different from others is that we put in the work. Sometimes that work is as simple (notice I didn’t say easy) as forcing smaller portions and eating slower or just getting into your gym clothes. For me, once I put on my gym clothes, I’m committed. That’s the toughest part for me; getting started. Once I’m dressed, the rest is easy.

We all have challenges. We all face difficulties. What makes you different from everyone else is that you met the challenge and pushed through.

A Break From Exercise Ends Today

I had to take a nearly one-week break due to too much going on and then a sore shoulder. I was going to run yesterday, but thought another day might be better for my shoulder. I’m not quite sure what’s going on with it, but I don’t want to push things.

My run times have been getting better, and I’m nearly back to the same weights I was lifting a year ago. It’s taken a long time to get back to where I am now; I hated having to lose nearly a week of exercise. But that ends today.

As for my weight, it’s still a bit higher than I’d like due to COVID-19 quarantines, but it’s leveled off and I’m not gaining anymore. I am still eating healthy Paleo foods, and I’m still very careful, but sitting in a house all day with exercise only every other day doesn’t help burn calories. Eating less has proved problematic; I get hungry and then over-eat. So, the challenges are definitely here, but I’m doing my best.

Keep at eating well. Keep doing your exercise. Do the work. That’s my mantra, and it’s helping to keep me strong and to stay steady.

How We Are Socially Distancing and Still Enjoying Life

Sherry and I have found an amazing way to remain socially distant while still enjoying a nice lunch from one of our local favorite restaurants. We order to-go, and then we take the food to a local park where we setup the awning on our 4Runner, set a table and two chairs, and enjoy a nice outside lunch in the park!

We have been enjoying lunches like this at least once a week for the past few months, and it really has become an experience we look forward to.

Eating Right and Exercise during COVID-19

I’m doing the work. My wife and I are doing everything we can to stay healthy and that includes keeping our routine of meal prep on Sundays and our exercise plans. I still run three+ times a week, but I’ve added StrongLifts 5×5 workouts and pull-ups to my run days. I tried alternating between the gym (I have a bedroom converted to a gym at home) and running, but it was too much and it wore me down. Skipping days to allow for rest/recovery has made all the difference and I’m seeing great results in speed and strength now.

I see more people out on the street running, and I see more people walking with their kids outside. This is great! Coupled with eating real food, these people are well on their way to a healthier life. I make sure to take a wide arc around anyone I encounter outside, and while it’s annoying, it’s necessary.

Are these challenging times? Yes. Are they insurmountable challenges? Absolutely not. I love challenges. I want to have to work to accomplish things. Accomplishments without the effort have no meaning. For my friends who play video games, there is no enjoyment in getting top-tier items without having put in the effort. The game quickly becomes stale and boring because it’s the journey and not the destination that makes the game enjoyable. I feel the same about my health, fitness, and my life. I try to turn every situation into an adventure. When Sherry gives me a list of groceries, I try to get them all at one supermarket. If items are unavailable at one, I go to another. I try to complete my grocery missions with the fewest stops possible, and I consider it a win when I can get it all done at one store.

I have a very physical military school coming up soon, and I am preparing for it by pushing myself hard on my runs. COVID-19 doesn’t stop the military, and training will proceed as planned, albeit with fewer students (to conform with social distancing rules). I look forward to this school, and I want to make sure I’m as ready for it as I physically can be considering my two injuries late last year. I am pretty sure I’ll be up to the tasks.

I know it’s hard right now. I know it’s tempting to say “Forget it!” and stop eating right or stop exercising, but I challenge everyone to not let COVID-19 derail your health, your fitness, and any progress you’ve made. Kick COVID-19 in the teeth and keep up the hard but good work!

What am I thinking?

It’s something I ask myself every time I feel a muscle ache. “What the heck am I thinking? Why am I doing this at almost 53 years old?” Just last night, my wife told me that some folks think we’re a little crazy for eating healthy and exercising. Those same people question us making such a drastic change in our lifestyle “So late in life.”

Me after my run yesterday. It was pretty hot out, but I got it done and did the work.

First of all, I don’t see us making the lifestyle change as being so late in our lives. If I have anything to do with it, we changed our lifestyle half-way through this amusement park ride called life. I’m fairly certain that by eating healthier and exercising, we will extend our lives beyond where they would have ended had we not improved our health. My own body was beginning to fail me, and just the simple task of tying my own shoes had nearly become impossible. Something had to change.

Second, maybe we are a little crazy for eating healthy and exercising. But if this is what’s called being crazy, then people who don’t eat right and don’t exercise are flat-out insane. Controlling what goes into our mouths is much simpler than people make it out to be, and exercise doesn’t have to be marathon running or hours long gym sessions. A simple 30 minutes, three times a week is all you need to do to make your heart pump a little harder than usual to keep your body in shape.

It was also brought to my attention that some people are wondering when we will “Go back to normal” and stop eating healthy and stop exercising. After all, it’s easier for people to root for us to stop being healthy than it is for them to change their own habits. Somehow, seeing Sherry and I succeed at health and fitness highlights their own feelings of insecurity and heightens their anxiety over their inability to eat healthy and exercise. This is, unfortunately, pretty common.

I have at least six more years of fitness ahead of me that I cannot escape. Being in the military dictates that I always be physically fit and ready for war. As a leader, I have to ensure that I’m above reproach when it comes to not only my leadership skills and knowledge, but also in physical fitness. I cannot be an effective and inspiring leader if I’m not in as good shape or better than my Soldiers. I feel that this is very important, and I see this as my primary motivator every single time I go out for a run.

Beyond that, however, is the fact that I really enjoy being unlimited by physical ability when my wife and I want to undertake adventures. I love that we can hike, mountain bike, zip line, or do pretty much whatever we want because we are not only fit, but we are not overweight. Activities like zip line riding have weight restrictions for safety. Five years ago, we never could have even considered zip lining. We just bought two kayaks that will arrive in June and we can’t wait to hit some inland waterways!

I don’t feel 52. I feel better today than I did at anytime in my 30’s due to eating right and exercising.

What am I thinking? I’m thinking that I’m fortunate to be this active at age 52. I’m thinking that my health is much better today than it has been in over 25 years. I’m thinking that I might be able to stick around and annoy and molest my wife for more years than if I were to just let myself go. I am also very fortunate that my body is allowing me to do these things. Sure, I’m sore more often than I’m not because I’m always pushing myself to become stronger and faster, but that’s a good thing. My intention is to never stop eating right and exercising. I don’t want to be limited by my health or lack of fitness if there’s anything I can do about that.

The Race to Better Fitness

My beard is almost all gray now. What the heck?

I’ve said many times on this blog that there is no race to get healthy, lose weight, or get fit. Not only can you not rush the process, but trying to do so is dangerous and can result in injury which slows your progress. The best plan is to take things slowly.

When I began my weight loss journey, I had no expectation of a rate of weight loss. When I began my fitness journey, I had no expectation of rate of improvement in my level of fitness. I embarked upon both journeys with the goal of steady improvement over time. I knew and expected setbacks, plateaus, and difficulty, but I endeavored to persevere and conquer. I also adopted the mindset of this being a never-ending journey with no end. This was a lifestyle, not a temporary cycle.

When I hurt my Achilles heel last year, it took me out of running for 5 solid months. Two months after hurting my heel, I hurt my shoulder which took me out of weightlifting, leading me to no fitness for three months. I only started running again in February, and my weightlifting has not started yet (but is due to start next week again… finally). I have had to take things very slowly with my running to get back into it safely, and while I still have stiffness in my ankles, it’s actually not the injury that hurts; it’s stiffness from not running for five months. I’ve started stretching exercises during the day to help loosen things up, and it’s finally starting to help.

It’s taken almost three months, but I can finally run 3 miles without pain and after the run, not have spaghetti legs. It never took me this long to get back into running, but I’ve also never been almost 53 years old coming off a serious sports injury. Things take longer to heal when we’re older, and to avoid further injury, I’ve taken things slower than I have in the past. The result is being able to run and actually enjoy it. I still have a hard time starting a run, but once I’m out there, I work hard and make the best of it. The Bluetooth headphones help a lot for that.

I’m also back to doing 50+ push ups before my runs. I used to do over 100. In February, I could only do 25. I’m working my way back up to 100+, but I’m not pushing things. My shoulder doesn’t need to be reinjured. I have a military school tentatively scheduled for June/July, so I need to make sure I’m in good physical condition as the school I will attend is very demanding physically.

Take your time. Be safe. Adopt the 80% exertion rule for fitness: only expend 80% full capacity when exercising. This keeps you from being completely worn out after a workout, and also allows your body to heal properly and quickly. I have taken things slowly and have been very happy with the results. With the exception of the two military and sports-related injuries I sustained late last year, I’ve been injury-free for four years of running. It’s like the turtle and the hare. Being a turtle has its benefits.

Still Doing the Work

I haven’t been shaving every day because nobody really sees me lately.

Even in these strange days of COVID-19, it’s important to keep doing the work. Keep eating well, keep exercising, and staying motivated. I know it’s hard, but it’s these times of difficulty that define our character.

It’s through times like these that we are tested to the limits of our own abilities. Mentally, more than anything, being cooped up and stuck indoors for weeks at a time takes its toll on us. It’s at this time that eating good, healthy food is more important than ever.

Good food fuels our brains, and allows us to function at our best. Being rid of processed sugar keeps the brain focused and strong, and allows us to concentrate better and keeps our emotions in check. Mood swings aren’t a thing for me when I’m not imbibing processed sugar.

One of the best things for stress relief is exercise. I get out and run every other day (making sure to stay wide from anyone else outside) and starting today (again), I’m working out in my home gym on my non-running days. 30 minutes a day is all it takes, and since many of us are working from home (or worse; not working but at home), 30 minutes is a small slice of our time.

The most important reason to eat well and get exercise is to bolster our immune systems. The healthier we are, the stronger our immune system is. Ever notice people who eat well and are physically fit don’t catch colds as much? There’s a reason for that.

I look like a character from the video game, The Division.

The next time you make your provisions run to the store, skip the snacks and foods with processed sugar and try to get more natural, whole foods. Learn to cook some delicious meals from scratch. Your brain and your immune system will thank. you.

Cooped Up and Comfort Foods

There’s a lot of uncertainty right now in the world with COVID-19. I know a lot of people are stressing about this, and food is one of those things that brings people comfort, hence the area of foods known as “Comfort Foods.” Many of these tend to be carb-heavy and are foods that take us back to a happier time in our lives, most often childhood. For me, there are many comfort foods that I can’t eat anymore, but fortunately, as I thought about it, I was able to find a few that were meat and vegetable based.

One way to stay motivated is to keep eating right. Do what you can to continue with your chosen diet, whether it’s Whole30, Paleo, Keto, etc. Sure, it might be more difficult to stick to it now with shortages in staple food items, but the shortages will be short-term as the supplies restock as people realize they bought too much, or don’t need to keep hoarding so much. The more difficult part is the psychological burden COVID-19 is putting on us all. Comfort foods are very tempting right now.

Make a list of the comfort foods you love. Yes, even the carb-filled ones. Once your list is done, cross off all the items your diet doesn’t support. Hopefully, you have a few left that aren’t crossed out that you can make for yourself. If your entire list is crossed out, then do a Google search on an alternative version that doesn’t contain elements not compliant with your diet. For me, that would be either Whole30 or Paleo versions.

Sure, there will be some foods you just can’t find an alternative for, but you’ll be surprised how many foods have alternate ingredient versions that are much healthier for you.

Keep your head up, and keep isolating yourselves. If we do our part, this virus will come and go and hopefully skip you and your friends and family. There’s no need to give up on your health. Stick to the plan and do what you can to get some exercise and eat right!

Love in the Time of COVID-19

Let’s all head on down to the Winchester and wait for all this to blow over.

Love in the Time of Cholera is a pretty famous book that is referenced in a lot of movies. Typically love movies. Why? Because the book talks about finding those people in your world who you would want to keep close to you. In the book, the couple knew they’d be separated when their ship docked in port, so they rose a Cholera flag which kept them at sea.

What does that book have to do with Coronavirus? Well, we have an opportunity here to be with those people we would want to keep close to us in a 14-day quarantine. I can’t think of a better way to spend 14 days inside than with Sherry. For those who were thinking about doing a Whole30 or starting the Paleo Diet, it’s also a good time to deplete your personal stock of non-compliant foods.

Now hear me out. I know that it’s hard to find groceries right now, and right now might not be the best time to try to start eating healthy when you can’t find meat and veggies in the stores. However, now is a good time to prepare for when things get back to normal by getting rid of all the bad foods while you’re stuck inside by eating it all.

This goes against what I’d normally recommend, but during a pandemic and national emergency (heck, a GLOBAL emergency!), it’s foolish to throw anything away right now. So, all those bags of chips? Cookies? Candy? Noodles? Beans? Rice? Eat it all! Use it all up! And when you’re done with them, replace them with good stuff: meat and veggies and fruit.

Remember to wash your hands, avoid crowded areas, and don’t go out unless you have to. If you are going to get together with folks, try to avoid touching and sharing glasses/cups/eating utensils/etc. You don’t have to become a Bubble Boy, but you should be careful. Even if the virus won’t kill you, you could carry it to someone who is vulnerable and could kill them.

As for Sherry and me, we’ll be at the Winchester waiting for all this to blow over.