Fitness Quest: April 2018

Several positive items to report in my renewed quest for fitness since the discovery that I had a heart attack sometime in the past (likely, in my mind at least, in January of 2017).

Mental Health: first and foremost, my mood has improved considerably. Thanks to cardio rehab and the natural adaptation process that we all go through after experiencing major life events I’m happier than I’ve been in a while and am functioning again. At least in my opinion (my friends and co-workers may continue to disagree but that’s their problem). I am looking forward to the future for the most part again and not afraid that each day will be my last – even if it turns out to be.

Physical Health and Exercise: cardio rehab goes well and I’m making progress. I’m biking and walking like I should on days I don’t have rehab – even beating several other “steppers” in my weekly Fitbit step challenge – which I wasn’t doing for a long time. I get through my tap dancing each week without feeling like I’m going to pass out and I’m in general feeling more energetic.

More exciting is that my bodyfat percentage has been on a downward trend for about four weeks now even though my body weight has increased slightly. In bodybuilding this would be known as “making gains.” Not by huge amounts, after all I’m not a newbie or a teenager anymore, but a clear trend. It does mean that I’m not losing fat as is actual goal, but it means that I’m gaining more muscle than fat which isn’t bad either. Especially for someone who is in late middle-age (unless I live to be 130).

Last month I mentioned I was being tested for asthma and the good news is that my lungs are “normal” and have no obstructions. Something is still going on with my breathing though and my gastroenterologist has put me on iron thinking that my anemia could be contributing to the issue.

I do have sleep apnea, both obstructive and central, for which I’ll be getting a CPAP machine for this coming week (I hope). I have one more night of testing with various devices to see which will work best for me.

Crohn’s: speaking of gastroenterology, we’ve decided that my Humira may not be doing the best job for me. So we are switching things up and I’m going to Entyvio. The plus side of this is that I only get an infusion every 8 weeks (at home) instead of a weekly injection. I’ll be blogging more on this as treatments begin.

Nutrition: here’s the hard part. I’ve discovered something that I probably should have known all along. Sugar is bad for you. At least added sugar is. And like sodium, the stuff is everywhere. According to the American Heart Association men should restrict their added sugar levels to just 9 teaspoons a day (4 grams = 1 teaspoon) and women only 6 teaspoons. This means that if you have one 12 ounce can of pop a day, non-diet variety,  you’ve gone over your limit. Not to mention the mega servings most of us consume! I drink the diet stuff so that’s not a source of sugar for me, but my sweet tooth may literally be the death of me. Especially when you consider that sugar has inflammatory properties – which can aggravate my Crohn’s, which may have caused my heart attack in the first place!

Overall: I’m doing as well as can be expected and maybe a little better even. I thank God for each day I’m given and that I’m not worse off.

It’s an old saying but true: it could be worse. Oh well, it’s back to the grocery store I go!

Onward!

Mediterranean Diet

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Sodium, Sodium Everywhere and Not a Bite to Eat

Question: which do you think has less sodium, a medium order of McDonald’s French Fries or a small salad?

Answer: It depends. Are you going to put dressing on that salad? If so, the fries win. In fact, the fries win even if you go up to large size and small fries can win if you are looking at overall fats, too!

Surprised? Don’t be. Since discovering that I had a heart attack sometime in the past, I’ve been working harder than ever to get my diet in line. I was already doing pretty good in keeping my fats low and started cooking for myself and am getting a little more “Mediterranean” in my eating and food choices each week (more fish, more veggies, less sugar). So, I thought it was time to take the next step and reduce my sodium intake.

Ha!

I now understand the trials and tribulations of people with high blood pressure. Sodium is in everything that is even slightly processed. Fast food, sit down restaurants, frozen food, soups, canned vegetables, frozen vegetables (but not always), baked goods, lunch meat, you name it and I bet it’s got more sodium than you would think.

Fat free means “added salt.” Pizzas should be called sodium pies. Surprisingly, things that taste salty, like potato chips, may have less sodium than a small can of spring peas.

According to the American Heart Association we should be eating no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day, 1,500 if you have high blood pressure. But, the average American consumes more than 3,400 mg each day (more at the AHA website)! And I know from MyFitnessPal that I’m somewhere north of that figure on any given day. How much is 2,300 mg of sodium? About 1 teaspoon of salt per day.

Now in my case, I do not have high blood pressure and my heart attack does not appear to have been caused due to any dietary issues (arteries, with the exception of the one where the damage occurred are clear and “beautiful” according to my cardiologist). It’s likely, in fact, that the heart attack occurred due to my Crohn’s. And, I could choose to side with some of the research out there which suggests that if you don’t have high blood pressure sodium intake isn’t really an issue. However, with one big strike against me, I don’t think I should risk a second. So, I’m going to keep doing my best to get my diet in line and that means lowering my sodium intake.

Now should we talk about the amount of potassium in salt substitutes and the effect that has on someone taking ACE inhibitors?

The struggle continues.

Onward!

Fitness Quest: Total Eclipse by My Heart, Part 2

I cried.

While waiting for my brother-in-law to come pick me up and take me to the Emergency Room I just lost it. Why was this happening? Why couldn’t I cope with this? What have I done with my life? Is this really it? Is it over? Just a few of the many thoughts flying through my mind as I tried to digest the news I had gotten earlier in the week. My heart was damaged.

I had suffered a heart attack. I thought I was having another one now.

Now, interestingly enough, this wasn’t news to me. As I blogged earlier (Total Eclipse By My Heart) I knew that I had apparently suffered a heart attack some time in the past. The echo cardiogram had indicated reduced heart function. I had learned this more than a month earlier and seemed to be handling the news well. But, earlier in the week I had an appointment with a cardiologist. She recommended a heart catheterization to investigate further (for those who don’t know, this is a procedure where they actually insert a “tube” into your heart to find out what’s going on. I’ll spare the details, but there’s more info here). The test was less than a week away. But for some reason the news was really hitting home now.

As often happens with people in my situation, I became hyper aware of every little twitch, pulse, pang, twinge, tightness, tingle, etc. of my body and my chest in particular. And trust me, for a middle age man in his late fifties – there are a lot of them. Finally the feelings – some brought on by my medication – became too much and I thought my heart was failing. Add a feeling of impending doom (another warning sign of a heart attack by the way) and I just lost it. I called family who immediately rushed to respond (thank you) and then just blubbered like a baby. Something I hadn’t done since my father passed away four years ago. I miss my dad dearly, but I’m not anxious to see him again if you know what I mean.

Fast forward several hours to the University of Michigan Emergency room and I’m lying there talking with a wonderful head resident – who’s name I wish I had taken note of – and she’s advising me that there appears to be no immediate issue with my heart. In fact, if they didn’t know about my earlier diagnoses they would have thought I was in very good health, but that sounded like it has been a life changing event and maybe I needed to find someone to talk to about it.

She was right of course.

This news was, and still is, life changing. One week I’m hiking through the mountains of Colorado, hanging out with Olympians (more on that story here), feeling like a teenager who just discovered the gym, a little sore but full of energy, on most days, and enjoying a relatively active lifestyle. The next, I’m lying in an emergency room surrounded by people who are literally dying and thinking that I might be one of them.

One day I see myself as a strong, healthy “old man” who can bench more than most twenty somethings. The next day I see myself as a feeble old man who’s days are numbered and has one foot in the grave. I moved mentally from someone who was eager to tackle the next challenge and change the world to being someone afraid that there was no more to offer. No more opportunity, no more chances, it was time to sit down and wait for the end.

These emotions, thoughts and feelings are not unusual. According to the American Heart Association it takes anywhere from 2 to 6 months for a person who has experienced a “hard cardiac event” to come to grips with what has happened. My mood improves each day – occasional panic attacks aside. I’m sleeping through the nights now. But, I’m still “hyper aware” of each little pang and twinge.

And aware that my life has, and has to, change.

  • Diet – which I have always been trying to improve – is not literally a matter of life and death for me. And I still have trouble sticking to it! Do you know how much sodium is in like everything?
  • Roller coasters – a passion for me – are now something I probably should avoid (sadly, at first my cardiologist thought they’d be okay. But on re-thinking and researching a little more she decided that I probably shouldn’t open myself up to “potential exposure” of a different type of cardiac event).
  • Probably should find a travel buddy for long hikes in the woods. Which, to be fair, is always a good idea anyway.
  • No more heavy weight lifting. In or out of the gym.
  • And, I’m undergoing more tests. Do I really have asthma as one doctor once thought? I’m a heavy snorer (so I’ve been told), better check for sleep apnea. Maybe my Crohn’s treatment is part of the issue. Time to re-evaluate my medication.

But, I do have a new perspective on life. At some time or another we all must come face to face with our mortality. Once we do we have two choices: 1) give up and wait for the end or 2) embrace each day as a gift and work to make the world a better place than we found it. I’m choosing option 2.

Filters are off – or at least subdued – no more polite agreement on political and moral issues. I don’t need to be rude, but I’ll stand my ground more. I’ll smile more, I’ll say hello more, I’ll…well, you get the idea.

Stay tuned. My story isn’t over just quite yet.

Onward!

Wally-Bicep Still Got It

 

 

 

Heart of an Olympian

The biggest cool thing I did this month, and a lifetime highlight,  was visiting the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs as part of C3X with NACAS. Here I got to light the Olympic Flame (one of my privileges as the new president of NACAS), was treated to demonstrations in several Olympic sports including judo, fencing, women’s wrestling, men’s boxing, and men’s gymnastics. But the real highlight of the night was meeting several Olympic and Paralympic athletes.

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Lighting the Olympic Flame. Photo credit: Jonathan Thorpe (jthorpephoto.com)

These athletes include: Sam Mikulak and Adrian De Los Angeles (gymnasts and fellow University of Michigan alums), Dan O’Brien (gold medal – decathlon), Sophia Herzog (silver medal paralympic swimming), Cale Simmons (pole vault), Richard Torrez (boxing), Corey Hope (Greco-Roman Wrestling), Sarah Hammer (cycling), Adrian De Los Angeles (gymnastics), Jennifer Page (wrestling), and Mike Tagliapietra (paralympic shooting) and others. All were very friendly and inspiring in their own way.

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With Dan O’Brien and his gold medal!

But, one Olympians story I found especially inspiring: Brandon Lyons’ (paralympic cycling).

Paralyzed from the waist down when he dove off a pier into the ocean on vacation over Memorial Day in 2014 the former Penn State Club Lacrosse player and 2013 graduate found himself in a situation where no one would blame him if he wallowed in self-pity and depression. Losing the use of your legs must be difficult for anyone, but especially for an athletic young man in his physical prime. But, Brandon did not let himself stay down for long and within months he had picked up a new sport – hand cycling – and by the end of the summer was competing in marathons! Now, less than three years since his life changing incident he is training for the Paralympic

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With Sam Mikulak

games in Tokyo (2020). I’m sure just like anyone in a difficult situation he had moments of doubt, self-pity, anger, frustration, and pain but he hasn’t let that stop him. He examined his life and decided to re-focus and re-purpose. I know that he won’t give up on walking again someday – but in the meantime he is showing the rest of us how to tackle life!

To me, Brandon’s attitude is what being an Olympian is all about. Regardless of hardship, regardless of conditions, you keep going no matter what until you cross that finish line. In an age where the goal of being an athlete seems to be money, fame, and glory it’s good to be reminded that the true reason we compete is to inspire and motivate others and, perhaps more importantly, ourselves.

Onward!

P.S. – You can read more about Brandon’s story here.

Brandon Lyons Training

Brandon Lyons on a training ride in Colorado Springs (photo courtesy of Brandon Lyons via PennLive.com)

 

Fitness Quest: November 2016

I know that it’s technically December, but I thought if I’m going to keep track of my “Fitness Quest” I should try to update at least monthly. So here’s last month’s progress report (or lack thereof).

Workouts: workouts have been going okay. Nothing spectacular to report in terms of strength or size gains, but also nothing spectacular to report in terms of going back wards either. I’m injury free and getting in some form of exercise everyday.

As my facebook friends know, I’ve been doing a different type of “challenge” for the past three or four months. It started with the “22 Push Ups for 22 Days” challenge that a friend invited me to join to raise awareness for the problem of veteran suicide, then morphed to a 100 push up challenge that I created where a few friends and I worked our way up from the 22 push-ups to being able to do 100 push ups in one session, then it was working up to a four minute plank. Now I’m doing “wall squats” (aka “wall sitting”) and working up to being able to do that for four minutes. This one is pretty tough as it increases by 10 seconds each day. However, it was time to do something for the legs.

I continue my twice a week weight training sessions with my brother-in-law. Though we’re pretty good about doing them, they are feeling a little too routine for me. I’ll be talking to him about upping the weight or varying the reps some to keep it interesting. The good news is that I’m at the very least maintaining strength and think that I’ve gaining based on workouts and measurements (waist is still down, arms and chest are getting larger again).

Nutrition: After it was suggested to me by a new friend, I experimented some with a low-carb, high protein diet last month and unfortunately, moved away from it somewhere around Thanksgiving. Though I liked adding carbs back in (I missed bread of all things) I paid a significant price and my weight jumped back up in pretty short order. So, essentially in terms of overall weight and bodyfat I’m about where I was a year ago. I’m going to double down on this style of diet again – yes, I know it’s the Holiday season – and see if I can make some improvements before the start of the New Year. I’d rather not have to make some drastic unkeepable resolutions like the rest of the world on January 1!

Crohn’s: The good news is that there isn’t any major change in terms of my Crohn’s disease. The Humira seems to still be doing it’s job. I have noticed that as I get within a couple days of my next injection that I start to feel queasy inside again. Not sure if this is a real thing though or a psychosomatic response to knowing that I’m due for an injection. Weather changes seem to be playing a role again this year. We’ve had some dramatic swings in temps (going from 70 degrees to 30 degrees overnight) and such as winter comes on and I felt it inside.

Once again this year I did go to an annual IBD update to learn about the latest research in the area of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (of which Crohn’s is one). As usual, it was very interesting and informative. The main take away is still hang in there. Better treatments are coming soon (as in about 5 years).

Mental Health: Overall, I think I’m still doing pretty well here. I’ve been having some odd “stress dreams” for some reason but not sure why so I’ve given some thought to this. But things are going well with work, I don’t feel over burdened and despite the usual malaise of not being quite where I want to be career-wise I’m employed, have friends and family and overall am in doing pretty well. Heck, I even have a new car that so far is running like a dream so no more “when will it break down” thoughts which were part of my daily life for the last, oh, 3 years or so!

The only real disappointment I had recently were the results of the US election. But, I can rest easy in knowing that whatever happens it’s not my fault! I just keep hoping for the best and expect the worst like a lot of other people and at least the darn commercials have stopped.

Summary: Life is good and the only way to move, as always, is forward.

Onward!

 

 

Fitness Quest and Crohn’s Update: July 2016

Wow! I knew I hadn’t been blogging for a while but I didn’t realize it’s been 3 months. I’ve been busy I guess but I haven’t forgotten my fitness goals and efforts. So, here’s the update for those interested:

Crohn’s – doing well. The Humira treatment seems to continue to work. I wouldn’t call what I’m experiencing full remission, but it’s close. I’ve had a few “queasy” days this summer but nothing major to keep me off work or anything. I’m due for another round of testing/scanning/probing this fall and I expect that I’ll here that my condition remains essentially unchanged from last year. Which would be the best news I could expect (the damage can’t be undone, but if further damage is prevented that’s all I need to keep avoiding surgery).

Fitness: I did pretty well again, for me, with the Rose Run 5K that I’ve been participating in. I beat my time from last year thanks in large part to the urging and support of my niece who ran with me. So this is the third straight year of doing better than the year before! My new goal is to get below a 30 minute 5K. I came in 4th in my age group with 5 behind me by the way. My official time was 41:55 and I’m several minutes faster than when I started 5 years ago. Not a huge change, but a positive one. Especially given how little I actually train for it.

I’ve been keeping up with my weight workouts with my brother-in-law. The weight is going up, my body weight is going down (usually), my waist is shrinking and my biceps are growing. Things are on track in this area.

I participated in a “22 Push Ups for 22 Days” to raise awareness of Veteran Suicide. On average, 22 vets in the USA commit suicide each day. This was a pure awareness campaign but I thought an important one. Plus, doing the push ups each day really seemed to up my feeling of well-being each day. I’m continuing to do them even though the challenge is over. I’m planning to work my way to 100 per day (in one set) by the end of the year.

Mountain Climbing: as a benefit of my increased fitness I took on the challenge of climbing the 2nd highest mountain in the contiguous USA (Mt. Elbert) when visiting Colorado this summer. Unfortunately, I only made it to 13,000 feet and was about 1,400 vertical feet short of the summit. It was a fun day nonetheless with a couple cousins who live in Colorado (they made the summit). The thin air was too much for me – or rather not enough for me. Next time, I acclimate at a higher elevation for several days. Next goal though is to fail to summit the highest point in the contiguous USA – Mt. Whitney in California.

Nutrition: as mentioned earlier, my weight has been decreasing. But, in my continuing quest to build muscle while losing fat I’ve been experimenting with my diet. My most recent experiment was to reduce my carbs significantly and increase my protein. There have been some conflicting studies on the effectiveness of this. But, I’ve known a couple people who really dropped the weight while doing this and my limited experience so far is that it does work. I’m still playing with how to add some carbs back in occasionally, since they have a place in the overall healthy diet and maintaining daily “energy,” so more on this later.

Mental Health: overall, I’m still a happy and positive person. Sure, I have my moments like everyone else, but I don’t have much to complain about. My “new” job is going well with supportive co-workers and supervisors, my friends are few but close, my family closer and my faith is strong. The only thing that threatens my well-being right now is the back and forth bickering on Facebook concerning the presidential campaign. Just a few more months…

So, overall things are good. I feel healthy, I look healthier, and I’m more active than I’ve been in a long time. Old age is still creeping up on me (I notice more daily aches and pains) but I’m putting it off as long as I can and hope you will do the same.

Onward!

 

Fitness Quest and Crohn’s Update: April 2016

The good news is that I’ve been keeping busy since my last blog. I’ve actually completed production on two plays that I acted in (one in February and one in April), I’m feeling pretty comfortable with my “new” position at work (I’ve been in it since September so I can’t really call it new anymore I suppose), and over all my health has been good. Not great, but good.

My Crohn’s seems to be more active over the last couple months. I haven’t had much in the way of full-blown flare ups but I’ve had some significant pain on and off, digestive issues, and an overall malaise/weakness/weariness which are all signs of Crohn’s activity. Things have been mild enough that I feel the Humira is still working but something has been going on. I’m also suspicious that some of what I’m attributing to Crohn’s is actually gallbladder related as the pain is just below my right rib cage. However, the “gurgling” and assorted noises sure don’t sound like my gallbladder! On top of this I’ve been plagued with a on again/off again cough. Sometimes it’s a full blown cold, sometimes it’s nasal congestion, all the times is annoying.

In terms of my fitness efforts, well…due to the previously mentioned feeling of malaise I haven’t been working out like I should. My weightlifting has been spotty at best, I haven’t been getting in my walks regularly, and as far as running goes…I don’t. I have had an attempt or two and now that spring seems to actually be here I really need to get back on track. I’ve been averaging less than 10,000 steps per day for some time and it’s time to get that count up at the very least.

On the plus side I’m at my lowest body weight this century! I have been tracking my food and macros so I think that is really helping. I’ve noticed that I’m not getting enough protein and too many fats so I need to reverse that. Especially since the protein will help me to retain/build muscle which becomes more critical as I approach yet another birthday next month.

I have goals for the summer which includes some mountain climbing on a trip to Colorado. If weather and conditions permit I hope to finally summit Long’s Peak – one of Colorado’s 14,000 footers. I had gotten as far as the Keyhole once in the past but due to a storm was not able to push on to the peak. Fortunately, I have a cousin who is an avid climber and he’s offered to take me up when I’m out there. But, in order to make it I’ve got to be in good cardiovascular shape – especially since I’m not used to the “thin” air – and my legs have to be strong enough to tackle the 15 mile round trip (half of it uphill).

The good news is that I won’t be lugging as much fat on the mountain. Wish me luck.

Onward!

longs-peak-aug-31
Long’s Peak 
In the Boulder Field of Long's Peak
Me in the Boulder Field of Long’s Peak back in the mid-eighties
Fruits and veggies

Crohn’s Update: February 2016

It’s been a while since I’ve updated you all (or at least those who may be interested) on how my life with Crohn’s has been going. In brief: very well!

I did have a small flare-up in January which lasted two-three days, but it was mild even by my standards (no vomiting, “controllable” diarrhea, a lot of grumbling, gurgling, and gas). So, the Humira seems to still be doing the job.

I’m taking my vitamins each day (B12, Iron, Calcium, D, multi-vitamin) as per my doctor’s recommendations, and I’m trying to pay much, much closer attention to my diet. My macros are still off as I’m getting more fats than proteins but I’m getting better. I have been in touch with another fellow “Crohnie” though and he says that when he flares up he finds that the fatty, greasy food seems to go down better just like I do. I haven’t seen anything in the literature about this, so it may be imagination, but it was good to hear that someone else has the same experience I do.

Everything else is going fairly well, too. My new job (which I’ve started in September) has been enjoyable and I feel that I’m in the swing of things with a supportive supervisor, staff and colleagues (always a plus), I’m keeping up with my workouts for the most part, and I’m in a play again with a different theatre group which is turning out to be a real joy (“One Slight Hitch” by Lewis Black at the Toledo Repertoire Theatre, February 12, 13, and 14 – www.toledorep.org for tickets and showtimes).

My spirits are good and I’ve found time to take some vacation time with my family (New Orleans over Winter Break and a weekend in Chicago with my brother last weekend). So I’m certain that the relative lack of stress right now has helped to keep things calm in my digestive track.

Goals for the new year are pretty much the same as always: health and happiness. Looking to lose fat, build muscle, etc. like everyone else. I do want to also spend more time with my spiritual health and get back to being more studious of the Bible and my faith. I think that this helps with my overall calmness and happiness as well. Probably very important in the coming year. Election season you know…

Onward!

 

 

Rockwell Bodybuilder

Fitness Quest: The Benefits of Becoming A Fitness Fanatic

One of the blessings of constantly searching the internet for workout ideas, plans, diets, etc. is that you run across postings by interesting and often inspiring people (we’ll ignore the dull and uninspiring for now who seem to be much, much more prevalent). One person I found is Davy Barnes, a business owner by day and an aspiring fitness model/bodybuilder pretty much the rest of the time. He posted something a few weeks ago that I think sums up why so many first picked up a weight and become addicted to it. Though I imagine this is true of runners and pretty much any other dedicated athlete I chose a bodybuilder because I like to pretend I’m one whenever I’m lifting weights. He has, of course, given me permission to share this with you.

In his words…

“I remember when I used to consume toaster strudels, Mountain Dews, Chips, energy drinks, etc. every day. I was nothing bu skin and bones and couldn’t have been healthy. I hated that and finally one day I decided that was going to change. I have worked HARD for six years. A lot of people just see the results, but don’t see the endless hours at work, in the gym or in the kitchen…I don’t think a lot of people understand. To me Bodybuilding or Fitness is not only about your physique or how you look in the mirror, although that is a great reward; it is a way of developing a connection between your body and mind! It’s a way of building a stronger character and persona!

It must not be a selfish, self-centered activity but rather a tool to build confidence and strength to go through life. It can help motivate and lift those up around you who are maybe overweight, depressed, sad and looking to change to a healthier lifestyle. Many people confuse bodybuilding with only lifting weights, drinking protein shakes, juicing [steroids], flexing in photos or for girls but I look at it as a much broader experience! For me it is a continuous process of self-betterment in and outside the gym! Because of bodybuilding I am able to be more successful at other aspects of life; I am more disciplined, organized and focused at achieving my goals. I’m not lazy and I learned the most valuable principle-hard work always pays off!

Because of bodybuilding I can reach thousands of people all around the world to deliver my message, inspire and motivate to live a fuller, healthier and exciting life, to chase after goals and dreams and most importantly, be a witness to others. Even the Bible has verses stating to take care of our bodies and to eat healthy. Besides that, with all of the unhealthy food choices and diseases now days, it motivates me to eat even more clean every day! As hard as it is, I try not to be the guy who puts down anyone who may be unhealthy or overweight because, hey, at the end of the day we are all in this together!” 

Now, Davy is very good at what he has been doing and dedicated (see the picture I’ve included for evidence of this) and he’s gaining recognition and followers on social media and from what I can see, his message has remained unchanged. I like that.

He has chosen bodybuilding as his method of relating and dealing with the world and I think that anyone who looks to improve themselves could do much worse than begin a regular program of exercise – even if you choose not to build a Mr. Olympia worthy physique, you’ll end up stronger and healthier for the effort. I think this is true of any physical pursuit whether it be weight lifting, running, yoga, or whatever. As long as you focus, are patient, and stick with it you’ll develop not only your physical toughness but your mental toughness as well (presuming you avoid drugs, etc.).  You’ll be able to endure during difficult times, set goals, push your limits and continue long after others have given up.

And these are traits that can carry you through most any other part of your life as well, personal or professional.

Onward!

Davy Barnes Progression

Starting upper left and then going clockwise, Davy Barnes in 2007 (when he first took up weights), 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015. Patience, perseverance, and hard work paid off for him. You can find more about him on Facebook @davybarnesbodybuilding (aka Davy Muscle) and Instagram @davyb2333

 

Talking to Strangers

As children we were all told by our parents or guardians “don’t talk to strangers.” This warning was practical advice for children, because there is danger out there for all of us and a particular evil that preys on the young. However, this warning – right or wrong – also goes against our natural human curiosity and trains us to become more guarded in the information we share. Again, this may all be well and good, but as adults I think that we need to be re-trained to do the opposite. To reach out and on occasion at least, talk to strangers.

I consider myself an introvert. Those who know me may find it hard to believe, and probably think I never shut up, but I find it difficult to strike up a conversation with people I know well and nearly terrifying to speak to someone I haven’t met. If they approach me I don’t have much of a problem (though I’ve been told I can come off as cold and aloof). But to start the conversation…well, let’s say that there are many a times when I pull the tactic of just hanging back and waiting for someone else to notice me in both social and professional situations. Like most wallflowers, taking the risk of making a new connection is a learned and forced behavior.

However, as I’ve gotten older I’ve found that I need to talk more to strangers. We live in an ever increasingly complex world and to navigate this world we need to be able to draw upon a wider range of knowledge and experiences both professionally and personally. Google is great, but it doesn’t replace the first hand experiences of someone who has lived through something.

So, I’ve started ignoring my mother’s advice and am trying to talk to at least one “stranger” each day. This may be as simple as a quick “hello” to someone in passing and with the holidays on us I can certainly greet more folks with best wishes for the season. Sometimes, it’s more involved, like noticing an interesting article of clothing or someone doing an activity and making a comment on it and striking up a conversation. Sometimes the conversation is brief and you never see that person again. However, sometimes you “hit it off” and find yourself with a new friend. More often than not, I’ve discovered that the results are somewhere in between.

For example, recently while traveling I noticed a young man at the airport with an athletic bag and a college sports team. I approached him and asked if he played for that team and this began a conversation as we walked through the airport and I learned about his business, which happened to be in a field I’m interested in but outside of my usual work. We exchanged names and a quick Google search later (surprisingly easy to do and not at all stalker-like…) and an invite on LinkedIn and I have a new connection. Will be lifelong friends and best buddies hanging out at the mall after work? Not likely, but I have no doubt we’ll stay in touch and who knows? The old me would have just walked on without taking the chance. But because I reached out, maybe we’ll one day share information that will benefit one or both of us in some way.

And speaking of Google and LinkedIn, what a marvelous world we live in with the advantage of social media. I know that social media has taken a beating in the news and among some circles as an outlet for bullying, pornography, etc. However, used properly it’s power for sharing and making connections cannot be denied and for those of us who are inherently shy it is a “safe” way of making and maintaining contacts we would otherwise never have.

Don’t get me wrong. There is no – I repeat, no – substitute for good old fashioned face to face human contact. We need to meet other people, be friends with other people, love other people, to thrive as humans. Even our rivals and enemies have the potential to make us better. But for those who find it difficult to talk in person and/or are shut in, social media provides at least the semblance of human interaction. Thanks to social media I now have friends, followers, connections, etc. with people I never otherwise would have any contact with. I communicate regularly with people throughout the USA, Canada and much of Europe. Our bond may be as simple as we all have the same disease (Crohn’s), are interested in the same things, or maybe met once in an airport, hotel, amusement park, or hiking in the woods (all places I’ve met people who are now friends).

My point is that, as we say in NACAS, make “connections that count.” Why don’t you go out and make a couple new ones today.

Onward!