Fitness Quest: Goals for 2018

In the time honored tradition of setting resolutions (aka goals) for the New Year, I’ve reviewed my fitness goals from 2017 and made some adjustments for the new knowledge regarding my heart health (see my earlier post here regarding details if you’re curious). In the interest of keeping myself accountable, here they are:

1. Fast food no more than once a week. Obviously heart health is now, and probably should always have been, my number one concern. Crohn’s is second. Mediterranean is my mantra for the year and means less reliance on “convenience” and more self sufficient eating and disciplined meal prep. Both of my major health conditions – and probably others I’m not fully aware of – will benefit by putting an emphasis on vegetables and fish in my diet. I’ve already started to make the adjustments and am actually looking forward to a more varied diet. 
2. Increase cardio. Back to 10,000 steps everyday – minimum. Even if it means walking around the living room at night. I know that 10,000 is just a number, but it is a sign that I’m moving through the day. Pending approval from my cardiologist, I’ll be spending more time on treadmills and bikes this winter and still looking forward to running the occasional 5K.
3. Goal bodyfat percentage of 15%. I can’t sugar coat it. I’m fat and not getting thinner. It doesn’t matter how much muscle I have if it’s hampered by just carrying my own extra bulk. 15% seems to be a good ideal for a man in his late fifties. I may never actually see my abs, but I plan to at least feel them!
4. Keep strength up – 250 for 10 reps on bench. Again, pending my cardiologists approval as it’s possible that heavy lifting might be off the table for me. Of course, if I’m strong enough 250 won’t seem like heavy lifting, will it?
5. Put size back on the bis. Hey, I have to have at least on vanity goal, right? With the lower bodyfat my historic goal of 18 inches may not be possible (maybe with a pump). But if I don’t lose size my arms might at least look like 18 inchers if they’re lean enough. 

These are written down and in my wallet as a reminder to me everyday.

I hope you all have a happy, healthy, and productive 2018.

Onward!

2018 Goals

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Fitness Quest: Total Eclipse by my Heart

As I was thinking about the quickly approaching New Year and what new, or old, goals I could set I realized that I haven’t blogged in a while. Somehow, things no longer seem real unless I post them somewhere on social media (don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about – there’s too many posts out there to suggest otherwise).

It’s actually been an eventful couple of months health-wise. Shortly after returning from my inspiring visit to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado (see my previous posts on Olympic Goals and Heart of a Champion)  a pain in my shoulder that I had been ignoring too long started to get worse. So, I made a trip to the doctor’s office after Thanksgiving. After explaining my pain to her and describing a incident on Thanksgiving regarding a kick ball game with the family, my head, and a back stop support bar (ouch) she said, “you know, even though you are at a low heart attack risk maybe we should take an EKG just to check things out.” I thought for a minute and said, “sure, why not. What’s the harm?”

Well, the EKG came back with a concerning result. Though my heart rhythm was strong there was an abnormality. So a stress test was ordered then cancelled because that wouldn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know. Then an echocardiogram stress test was ordered. We didn’t ever get to the stress test because the cardiogram showed what we needed to find. I had “reduced heart function.” In short, sometime in the past 11 years (since my last EKG) I had a heart attack.

Now, I don’t know exactly when this heart attack occurred. It could have been over Thanksgiving this year when I felt crappy after my collision with the support bar. I think it’s more likely to have occurred in January 2017 when I had a significant Crohn’s attack and pain unlike anything I had ever had before. I likely falsely attributed my pain and cramps to dehydration caused by the severe diarrhea and vomiting I experienced.  Plus, some of the warning signs of heart attack are the same as those I experience from Crohn’s and it is even possible that my Crohn’s directly hit my heart. Very rare – but still possible.

So, in short (I know, too late to be a short story), I’m seeing a cardiologist in January. Like, I presume, many others I am now taking a statin drug in the evening and a low dosage aspirin (approved by my gastroenterologist of course) in the morning. Along with my usual array of vitamins. Also, doing as much cardio as possible though I’m no longer pushing to failure, which I really wasn’t doing anyway. This is all the easy part.

The hard part is changing my diet again. Though I’ve always had low overall cholesterol my HDL/LDL ratios have been off for a long time. This combined with my high triglyceride level is a problem. So I’m watching what goes into my mouth closer. Need to lower the bad fats and raise the good fats. More fish and vegetables and less red meat and fried foods – the Mediterranean  diet in popular parlance.

Italy is on the Mediterranean right? So I’m assuming unlimited pasta and sauces…what? Limit pasta? Really? Bummer.

At least I still have doughnuts.

What? Oh come on!

As always,

Onward!

P.S. regarding the shoulder pain that sent me to the doctor’s office in the first place, I have a small muscle tear. No surgery – just exercise. That, I can handle!

 

 

 

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Fitness Quest: October 2017 and Olympic Goals

A little late on my update for last month – but it’s been a busy week so this update will flow into the first part of November as well:

Crohn’s Update: things are going very well with my Crohn’s. I’ve had only one or two days where I got off to a slow start do to the disease. I believe that being regular with my vitamin regimen, staying active as possible, keeping up with my weight training, and watching my diet are all helping. If I feel better over all, my Crohn’s stays quiet.

Workouts: progress continues! I’m gaining strength, slowly but surely, and stamina. My arms are a little larger, my chest is larger, my shoulders more defined, my waist is shrinking, and my weight is decreasing.

I did spend the first week of November in Colorado Springs at the Broadmoor Resort no less (one of America’s true luxury resorts) at a business conference. Though I suffered early on a brief attack of altitude sickness, several gallons of water and many deep breaths later I was feeling positively energized in the thin mountain air. So good that by the end of my stay I was lifting weights in the fitness center each night – including 250 on the bench for three reps. Twenty five more pounds than at home – it was on a machine though so it didn’t require as much use of the stabilizing muscles as a “true” bench press. Still felt good though!

Cardio: most of the month was ho-hum in this area. Being in a play (mentioned in the last post) did slow me down somewhat. However, one the play was finished I was able to step things back up so to speak. Also, as I mentioned above,  I took a trip to Colorado Springs. Nothing like a stay in the thin mountain air, hikes up a couple of hills (and 224 steps to the top of Seven Falls and another 185 to the Eagles Landing) and walking all over a spread out resort (the Broadmoor) and conference center to get those steps in!

Nutrition: I’m doing pretty well in this department. I hit my protein goals most days and stay below my carb goals. Fats, still an issue, but getting better. I’m finding some supplementation with protein drinks is really helping. I’m making my own smoothies starting this week as well. Now that my weight is down, I’m considering adding a few more calories per day to see if I can spur some additional muscle growth without adding fat. A challenge for anyone – let alone a middle age man with a history of being fat prone. But, if you don’t experiment you don’t learn, right?

Other Cool Things this Month: the biggest cool think I did this month was visit the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs as part of the aforementioned conference. Here I got to meet several Olympic and Paralympic athletes and I’ll post more about that later. But what a thrill it was to participate in an Olympic Flame lighting ceremony and meet so many athletes. If I needed any more motivation to keep working out, I got it that night. I may never have the body of a gymnast – the shoulders and biceps on those guys – but I can keep pushing my own personal limits.

And so can you.

Onward!

20171107_205842
Olympic gymnast Sam Mikulak having fun with a fan.

 

Fitness Quest: September 2017

A busy month for me as it turns out that was pretty good all in all despite getting back some iffy blood tests from my doctor on Monday. Nothing terribly serious, but we’ve got a couple things to watch regarding my liver enzymes as they spiked which is an indication of liver damage which is one of the side effects from my medication. So far no word on an ultra-sound to check things out, so I’ll follow-up. The numbers aren’t very high above the normal range. Everything else was pretty good though except for my iron and vitamin D levels. So back to the supplements. Ugh.

Crohn’s Update: In addition to the above, I’m actually feeling pretty good these days. I have energy it seems – which may be in part to the iron, vitamin B and other supplements. But I’m not complaining. Still not “normal” by most people’s standards, especially in the bathroom if you get my drift, but pretty darn close I think (i.e. no accidents or emergencies in a long time). Met with my new gastroenterologist and like her a lot. Very good doctor/patient rapport and she did her homework on my case before coming seeing me!

Workouts: I got all my weight workouts in despite a tough rehearsal schedule for the show I’m in (It Came from Mars at the Toledo Rep). This included two on Thursday, one before rehearsal in the gym (shoulders and back) and one after rehearsal with my brother-in-law (chest). In the past week I’ve been feeling particularly good. I’m waking up better in the morning and getting my daily push-ups (up to 30 per set) and concentration curls (gotta build that biceps peak) each morning.

Results are coming with my weight training, though slower than I’d like (naturally). My arms – the left one at least – are back over 16 inches cold and I think look a lot better (more defined – they are also harder it seems). Probably more importantly, I’m getting more reps in per set with my bench and increasing weight in other lifts. Not at my strongest yet, but not bad for an old man (8 reps at 225 for three sets currently). The goal is still 25 continuous reps at 225. Getting there slowly – thought my brother-in-law and training partner is getting stronger by the workout lately. 

Speaking of who, he unintentionally provided some big motivation this week. During our Sunday workout it was pretty obvious that he had his “swole” on – as in his short sleeve shirt was stretched to its max. Turns out he’s gone through a recent growth spurt sometime in the last three months, if not in the last couple weeks, especially in his arms and chest.  He now leads our “arms race” by a little more than an inch and is still growing. It’s a mystery to me why after several months of essentially the same workout he grew, though I’ve read somewhere that muscle growth occurs in spurts and isn’t a straight line gain kind of thing. He thinks it’s just from being consistent which is true as we’ve rarely missed a workout in the past year or so, I think maybe he adjusted his diet somehow or perhaps unbeknownst to us he was “belted by gamma rays*” though he isn’t turning green. However, instead of being jealous (okay, maybe a little) as I may have been when we were younger, I’m finding myself motivated to hit it harder in the gym and other workouts to catch up. Or at the very least, not fall farther behind. So even though we shouldn’t judge or compare ourselves to others, a little competition between friends is a great motivator it seems.

 

Cardio: thanks to my sister, I’m really stepping up my step game (pun intended). She’s been pushing a weekly “workweek hustle” on Fitbit and gotten several others to join in. I used to think I walked a lot during the day but now, whew! I’m also working harder to keep up with her.jacobsladder-3-full

Discovered a new cardio device at the College gym called “Jacob’s Ladder” (here’s their website – I’m not reimbursed for this endorsement btw) If you haven’t used one of the things and have the opportunity to do so – DO IT! One of the toughest cardio workouts I’ve ever had and it also works the arms and legs at the same time.

 

Nutrition: I met my protein goals most days this week, thanks to Muscle Milk and protein bars (again, not an endorsement – research all supplements before using). I’m surprised at how difficult this is. Especially without increasing fats, which unfortunately, I have not mastered. However, I have cut down on my carbs including simple sugars considerably. Turns out you can live quite well without french fries. Who knew?

Other Cool Things this Month: got an unexpected and random compliment on my triceps; had a pleasant conversation with a cashier about Fitbits – the young ladies really like the leather band it seems 😉; and had another good conversation about working out in general late in the week with another friend. 

All in all a surprisingly motivating week.

Onward!

*obscure reference to lyrics from a Marvel cartoon show in the 1960s. Bonus points if you know which one and just saying “Hulk” doesn’t count.

More bonus points if you know where the featured image is from.

 

Fitness Quest and Crohn’s Update: July 2017

It’s been far too long since my last blog in February when I discovered that I was suffering from DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis). The good news is that this issue seems to have cleared up completely – at least that’s the news I expect at my check up next month. My afflicted leg is no longer swollen beyond recognition and doesn’t ache more than the other one. Well, except for a tightness with my “IT Band” (Iliotibial band) which runs from the hip to the shin. This seems to coincide with a flare up of my plantar fasciitis (foot pain) in the other leg so I’ve put my orthotic inserts and bought new shoes. This, along with taking a break from extended walking/running, seems to be helping.

Speaking of running, I once again participated in The Rose Run in Petersburg, MI (my hometown) a 5K to support cancer research – which is also held in Los Angeles in October as well! Anyway, I set the goal of beating my time from last year and I did it! Only by a few seconds, but I was faster than last year. Remarkable because I made many mistakes including:  1) I didn’t train properly or at all and 2) I probably shouldn’t have run given the above mentioned injuries. But, I did it with the encouragement of my niece, who ran with me, and sheer stubbornness.

In Crohn’s news, I have moved to weekly injections of Humira. My doctor felt that my disease was progressing still with the DVT being a symptom of that and that we needed to up the dosage. I think it’s working and have had only one significant flare up since going to the new weekly regimen. Though I keep calling my case “moderate” my gastroenteroligist says I actually have quite a bit of damage regardless of how I feel about it. I think he’s always suprised that I seem to be able to maintain and even gain weight. Again, stubbornness I suppose.

In other news:

Nutrition: Still experimenting with macros and seem to have finally figured out what works best for me as I’ve been losing weight consistently for a few weeks now. Lower carbs, higher protein are working now. Still getting too many fats according to my tracking through MyFitnessPal but I’ll get there. If I can keep avoiding the drive-thru I can better control this.

Workouts: These have been going okay, nothing spectacular. Still kind of looking for the next challenge. I’ve done planking, push-ups, an “arms race” where I competed against a few other guys to see who could put the most size on their arms in a set amount of time (it wasn’t me), my 5Ks, and wall sitting. What’s next? I’ll let you know.

Attitude: Overall, still positive. I do find myself reminding myself of all my blessings more these days – probably middle-age malaise or my general disgust with the state of politics in the USA these days (no politics, stay calm…must control blood pressure).

Onward!